Vision and Strategy for Artists

by Rhonda Schaller

Create a DIY Strategy for Exhibiting Your Art


Rhonda Schaller – Bowl of Dreams


Pondering the Exhibition Alternatives

I want to talk with you about creating an alternative strategy to exhibit your work, and help you to create a DIY model (do it yourself) guide for success. I will share business tips that you need to learn to help you create the right strategies, and teach you how you can sustain an art practice and career path on your own terms.

The art business is a marketplace driven business, like stocks, like real estate it depends on the economy. And like stocks and real estate, the art world revolves around people and psychology.  Are they saving or are they spending? In the market place this is called behavioral economics. How does this effect you as an artist? Well, look at it this way: If your work is product based, meaning you make something tangible like a painting or a sculpture, you usually look to sell it. That’s economics.

If your work is experience based, like performance art or street art, you usually look for it to be funded. That’s also economics. When the behaviors of the marketplace change, the sellers and the funders have to change their models of doing business. This means for artists who are looking to either sell or fund their work, they need to change their models too. Where they show, how much they charge, and how they will create an audience that will support their work all have to be taken into account.

The good news is that everything is in flux right now, and a lot of the old models are dying and new models are rising up everywhere. This is good news, because the majority of artists were locked out of the old gallery models.

The trick for a sustainable art career in today’s market, is to create a practical but visionary plan. This means your business plan (yes, you need one) is based on a vision. It’s real for you, and you make it practical based on knowing yourself, what your vision is, what you want to accomplish, who you want to reach, and learning why people want to look at or experience your art work. And if you are looking to sell it or have it funded – what is its value in the marketplace given the state of the economy and the psychology of the community.

It’s not as hard as it sounds. You need to create an economic base for yourself, and an exhibition strategy in which you can share your vision with others. That’s what artists do!

The ultimate goal to keep in mind – is simply this – get your work seen.

Your Own Path: Exhibition Alternatives in Alternative Spaces

Let’s take a moment and define alternative. It can be a space – where you show, it can be a strategy – why you show, and it can be a thought process – how you create your showing opportunities.


© Rees Shad Mote courtesy of Rhonda Schaller/Schaller + Jaquish Art Projects


Alternative usually refers to any venue that is not a traditional commercial gallery in a traditional art center.  An alternative mindset is a way to approach your career. You can do it through exhibiting in established alternative spaces and by developing an innovative, creative, entrepreneurial spirit and creating your own spaces.

Then, you can also add to that showing in commercial galleries as a part of your strategy.

The art world needs innovation, and as an artist you can dip into your well of creativity and create new models of how art is made, as well as shown, funded and sold.

Alternative #1: Create your own exhibition model

There are new groups and new ideas being created daily by fascinating business minded artists and innovators creating their own models. Everywhere you look you will discover new models of community and art. Here is a way for you to engage in it, challenge your thinking process and creative process with a plan.

Try this to get some ideas on paper, this is a business plan exercise I like to help you choose your next steps in creating your own exhibition and getting your work seen and moving forward.

Make a show chart:

  1. What is your idea?
  2. What excites you about your exhibition idea?
  3. If you have a few ideas, what do you like best about each one?
  4. Where did this idea come from? How did you come up with it?
  5. How will you get others excited about your show? Who will you reach, invite and why?
  6. What steps can you take to turn your idea into a plan?
  7. How can you make sure your momentum is not lost?
  8. Who will you ask to help you? Who would make a good collaborator? Why?
  9. How will you research the right venues for this idea?
  10. Make list of 3 -10 possible venues, with pros and cons for each.
  11. Create a timetable with deadlines: what will you accomplish and by when
  12. Send out invitations and have fun!

Also in this series:

Alternative Opportunities for Artists

Artists: Discover Your Market

Strategies for Self-Producing Artists


Author and artist Rhonda SchallerRhonda Schaller is an artist, gallerist, and creative/career/life coach. She is the Assistant Director, Career Development for New York’s School of Visual Arts where she teaches creative visualization, career strategies and professional development. She is the author of  Called or Not, Spirits are Present published by Blue Pearl Press and contributing writer for the book  Starting Your Career as a Fine Artist by Angie Wojak and Stacy Miller.


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  1. Terri Lloyd says

    #12 is key….Have fun!

    How many of us put a plan together that isn’t fun? Or approach the business end of what we do as labor instead of fun or a labor of love?

  2. Looking forward to Rhonda’s continuation on this post. Very good information and something to look into filling up those empty store fronts. Every city/town has them and instead of empty, maybe exhibits even if just in the window is better than those blank windows which are so depressing.

    Carolyn always finds the most wonderful people to profile here.

  3. I feel inspired! I’m making a list right now and coping the list of questions. Sometimes we just need an idea at the right time to spur us on. Wish me luck.
    Thank you Rhonda and Carolyn.

  4. Thank you all for your comments. Rhonda is an expert at visualizing and planning and her students really appreciate the benefit of her experience as an artist and a gallerist. The next four installments in this series will deal with researching your market, alternative exhibiting opportunities and self-producing.

  5. Well put and thoughtful, yet heavily laced with reality. Art for art’s sake… but its nice to be able to pay the rent.

  6. I agree – which is why we need a vision + planning = value. If we observe the market and discern the value that the audience we target is looking for, and it is true for us – then we can be part of that important exchange of ideas/product/money. If that is the exchange we are looking for.

    For some it is, for some its not. Art for art’s sake sounds so small – I think it is so much larger than that – it is art for survival, it is art because I have no other choice, it is art for sanity, beauty, aliveness, meanings sake.

    Then, if we can figure out who resonates with that in us, and create a way for an exchange of value – goods to services to money, then we can earn a living too.


  1. […] 4, the conclusion of Rhonda Schaller’s article on strategies for artists. Be sure not to miss Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this […]

  2. […] 4, the conclusion of Rhonda Schaller’s article on strategies for artists. Be sure not to miss Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of this […]

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