• Alejandro Castanon

Coronavirus vs. Artists


A lot is happening very quickly. It seems like every hour we are getting news on how our daily lives are being effected by the coronavirus. The whole world is experiencing this shift almost simultaneously which is unprecedented. Particularly in the art world shows are being cancelled or rescheduled to help “flatten the curve” of the outbreak. Very recently one of the biggest art shows in San Angelo was cancelled, the Stribling Art Extravaganza. This art show, which is in its 21st year, brings more than 100 local artists and potential collectors together under one roof. Not only has its cancellation impacted how the West Texas Rehab is able to generate much needed funding (more than $60k from this one event) but it also allows local artists both seasoned and up and coming to show case their hard work. Artists prepare months in advance to show at this event. I personally know several artists that put in hours and hours of work for this show and now that it is suddenly cancelled there seems to be a void. The bad news is that this won’t be the only show cancelled in the coming months. So where does this leave artists? Most are scratching their heads as what to do next, as they see their plans fall apart. We had plans to set up for a show out of town and expected to do well but it was cancelled much like other events have. Yet there is a silver lining.


There are many opportunities that are available under these circumstances, opportunities that have been lying at our feet for years and as artists it’s time to start taking action on those. Allow me to elaborate. Traditional art sales rely on a marketing mix that for years relied on gallery shows, groups shows, art events, and other in-person events for artists to sell their work in addition to recently (last decade) selling online. Now I know there are many artists out there that haven’t put enough effort into selling online. Perhaps because it seems daunting or too time consuming. Under the current circumstances I can’t think of a better time to pivot to creating an online strategy. Why? Well think of what much of the world is doing right now. They are at home bored. What do you do when you’re stuck at home? You get online. I guarantee Amazon is beginning to ship a lot of different products right now to people stuck at home. That includes necessities such as food, health products, toiletries, etc. but it also will include clothing, home décor, and you guessed it art. For those already online you will begin to see more orders come through if your shops are already set up and optimized. More so if you have a following. But what if you don’t? What if you’re barely online? How can you suddenly shift to selling and showing online? Here are a few tips to get you started.


1. Photograph your work


If you haven’t documented your work yet it’s probably time you started! No excuses. You’re at home or in your studio surrounded by your art. Start taking well lit photos. Don’t have a tripod or digital camera? Borrow one. Set up an area to take in setting photos of your work. Take close ups and scaled photos of your work. Studies have shown that you’re more likely to sell art online if you have multiple photos.


2. Pick a marketplace


I’ve been selling online for years. I’ve tried most if not all places to sell my work from third party sites like Red Bubble, and Society 6 to my own website. But the best and easiest place to start is Etsy. You can have a shop set up in one day, and with a few products it will only cost you .20 per listing to begin. If you don’t have a site I recommend starting there. This is why having good images of your work is important.


3. Go live…now


I can’t think of a better time for artists to use the live feature on all their social media pages. You’re at home and your fans are too, just sitting on their phones waiting to be entertained and buy things online. Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, TikTok all have live features. Go live and show what you’re doing.


4. Galleries….hmmm


I owned a gallery for many years and if I still owned it I would be very worried. Art shows are the bread and butter of the gallery industry. Having to cancel them can put galleries at risk for closing their doors permanently but there is another option. Online shows. If you own a gallery or are part of one that has an online presence especially with a social media following I highly recommend hosting an online show. You can still collect submission fees at a reduced rate but can show off new art pieces to collectors still interested in purchasing. Plus you won’t have to hang any art ; ).


5. Network…online


You should by now see where I’m going with this. Everyone is online right now more so than before all this started. You can make new connections with folks that are telecommuting from home. Search new galleries for representation, online art shows, and like-minded artists that would collaborate with you on an online project. LinkedIn is a great place to make professional connections just be sure to send a personalized greeting when trying to connect.


6. Start a blog or podcast


It is ridiculously easy to start a blog even a podcast. Here is what you need, ready? Your phone. You’re probably holding it while you read this. That’s right you can start one right now if you wanted. The resources are there. Just start. I host a podcast using just my phone. No fancy equipment, no editing. I just hit record and upload it to my podcast. There are plenty of options for hosting online, many are free. And the great thing is you can literally talk about anything. There is an audience for almost any subject.


7. Inform your fans


If you have social media or a way of informing your fans now would be a good time to let them know you are being safe and mindful of the current global crisis. And updating them on your plans is a great way to let them know that you are hopeful and action oriented. Nothing is better right now than instilling hope amidst all the chaos.


8. Attitude is everything


It’s easy to begin to see things in a “lack” perspective. It seems the news brings something dire every hour. However where there was once a plan now lies opportunity. Keep a positive attitude. Just remember nothing creative was ever done out of fear.

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