Creative Questions: Building Relationships with Art Spaces

Creative Questions: Building Relationships with Art Spaces

Part 1: We’re tackling those all-important questions asked by our creative community. In this article we explore: how to build and maintain a relationship with art spaces. Three arts professionals share their wisdom to provide you with a series of valuable insights.

Callum McCartney, Programming and Participation Assistant, artsdepot

  • Be as clear as possible when discussing the set-up for your exhibition. Clarify if you are not sure of something. It is easier for a venue to explain something early rather than turning down an assumption at a later date.
  • Try and get a visit or at least some wide pictures of the space before you come along for the installation. It helps to have a good idea of how your work will fit inside and will make your install far easier. It’s also a good chance to ask questions about how any aspect of the process will work.
  • It’s great to see artists excited about their work throughout working with them, who might promote it online or invite people to come and see it.
  • Keep in touch, but understand that for venues that are part-time galleries, it is hard to repeat book artists if there are only a few slots per year.

Dr Michael Pritchard FRPS, Director, Education and Public Affairs, Royal Photography Society                   

The relationship between artists and exhibition spaces is a key one. Maintaining it requires time, tact and tenacity. When it clicks, both the artist and the space benefit.

Gallerists and programmers are usually juggling multiple demands on their time. If an artist has exhibited in their space, then maintaining that personal contact is easier as it already exists – remember to follow if s/he moves to a new role. If not, it’s harder to find the name of the right person. Avoid sending to a generic email- it won’t get you far.

Periodic visits and a quick coffee may be enough, a regular, eye-catching, e-newsletter will keep the gallery informed about new work, exhibitions or publications; and attending an opening event and having a quick chat is always good. Follow up actions the next day if you need to. If you drop by a space don’t forget that the receptionist, invigilator or colleague are all potential allies in reaching the decision-maker.

It’s hard to quantify what a contact will lead to.  Keeping your name and work to the fore may lead to a commission, an invitation to deliver an event, or your name may be passed on to the gallerist’s own contacts in response to another enquiry. Details that are to hand will always have an advantage.

Gavin Ramsey, Assistant Studios Manager, SPACE Studios

SPACE accommodates a number of different arts disciplines in the studios and welcomes diversity; however SPACE does have to exercise discretion over certain studio practices that may be unsuitable for some studios. 

In our experience artists’ studio buildings thrive when there is a good mix of artistic practices.  Across all studios we will prioritise artists who will be using their studios frequently and have exhibitions pending. Our aim is to have thriving artist communities in our studio buildings.

As studios are in limited supply and demand is high, we cannot support every artist who applies for a studio and choices must be made. The choices are made by staff members who have a formal arts background themselves.

Personally,  I would say Just go for it!  Make sure your work is visible and you have clear contact information. Always be polite – you’ll be surprised how far this goes.

The nature of small arts organisations is that everyone gets involved in all aspects of the work. Apply for as many things as time and budget will allow. If there aren’t the opportunities you want – try and create them yourself. If you are applying for opportunities be succinct and remember that this is an introduction to your work.

Finally, and most importantly Make! Make! Make! This is the best form of personal and professional development, everything else just adds to it.

Head to PART 2 of this article for more insights..

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Ellie Isaacs

Community Manager