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!)