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Observations on exhibitions, brick & mortar shops and online selling

pop up shop

<Pop up shop display with watercolors and paper clay dishes. The crowded display creates a lively, gift shop vibe, appropriate to the pop up venue.

West Orange Arts Council "small works" exhibition

Watercolor paintings in the "Small Works" exhibition. The display, complete with wall labels, is academic gallery/museum style. While classic and professional looking, it may not entice the viewer to make a purchase.

Herewith, my observations on the upsides and downsides of different strategies for getting your artwork noticed and appreciated (and sold!):

1) Traditional artist run gallery spaces, using volunteers as staff, have many obstacles to overcome to try to stay relevant and vibrant. One huge problem is simply getting enough passionate people involved to keep consistent "Open" hours. Another is attracting visitors. These days, when every cafe has high quality art on its walls for sale, how do you get people to make the effort to see art without a muffin or a latte in their hands and a laptop at their fingertips? Gone are the days when a glass of chardonnay and piece of tasteless cheese brings out throngs of art lovers.

2) For selling art, and by that I mean objects that are made by hand, pop up shops and other, "limited engagement" opportunities seem to be especially attractive to would-be buyers. Perhaps the short run of the store or event motivates people to open their wallets - if they don't buy it now, there may not be another chance. Coercing artists to work shifts to keep the operation up and running may be easier since the commitment doesn't feel unending. It is also offers the possibility of meeting other, like minded folks. The social aspect of the pop up shop or street fair is perhaps one of it's most important features.

3) Selling art online is, perhaps, a difficult "sell." Art demands to be seen to be truly appreciated. That is true of both a watercolor and a hand knit hat. A customer is taking a big leap of faith when making an online purchase of art. Colors, textures, scale don't translate well on a computer screen. Getting people to notice your individual online store in a crowded field is difficult. Navigating on Etsy, even when you know the name of the vendor or their "shop" can be very frustrating. In addition, in this age when we are collectively being more conscious about "shopping local," Etsy and Ebay don't really feel current. One bright spot in the online marketplace is a group that has recently launched and of which I am a part: features local indie stores and artists together under one umbrella. Free delivery options and the opportunity to support local people make this a welcome outlier in a crowded online market.

As for myself, recent experiences with these options for making an impact in my field have given me much to think about. For today, I am going to pick up my unsold watercolor paintings from the "Small Works" exhibition (the exhibition has closed), and bring them over to the pop up shop where a few of my paintings have found new homes and left blank spots on the walls.

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