There are many ways that artists can connect with tourists, from creating hands-on workshops and promoting them to tourists to renting prime space and staging an exhibition. Imagine that you are a visual artist. You might:
+ Create a workshop specifically geared to tourists and visitors. Say that the prime season for tourism in your locale is a certain 16-week period. You might create a one-day or a half-day workshop aimed at tourists and then schedule your workshop several times during this 16-week period—for example, on the days when the cruise ships arrive or on a day when the local biggest attraction is closed.
+ Demonstrate what you do: demonstrate your glass blowing or puppet-making or pottery-making to groups of interested tourists. You might band with other local artists and create a “demonstration schedule” such that tourists could spend a full day wandering from a glass blowing demonstration to a puppet-making demonstration to a pottery-making demonstration. Naturally you would schedule in time to sell to the tourists who come or have somebody else on hand who could sell your wares to tourists while you were demonstrating your artistry.
+ Schedule regular studio visits. Have a “formal” studio visit schedule and, for example, begin to be available on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons for studio visits. Rather than opening your studio only once a year during “open studio weekend,” as so many artists currently do, set up your space so that you are ready for regular viewing. This would include having a take-away brochure, having your finished art visible and organized, having answers prepared to the questions visitors are likely to ask, internally having your position clear on commissions, practicing and mastering your negotiating skills, and so on.
+ Create public stunts that garner publicity and that pique the interest of tourists. Picture for a second the French painter Suzanne Valadon, mother of Maurice Utrillo, who fed her bad drawings to the goat she kept in her studio. For her, that was no stunt, but it’s suggestive of what a stunt might look like! If you have a flamboyant, theatrical personality—or if you can adopt that personality every so often—you might consider dreaming up a publicity stunt and then pulling it off.
+ You might create your own exhibition in an area frequented by tourists. Let’s focus on this possibility and see what it takes to put on such an exhibition.
The New Zealand artist Linda Gilbert offered up the following ten tips for preparing for such an exhibition. Linda explained:
TIP ONE: START MAKING
Have a strong idea that really excites you and won’t bore you or your audience. Commit yourself to the concept, but be flexible enough to evolve with it. Start making.
TIP TWO: BOOK A VENUE
Commit yourself to your idea and back yourself by booking a venue. It might not be a gallery, it could be a café, or some other interesting spot like a private house. If you want to show in a gallery then put together your finest portfolio, research the galleries you think could be interested in your genre, then make bookings to meet the director in person if possible. Introduce yourself and your art to a range of galleries – get used to telling them who you are, show them what you are capable of producing and outline your idea.
Breathe deeply, walk in the door and be proud that you’re putting yourself out there. If they’re not interested, they will politely let you down and sometimes provide really valuable feedback. Embrace failure, it’s your friend and will toughen your diaphanous skin. If by chance they want to show your work, you’ve hit the jackpot in a peculiar lottery of chance. Whatever the outcome, keep making. And of course you may have to rent a space out-of-pocket: think through if you feel comfortable with that possibility.
TIP THREE: ONCE YOU HAVE A BOOKING, CREATE A TIMELINE
Once you have a booking, do a timeline and break down the making part from the organizing part – start from the exhibition date and work backwards. Mindmap everything that needs to be done – talk to a friend or find yourself a mentor to keep you on track. Separate the time you need to make from the time you need to get the administrative side of things for the exhibition happening.
For example, are you going to have flyers, posters, and invitations? Or will you choose to exploit cheaper e-channels including social media and viral marketing? Then there are radio, television and internet-based media to consider. Maybe you could upload a little video about your show. The main thing is to think about and target the audience you want to attract. And what about your artist bio, press releases, and artist statement? What about pricing? What about framing? These are administrative and organizational matters that must get handled!
TIP FOUR: TACKLE THE MOST DIFFICULT AND BORING PARTS FIRST
Or at least tackle them early on in your schedule. I feel a great sense of relief to get all of those irritating tasks out of the way (or at least underway) so I can concentrate on meeting the painting deadlines!
TIP FIVE: WHEN IT COMES TO THE MAKING – ALLOW YOURSELF PLENTY OF TIME
I always allow twice as much time as I think I’ll need. That way I’m not under pressure if things go wrong, if I get sick, if the paint doesn’t dry, etc. It also allows me time to do one or two extras if I’ve stuck to my schedule and that gives me more inventory to choose from so I only put my best out there.
TIP SIX: LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
Eating good wholesome food, getting regular exercise, and being kind to yourself (and others) are, in my experience, pre-requisites for sustaining the artistic life. Mental health in particular needs to be nurtured. I’ve never painted my best work when anxious, stressed, depressed, angry or in an altered state.
TIP SEVEN: TELL EVERYONE YOU KNOW THAT YOU’RE HAVING AN EXHIBITION
Talk it up but don’t show them any of the paintings until the big reveal on opening night. Anticipation is contagious and exciting.
TIP EIGHT: DON’T WORRY IF YOUR IDEA MORPHS AS YOU GO ALONG
This is a good thing. Work with the dialogue you have going with your painting. Work through ideas without the fear of ruining your exhibition plan.
TIP NINE: KEEP IN TOUCH WITH THE GALLERY
Give the curator progress reports so that he or she knows you’re on track and that you will come up with the goods in time. Not only does this give them confidence but they can add a lot of value by providing feedback on early paintings and themes. Remember they really want you to succeed.
TIP TEN: ATTEND TO THE DETAILS
Attend to all those professional and curatorial details. Make sure your titles, prices and any other paper work the gallery requires is finalized well before opening night. Try and budget for excellent frames (or make them if you’re handy). If you’re not using frames, buy the best canvases that you can afford and make sure they are ready to hang when you deliver them to the gallery. It’s often attention to these annoying details that establish you as a professional and make it more likely to be asked back again. Think of it like having good manners!
There are many things you might try depending on the sort of art you make (whether you sing and want to sell your CDs, write poetry and want to sell your chapbooks, are part of a theater troupe, create massive sculptures that can’t really be transported around, etc.), what makes sense in your locale (for example, is your studio in too inaccessible or too sketchy an area for tourists to visit?), what sort of products you intend to sell (for example, multiples or one-of-a-kinds), who comes to visit your area (are they culturally-inclined or not particularly culturally-inclined), and so on. This is indeed a lot to think about – but thinking about it and then putting your plan into action can pay huge dividends!
Exercise 1. Pick a particular option, like creating a workshop, staging a stunt, offering demonstrations, or whatever makes sense to you, and create a complete plan for bringing that option to life.
Exercise 2. Engage with the first steps of your plan. Get your feet wet in the actual doing!