What do I need to know for my first art walk showing?
August 25, 2013 5:01 AM   Subscribe

I'm going to have my photography featured in an Art Walk, and this is my first time doing anything like this. I'm excited but don't know what the heck I'm doing. What do I need to know?

Some specific questions I had:
1) They suggested I make business cards. I have a "studio" page, but it's just an empty placeholder Facebook page. Should I put something up there so if people decide to follow me they can actually see something? Does it matter? Do I need a separate "professional" facebook page to go along with it?

2) Is it better to have a theme or an assortment of random photos?

3) How much mingling will I have to do? I have terrible social anxiety, which wouldn't be a problem except I've been lazy and haven't taken my medicine for it in months. This thing is in a few weeks, which won't be enough time to fix that... I'm worried I'll make a bad impression with my social-awkwardness.

4) I feel like my recent photography sucks. Granted, I don't know if this is necessarily true because I've only asked one person (a friend) for critiques recently and I'm kind of starting to think he can't be objective (the work I submitted so far was from a few years ago and had the seal of approval from a professor.) I want to take more recent photographs so I'll have more things up, but what if they suck?
posted by Autumn to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I take part in a lot of Art Walks (as an enthusiast, not as an artist). Usually the person organising the walk will give a brief introduction to the artist and the exhibition, and will then hand over to the artist to talk a little more about their work.

People go on Art Walks because they love art - so to a large extent you'll be talking to people who are already interested in what you have to show them and what you have to say. That's half the battle.

A theme would be good - or maybe a series of themes. Then you can say "this group of pictures is part of a series I took after [event]." or "these photos were taken when I was experimenting with light and shadow", etc.

There'll be people who love your work, some who like it and others who are indifferent. I've yet to be on an Art Walk where someone's actually expressed dislike for the work - people are generally too polite, I think. (Except for one extreme avant-garde exhibit we went to which was really polarising and provoked strong responses in many of the group. But it was one of those 'Emperor's New Clothes' things where we couldn't tell what was the art in the room and what was the gallery fixtures. That's unlikely to happen with photography.)

You'll probably find that people who like the work will want to talk to you about it - so be prepared for questions about your influences, how you came to take a particular photograph and technical questions about cameras, lighting, etc. Usually there isn't a lot of social chit-chat; rather, people will want to talk about your art. So be confident that you've been chosen for this Art Walk because your work is good, and that most people will be receptive and interested.

Business cards are good - but what I've found very useful on Art Walks is to have a flyer with a brief biography, contact details and - this is important - a couple of your photographs on it. Where people see 6 or 7 artists at a time on an Art Walk, it's sometimes difficult to remember who did what when looking through business cards a couple of days later. But where a flyer has a small reproduction of the artist's work, I instantly remember who they are.

I'd also recommend you have a mailing list people can sign up to, so make sure there's a clipboard, paper and pen all ready for that.

A website would be good, if you can get something together in time which you think would be a good representation of yourself. If you can't get it up and running in time for the exhibition, then you can email the people on your mailing list when it's good to go.

And well done! I've been introduced to some wonderful artists on the Art Walks I've been on.
posted by essexjan at 6:07 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

Forgive my Luddite view, but as an art lover, I would visit websites of artists who interest me. However, a Facebook page is not a web page (to me). I'm not on Facebook, and thus (I believe) that you have eliminated me from looking at your art on line. Just get a simple web page up with some photos and some contact info for getting to you.

I agree 100% with what essexjan said, especially about the brochure.

Don't worry about the photos you consider 'crappy.' Mix them in the show.

Good luck, and have fun.
posted by mbarryf at 6:14 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming your art walk is like the ones I've participated in: Either A) a bunch of artists open up their geographically-close studios to the public who walk from place to place, browse art and talk to the artists, and have some wine and cheese or B) a bunch of artists bring their work to geographically close locations and [same stuff].

1) I've found business cards to be a great investment if made correctly (with your name, website, contact info, and at least one image of your artwork)*. Business cards and a website obviously aren't the same thing. Websites are also great to have, but the business card is what tends to remind people to actually visit your website. And no, I wouldn't have multiple business-related facebook pages. You want one, tops, and only that if you do design it well and occasionally update it. I don't have any, I just have my own website.

