Podcast: Take over a vacant storefront–legally

Even with the current economic challenges, there are opportunities available for artists who are willing to think outside the box. Listen to the podcast to learn about a promising, surprising, and FREE! venue for artists, which also benefits the communities involved.

The last episode of the Art Marketing Action podcast was November 22, 2010. You can listen to or download any episode on iTunes.


Newsletter (a written version of this podcast)

Art Goes “Pop” During Recession (BBC)

92 Empty Shops Leeds (blog: Leeds, UK)


Send to Kindle

18 comments to Art Marketing Action Podcast: Take Over a Vacant Storefront–Legally

  • What a great post! I have thought about this before, but never had the moxie to actually act on it and make the calls. Afraid of not being able to pitch the idea well enough for it to be accepted, but you are right, all they can do is say no, and at 47 years of age I have heard that word before.

  • a group of artists started renting vacant spaces in my town in 2003 in order to show our work. our group is called gypsy gallery because we move around. there are between 8 & 10 group members and when we find larger spaces we rent booths to other artists in the community. we do gypsy shows 4x per year, in venues ranging from empty buildings to restaurants, building lobbies and an outdoor space owned by the city. it’s been very successful and a lot of fun. the group has evolved over time and we share a booth at the saturday market, share exhibit space ideas with other art groups & share “how to” information with emerging artists.

  • Marjorie Cunningham

    This is truly a fabulous idea! Thanks so much. I’ll be looking into this right away. Even if the landlord wants to charge a nominal fee, what a great opportunity this would be!

  • One of my galleries just did this. They’re in an up-scale (oh heck, why don’t I just say expensive) shopping center and were approached by the landlord to put up a temporary display wall and lights in the window of a store front that had been empty for months. They did classy signage and hung a few paintings. It looked surprisingly elegant and got lots of viewers. Of course I liked it especially because I had the largest piece and it was hung in the best space.

  • It’s not really as easy as you would think. Who wouldn’t want art in their space, right? But some landlords with great vacant spaces just screaming for art don’t understand the appeal and benefit to them of having a temporary art gallery to show it off to potential tenants. They are more concerned with making money and avoiding liability issues.

    Finding out which landlords are predisposed to supporting the arts and approaching them first might improve your chances. Prepare a “press packet” with examples of artwork, proof of insurance, testimonials, etc. to help support your case of being legitimate and serious. Discuss the benefits a temporary gallery might be to them.

    It takes persistence and preparation and, as Marianne mentioned above, working with groups of artists can defray costs and broaden artist representation. This kind of cooperation has also led to permanent gallery space. You never know what’s going to happen.

  • I have a book from the 50s or 60s that suggests this same thing! I did it years ago, thank you for the reminder, Alyson…our arts group is looking for ideas on showing our art.

  • Who knew I was ahead of the curve?! A photographer friend and I have been using an empty storefront for 2 years during a summer community event. It’s highly attended in part because it’s a novelty, and because in our small town it’s not often people have fine art brought to them.
    In fact, we’ve been asked about the next opening already.
    Rebecca’s right, how much can asking hurt? It helps you as an artist share your work, and it helps the landlord market his space, as well as support the fine arts.

  • It is a ‘hot-topic’ here in the UK, although I haven’t seen it ‘in situ’ myself yet. Lots of empty shops in my town though and it makes me (and my gallery dream) greedy. Shall I call? Shall I not? I could only do a window as I cannot ‘host’ or ‘steward’ but all those empty windows in gorgeous picturesque old shops….they are screaming out for art!
    What about insurance? If there’s lighting- electricity costs? Would the landlord ask a rent for using the window?

  • Burnell Yow!

    This is precisely what myself and twenty-two other artists in the art group The Philadelphia Dumpster Divers have been doing since mid-February. It’s all part of “Art on South,” a project started by Isaiah and Julia Zagar to revitalize the South Street area of Philadelphia. Landlords with vacant storefronts were contacted and many of them were delighted to have artists and art groups set up and run temporary galleries. We have the largest space (it’s really huge) and it’s filled with artwork by the members of our group. We take turns gallery sitting. We pay no rent, only utilities, which comes to about $16 each per month. It’s been a fantastic venue. We’ve gotten good press, many visitors, and SALES!

