Over the years we’ve thrown over a dozen art shows, in multiple cities, with a wide range of attendance, sales, and press and have learned a lot about what works, and what doesn’t. Have we mastered it? Not at all. Every event is a learning experience, and an opportunity to test new ideas. But here are a few key points we’ve learned thus far that can help make your next event a success out of the gate.
1. The Big Idea
Art can feel be a daunting form of entertainment for most, and I’m interested in making it more accessible and enjoyable for a larger group of people. I hate that art galleries have cultivated an image that discourages the general public from partaking. I, on the other hand, want to let everyone in and let them know you don’t have to know everything about art to enjoy it. It’s like wine: sure when you know a lot about wine you may enjoy it on a different level, but even if you know nothing about wine you can still taste and drink it for enjoyment. I want people to feel they are allowed to have an uninformed opinion on art, even if they don’t have an art history background. Your feelings and thoughts about it are as valid as your opinion on the last movie you saw or song you listened to.
So in order to invite not just art lovers, but all people who might enjoy art, we’ve found that it’s important to have a clear theme and idea that all can grasp and enjoy. We created the #SELLOUT brand to create this larger theme for our parties, and under this umbrella brand, each event has its own more specific theme.
For example, our last event was called #SELLOUT #100for100 where Steve painted 100 4″x6″ blocks and then auctioned them off for $100 a piece (normally $250.) Essentially people purchased a $100 block but then only got to choose their block at the party when we picked their name out of a hat. It gave the event a focus, gave attendees something fun and inclusive to do and talk about (they had cards with all the blocks and numbers so they could make note of their top choices beforehand) and made the event more unique than any other exhibit or show.
2. Define Success Before the Event
Success can be defined in different ways: sales, attendance, press, or some combination. We’ve had events where we got a lot of press and thousands of attendees, but few sales. We’ve also had events where we have a couple dozen attendees and sold thousands of dollars of art.
The focus and definition of success was different for each, and that influenced the way the parties were set up and marketed. But one thing that has been a constant for every event is documentation. Part of a successful event for us is getting great photos and video of the event, which continues to add credibility to the #SELLOUT brand and my art career.
3. Plan your Marketing Ahead of Time
There is nothing more important than having a plan laid out for how you are going to market your event, to whom, and when. Start early to get on people’s radars, and market constantly to stay top of mind. Social media is a great place to market, and we’ve had a lot of success on Instagram. It takes time and strategy to do it effectively, and I highly recommend hiring an expert or taking the time to read about best practices.
And whatever you do, don’t just post “come to my event” over and over because that will not work.
With regards to marketing I can’t stress this enough: you can’t tell people about an event too many times. People are so distracted online they will barely register what’s happening until they’ve seen it multiple times. Personal invitations also go the farthest, and if you are going to personally reach out to people by email, keep it short and clear. Again, people are distracted and your event is not at the top of their list, so make it easy for them to get the information.
4. Get the Basics Together
When hosting an art event you want to take the opportunity to connect with attendees by being an available, engaged host. So it’s critical to get the logistics of the event together ahead of time and make sure you have someone else to manage it. While it may cost a little more, we think it’s worth it to hire a few people to staff the party, pour drinks and greet people at the door. When things are running smoothly in the background the artist can be to be the artist at the event– or else, what is it all for?!
Events are an art! And there are always new things to learn. But the number one thing I have learned is that consistently having events to promote and invite people to has provided the greatest return over time. Consistent production plus visibility is the recipe for success in any creative career, and events punctuate your career with memorable accents. They give new people the opportunity to have an in-person experience with the art and the artist, and give fans memorable experiences that increase their relationship with you and your art over time.