Artist Salons: 6 elements for a thriving group, part 1

In yesterday’s Art Marketing Action newsletter and podcast, I encouraged you to start an art-marketing salon. Over the next two days, I’m going to share six elements that are necessary for a salon to thrive.

1. The organizer

This is you. Notice in the inset in yellow text that the most famous creative salons in history had an organizer. Of note: All were organized by women. (Consider it a challenge, guys!) Meetings were usually held at that person’s home and included meals and sometimes cocktails. By the way, I recommend coffee and tea instead of alcohol. A sober mind is much more conducive to coherent discussions.

Early 1900s Salons
>Gertrude Stein, Paris
>Mabel Dodge, New York
>The Stettheimer Sisters, New York

As the organizer, you’re responsible for setting the salon dates and times, coordinating any menu items, and getting the word out. You also need to make sure the guests are comfortable and any guidelines are adhered to.

It doesn’t work for multiple people to be in charge. The buck has to stop somewhere and people have to know where to turn for answers.

For a closer look at the historical salons mentioned in the inset, see the book Strange Bedfellows: The First American Avant-Garde by Steven Watson.

2. Vision

Your salon needs a purpose. The vision you have will dictate the members you invite and the conversations you have. Here’s a suggestion for a vision to get you started.

The vision for my salon is to nurture friendships, provide a safe place that encourages stimulating conversation about art and life, and to elevate the status of all creative individuals in the community.

If your salon is more business focused, you might want to check out ArtBizConnection.com. On that site, I give away free marketing plans and guidelines for artists who want to support one another in their marketing goals. It’s a structure for nine sessions that include setting agendas and goals, writing the marketing plan, and supporting one another. These art-marketing meetings are far more structured than those that promote free-flowing ideas.

Members of the Miami Art Marketing Salon pose for a group photo at their exhibit opening.

Members of the Miami Art Marketing Salon pose for a group photo at their exhibit opening Windisch-Hunt Fine Arts. Photo by Rosie Brown. L to R: AnnaMaria Windiscnh-Hunt, Deborah Weed, Lynda Wellens , Rosie Brown, Monique Lassooij, Lynda LaRocca, Trina Collins, Jerry Wade, and Valentina Ramos.

Regardless of your vision, everyone invited will need to know what is expected of them. You might set up general rules such as No Personal Attacks on Anyone (in or outside of the room); Members Must Respect Diverse Opinions; and No Yelling, Throwing, or Kicking (c’mon, you have to have a sense of humor!).

3. Members and guests

Your group should be large enough to include diverse points-of-view, but small enough that everyone’s voice can be heard. I would think a salon of six to twelve people is a good size.

There should be a core group (three to five people) dedicated to meeting with one another on a regular basis. Aside from the core, you might think of a new person to invite each time to shake things up. Consider inviting people who aren’t necessarily visual artists. Find an architect, a poet, a dancer, a musician, a philanthropist, a writer, or a creative problem-solver. The more diverse your group, the better! Art has never been created in a vacuum and is always enriched when it incubates in a varied environment.

[The above information does not apply to those who are working on marketing plans using the tools at Art Biz Connection. If you are doing this, you should have the same group of people throughout.]

You can find members within an organization you already belong to or an exhibition you’re part of. You can also ask for recommendations from those you trust or even post a flyer if you’re open to experimenting.

I’ll give you the final three elements for a thriving salon in tomorrow’s post.

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