Audience development – follow up needed for visual artists

I am back from vacation and have been waiting for the next topic to come to me.  As I was having dinner with a colleague, the discussion turned to the lack of audience development for visual artists, or rather visual artists are not using audience development.  The conversation continued with my thoughts about how visual artists typically conduct business, and the main component that is lacking is building relationships after an initial connection has been made.  Many artists know how to market their events now.  They do get people to come to their events; some of them do quite well with numbers in the door.  If you want to get to the next level, a successful art business, you need audience development.

Perhaps visual artists are not as people oriented as other types of artists, but learning to follow up can be the single skill that will build your audience.  Let me give you some personal examples.

I visited about 10 different artists during our Open Studios tour last year.  I was interested in finding some new art to liven up a blank space area I had in the hallway.  I narrowed it down to about three artists I really enjoyed and had art within my budget.  After some thought, I chose my top artist.  I arranged a time to purchase after the event, had a brief conversation, signed her guest book, and went home happily with my new paintings.  The artist has my phone number, address and email.  She has not followed up with me.  As far as the other 9 artists, none of them have contacted me either, despite having my basic contact information.

The second scenario takes place at another art studio tour event.  I was very drawn to a particular photograph.  Unfortunately, the artist did not have the size I was looking for.  She said she could make it available in the size I wanted. I gave her one of my cards so she could contact me.  The event took place in June, and I have yet to hear from her.  Perhaps since it was my business card she hesitated, but maybe follow up was not a part of her business plan.

The third example, I happen to have many artist friends.  Some of them have new shows happening in the area.  Not one of these friends has sent me an invitation to their event personally.

Jazz by Linus Maurer (not what we purchased)

Lastly and definitely the best example, when I was in the Sonoma County area, I came across the Gallery of Glen Ellen that exhibits works of Linus Maurer.  When you think of Linus you think of Charlie Brown’s best friend.  This is the real live Linus, Charles Schultz’s friend and colleague.  We were not able to purchase one of the main paintings, but we did purchase a small drawing out of his drawings bin.  The gallery owner told us to give her our address.  Linus, no matter how much money the drawing/painting is, will respond with a personal note.  I was skeptical, but we did give her our address.  Lo and behold, about a month later, Linus wrote us a personal message with another little drawing, thanking us and wishing us much enjoyment of our new art piece.  Our names and specific art piece were in the message with his signature and date.  There is a drawing of him creating the drawing we purchased.  It was amazing!   I was completely blown away, and we are on hunt for our next Linus Maurer! Funny how despite the recognition Linus already has, he was the one artist that did follow up with us.

I am finding that it is very rare when an artist does follow up. I know that visual artists (and artists in general) rather spend their time in the studio working on their art.  The day to day business tasks are not what makes them tick.    However, if you want people to enjoy and purchase your art, if your art is for others and not just for yourself, meaning you want to share your gifts, then connecting and following up are crucial.  You want to automatically follow up with people especially if they show you they are interested in your work and most especially to thank them after they have purchased.  It’s a no brainer.

Cheers to happy and loyal audiences,


Shoshana Fanizza
Audience Development Specialists
Facebook/twitter /E-mazing Newsletter /Blog

“Never treat your audience as customers, always as partners.”
~James Stewart

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Filed under arts management, arts marketing, Audience Development

2 responses to “Audience development – follow up needed for visual artists

  1. Too right Shoshana, what an inspiring read, such a simple message and such a simple thing for people to be doing. It’s all about that personal connection, and it’s possible that in the hurry to get recognised, to be considered successful, to be creating, marketing, promoting and selling your work it’s sometimes easy to forget the simple stuff.
    It’s not all about facebook, websites, posters, reviews, blogging, customer relationship management. It’s about the experience, it’s about having a smile on your face when you see something that has inspired you, and that is elevated to committement and loyalty when shown a personal touch.
    Thanks Shoshana, I really appreciated your post this morning!

  2. Pingback: Audience development for the arts end of year a-musings (Part 2) | Audience Development Specialists Blog!

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