Will you be my friend? Social networking for artists

For the 2011 Oklahoma Arts Conference, OVAC partnered with the Oklahoma Arts Council to present the Artist Track – designed specifically for artists to learn more about marketing their work. Our guest speaker Alyson Stanfield of Art Biz Coach led sessions focusing on marketing through social media.
Alyson Stanfield
Photo by Kimberly Lennox
As Alyson stated, social media is not to be used as a megaphone, blasting information to your readers. Instead, it is a tool for spreading your message but first you need a message to spread and you must cultivate relationships with people who want to listen.
Alyson outlined a Social Media Manifesto for artists. Here’s a brief synopsis.

1. Have fun! If you’re not having fun with it, odds are good nobody else will think it’s fun either. Keep it interesting to keep your audience.
2.  Engage. Don’t just blast a message. Engage with your followers and tailor messages to their interests.
3.  Listen. Pay attention to what others are doing on social media and respond when appropriate. People love someone who listens to them!
4. Be the thought leader. Why does someone follow you? They’re probably interested in what you think or what you have to say about art.
5.  Make it easy for others to talk about you. When creating social media posts, consider how they might be shared by others. When your followers share your posts with their friends, they are giving you a high recommendation. Make it easy for them! Make images available, include captions on your images, make your tweets easy to re-tweet, etc.
6.  Don’t build your brand on someone else’s platform. Social media tools are great for building audience and spreading your message. But, don’t forget that those sites (like Facebook and Twitter) are owned by someone else. You cannot control what they decide to do with their websites. Remember to build your online home base on a platform that you can control, such as a personal website or blog.

For more tips on the business of being an artist, subscribe to Alyson’s blog, Art Biz Blog at www.artbizblog.com

Galleries: Connecting Online

Alyson Stanfield’s recent article on Art Biz BlogJoin the Conversation, offers solid advice for artists connecting with galleries online.  

Your genuine interests in galleries’ exhibitions, interests, and events helps show your commitment.  Paying attention also helps you know galleries where you most want to show and in which your artwork might not fit.   

This October, OVAC will offer a workshop led by artists who show nationwide and gallerists explaining their perspective.  Watch here for the full year’s workshop schedule.   

Work of Art: Watch Carefully and Learn

I hesitantly admit that I was looking forward to watching “Work of Art: The Next Great Artist,” Bravo’s new reality TV show about visual artists.  Whatever hopes I had for the show helping our country’s appreciation of visual artists or understand better their relevance in society were shrank quickly in the first episode.  Certainly the show follows the conventional storylines for reality shows and reinforces assorted stereotypes about artists (too many to detail). 

Despite the typecasting, I found the show’s value in the definitions of and arguments for the artwork.  As the artists’ defended their work and the judges (a strange grouping of commercial gallerists, an outspoken art critic and a collector) questioned the artists, I heard numerous types of arguments for the relevance of art. 
In addition, artists watching the show can learn from the career steps and missteps represented bluntly.  Some of the contestants are quite experienced in the art world.  They speak confidently about their work.  Others show the ordeals of emerging artists, with all the associated fears, audacity and mini triumphs. 
Judges focused on the artists’ intentions, in this case the challenge to make a portrait of one of their fellow contestants.  Artists defended their methods, talked about their objectives, and mused about what the viewer might experience in their art. 

Why Is That Art?: Aesthetics and Criticism of Contemporary ArtTwo books I have been reading echoed in my head as they spoke.  Judges questioned the quality of the work using arguments based in philosophy as ancient as Plato.  These philosophical viewpoints are outlined in “Why is That Art” by Terry Barrett, who examines ways of analyzing the quality and definitions of art.  Similarly, “The Social Impact of the Arts: An Intellectual History” by Eleonora Belfiore looks at reasoning on the importance of art.  Conversations from the show directly addressed questions about the effect of the artwork on the general public. I think to balance the banality of the show; I will give myself reading assignments to connect the attitudes to philosophy. Well, maybe I will just follow the sassy conversations about the show on Twitter.

I wonder whether the voice of the informed critic is really represented in the snippets actually quoted from the judges. And I wonder if the thumbs up-thumbs down judgments will deepen the perceptions of the general viewer. While the “Work of Art” may further trivialize visual artists (will Sarah Jessica Parker appear on each episode?), at least we can learn from the discussions, representations and myths. Watch carefully. 