2) I'd put up what you feel is the strongest work while trying to maintain an overall coherency in terms of both concept and visuals. You want people to come away having a sense of who Autumn is as an artist in both those arenas.

3) People like to meet the artist and have a light chat, but depending on the venue sometimes if you're not up to it you don't even have to stick around your own work so you could go look at the other participating artwork or just take a breather somewhere quiet.

4.1) A lot of artists think their recent work sucks, and they are often wrong.
4.2) Artwork is so subjective that most work can be thought of as Schrodinger's cat in terms of quality and you should just display what you want to. Someone will like it.

*My business card has on the front one background painting that has been placed such that the text is on a very non-busy, one-color part of the painting and then on the side/bottom there's a great detail from the painting. Then on the back there are four other whole images of my work in a thumbnailish size. I made them with Overnight Prints and they are quite high-quality for the cost.
posted by vegartanipla at 6:22 AM on August 25, 2013

If your event is like the ones vegartanipla described above, as a visitor I like when you have some alternative way for me to support your work and get a copy of a favorite picture, other than the $200 print. I have neither the wall space nor the cash for that kind of commitment. I will buy a $2 postcard, or a $7 notebook, with the same image. If the other people I see at these events are any indicator, I am not alone! Prices may vary in your neck of the woods.
posted by whatzit at 8:14 AM on August 25, 2013 [2 favorites]

A photographer that I know does exactly what essexjan says above and she also has several smaller sizes, 8x10 and 6x6 prints ready for people to purchase. She also brings simple black frames so that she can offer these smaller sizes framed for an additional cost so that people can walk away with something ready to hang or as a gift. She says she gets her most repeat business that way and usually they purchase something bigger the second time around. Be organized, confidant and have fun!!
posted by pearlybob at 8:32 AM on August 25, 2013 [1 favorite]

Spend $20 on snacks and seltzer to draw people in on a primal level.
posted by oceanjesse at 8:46 AM on August 25, 2013

I haven't been involved in an Art Walk specifically, but if they are a forum for members of the general public to ask you questions about your work, prepare for the questions to be dumb.

This is not to snark on "the general public" at all. Just something I've noticed at the many artist Q&A's I've attended over the years. It's like throwing spaghetti at the wall. You get questions all along the gamut from insightful to incomprehensible.

In general, don't overthink people's questions or assume that, if a question is really weird, you've done something wrong. People just ask weird questions. It's OK.

Spend $20 on snacks and seltzer to draw people in on a primal level.

Before you do this, you may want to find out what is provided by the Art Walk specifically. Most open studio events I've attended have had wine and light snacks provided by the organizers, independent of any particular artist.

Nthing a mailing list, especially if your goal in participating in an event like this is to sell work and/or build an audience.
posted by Sara C. at 10:38 AM on August 25, 2013

Of course it is nice to have an online presence, if possible...so setting up a facebook page is a good idea, or a website. However, don't just throw something up if it is going to look crappy--you'd be better off with just the business card.

I've done a lot of Art Walks and gallery openings. They are usually fun...but they can also be tiresome and boring. So much is determined by where it is and the audience.

Here are some things I've learned:

Smile! (Even though you are an introvert--you need to smile to put people at ease)

Try to read the people--some just want to look at things and not have a chat.

For the people who do look chatty and friendly...do your best to engage them. It's great practice and could result in sales. (I read somewhere that when people buy art...they are also buying the artist...so be yourself and be pleasant).

Don't be put off if people just sail past your work. It's not rudeness on their part...they might not be photography fans. Just don't take anything personally.

If you can, use a uniform frame. It goes without saying, make sure your work is squared up on the wall.

Get the square for payments and put up a sign that indicates you take credit cards.

A bio or artist statement on display is nice..but keep it down to just a paragraph or two with the most interesting or salient points about your life indicated.

Above all, get over your shyness and really enjoy yourself--it's your first show and it's the time to sparkle. Be brave. Have a wonderful time!
posted by naplesyellow at 1:21 PM on August 25, 2013

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