Author Topic: 1st open studio: Recap & Lessons learned  (Read 686 times)

Offline Roberto Gato Echanique

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1st open studio: Recap & Lessons learned
« on: August 19, 2013, 11:37:34 AM »
I'm still pretty new to the world of visual arts, having never gone to art school or other formal artist training - or been involved much beyond technical help for other artists setting up their work (rigging, lighting, electronics, etc.). I was told by curators and others in the industry that open studios are a thing you do to develop your art career;  invite the public in to your work space, show (maybe sell) new work, etc. With my new huge space, the Art Mines, I thought I finally had an opportunity to launch myself professionally with the first open studio.

All my best work was framed and hung on the gallery-like walls, and unframed work stacked in two user-friendly bins: large work, 18x24 and small work, anything that could fit in a crate. I tried not to put out absolutely everything so attendees wouldn't be overwhelmed (advice from the internet, and I have a LOT of art). I got wine, snacks, comfy seating and cleared space to do demonstrations if it came up. I wrote personal invites to a DC theatre critic (a cool cat and I wanted to meet in person anyway, since theater is my background), wrote to the Arts editors of the Post, Citypaper and others, wrote up event listings on local DC Arts forums - even did a Facebook invite. Then I hung out my shingle (quite literally a hand-painted ART MINES sign on plywood) and opened the doors.

In cartoons there's a convention showing awkward silence: Crickets. Not just normal silence, where nothing is happening, but the awkward silence where the nothing is what's happening. Crickets. Nobody came.

That's not entirely true: two of my wife's friends came (good people and they would be welcome to just hang out any time anyway) and my old catering boss  (I call her Aunt Ruth) and her husband. She very kindly purchased small pieces for her growing collection of locals' work (including some of mine).  Just not what I expected, or rather very naively, and very vainly, hoped.

In my role supporting artists - and some cursory research- I anticipated more people, curators, collectors, critics, etc. because... well, that's what they do, isn't it? That's supposed to be their job in the art industry. Clearly I have a whole lot to learn on this side of the curtain.

So what did I learn?

Shameless self promotion: I should have spent more time getting the word out, and making this a regular thing, will find it easier to do so. Write more curators, other galleries, other artists, other forums, NPR, your mom, everybody. I do this anyway for my theatre production work, why not my other art?

Give everybody something: A small print run of post cards for the open studio with something pretty of mine on the front would go a long way to get my art and name to stick in people's minds. I can put them out at arts venues around the area - again, like I do with theater work. Duh.

Label & bag things: When my visitors did come and look at work - nothing had a price tag on it. The internet warned me against setting my prices too high at my studio (a point was made to make them way lower) so I didn't price anything. Then came the awkward conversation of "How much is this worth?" Next time - just little tags with a title and number. Way easy. Also to put work in protective sleeves - I don't have any larger than 8x11 - so they are protected from the elements and each other.

Make art faster
: It's still an open studio, and you're still supposed to be creating. Don't fuss over who didn't come; be welcoming to those that do. Clearly, these people support me, and I'm very very grateful for it. I chose to spend the day creating an oil painting (pictured below) so I could walk away from it as long as I needed to and not have anything dry out on me if anyone came in the door.

Next time - since I want to have these open studios quarterly - I'll have to have new work to show, invite more, and better prepare so I better get back to it.  There is no rest in the Art Mines. No place like home.


www.bobcatarts.com

An artist and designer for gallery and stage. I document our realities as an explorer from our fictions.

Offline BarryS

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Re: 1st open studio: Recap & Lessons learned
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2013, 12:30:25 PM »
This is great.  Not the sparse attendance, but describing your experience. I think it's tough for a non-established artist to attract interest for an open studio.  Are you in an area where there are other studios?  Because organized art-walks and open studios with multiple studios and galleries will attract more attention. If you're an isolated studio not located in a high foot traffic area, you're in for an uphill battle. The open studio may not be something that's going to work for you--at least for a while.  Everyone gets a million fb invitations, I barely look at them anymore--maybe roll up the sleeves and personally invite people.  How about turning the next one into a party?--so it's less of an obligation and more inviting?  Don't get discouraged.
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Offline Roberto Gato Echanique

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Re: 1st open studio: Recap & Lessons learned
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2013, 07:02:50 PM »
My studio is only 2 blocks from the New Carrollton metro on the Orange line and an easy drive. Unfortunately, however, it's nestled in suburbia; it's not close enough to the Hyattsville Arts District (or anything else useful) for anyone to just walk on over as it would be in Adams Morgan, Arlington, etc.

More personal invites, outreach to more galleries and arts community contacts, and a more overall social push would probably serve me better. Live and learn.
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An artist and designer for gallery and stage. I document our realities as an explorer from our fictions.

Offline AHendricks

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Re: 1st open studio: Recap & Lessons learned
« Reply #3 on: August 20, 2013, 03:02:11 PM »
Sometimes if you build it; they won't come.

No more "open studios" until you sell at least $1,000 in art work (either online or off a wall). Period.

If you have a LOT of art, then why isn't a LOT of art on your website?
Why isn't your deviant art, twitter, facebook links posted in your ArtDC signature?
For example, I'd like to look at your Deviant page but how do I find it?

IMHO an open studio is a giant leap of faith at this stage in your career, you still have your training wheels on.
Work on building your brand (your foundation) before you reach for the stars.

Be wary of "advice from the Internet" most free advice, this included, is worth what you pay for it.

Add more work to your web presence or blog, include your web addresses (all of them) EVERYTIME you post online and best of luck to you. After you sell your first $1,000 worth of art, you'll earn the grit and street cred that will help you make the next step.

If, by chance, you have sold thousands of dollars worth of your art already ...maybe try a different wine and go with hard cheeses and not brie.

« Last Edit: August 20, 2013, 04:17:32 PM by AHendricks »

Offline Jesse

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Re: 1st open studio: Recap & Lessons learned
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2013, 08:59:42 AM »
Roberto congratulations on your first open studio! Youíre right Barry, it was excellent description of his experience. Iím pleased to read about what you did. Itís the first step to more. AHendricks, excellent point about links and forms of contact. Though I think just a link to his website with all the other links would be equally great. Everyone has a different style. Have we moved from brie to hard cheese? I had a lovely mustard cheese at an open studio once in Bethesda.

Roberto, yes, in theory, it is the job of critics, gallerists, and art writers to look at art, but I really think you need to have a personal relationship with them to get them to your place. I suggest, get into the scene more, find out where the critics go, and be there. I find itís always a no no to self promote at someone elseís show, but itís a great way to meet people. Talk about their art. I think when you develop a critical mass of people around you, that helps the open studio. Though, Iíve actually never had one at my home studio.

I hear what AHendricks is saying about a price point. Once youíve sold a few things through galleries or coffee shops, youíll have a few people who really know you and are financially invested in your ideas. I like that thought.

As always, AHendricks and Barry, I appreciate your input here!