    Read more about it and see photos at:

  • Sandra Cherry Jones

    This is such great information. I had thought about asking for the use of unused store front windows to display some of my paintings along with contact information. We have a supportive art community and there are empty spaces in my small town. I am going to give this a try. It could”nt hurt.

  • Thanks all for sharing your experiences. This is honestly one of the most commented on newsletters I’ve written in some time–both here and on Facebook. Interesting!

    Mike: You’re right. I sure did simplify things. There are so many factors that could make this attractive and, yes, unattractive to landlords. You have to have the right fit. My father has been a property manager for quite some time, so I’m well aware of possible headaches. Honestly, I can’t see him agreeing to any of this.

    Sophie: I imagine you will not have insurance. But I also doubt you would incur any electricity costs.

  • Ren Burke

    This approach is already being done as a collaborative venture in little old Fort Collins:


    Thought you might be interested.

  • Take Over a Vacant Storefront–Legally

    How about an entire mall? That’s what’s happening here in St. Louis, well, Crestwood to be exact. The old Crestwood Mall had fallen on hard times. The company that used to own it wasn’t keeping it up and was doing nothing to keep tenants, they just wanted to sell it. They finally got a buyer, Jones Lang LaSalle, but
    they inherited a virtual ghost town. Tenants continued to leave. People in the area thought the mall had closed.
    Enter the Regional Art Commission (RAC) with an idea to rent to empty spaces to artists for a nominal fee, plus a percentage of all sales over a certain amount. The result is a mall coming back to life and a place that, given time, should become a major arts destination for the area.
    The artist/tenants (which include all art disciplines from live theater to dance schools to galleries) have formed a merchants association and board of directors to develop ideas to improve traffic in the mall and to raise money for advertising.
    I’m a member of Art Coop, a co-op gallery. We’ve been doing very well, considering we’re
    starting from zero and trying to get the public to understand the mall is NOT closed. We have
    6 artist/members in our gallery, each of whom paid less than $300 to get the gallery up and running
    and almost all of whom are now in the black. (We opened the end of April.) The mall even allowed us the use of display fixtures left behind in the empty stores.
    The mall now has the utilities paid for by someone else, and some money coming in for upkeep. The city has more tax revenue. The artists are building something together. What will become of all of this when the economy improves and it becomes viable for the owners to rebuild the mall remains to be seen. But
    for now there are a lot of artists in St. Louis getting their work out there and yes, even making some money.
    The company that now owns the mall has said that if it works out, they would like to see Art Space Crestwood become part of the new mall! I really, really, really (emphatic enough?) hope it works out that way. I heard through the grapevine that its working so well thus far that they are considering incorporating the idea into some of their other properties.

  • Christine

    I think another way the economy is affecting artists is that they’re now turning to the internet for their main way of marketing and displaying their artwork. If you’re a new and rising artist, this is definitely the path you will want to take. Everything is so intertwined with the internet now. There can be good and bad obvious aspects. I found this site though, http://www.mysoiree.net, where artists can have their own virtual studio to display and sell their work, but also do the same at “soirees” or social gatherings. Social networking+ publicity + selling artwork! I think this is just another way the economy has now impacted the world of art!

  • Artists in Ireland taking over empty shops with pop-up galleries « Nearlythere

    […] is more and more being recognised as a viable alternative venue. This ArtBiz blog even offers a Podcast: Take over a vacant storefront–legally. The author notes, this is good for landlord and property owners to keep empty buildings more […]

  • […] It’s a surprise! Residents of West Cape May never know when or where a new knit will appear, nor do they know the […]

  • Keisha

    This podcast is not playing. Please fix it. Thank you 🙂