Be Smart About Art

How do you know if an opportunity is right for you?

written by: Susan J Mumford May 13, 2018 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan's weekly blog post 592 views

How do you know if an opportunity is right for you?

There’s something that happens once you become visible and start making an impact: you get approached for ‘opportunities’. I don’t know how many times artist mentees have emailed to ask about whether or not to do this, that or the other fair or show. Some events provide ample benefits, whereas others are mainly trying to extract money from you.

At the time of writing, it’s late spring (for the Northern Hemisphere at least!). At this time of year, local fairs, festivals, artist trails and open studios are taking place like they’re going out of fashion. My social media feed is full of events taking place, and a couple of questions for participants are: 

What’s at risk? 
What are the intended aims and benefits? 

This shoots me back to my days as a baby art dealer, before opening a gallery. I participated in a local festival one summer and had works on paper as well as some framed prints on display. Whereas I might have naively thought that pieces would sell, I now realise that it was an opportunity to raise awareness of the brand and build the mailing list. And hey, for all I know, there are still some followers online who discovered me back then. 

So when I recently attended the Dulwich Festival Fair on Goose Green (in South London), I looked at the differing types of stalls and activities. I also reflected upon the associated Artists’ Open House taking place in businesses, apartments and houses in the neighbourhood.

You could see the immediate benefit for the food stalls at the festival. But what about the printmakers, jewellery designers and estate agents? How quickly one sees benefits depends on types of transaction that apply to the enterprise. Whereas some might only see short-term results, others will see much longer-term benefits. Also bearing in mind typical length of the sales cycle is also important for these types of events, for ongoing engagement might be required. 

For example, although the estate agent won’t be anticipating any immediate transactions, being seen to be a sponsor of the festival (hello CSR - corporate social responsibility) and collecting money for a charity is excellent for the brand, including visibility. Moreover, offering a market evaluation for properties is a brilliant way to have follow-up conversations and eventually conduct some business. 

There’s something else to consider, too: Who is your target market, and will that demographic be attending the event? Whereas the festival on the green may not be an ideal location for artists, participating in the associated artists’ house event could be a smart move for local makers and curators / art dealers alike. While it’s true that many visitors to the artists’ open house might be keen to take a sneaky peek of people’s homes, there will be some who are looking for the next work of art to place in the home, or even to find an artist to commission for a special project. 

With the considerations above, you can always seek the input of others, including those who have previously participated and those who have attended. Whenever possible, visit the event prior to participating, to evaluate what to do and what to show, as well as understand what to realistically expect.

Whether you’re approached or spot an opportunity to present what you do, weigh up the risks and opportunities, and be sure to establish what outcomes you hope to achieve as a result. There are no guarantees with such endeavours, so setting multiple aims and determining what you’ll do on-site to enable ongoing engagement - particularly if you have a long sales cycle, is important. 


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