hi, i'm Ali
Photographer, dog mom, daily walker, reader, and wife to a busy maker. I'm the voice you hear and read at Life Outside the Shop.
From new project how-to's and DIY home updates to the ins-and-outs of building a family & multiple businesses, Life Outside the Shop shares what is really looks like to figure it out as you go.
If you’re a new artist and want to make a living from your work, you’re likely going through the same thing we are over here at Sam Macy Deigns. You’re probably wondering things like, “how do I book my first art show?” or “how do I get my art seen?”.
Instagram and Facebook are great for reaching large audiences. But for most people, it is seeing the art in person that really seals the deal. Even when you figure out how to take pictures that do your work justice, nothing is quite like seeing dynamic art in real life.
Especially when you have higher-priced artwork with many layers and textures like we do, getting your work in galleries, eateries and other local places can make a huge difference in visibility.
Here is the thing, we don’t have the perfect answers. All we can tell you is what has worked for us and hopefully, you’ll be able to pull a few things from it too so you can book your first art show!
Our very first art show was with Rustic Roots in Ali’s hometown. We were originally connected to the owners through Ali’s mom who walked into the local restaurant with a piece of Sam’s art and asked if they’d consider showing it.
Sometimes, you really do have to pound the pavement (or, have a mom who will do it for you!), give places the opportunity to see your work in real life and find out what they think. The more people who see your work, the higher the chance that someone will show it.
That being said, when deciding where to book your first art show, make sure to keep your ideal clientelle in mind. Ask yourself, “will the people who enjoy this artwork (and pay for it!) going to see it if it hangs here?”
Because it was our first art show, there was a pretty steep learning curve when it came to pricing work, learning what will sell (and what won’t), and the importance of marketing.
We were so lucky to work with Rustic Roots as they helped us learn along the way. We definitely recommend starting local and with people you know and trust if possible. It is a great way to get your feet wet before booking bigger venues and start to build connections you’ll keep throughout your career.
Rustic Roots is one of our go-to brunch spots (they have the BEST popovers in town!), and we’ve even hosted family events there. We can’t wait to work with them again in the future!
The Shelburne Farms Collection spent time on the walls of Burlington Vermont’s Maltex Building.
We were hooked up to this location through Burlington City Arts. BCA is an organization that helps support new artists and promote their work.
Getting involved with local art associations is another great way to book your first art show and make connections. Many of these associations keep a roster of local artists and the kind of work they do. They have partnerships with local places (hospitals, office buildings, etc) and rotate art through these spaces based on the vibe of the location.
We get an email from our contact about a new show location and BOOM, we’re in!
Things to consider before deciding to work with an outside organization:
If all those considerations check out, go for it! Everyone needs a little help and a reputable organization to keep an eye out for places to hang your work can only help increase your exposure and coonnections.
We’ve also hung work in the Champlain Islands favorite bagel bakery and deli, Wally’s Place.
We connected with the owner of Wally’s through a friend who has supported Sam’s work since day one. She lives in the islands, loves the spot, knows the owner, and told us to do a causal name drop;)
This was another case of pounding the pavement to book a show. We utilized our current network of friends and family for an initial introduction then let Sam’s work speak for itself.
This local bakery is a favorite for islanders and vacationers making it the PERFECT spot to hang Vermont-centric work. Who doesn’t want to support a local artist or leave a gorgeous VT vacation with a piece of handmade artwork to remember it by? We worked with Wally’s to decide which kinds of pieces would do well there and made it happen.
After hanging the pieces, we updated the website and added the new designs to our Production Pieces so people who see them can find them later if needed.
So, what can you take away from our experiences so far? Here are our top 5 tips to book your first art show:
There ya have it! We’re not pros but we totally understand how nerve-wracking it is to put yourself out there and get feedback from galleries and other people in the art world. It is STILL nerve-wracking for us!
When you’re just getting started and want to know how to book your first art show, hearing from someone who is in the same shoes (and a reminder that you’re not alone!) can definitely be a confidence booster. Let us know if you have any tips we missed or things that have worked for you!