Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Spaces: Exploration of Art Venues, Notes 2: Restaurants

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.
Watercolor painting by Tommy Lee Ball
Tommy Ball: Artistic Restauraunteering

Know your venue - do your homework.

When approaching a potential restaurant, have your portfolio, business cards, and other print materials ready, so they can see your images immediately. Tommy leaves small digital prints on watercolor paper with the owners of potential venues. They are small gifts that are very memorable.

The best time to talk to a restaurant owner is on a weekday afternoon between 2 and 4 pm. Leave your contact info with them, and remember to follow up.

Questions to ask about potential restaurant venues:
Have they ever shown art before? Do they do so regularly?
How often do they rotate new art in?
What is their submission policy? Who handles art submissions?
Price points: is your work priced appropriately for the venue?
Is there a sales commission? How much? Restaurants often take no commission, but artists should be prepared to handle their own sales.
Is your work a good fit for this venue? Generally, grotesque subject matter, nudes, etc. should be avoided.
How are the walls? Do you have their permission to drill holes if that's required for hanging your work?
How is the lighting? Tommy often hangs his own clip lights in restaurants. Sometimes this requires minor electrical work on his part. An example of this can be seen at the Forge co-working space in Tulsa.
Have they offered to hang your work for you? Make sure they know how to properly hang art, and make it easy for them by having your work be display-ready with proper wiring.

Be professional: be on time! Respect the fact that they are running a business, and you are not their top priority.

Be sure to get direct contact information for the restaurant owner. If there's a problem, you want to be able to talk directly to them.

What if the restaurant closes, or moves, while your work is hanging there? What if you try to get your work back and it's locked up somewhere? Have a contract with provisions for situations like this, and get actual legal help making it.

On price points: Tommy shows different work depending on the prices at a particular venue. He may show originals or prints. For restaurants where a customer would spend $50-$100 on a meal, he may show original paintings priced around $1,000. For restaurants that charge $10-$20 a plate, he'll show prints priced around $200.

Make your own wall tags. Tommy includes his name, the medium and substrate, information about the frame, and his contact info. He does not display prices.

New restaurants are great, because an artist can help them out by making their interiors look better for their launch, attracting more customers.

To physically protect his work in restaurants, Tommy frames everything with glass and caulks the seam between the frame and the backing. This way, he can prevent food smells and moisture from creeping inside the frame and being absorbed by the paper.

While your work is up in a restaurant, be a patron. Bring people you know to eat there.

If your work is hanging for more than a month or two, check in with them once a month. Bring new work, or simply refresh your display by rearranging the existing work.

Know when the show will end. Contact the restaurant owner 2-4 weeks before your work comes down. Don't leave them with bare walls! Remember, they are not gallerists, and may want more time to line up the next artist to show there. They'll appreciate recommendations for other artists.

When you deinstall, leave their walls in better shape than you found them.

Thank the restaurant management and staff in a personal, special way.

Tommy doesn't have to search for new venues these days - he's spent enough time cultivating good relationships with restaurants that now they approach him.

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