From pounding pavements, Sunday fares, back street cafés, dive bars, nightclubs, concert halls, high street gallery’s, convention centers to grand museums,over a twenty year period- other than a traveling circus tent-it’s fairly safe to say, that I have done every kind of venue.
This post then, was to be a rebuke, on what I would consider, possibly the worst show that I can recall to date.
Instead, I have decided to use the time as a caution, to other artists who may want to take a similar route,and may want to learn from my experience, before committing to such a ghastly travesty.
Firstly, when considering signing up for a venue, there are several fundamental things one should be wary of:
One of the first rules of thumb for any artist is...
DO NOT SHOWCASE FOR A FEE.
Why? Because once you have paid to show, there is no impetus for the curator to sell your work. I know this, its even on my website as a disclaimer, but I had yet to pay a waiver in the form of a headcount fee.
DO NOT SHOWCASE FOR A HEADCOUNT WAIVERS FEE
if you are required to be a guarantor for a number of people through the door-say 20 people at $10 a head, the venue will certainly be more about bums on seats and less about any artistic altruism.RSVP?
If you do decide to showcase through a headcount waiver, and are told the event is RSVP only through an online ticket, ensure that is truly the case and not an event where people can just arrive at the door and still pay, or you will end up liable for the outstanding amount. $90 in my case.
PARKING and UNLOADING?
What is parking like at the venue-how much will it cost-not just for you, but your friends? What is public access like? If you have multiple large works over 30”, then ensure that there is an unloading area, ask if there is some kind of exhibitor parking discount for long duration. Make sure there are double doors, and that access to and from the venue, can be restricted to side doors, and not public areas like dance floors or poolside parties.
If the organizers have promised a 6 ft stand for you to show from, make it clear that you will not be arriving unless this is the case. Making do with bar ledges, table tops or couches is not a viable or complimentary showcase for your work, and will make it look shabby. If you get wind that you may be stiffed on this, then have some back up homemade stands. Fortunately, I had to hand, black painted trellises from a garden center, which I Velcro together; they are lightweight and can be repositioned.
If you have to use 3m plastic self sticking wall hangers, ensure that the wall surface is not covered in a porous vinyl paper, or that there is a toilet on the other side of the wall that has a constant slamming door, or you will spend the evening watching your art fall and be damaged on the floor.
Do all the lights work? How bright are they? Do they compliment your art, or are there just backlights in a bar drinks cabinet which make the subtle hues you labored hours over, dull as ditchwater? Are there power sockets and if you must use mobile light sources, are they restricted by public walkways?
POINT OF CONTACT
How reliable and amenable are the organizers? Will there be a constant point of contact on hand to make requests and ask questions from the moment you arrive to the time you leave, or will they be elusive and disappear the moment you sign the cheque?
Will there be refreshments? Water-a snack, chips and dip? What are bar prices like? If you are at a venue for seven hours, and are not catered for, ask if you can bring your own refreshments. If one scotch and a Shirley Temple will knock you back almost twenty bucks, then consider if you would want to inflict the same on your friends if they have already spent $11.52 admission and another $22 on valet parking.ENTERTAINMENT
Who is the other entertainment? DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER DOING A SHOW, IF THERE IS A DANCE DJ. If there is music, make sure that the venue you are showing at, DOES NOT also double as a dance floor... Ambient jazz beneath audible conversational level is fine, but I promise, you will not sell anything, if you cannot hear yourself over the Black Eyed Peas. If there are other kinds of performers, what will the proximity be to the art? Will people have to leave the gallery to watch the performance?
How long is the show? If it starts at 8pm and ends at 10pm, will the lights dim and will you be asked to remove your art stand so people can dance?
FINALLY-IS IT BE WORTH YOUR WHILE?
This is a question only you as an artist can answer-sure there is the profile on the website front page(which garnered no discernible hit spike to my site or interest in my art), photo headshots (at the bar?) and a video interview, but frankly I've had both free gratis from any venue interested in publicizing myself and my work.
Ultimately-if your goals are to party down with people who are there just to drink, dance in an expensive setting, but not buy art, and perhaps be $200 plus poorer, then RAW is absolutely the venue for you.
If however, you are like me, a struggling artist, needing to make ends meet,completely reliant on sales after investing weeks into publicizing and preparing for an event with new inventory, then you will definitely come out of it the worse for wear financially, and even possibly more detrimentally-socially.
REMEMBER-your friends are your reputation, and I am blessed by the Gods for mine, so do not abuse them. Shame on RAW for exploiting artists looking for a viable outlet.
You live and learn. Onward.