When I began my art journey after college, it felt like there was something I was missing. I saw many of my former classmates and artists get exhibitions, features and press from the beginning. I had participated in a few juried and local shows, but it still felt like a gap between where I was and the level of professionalism I was longing for.
After several months of waiting for a fancy gallery to call me, nothing happened, so I decided to do everything I could and take power back into my own hands. I spent my evenings resting my tired feet from my waitressing job, browsing art opportunities. I applied to many juried shows during this season of my life and eventually got into a few. But what really shifted things for me were the local opportunities I took advantage of and my willingness to create my own exhibitions.
The early days included shows at local coffee shops, opera houses and nonprofit and government spaces. I even had an exhibition inside a Capital One corporate building during my day job. What I learned over the years is that if there are walls, there is a chance you can host a show there. I also admired my friend Michael Kalmbach, Director of the Creative Vision Factory, who helped me experience a few opportunities as he took advantage of abandoned retail spaces in downtown Wilmington through his organization. The New Wilmington Art Association was a membership I was fortunate enough to join at the time. In addition, some of my artist friends raised funds and rented a beautiful storefront to showcase their art series.
You might be thinking, “that’s great, but won’t that turn off potential galleries from wanting to work with me?” In my experience, if you treat each opportunity with professionalism and commitment, you may attract additional support. I diligently documented images of my exhibitions, invited my coworkers, and shared the available work on my Instagram page. Even though I still dreamed about those fancy galleries in New York and London, I started to meet collectors and supporters. My art resume grew, my confidence increased, and I began to see opportunities everywhere.
If you are not currently experiencing the exhibitions and support you would like, here are some tips for creating your own opportunities that can ultimately help you get more visibility, press and sales.
Research local options first.
We may want to see our work on the white walls of a major gallery, but it’s okay to start in your local neighborhood. There are advantages to sticking to your community, as you will have more of a chance to market and network with visitors, exchange information and talk about your story.
Decide on your budget.
If you are willing to invest in a storefront and have the capital to do so, you can begin researching venues and available spaces. However, if you are limited on cash, there are tons of other options, such as nonprofit spaces, restaurants, cafes and even hospitals, that may be open to exhibition proposals.
Maximize the opportunity.
Even though it’s tempting to think, “this isn’t legit,” I can do better than that. It’s important to practice gratitude and treat the exhibition as an esteemed event. Prepare business cards, a way to stay in touch and set an intention to experience success.
Want to learn more about how to host your own exhibition? Join me, Ekaterina Popova, and curator and coach Gita Joshi on our four-week program on how to create your own show and level up your art career.