Getting known in your local area can be a catalyst for getting known globally. [click to tweet] If you’re having trouble getting traction online, it can help to build a following locally because you have more control over it. For any of your efforts to really work, you have to keep at it. That means CONSISTENT effort. I recommend picking an outreach task each week. Here are some ideas:
— Head to your local chamber of commerce and find out about the arts groups. Pick one, make note of their next meeting. Contact the president and mention that you are planning to come to the next meeting and offer to help with anything they might need. Attend the next meeting and don’t forget to casually mention your art a little.
— Visit a local gallery and speak with the curator or gallery owner. Compliment them on their latest exhibition. Don’t forget to casually mention your art a little.
— Email a local gallery owner or curator. Compliment them on their latest exhibition. Ask them if they’re still looking for work for any upcoming exhibitions. And attach a few pictures of your work to give them an idea of where you’d fit.
— Attend seminars, artist talks for exhibition openings, or lectures at your closest colleges and galleries. Try to ask an insightful question, take notes (you’ll look engaged even if you’re not going to use the notes), and then introduce yourself to the speaker at the end of the talk. Talk to them about their work, but don’t forget to casually mention your art a little.
— Email a local artist (or visit their studio!) whose work you love and/or career you admire. Compliment them, telling them how much you love what they’re doing, and ask them if you could shadow a day in their studio, watch the process during the setup for their next exhibition, collaborate with them on a particular project concept, or get their opinion on your work (but only do this last one if you’re emotionally prepared for a rough critique).
— Contact a local curator and ask to grab lunch with them (tip – give them a time frame like “sometime over the next two weeks” to give some validity to the question. people tend to ask this one and not really mean it or ever set anything up. this encourages them to say “yes, I’m free on the 16th for lunch. does that work for you?”). Follow through and actually set up a lunch date and then go to it. Have your laptop, tablet, or cell phone available with photos of your work on it. But don’t push it. Just have it there in case you’re asked. Make this a relationship-building event and ask them a lot of questions. Answer theirs but don’t talk too much about yourself. Try to offer to help them with something if you can find a way. This will mean a lot that you’re willing to do some grunt work you appreciate them so much.
— Visit a local retail store or coffee shop with a similar aesthetic to your art. Ask to decorate the walls with your work, putting it on consignment there. Make sure to bring along work or pictures of your work for the manager or owner to look at.
No matter what you do, don’t be scared of hearing “no”. You’ll probably hear it. And likely more than once. And it doesn’t mean you’re a crappy artist. It means that the people you’re talking to are busy and sometimes they just aren’t willing to take a chance on someone unknown because they’re so busy working with people who are already known, which makes sense from their perspective.
Yet it’s important to still ask, even if they tell you “no”. You’re building up your courage. And that means that once people start recognizing you (because you’re asking around so much – and the art community talks to each other!) you will begin to create opportunities. In fact, you’ll start to create opportunities that are cooler than the ones you initially ask for.
And then you’ll get your “yes”. Over and over again. So go ahead and put in the legwork to build your local reputation and use it to jump start an international art career.
Pick one local-outreach task listed above or come up with your own and schedule a day this coming week for you to accomplish the task.