Networking with Artists

by Carolyn Edlund

 

Gallery crowd in Ft Myers

 

The other evening I had dinner with two artists. One was visiting the area, searching for galleries that might be a good fit for her work. I introduced her to the second artist, who had a working relationship with a local gallery.

They admired each other’s work, and made an agreement. The visiting artist was introduced to the gallery owner, who agreed to review her portfolio. She in turn agreed to recommend the local artist to a gallery in her own town.

This is networking. Artist recommendation is one of the top ways that galleries find artists and my dinner companions used it to create a win/win situation. Their actions gave both of them coveted introductions that could further their careers and their art sales.

You might think of other artists as primarily competition, but I’d encourage you to consider how your art community is actually a perfect place to start your own network. Artists need each other. No art festival could exist without artists exhibiting together to draw a crowd. And it’s been found that artists who start businesses in isolation are far more likely to fail than artists who surround themselves with a supportive community.

How can you work with other artists for common benefit?

1. Attend (or start) a salon, guild meeting or other group to share helpful discussion, resources, opportunities, advice, and mentorship.

2. Identify those people whom you like and feel you can work with in your group. Introduce them to people you know who could be helpful to them. Share feedback, give encouragement, and act as accountability partners for each other as you work toward your business goals.

3. Share referrals with others. Just as my artist friends traded gallery connections, reach out to your own existing network to introduce people who could mutually benefit. You might also share links on social media to a networking partner’s website or event, or recommend them to your customers and fans. They can reciprocate, and thereby you extend each other’s social “reach”.

4. Partner up. You might consider sharing a show booth, a pop-up space, or an open studio event with your networking partners. Each person invites their list to the event, and everyone gains in exposure and potential sales.

Networking starts out with a giving mentality, but this doesn’t mean that you have to be a martyr, running around assisting everyone else. Know what you want, and be open to receiving. Who would you like to meet? Let others know what you are trying to achieve, and what introductions would be most helpful.

The nature of networking is that at times you can help someone else, but they don’t currently have an introduction or help for you. Don’t worry. That assistance will come, frequently from yet another source. When you approach the networking process with a “pay it forward” attitude, you become known as a connector, and a great person to know. Your network will naturally evolve, and referrals will come.

Getting personal introductions to the very people you would love to meet helps avoid the stress of reaching out “cold” and feeling like an outsider. It’s often who you know rather than what you know that helps you become successful. Start with your current circle of acquaintances, and start reaching out. Use those networking skills on a daily basis as part of your regular practice, and watch your own business grow.

 

Carolyn EdlundCarolyn Edlund is the founder of Artsy Shark, and the Executive Director of the Arts Business Institute. She frequently writes articles on the business of art, speaks at art business workshops and does private consulting. Learn more here.

 

 

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Comments

  1. All the above is great advice in networking. I have used these techniques and still add to my lists.

    Thanks Carolyn Edlund.

    All the Best.

    Clyde D. Finlay
    International Artist
    Canada.

    • Thanks Clyde – glad to hear you are using your networking to grow your business. I think you would agree that after a while, it comes naturally to network with others, and is a great part of a regular business practice.

  2. I can agree on so many of these points – thank you Carolyn!
    I just have one extra question – what happens when you live in a very small community with art very unlike everyone else?
    I am an expat living in Europe but my main market and most of my art “peers” live in other countries. Do you think social media is enough in that case?

    • Christina, if your situation is such that most of your networking could or should be online, then go with it. That said, if there are opportunities to meet any of those online acquaintances in person at some point, it really helps. There is nothing like meeting in the flesh to get to know people.

      • Lol that I can agree with – I gave that a try recently actually. Didn’t go the way I expected – people are very different in the flesh than their “online personas”. For better or for worse! 😉

  3. I’m just getting underway. Thx for your suggestions, they seem like good ideas. I’ll use them.

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