Monday, March 11, 2013

Spaces: Exploration of Art Venues, Notes 1: Retail

On Saturday, March 9, the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition offered the Artist Survival Kit workshop, "Spaces: An Exploration of Art Venues." During this workshop, five speakers shared their experiences with different art venue types including retail, restaurants, commercial galleries, non-profit venues, and auctions/secondary markets. In this series of blog posts, we share notes from each speaker thanks to ASK Committee Co-chair Sarah Atlee.

Amanda Bradway: Art in a Retail Environment
Amanda Bradway runs DNA Galleries in OKC's Plaza District, where she sells handmade goods (mostly by local artists) and contemporary art.

Amanda advises that artists shop around for the right venue for their work, one that reflects their aesthetic and style. Style is particularly important, so visit the spaces you want to show in.
Inside DNA Galleries in OKC's Plaza District
Questions to ask about your potential retail venues:
Price points: Is your work over- or under-priced for the venue?
Is there adequate display space for your work?
Are the shelves stable and sturdy?
Are there locked display cases for smaller, more valuable pieces?
Layout: How are the walls? Is there enough wall space for your work? Would your work be hung too high for people to see it? How will it be displayed?

Be professional. Showing your work in a retail venue is not unlike showing it in a gallery. Make sure your work is display-ready, framed and wired for hanging. DNA had an experience where an artist installed a completely different body of work than what they had submitted, and it wasn't as good!

Be excited about your work - retail owners don't want to show your work if they think you just want to get rid of it.

Offer different price points for a range of potential buyers. People don't often walk into retail stores expecting to walk out with original art. They may really enjoy your work but not be able to afford larger originals. However, they are likely to buy small prints, buttons, stickers, etc.

Turnaround: Retail goods need to move, and not stagnate in the store. If your work will be displayed there for more than a month or two, bring new things in periodically. Retail stores often change their merchandise to match the season. Artists should keep in mind that retail sales are what keep the business' doors open, and fine art sales will likely be secondary to that.

Promotion: Tell everyone where they can find your work. Check in with your social media outlets, even just once a day. Retailers will appreciate the additional publicity.

Have an opening. It's a great opportunity for store visitors to see and try new things. You'll get a different audience than people who might ordinarily visit a gallery.

DNA Galleries fills a niche by selling handmade, artist-made products that are 98% from local artists. They now have an online submission form. They want to know what kind of products or art you're offering, what your price points are, and whether artwork is ready to hang. They rotate products and art out consistently, and seasonally. Artists are encouraged to resubmit if they are initially rejected.

Retail customers like to see variety and selection within a consistent group of products, which is why DNA Galleries wants to see a minimum of 5 pieces in an artist's submission. They ask that your work has not been shown in the Plaza District within the past year.

When contacting a potential venue, know exactly who you should talk to. Don't assume the person behind the counter at a retail store is the right person to talk to about showing your art. Make an appointment, rather than just walking in with the things you want to sell.

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