by: Steff Metal
As artists, we’re told again and again how vital it is for us to market online, to reach an international audience, to establish a profitable niche. And this is very true, but in extending our reach we often neglect a lucrative market that’s right in front of us – our local art community.
People love to support local artists, and there are many opportunities open to you within your hometown that can support a part- or full-time artist. Here are some ideas on how to market your artwork in your local community.
It may not be the Tate Modern, but your local art galleries enjoy loyal and steady patronage, and they’re a great place to begin building a local following. Exhibiting in your local gallery scene can also be an excellent way to network with important local art folk and increase your profile.
Local galleries have an established network of art fans and collectors who love to support up-and-coming artists. Because local galleries are small, they offer individual artists and exhibitions a lot of hands-on attention, and they focus on bringing interested patrons through the door.
But you don’t have to stick to galleries – cafes, office lobbies, schools, libraries, banks and theatres often host mini exhibitions from local artists. These are an excellent way of getting your art in front of fresh eyes – not everyone in your town visits galleries, but they all do their banking and enjoy coffee and cake.
Most cities have a local Art Council, who put on events and manage arts activities across a range of disciplines. These bodies often give out funding and look for artists to undertake community projects and large-scale commissions. You’re competing only against local artists (not the entire international scene) and have a much better chance of being recognized and funded.
In a local scene, it’s all about whom you know – so get out to local arts events and meet people. Always carry business cards and postcards of your work to show interested people.
My local arts community also run a fantastic website that posts regular job opportunities and submission calls, as well as promoting exhibitions and shows. You can find valuable opportunities by staying current with these local channels.
As well as getting your name recognized in the arts community, you might find a wealth of contacts and potential collectors in the business community. Businesses love to be seen supporting the arts, and they all have offices that need decorating, gala dinners that need prizes, and websites and products that need evocative images and packaging.
Recently, I joined the BNI (Business Network Institute) as an artist and writer, and have also started attending events put on by the local chamber of commerce. My BNI chapter meets once a week over breakfast to exchange referrals. I may know someone who’s looking for a travel agent, so I give the travel agent in the group their contact details to follow up, and the professional photographer might give me a referral for a business friend of his who needs an illustration for one of their products.
“But I’m an artist. Why would I want to spend my time hanging out with business types?” You might be asking. Well, your art is also your business, and forming a network of other local business people gives you more opportunities to sell your work and make a living.
An artist is always a talking point at a networking event. Take along some business cards and postcards showing your work. You’ll find plenty of people are interested in what you do – many of them will contact you later with exciting projects.
County reporters, community newsletters and local radio stations love to feature profiles of unique characters from the area. As an artist, you’re automatically considered “unique” in most people’s books, so why not see if you can get an article or feature about your artwork?
Whenever your work is featured in a new exhibition, or you’ve won a contest or completed an interesting project, write a little press release and send it out to your local media contacts. What’s that? You don’t have any local media contacts? Well, it is time you started making some, isn’t it?
Send email or letters to radio stations, newspapers and publications, asking whom you need to contact about editorial features. Explain that you’re a local artist who is holding an exhibition and wondered if they’d like some free tickets to the opening? You could also hold a small open studio event and ask the press along. You could also send out a press kit to local media.
You need a belly full of bravery to make contact with the press, but you’ll soon realize they’re not vicious, hard-hitting reporters. They’re just down-to-earth locals keen to support the local community. Don’t ever think you’re not important or famous enough to be featured!
A huge part of marketing is making sure you’re continually in front of customer’s eyes. Features in local media will establish you as a local artist people can trust, and they will recognize your name when they see your work in galleries.
Part of being a locally recognized artist is giving back to your community. You can do this by volunteering to teach kids art classes, doing the school holiday program at the library, or by teaming up with a local charity to offer a prize or entertainment for an event.
Find a charity whose work you admire and whose core recipients or donors fit with your target market. So, if you’re a pet portrait painter, you want to get in touch with the animal shelter. Nature artists could look for conservation groups. If your art deals with complex social issues, you could contact your local Victim Support or Women’s Refuge.
Once you’ve chosen a charity, contact them and offer to work with them on their next project or event. Perhaps you could donate a prize to their next raffle, or you could paint murals on the walls of their centre.
Most local charities have an established relationship with the media, so by helping them out, not only do you get to do a nice thing for your community, but you’ll probably be written up in the media, too. It’s a win win for everybody.
Going local isn’t something you do at the expense of your online marketing – it offers another way to connect yourself with your community and create a powerful fan base that will buy your work for years to come.
Steff Metal is a New Zealand-based marketing copywriter and illustrator with a heavy metal attitude. Steff's business, Grymm & Epic Copywriting & Illustration is dedicated to helping small creative businesses market themselves successfully on a minuscule budget. You can download her FREE ebook – Unleash the Beast: Releasing Your Inner Creative Monster and get weekly marketing tips sent direct to your inbox.