Sunday, June 20, 2010

What I Learned from East Bay Open Studios

For the past two weekends, I participated in East Bay Open Studios (EBOS) with over 460 other artists across the Bay Area. The event is put on by Pro Arts Gallery in downtown Oakland. Each artist gets a 20" x 20" space in the gallery to display their art as well as a photo in their printed directory (distributed via the newspaper and through the artists) and a web page that can house 8 photos, with a link to each artist's website.

As I'm fairly new to selling via shows, I am still trying to find the right venue and thought I would try this as it reaches a different audience, one that is more interested in buying art and supporting local artists. Since I live in the Oakland hills, my location is not ideal for someone wanting to visit my studio. Fortunately, I teamed up with 36 other artists to show at Jack London Square, a highly trafficked retail location in downtown Oakland, where there's a farmers' market and restaurants. Here's what I learned:
  1. Showing in a large group (in fact, we were the largest of any group) helped as the size of the group provided a bigger draw. The group itself was very well coordinated and did a great job of promoting the event (e.g. group postcard, website, signage...etc.).
  2. Mailing a postcard to and/or e-mailing those on my interest list paid off as I had people seek me out.
  3. Having a range of items helped even in a venue where the majority of the artists were painters. This is because the group received a lot of foot traffic from people who were at Jack London Square rather than people who came from the Pro Arts Gallery or its directory.
  4. Location is critical - Being at Jack London Square brought additional traffic; however, being in front of a dark maroon wall did not help in displaying the glass. Actually, the organizers tried to give me a good location - in front of a window and under a skylight. However, because the window also functioned as a display area, it had a fairly high maroon wall in front of it.
  5. Having great neighbors makes the difference in the show experience. I was fortunate to be next to Gabrielle, who makes great metal jewelry (mangosteenjewelry) and thoroughly enjoyed the time spent with her and John :)
  6. Most people who came from Pro Arts came to look for traditional wall art rather than jewelry or glass. In retrospect, this makes sense. When the majority of artists are painters and the event is put on by a gallery, most visitors are looking for wall art.
Overall, I am glad I tried out the show. While I met my sales goal, EBOS is not something I would do again. EBOS is for the traditional artist or painter and that's really what its audience is seeking. Unlike the other artists, I didn't have anyone mention that they saw my work in the gallery or directory and then came to see me. Fortunately, I was in a location with built in traffic and benefited from my own marketing as well as the efforts of the group.

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