Did you watch?  What do you think?  What story would you tell if you produced the show?

P. S. Reminder that contestant Jaimie Lynn Henderson is a native Oklahoman, University of Oklahoma grad and former Momentum artist.  Can’t help but root!  

How to Prepare for a Senior Art Exhibition (Part 2 of 2)

Guest Blogger: Emily Kern, artist & OVAC intern

• During this entire process you should also schedule regular critiques with your professors and peers. This also gives you deadlines to complete work and keeps you motivated to continue expanding and improving your body of work.

• Talk about your work and the concepts behind it to anyone who will listen – family, friends, neighbors, the dog – this will help you feel prepared when all the lights are shining in your face and your nerves would otherwise get the best of you. You should be able to answer questions about your work in your sleep if necessary.

• Last, but not least, you must, must, must plan ahead and prepare your work for display. Nothing ruins an exhibit like seeing really great work poorly displayed. Framing can be expensive, but you can build the frames yourself if you give it plenty of time, or you can apply for grants to help purchase frames. You can buy frame kits at art supply stores online, usually 50% off, if you watch for the sales that come around about twice a year. Also, do your research to see what size frames are carried by your local stores, and create your work to fit standard frame sizes. It will save you money and time in the end. If your work is 3D or video, make sure you have the pedestals and displays that are going to do your work justice. At least a week before your installation date you should have all the necessary equipment you will need to show your work in its best light. Also, when it is time to install your show enlist a team of people to help, setup will go much smoother if you are not alone.

You might be asking yourself who is this person and what does she know about senior exhibitions? I’m Emily Kern, a graduating Studio Art major at Oklahoma State University, and my senior exhibition is currently on display at the Gardiner Art Gallery on the OSU campus in Stillwater, OK. I am sharing this great exhibition with six other artists: Lacey Jade Schultz, Chelsea Dudek, Heather Chadwick, Hali Linn, Mallory Replogle, and Rachel Marks. It is an all female graduating class, and it is a fantastic show if I don’t say so myself. The exhibition will be up until April 9, 2010, weekdays from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. at the Gardiner Art Gallery, 108 Bartlett Center for the Visual Arts at Oklahoma State University.

Hope you enjoy and good luck with your senior art exhibitions. DON’T FORGET TO APPLY TO MOMENTUM SPOTLIGHT BY MAY 5TH!

Top: Hali Linn, “Christmas”
Middle: Heather Chadwick
Bottom: Emily Kern, “Spirograph 1”

How to Prepare for a Senior Art Exhibition

Guest Blogger: Emily Kern, artist & OVAC intern

You have worked hard for four long years, in some cases five, six, ten or more years (some of us just can’t get enough education), and now it is time for your Senior Art Exhibition. You have been creating a body of work that is finally going to be seen by others, and you are going to be expected to write about and speak about it. If you find yourself facing the inevitable moment this semester then there isn’t much I can do but wish you good luck. However, if you are one, two, or ideally three semesters away from this blessed event I think I can help.

• First, get settled on a concept for a cohesive body of work. Look at tons of other contemporary artists, and do extensive research on your subject matter. There is no such thing as too much information.
• Then, start generating your work. Not everything you create is going to make it to the final cut. You need to make, at the very least, twice as many pieces as are expected for your exhibition so that you have plenty of room to edit.
• Now you need to start preparing an artist statement, a statement about the content and formal choices in your work. This will help you as you are forced to make formal choices in creating your work. The clearer you are about what you want your work to be about the clearer your formal choices will be.

• The best way to prepare for you senior show, other than making as much work as possible, is to enter other shows. This gives you deadlines for completing work and pressures you to take care of any framing and display issues that need to accompany your work. It also will allow you to see your work displayed, which often lets you see it in a new light, bringing forth things you never noticed before that might need to be tweaked or changed all together. The more shows you can enter the better. The best scenario would be to land an exhibition that allows you to show multiple pieces or your entire body of work. Momentum Spotlight is just such an opportunity (by the way the deadline is May 5th).

Suggestions continued tomorrow…

Kern’s work is a graduating Studio Art major at Oklahoma State University, and her senior exhibition is on display at the Gardiner Art Gallery on the OSU campus in Stillwater, OK until April 9, 2010 open weekdays from 8 am-5 pm. The other artists in the exhibition are: Lacey Jade Schultz, Chelsea Dudek, Heather Chadwick, Hali Linn, Mallory Replogle, and Rachel Marks.

