Monday, August 4, 2014

Was the Exhibit Successful?

Meraki Exhibit at Gallery Main
Trinidad, Colorado

Roughly a year ago I was invited to be the solo artist at Gallery Main in Trinidad, Colorado for July 2014. That solo exhibition, Meraki, is now over. And the question I get constantly asked is, was it successful?

As a long time participant in art fairs it is a question I am used to being asked. Most artists that do fairs have this internal scale for this answer. And they always remind me of my father who was an Air Force pilot when asked about what was a good landing: Any landing you can walk away from is good. If the plane can be flown out of the airport it is an excellent landing. Every exhibit, show or fair, like every landing, is different. And every good artist, like every good pilot should learn something from every event.

Meraki was my first solo show and it felt a lot like my first solo landing when I was taking flight lessons. First and foremost is that word solo. When your flight instructor gets out of the plane and tells you to take it around for another take off and landing it is one of the most scary and the most ecstatic moments. Committing to a solo art exhibition was the same. This is not a 10 x 10 foot booth among 300 for the weekend, or a featured artist for one night in a gallery of ten artists. This is the whole gallery  for a month. And you have almost a year to obsess about it . . .er, prepare. BTW most flying instructors do not tell you in advance when you are going to be allowed to solo.

So back to that question of was it successful? I landed the plane. I filled the gallery and I think filled it quite well.

And if you go by the most frequently used yardstick for art fair participation I cleared my costs. But in several years of doing fairs I learned that is not always between set up and take down times. You learn to track sales after an event. Art receptions typically do not bear fruit until customers sober up, or so the line goes. If you have a low price point on what you are exhibiting people make impulse sales but that isn't true as the value goes up. And with paintings they often have to go home and consider where they want to hang it.

I learned with a solo show with a long lead up time thee are before sales to be considered especially in this day of social media marketing. Of course I was devoting myself to learning good marketing at the same time I was exploring new subjects, techniques and media in the studio. And what I posted to work in progress folders on Facebook sometimes sold. I would not have been doing the new paintings or marketing as much were there not a solo show to prepare for. And saying I was preparing for a solo show gave me street creds as it were. So between sales before and after it was a successful exhibit.

But there is more than money to measure success against. I learned an incredible amount about . . . well, almost everything really. Meraki was a creative miracle for me. Frequent readers will know I gave up painting for two years and had really just re-entered that creative process when the opportunity was offered. I had enough paintings for the show but I wanted to come up with a significant percentage of new works in a larger scale. And every new painting (I produced 13 for this show alone) taught me something new, or helped me rediscover myself in the paint medium. I learned to love painting again and have already begun two new paintings with two more on the back burner.

I also learned a lot about social media marketing. And I learned there is a lot more to learn. It works if you work it. And without a solo show I know I would not have worked it as much. What artist would not rather be painting?

And it was not just what I learned about myself and my work but what others learned too. Opportunities have arisen since I have been working on the solo show. I was included in the Taos and Beyond exhibit. I am the featured artist at a local business this coming weekend. I live in an area with some highly respected artists and I now feel I belong there. I learned a lot about me through this process too.

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts on the process of exhibiting - I ran into much of the same prepping for my small art fair. And, in terms of "monetary" measures, good to include the before & after - particularly if you can link said sales to marketing of or attendance at the event.


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