Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Pop-Up Art Gallery

Have you heard about pop-up shops?  Shops that just appear in an empty space overnight, exist two or three days and then disappear?   Well, a couple of  friends and I thought it would be a lot of fun to organize our very own Pop-Up Art Gallery!  Instead of paying entry fees and standing an (often high) chance of being rejected, why not step over to the other side of the fence and do the whole thing ourselves?

So, first, we rented an empty space, then sat down and thought about all the good art and craft we had seen around town in the last year or so and came up with a list of amazing artists and craftspeople we knew.   Then we emailed, or phoned, or sent a small boy with a note in a cleft stick (some artists are primitive!) to ask if they would be interested.

And some were delighted to be asked, others a little suspicious – ? as the kids say - “go figure”!!   Some obviously felt that they were coming down a bit to our level, others were leaping up…but it has been so much fun!  Makes me realise just how much power the Galleries actually have – getting chosen by a gallery is a pretty big deal for most of us.  In fact, though, I think we were more thrilled when people accepted us, than when we have ourselves been accepted to a show!

So when is it?  It’s the first weekend after Thanksgiving: Nov 30-DEc 2…but I’ll write more nearer the time and give directions and names and so on.  

Organizing a show like this has lead to several questions coming up? We know publicity is important…but what kind of publicity really works?  One-off advertisements in newspapers and on the radio really seem to have little impact.  The impression is that people choose what is familiar and what is personal.  If they’ve never heard of you before and there’s this one tiny little notice in a newspaper – with all those millions of other notices – who is going to race across town to see that?  Especially at $4 a gallon!  We’re going to reach out much more personally: friends, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, acquaintances and neighbours – people who already know our names.  We’re going to ask all the artists to write personal notes to their friends, hand out postcards to people they meet, and put up fliers in their own neighbourhood watering holes.  Also in doing so we can keep our overheads really low.  Spending money on advertising these days has reached such obscene levels that the little guy with one ad simply can’t compete.

A question of pricing came up with the first artists we talked to – they’re used to selling through shops who charge a commission and have little sense of what their work is really worth.  This is especially true of craft people who get their materials cheaply (from garage sales, or thrift stores, junk etc) and who don’t really value their time.  It’s going to be difficult getting them to put an appropriate price on their pieces.

But also – as gallery owners! – we must look at it from the buyer’s point of view: if you can get a painting from a discount store, framed, for $50, why should you pay $50 for an unframed watercolor?  (even if it is an original).  We have to be realistic and find the price point that is high enough to indicate the real value and quality of original work but at the same time be low enough that people can afford it and know how to advise our stable (however temporary!) of artists.

Has any of you ever organized anything like this?  If so, I’d love to have any suggestions you might have to offer…and I do hope y’all come to the show!! More information at the end of November!! 

Next week I’m teaching “Working in Series” in Portland Oregon – having never been to Oregon I’m excited to see a new state.  I hear the group has some dauntingly wonderful artists in it, so I’m hoping I have one or two new ideas for them!!   

If you have been, thanks for reading!  Elizabeth (part owner of the Athens Pop Up Art Gallery!)

19 comments:

Beth said...

What a great idea. I wish you all the success.

Olga said...

I do hope that your enerprise does really well. They say that one piece of editorial copy is worth a hundred ads - if your artists, or any piece(s) of work have a story which a journalist will write up, then you will catch public interest.

Your telling friends and friends of friends is great. When I worked in the book trade a huge survey was done on why and what people bought. The answer was overwhelmingly that most books are bought on impulse, and mostly on personal recommendation.

A friend of a friend of mine suddenly started selling her pieces quickly after they were used to dress an interior in a furniture ad. Showing work in a 'lifestyle' situation can attract buyers more than a pic. of the item on its own. Photos of artists' studios attract attention too.

How exciting! I wish I could come over the pond to drop in on your pop up success.

slkunze said...

