By Carolyn Edlund
If you had an insider’s tour of the offices of power brokers, government officials and influential businesspeople in our nation’s capitol, what would you see? Judith HeartSong, the Art Director for corporate consulting firm ArtMatters LLC in Washington, DC, agreed to answer a few question about this world and how artists can become involved in the corporate market.
AS: Your company ArtMatters does art consulting for business and government. Can you define exactly what that means?
JH: ArtMatters is a full-service art consulting firm. We oversee all stages of a project from the development phase (site visit, presentation of artwork, formal proposal) through the framing and installation. We work directly with the client or collaborate with the interior designer, architect or the project manager of a space. At our initial meeting we discuss the scope of the project and interior design, working with our clients to understand their needs, goals, vision, taste and budgetary parameters. We then make art selections that best fit the environment, working with the client’s budget.
AS: ArtMatters represents 500 artists and promotes them to corporate clients. Where do you find artists? How do you choose them?
JH: ArtMatters represents artists in all media. Some of our artists have been with us for many years, and we are always looking for new talent and new mediums. ArtMatters represents artists who live in the metro DC area (Washington, Maryland, and Virginia) as well as nationally and internationally recognized artists from all over the country and beyond. We attend art shows and gallery openings here and when we travel, and are basically always looking for art with a wow factor and staying power that can translate to corporate placement.
AS: Can you give your top three suggestions for artists who want to get involved in selling their work for corporate and residential interiors?
JH: First and foremost, hone your craft. Work to build your practical skills to a level of exemplary craftsmanship and expertise that will attract the clients you hope to target with your work. This is a competitive market and anything less than top-notch work will not catch designers’ and consultants’ well-trained eyes.
Second, research the market. Visit the websites of art consulting firms like ArtMatters to view the types of work being placed, as well as installation shots that show the scale of work being placed.
Third, learn as much as you can by reading trade publications, attending tradeshows, gallery openings and other events to immerse yourself in the world of art and design.
AS: Do you recommend that artists use current color trends and “popular” looks in their work to appeal to clients who want to purchase for interiors? Or do you encourage artists to use their own style and then find projects where their art would work well?
JH: Artists should be aware of current color trends and what is happening in the market, but it is much more important for artists to find and polish their own unique style and to build a strong portfolio of work that they are inspired by and believe in. When an artist finds something that works both for them and for corporate placement, by all means keep at it, but we also hope to see the depth of your work growing and evolving over time, i.e. not the same cookie-cutter work year after year. The best work gets better and better over time with growth and maturity.
AS: What is the biggest mistake artists make when trying to market their work?
JH: As the art director for ArtMatters, the biggest mistake that I see artists making over and over is to submit work that is totally inappropriate for any sort of corporate placement. It becomes immediately clear that they have not spent any time researching our website, which is full of examples of the sort of work that we place.
Artists should always learn as much as they can about consulting in general and the firm in particular that they wish to submit to. Do your homework and follow to the letter any guidelines offered for submission as it makes an instant impression on the people who will be looking at your work.
Judith HeartSong, a vibrant artist in her own right, will be the subject of an upcoming personal interview.