Art Chooses You: YOU—The Most Powerful of Marketing Tools

Savvy Self-Promotion by Jen Cushman

Of all the marketing tools in your toolbox, the most powerful one you have is you! I recently spent a pleasurable Friday evening attending an opening night reception at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum. Tonia Jenny, her husband David and myself attended to support Jeanie Thorn, who has a beautiful wall sculpture juried into the show. Having one’s work chosen to be in a museum exhibition is an incredible accomplishment, but having one’s work singled out by a prestigious curator is, simply, icing in the cake and provides substantial encouragement. Both of these things happened for Jeanie and I’m thrilled for her.

While I was at the exhibit as a lover of contemporary art and a supportive friend, I couldn’t help but wear my marketing cap and observe some of the artists who were also attending on their behalf. (The exhibit is comprised of artists located throughout the country, but there were obviously a good number of Arizonans present.)

Watching Jeanie, it was obvious she’s a professional working artist. She stationed herself near her piece (not hovering) and made herself available to talk about her work. She had taken the time to see the entire exhibition and was familiar with some of her favorite works, as well as those that intrigued her because of their unusual use of materials or technique. This familiarity led to easy conversations with strangers about the exhibit. She asked questions of people to engage in conversation and she responded to their questions about her work.  She was friendly, likable, approachable and knowledgeable. In every sense of the word, she was her best marketing tool in her fertile toolbox.

There is a difference between being an artist in your studio and being an artist in public situations. Whenever you attend an event, it’s important to keep in mind that what you are doing is public relations and marketing. You are physically putting yourself out into the world for others to see, hear and learn about you and your work.  Obviously, major events such as an opening night of a museum exhibit, is a heightened social situation. It’s important to bring your A game.  But it’s good to keep in mind that any situation where you could possibly talk about your work is still public relations and way to practice your business skills.

In my experience, most artists are too humble when it comes to talking about themselves and their work. Shocking, right? Particularly because everyone has stories about so-and-so the pretentious artist whom we’ve all met at some art function or party.  I’ve met them too, but I’d say I’ve met a whole lot more amazing artists who are naturally soft spoken and believe the best PR is to let their work speak for themselves.

What I really like to see are people like my friend Jeanie.  The other night, she walked the line perfectly. Confident in her work, she let her piece speak for itself. She was also there to lend her voice for herself, other artists and the museum as well. In my mind, that spells success.

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