I agree with Olga - contact an art reporter for your local paper for a story on one or several artists and the Pop-Up Art Gallery with location, address, dates and hours. Or email the paper a version of the old-fashioned press release (who, what, when, where and why) plus a few photographs attached. Posters on bulletin boards at schools and churches and supermarkets. Mention food (Blanche Reeves used to serve savory-flavored popcorn and wine spritzers at The Signature Shop - skip the wine and serve ginger ale). And use social media - load up Facebook and online newsgroups with information and more pictures. Lots of the artists will have their own Facebook pages. Make a blog for the show.
Think about holiday gifts, and price the art for people who are buying gifts - not too cheap but not overwhelmingly expensive. An ego is frequently satisfied if the wallet is full, lol.
Have a great time!

nandas said...

hi elizabeth! portland is looking forward to you as well. if you have a chance go to the craft museum. they do a pop up shop in their gallery for different art groups. see you soon!

Deb said...

"first, we rented an empty space,..."

I have been thinking about doing this for years as we are over run with vacant store fronts here in Gwinnett. That part was the most daunting for me. There are no shortage of artists looking for a place to show off their work and hopefully draw a paying crowd. I have dozens of questions! As far as advertising goes I got a lot of foot traffic at my show with my online listings in Creative Loafing and the AJC..both were free..

Gerrie said...

You are the talk of the town right now. Lots of excitement over your appearance here in Portland. Looking forward to seeing you in person!!

Nina Marie said...

I know a fiber artist who have studio nights where they offer up snacks and their art work. People come and see where she works - and her latest pieces for sale. Very fun!

as for buying art - it frustrates me sometimes that I can't afford the original art I want. Of course prep school and college looming has something to do with it - but still - a lot of artists price the middle class out of the market.

And yes, E, I know art is a lot less calories than dinners out and its about priorities - but still to have a piece of art cost as much as a dinner or two out would be nice. There was this really nice watercolor I wanted 6" by 8" - it took the local artist 7 hrs she said - she wanted $225 for it - sighhhhhh.

Elizabeth Barton said...

Thank you for all your ideas!! We'll definitely follow them up - and watercolors are definitely cheaper than $225 - alas quilts are not!! but I have some stitchery ideas that I think may be.....

LC said...

This should be fun!
Ideas: Put notices on your rented space, if you are allowed. This will put it in the minds of those who walk by to come back.
Also, visit all the "neighbors" close to the venue. Get them pumped about the event. Give them cards to stack by the till. You want them to say, "Have you been to the art gallery... it is just over there."
When you open, have greeters out there directing passerby traffic in some creative way.

Jackie said...

Just like in the old movies--"Hey kids! Let's put on a show!" And wasn't it always fabulous?!!!

Iris Lorenz-Fife said...

A local artist did something similar last summer -- she rented an empty store front as a studio during home remodeling, then "rented out" the weekends to one or two different artists each weekend. Each undertook their own emailing to friends, etc, but I learned about it because the artists got together with a reporter from the local paper. Each artist was present during their weekend and word got around about snacks at the Friday night openings, beverages through the days, etc. People will browse for food, and even be tempted to buy.

Iris Lorenz-Fife said...

A local artist did something similar last summer -- she rented an empty store front as a studio during home remodeling, then "rented out" the weekends to one or two different artists each weekend. Each undertook their own emailing to friends, etc, but I learned about it because the artists got together with a reporter from the local paper. Each artist was present during their weekend and word got around about snacks at the Friday night openings, beverages through the days, etc. People will browse for food, and even be tempted to buy.

Anonymous said...

I often look at the AJC weekend supplement on Friday for ideas of what to do on the weekend. As others have suggested, maybe the "pop up" concept would appeal to a reporter to write a story. Or, maybe highlighting the variety of arts and crafts being practiced in the area and available for viewing and purchasing would catch a reporter's interest. If nothing else, you should get on their list of activities for the upcoming holiday season.

Lois K

Elizabeth Barton said...

Thanks Lois that's a good idea!
Elizabeth

Elizabeth Barton said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth Barton said...

the pop up gallery now has a blog!
http://athenspopupartgallery.blogspot.com

Terry Grant said...

I am also eagerly awaiting your visit to Portland. I have had my supplies packed for more than a week now!

Robin said...

What a fantastic idea...how to turn it national with artists doing this all on the same weekend in cities all across the country?
R

scott davidson said...

I had fun choosing this particular painting online that now hangs in my downtown office, from Wahooart.co, who sells canvas prints of art masterpieces. While the original is treasured in some art museum in England, my print http://EN.WahooArt.com/A55A04/w.nsf/Opra/BRUE-8LHS4U, of this painting by Edward Burne-Jones is very much appreciated by my staff and clients. The print quality is really excellent.