Top: Mallory Replogle, “This is How I Disappear”
Bottom: Jade Schultz, “Apraxia”

Public Speaking: A Few More Ideas to Give you Confidence

When speaking, teaching or presenting:
1. Use plain, simple language, unless in a specialist situation as everyone may not understand. For instance, most people need you to define etching, formalist, non-narrative, or installation (and don’t want to have to ask).

2. Be energetic in delivery, impassive won’t make people interested

        o Non-verbal clues are important too—what do your hands/facial expressions tell?

3. Tell your own story somewhere in the presentation, it is about you and you’re your art (not your art that magically made itself)!
4. Limit your information—you can’t tell everything about yourself and your work, must narrow to pertinent or connected details.

About nerves:
* Once you begin speaking, your anxiety is likely to decrease.

* Your listeners will generally be unaware of your anxiety.

* Having some anxiety is beneficial—energy, gets your brain thinking quickly.
* All people tend to speak more quickly in front of others, take a breath and slow down

* Practice is the best preventative.

* Recognize you’re not alone.
* Realize that people want you to succeed.

Visuals: especially important if your artwork isn’t there.
People think faster than you speak… reinforcing visuals help keep them focused on your message. People speak at 125 words per minute and think at 500 words per minute or more.
-What is needed depends on the audience
-Images must enhance understanding
-Artwork should support what you are saying verbally
-Visuals will increases the audience’s attentiveness
-Help them remember you and your artwork

Dealing with spontaneous speaking: Q & A or off the cuff
-What questions might be raised? Consider in advance what questions you already get regularly, what materials or issues with which you are dealing.
-What do you think the attitude of the audience will be? Friends? Students? Critics?
-Don’t go on and on—simple answers are fine (don’t give another speech)
-You may end up repeating part of your presentation, that’s ok, maybe they didn’t understand or get it the first time
-Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”

Most importantly, practice three times as much as you think you need to as you’ll be at least three times as nervous in front of others. Any time I have thought I will not get nervous, after speaking 100+ times in front of audiences), I am wrong.  Even a sleepy class of high schoolers makes me wish I’d prepared much better!

Some of this information was modified from Toastmasters International, a great organization for improving your speaking skills.

Also, see some great ideas about improving your verbal skills (writing too) from Alyson Stanfield of www.ArtBizCoach.com.

OVAC offers the Artist Survival Kit Retreat: “ARTiculate” April 16-18 at Post Oak Lodge in Tulsa. This will improve the participants’ ability to articulate artistic and career concepts, educate others and make public presentations. Led by innovative educator Jane Varmecky, the retreat will include interactive training about adult education techniques and the dynamics of group training. There will also be time to learn from and share with other participants. Learn more at www.ArtistSurvivalKit.org

Public Speaking—Why Me?

So, I realized we’ve been proceeding a bit like you should know why you need to be a good speaker as an artist.  I want to back up a bit and talk about some possible motivations.

Why would an artist be doing public speaking? If you show your artwork in public, you are becoming a PUBLIC person! Speaking well and connecting with varied audience is excellent for marketing and so expanding potential opportunities.  Here are some instances where you might end up needing to speak about yourself and/or your art.


>Speaking to a class

>Talking at an exhibition, could be a gallery talk or lecture

>Conferences presentations like Oklahoma Museums Association, Professional Photographers of America, College Art Association

>Accepting an award (woo!)

>Presentations and meetings with potential clients/employers, galleries, etc.


 Art openings

 Parties

 Networking events

 Meeting someone new through friends

There are many reasons for giving a presentation and you should consider carefully what you are trying to do with your talk. For instance:

  • to inform
  • to educate
  • to entertain
  • to inspire
  • to convince

-Consider, why am I doing this presentation, i.e. What is my purpose? Who is my audience?
-Develop a plan and the content for the presentation based on the purpose and audience.

OVAC offers the Artist Survival Kit Retreat: “ARTiculate” April 16-18 at Post Oak Lodge in Tulsa. This will improve the participants’ ability to articulate artistic and career concepts, educate others and make public presentations. Led by innovative educator Jane Varmecky, the retreat will include interactive training about adult education techniques and the dynamics of group training. There will also be time to learn from and share with other participants. Learn more at www.ArtistSurvivalKit.org