Be Smart About Art

Keeping an open mind to generating new ideas, on the spot

written by: Susan Mumford Oct. 4, 2015 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan Mumford + Chris King's Blog 2244 views

Keeping an open mind to generating new ideas, on the spot

from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here

Whenever you are responsible for attracting people to an event, initial big-picture promotional planning is key. Identify the audience you want, think about what they read (social media included), and create a strategy to promote the event. Stage special events such as artist talks or creative workshops, and visitors will arrive.

But what happens if events are wash-outs? What if the location is off the beaten track and visitor numbers are low? What if there’s an unexpected problem?

No matter what the event, it’s worth keeping an open mind as to what you can do on the spot. You might have planned an event to the nth degree, but it’s doubtful that you’ve explored all possibilities.

Take for instance a group show I once curated in my home state of Arkansas. The 2 ½ week event had been planned from across the Atlantic, apart from a site visit 9 months prior to view the venue  and meet with show partners and suppliers. I learned that a new restaurant would be opening next door to the show, which would greatly help footfall. Try as one might to get the marketing and events right, being on-site gives on-the-ground perspective.

Within a couple of days of opening, a clear pattern of people’s movements emerged. As practically no one walks or cycles in that part of the USA , all travel is by car (there’s practically no public transport either). Locals would drive to the car park across the road, park the car, and walk straight across the street to the new trendy eatery next door. After finishing their meal, they’d walk across the street, get into the vehicle and drive away.  

Although the demographic of individuals frequenting the restaurant was exactly the show’s target audience of early and mid career professionals with cash to spare and new homes to fill with art, they weren’t walking a mere twenty feet to the right of the restaurant entrance to enter the show. This was the inaugural show of the new exhibition space, and so it wasn’t yet widely known. It was our job to help them realise there was a new cultural destination next door to their favourite new lunch spot.

The solution was simple. With a background running lemonade stands as a child, followed by years working in retail, I delighted in the prospect of leafleting on the sidewalk, smiling at and chatting with people, handing out beautiful invitations with handwritten notices of forthcoming events such as a wine tasting. Surely enough, the crowd was delighted to discover a new space and artists. Though local press had attracted a new audience as well, the popular lunch spot next door presented an entirely new, unexpected opportunity for on-site marketing.

Regardless of how much you’ve planned a show or succeeded with marketing initiatives, keep an open mind to generating new ideas on the spot. The results of your efforts could make the difference in event success. 

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