Build Your Artist Network

by Carolyn Edlund

The network you build within your art community can be one of your small business’s greatest assets.



Many artists are hesitant to engage in self-promotion, and that’s understandable. It takes time to get used to being the “marketing person” for your own creative business. One way to get started is to join an art community, local art organization or guild, or other group of artists who are in much the same position and have the same interests. That’s a safe place to begin to share your portfolio and your artist story, and to get feedback and support.

Have you thought of other artists primarily as competition? Although some may compete for the same collectors, artists need each other. Consider an art fair or festival; without a large group of people exhibiting and selling their work, it wouldn’t exist. Lots of artists and makers must come together to offer an enticing shopping experience for the public. It’s a collaborative effort.

There are many benefits to building your network. Artist referral is one of the top ways to get into galleries. Other artists can also provide assistance by making introductions to people you want to know, or sharing resources to help your small business. The artist community is incredibly giving and supportive.

Ready to start networking?

Embrace the right mindset

Networking is an act of connecting with other people for mutual benefit. When people approach a networking event with the idea of getting leads or making sales, it often backfires. The process is gradual, and the best attitude to maintain is that of wanting to assist others. What do you have to offer? Focus on how you can “pay it forward” unconditionally. Everyone in a network has something of value to offer others, and those who are known as givers are often the ones who receive the most. You may meet people in your network who become clients, collaborators, or strategic allies that will cross-promote with you.


Begin your first foray into networking by getting to know other people. Learn about their background and experience, and the type of work they do. Find out what you have in common. As you meet other artists, you will find that some are a good fit to follow up with; exchange contact information and make plans to get together again. Through this process you will come to know a variety of people who in a position to help you, and whom you can help in return.

Stay open to receiving

Being a member of a network is a positive thing. It’s satisfying to know that you can be a good partner to others. But there are two sides to every coin, and you should also benefit from the experience. Expect that as you continue with networking activities, you will receive assistance, too. What do you want to get out of networking with others? You should be able to state specifics when talking with others. Are you looking for gallery representation? Do you want to find a good studio assistant? Are you searching for an art walk, studio tour or other event to participate in? When you are able to tell others clearly and succinctly what you are seeking, someone along the way will help you find it.

Give it time

It takes time to cultivate connections. You have to show up repeatedly to become known to people in the community. Networking is an ongoing activity that successful entrepreneurs practice during their entire careers. Not only will you end up with a lot of great business contacts, but you will likely develop many friends who share your interests and artistic passion.


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  1. I have always believed that there is plenty of sunshine for everyone and as artists we are not in competition with each other. Which is why I published my findings on how to get your art noticed.
    The big advice given to all creatives who want to share their art is “You have to get yourself out there” but where is that? and what happens when you find that elusive place?
    I made it my mission to discover where it was and also share the stories and opportunities that arose when I dared to step out of my comfort zone and get myself out there.
    I published these findings so other artists could do the same

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