Artists – Discover Your Market

by Rhonda Schaller

Create a DIY Strategy for Exhibiting Your Work: Part Three of a Series


© Rina Peleg The Fragile Flag courtesy of Rhonda Schaller/Schaller + Jaquish Art Projects


Where else can you show?

Do your research! I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. If you are embarking upon an exhibition submissions push to alternative spaces then I would suggest that you dedicate time to research EVERY week. Put it on your calendar; make time to visit spaces, websites, read blogs and journals every week. Stay on trend. You won’t regret it. You’ll become educated (oh my!) in the fields you want your work to shine it. Your goal is to know your audience, know your options, and then fit your message into the conversations where they fit.

 Art In America is a great resource. You will find lists of commercial galleries of course, but you will also find alternative non-profit spaces, independent curators, museum curators, university galleries, etc.. to find good matches for your work. One summer I made a huge prospect list from the AiA guide, matching prospects with my work. I developed a submissions packet and query letter, and with the help of a part-time intern, sent out a catalog with a note to introduce my work across the country. This one effort resulted in 7 shows, and 1 museum purchase.

Don’t worry if you’re not sure where your work belongs. You will discover it. Here’s a very simple way you can begin to identify your market. If you don’t have any collectors yet, or curators who know your work, you can create a “profile” of your ideal “client”. Ask yourself, in an ideal universe how would you describe the client, collector, dealer, curator?

Then research that definition, and try to match it. You will learn a lot by trial and error. By keeping a sense of humor. By talking to people. These questions will also help you. Ask yourself: Where does work in your style, artists with your aspirations, and dreams exhibit? Who is your audience or potential audience? Where do they hang out and whom do they collect? What is the best way to reach them? Which galleries cater to this audience?

One of my marketing gurus, Kathleen Gage, says “You have to know who your market is and is not. You have to know who you want to do business with and who wants to do business with you. And you must continually evaluate who your market is and is not. “  So ask yourself, how does this apply to your art work, or performance work, or installation?

You do not want to waste time targeting the wrong market for your work. It’s depressing to be ignored, and you will be ignored. And let’s face it, you need and want an audience that will allow you to be successful.

Take the time to start going to shows, reading art magazines and Journals, go online to check out blogs, talk to other artists, and assess the scene to figure this out. This is the best way to research your potential market. Now that you know what you want, you must research alternative spaces in cities across the US and a few countries abroad to fit your vision.

Just like researching commercial galleries, when you research alternative spaces here are a few important tips:
When you Research: Ask yourself these questions:

* Where does work in your style, medium, level of visibility and connections exhibit? Look for common ground.

* Which venues cater to your target market/audience? Look for an opening, or create one.

Always create a strategy based on your research

Once you have done your research and understand who your potential market is, make a BIG list of the spaces, venues, both alternatives and/or commercial that will give you the visibility to reach your potential market. You need to promote your work to a large variety of people and venues. This takes work and time, but the right strategy based on the right research will pay off your entire career. And, save you from needless rejection.

* Based on your research, make a list of the spaces, alternative and/or commercial, that offer you the right visibility to target your market

* A targeted strategy is the key to your efforts


Also in this series:

Vision and Strategy for Artists

Alternative Opportunities for Artists

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. Thanks Rhonda, excellently helpful!, now, lets see, which day of the week should it be….

  2. Thanks for presenting this valuable information!

  3. Thank you very much for writing and sharing this very informative article. I can definitely use it as a guide to sell my art and succeed as a professional artist…the research part I have been doing already for the past three years, then finally this year I got over my fear and started my career change.

  4. Best of luck to you, Marimil – although you are “making your own luck” by doing this hard work.!

  5. Thanks for the comments – always happy to share.

    If not us, who? If not now, when? Why not you? As vision-makers it takes enormous courage to be “seen” and enter into that conversation of meaning. I think the best momentum in the world in forging our careers forward is honoring our own time table, with lots of community, and feedback.

    And then, make a plan. What does success mean to you? How will you create value for yourself and in the marketplace? And then just for it!

  6. Great article! Another tip: spend a day finding sites to submit your work to. Then slowly submit to them over time. Make sure to have a online presence to link back to so people can find you.

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