Taking Advantage of Non-Gallery Art Venues

Guest Blogger: Jeremy Mason

As an artist without formal training, I have had to really break into the local art scene.  That process is still happening and it has been a great learning experience.

I haven’t yet landed that show at the gallery of my dreams, but I have optimized my exposure by finding creative and respected places to hang my art.

Specifically, I have looked for fantastic art spaces without huge barriers to entry.

Jeremy Mason, 9 Grain. Acrylic on wood panel, 24 x 20 inches. ©The Artist

My first show was a solo show at a local community art gallery that has made it their mission to give artists a chance.  My second show was at a church (I know what your thinking . . . just trust me here) as part of a gallery they added to their new modern addition.  The space looked great and thousands of visitors looked at my art each week.

Currently I have my art in a new winery in northern Michigan.  They built a modern tasting room with a beautiful view of the bay.  They make great wine, have a modern feel and have been awesome to work with.  I get to work with really great people, drink good wine and will have great exposure as hundreds of people visit the tasting room.  I got the gig, by the way, by emailing one of the owners.  I simply said that I thought my art would be a good addition to their tasting room.  He agreed and the rest is history.

You, too, can create non-gallery opportunities for your art.

Here are some items to consider before deciding whether or not you should hang your art in a particular space.

1. Verify that the space will complement your work and give you positive exposure.

Let’s face it.  Art is incredibly subjective.  Your success is based on the opinions of others.  The space surrounding your art says as much about the artist as the art itself.  It is not possible for most people to separate the art from its surroundings.  Make sure the space enhances your work, looks professional and is given proper wall space to be appreciated.

2. Discuss the details of the arrangement.

If you are not dealing with a gallery, you will have to take the utmost care to make sure the details and expectations surrounding the arrangement are crystal clear.  As you are not dealing with a gallery, you have to be the one doing the legwork a gallery would normally do. Here are some items to start your negotiations.

  • Who is going to hang/set up the art?
  • Where is it going to be visible?
  • Who is your primary contact?
  • What is the timeline for the show?
  • How do you handle sales?  (What is their cut of sales?)
  • How is purchased art finally acquired by the buyer?
  • Will there be an opening or reception that you need to attend?
  • What are their expectations of you while the art is in their space?
  • Will prices be posted?

3. Be sure you need the exposure.

Showing in non-art venues is obviously not for well established artists who have the gallery scene figured out.  It can be a lot of work.  Make sure you outline your goals for the arrangement and consider all the work involved.

Remember, you are doing the extra work so that you can build towards a long-term goal.  Any exposure should further your career and open up more opportunities.

Jeremy Mason is a financial planner by day and a painter by night.  He is currently learning as much as he can about the art of encaustic painting.

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6 comments to Taking Advantage of Non-Gallery Art Venues

  • Nice article. I’ve found that using non-traditional venues are helpful and a nice way to get exposure. In my experience, most non-galleries (especially bars and restaurants) don’t charge a commission because they make money off the food and drink the patrons order. The only tricky thing is when it comes to protecting your art and who is liable for damage to your work. Most places wish to stay off the hook for that and are sometimes reluctant to sign liability contracts.

    I have some pieces currently on display at an office space in Manhattan. It has worked out beautifully in terms of exposure and really has enhanced the office environment there.

  • Jeremy, this is a great article full of very practical suggestions on how to go about setting up art in Non-Art Venues. I’ve had limited success selling on-line for a couple of years and would like to try something like this. Thank you for writing this most helpful article.

    Nan Engen

  • I like the idea of how you’re trying to expose yourself whichever way, starting with the community gallery. Instead of just aiming for high-end galleries, you’re already getting your work seen.

  • Yeah, I have found that I have a passion for art in general, and this translates to seeking out good business. I love the idea of community coming together, what better way than for an artist to partner with a business that is doing a great job. If done right, it is a win win for everybody. There is a definite give and take, but it is fun to get out there and create your own success. Thanks for the responses!
    -Jeremy

  • Scott Hammond

    Before Katrina New Orleans had a small indy movie house called Movie Pitchers that showed small films in small theaters full of old couches and sold pitchers of draft beer to viewers (hence the name). They were also one of New Orleans great secrets, an art gallery masquerading as a cinema. The walls in the lobby and hallways were lined with works by up and coming/struggling young artists, mostly in the $1-300 price range if memory serves. The place was a treasure, they sold lots of work and helped artists get exposure to their best audience-locals who have an interest in art. every city should have

  • […] she found was that the venues where she had decent sales weren’t necessarily the ones that increased her income. There were […]