Art Business 101: Promoting Your Show

Unique Techniques display

So you’re in an art show. Now what? The first thing you need to do is promote it across multiple platforms. Even if you are in a well-known gallery or major festival, you can increase the potential turnout by taking the initiative to spread the word.

  • Print – Order postcards and mail them out or leave stacks on community tables in local retail spaces. Ask businesses if you can hang a poster for your event. Remember to make the image eye-catching and easily readable, with all the pertinent information (date, time, location) prominently displayed. There is a cost for print materials, which you will have to try to recoup.

The good news is that the other options are free!

  • Eblast – Sign up for an eblast service, like Mailchimp. You can construct nice, professional-looking evites and newsletters using their templates. Subscribers can opt out of the emails without contacting you directly, and you have access to analytics about how well the emails are being received. At each of your events, you can increase your outreach by inviting visitors to sign up for your newsletter.
  • Social Media – Create a Facebook event page, and invite your friends. Promote the event on social media like Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. If you are involved in a group show, each of the artists can use a shared hashtag to connect the posts and make them searchable. If 5 artists succeed in bringing just 15 friends each, that’s 75 guests!
  • Community Website – Find a website for your community that includes a calendar of events. The one I always use is Chicago Artists Resource. It is free to post, and the information reaches outside of my normal circles. If you have connections in your Chamber of Commerce, they might also be willing to put your event on their web calendar or newsletter.

Press Release – The final free option requires its own section, as it is a little more involved. First, you need to do some research online. Track down the e-mail addresses for the arts editors of your local print or web papers. Next, write up a detailed description of your event and the people involved.

One month in advance, send it to the arts editors at the start of a business day. (This will ensure that they see your e-mail at the top of their Inbox.) On the subject line, write “For Release”, followed by the name of your event. In the body of the e-mail, include gratuitous details, because the editors may whittle it down as they see fit.Dean's art in the Redeye

They might not choose to publish your release at all, but if they do — it’s free publicity that will reach a huge audience! A release that was picked up (right) for an art walk I organized accounted for about 50% of our attendance.

Unique Techniques crowd 2There is nothing as satisfying as standing back and seeing people at your show. You realize that have you turned a simple idea into a reality. It’s not luck or chance. When there are people at your show that you have never met, you begin to understand the power of promotion and marketing — your power.