In this report, it discusses research found from galleries and organisations on how students can engage local people in visiting a non-gallery space. It suggests a range of different methods into doing this. Information collected is both primary and secondary sources: emails, websites, interviews, visited galleries and leaflets. Issues are raised and discussed throughout the whole report. Emails from Sue Fenlon from Old School Gallery and Penny the head of Marketing at Watts Gallery are discussed. The company, Empty Shop is also reviewed through an interview. This reports purpose is for the benefit of the Northern School of Art's Level 5 Fine Artists who are putting on an exhibition called ‘Generation Dystopia'.
How to engage local people in visiting a non-gallery space?
This report is about how students can engage local people in visiting a non-gallery space. The research found will contribute to the exhibition undergraduates will organise. The aim in this report is to help pupils put on an interesting exhibition in a local area which do not entirely poses an interest in the Arts. Research found is through websites, emails, visited galleries, interviews and leaflets. Advice has been given on important questions asked. The information gathered in this article is for Level 5 Fine Art students who are preparing a show named ‘Generation Dystopia' which is a group of 15 students working with various medias. This report has proven a task to prepare for an exhibition. With the lack of replies from both local associations and big galleries, this report is constructed by seeing the positives and negatives from ideas given and expanding on other ways student artists can attract an audience.
How do other institutions attract visitors?
To find out how local galleries attract their visitors, questions were emailed out to them. Some responded back with beneficial information and recommendations.
Old School Gallery replied to the email. Old School Gallery situated in Northumberland in Alnmouth, a coastal village. The gallery displays Northumberland's local artist Sue Fenlon. The institution is a commercial gallery which is open every day. Penny, from the Old School Gallery advised that “selling art can work - but you need to be savvy about what people are looking for and go with your own taste too.” This could be an idea; however, this would only work if there is a stand outside the space presenting artwork for sale or if the visitor decides to enter the space. The artists wanting to display their work within the space may not be appropriate to sell as prints, for example, a video piece is unprintable unless the artists create a side piece to run alongside the main attraction. If the artists consider having this, then there will have to be a discussion whether there will be artwork to sell, who is willing to do more work to display and sell and how much should they be on sale for. This is correspondingly with fundraising and marketing. Education, fundraising and marketing can group together. Curators can also join in and help with the placing of the displays and if there would be room or not in the provided space. (Penny, Old School Gallery, 2018).
Watts Gallery's Head of Marketing and Communications, Susanna Plummer responded. Plummer admitted that attracting visitors is always a difficult everyday task if they are “outside of your core audience” suggesting that adapting the exhibition's “message and mediums” (Plummer,2018) to tempt a bigger audience. Watts Gallery run an active event programme which supports brining in visitors. As for nearby competitors, the Watts Gallery is in an area with a lot of tourist attractions such as other galleries and historical sites. The gallery was founded in 1904 in the Surrey Hills, devoted to George Fredric Watts. The area is actively involved with each other and “help to promote each other” (Plummer, 2018). Plummer's guidance to interest visitors to come to an exhibition with unknown student's artists work is to write a press release having “the reason to visit (something new, something time urgent, a recent discovery, a first)”. The undergraduates shouldn't discourage established artists to “help promote” the exhibition either. Plummer interestingly recommended that the students shouldn't just put finished artworks up for exhibiting, to tell the “whole story” about the art work. The Watt gallery also has some educational workshops for their guests which is regularly updated on the Watts Gallery's website. The gallery is in the rural area on the outside of London. Transportation to the area can be difficult for tourists to arrive. This should not be an issue for the pupils display as Hartlepool has buses, train and easy road signs makes accessing the space easy. Parking however, is difficult to find unless it is in a paying car park space in the town centre. This is open at certain times. There are limited spaces near the University. The option of using the university's car park is an option however will have limited spaces during the day. (Plummer, Watts Gallery, 2018).
The information desk of the Baltic proposed to look at their exhibition events for more information. Simon-Peter from the information desk passed on the email to “someone who may be able to assist you further with your questions”. Due to the lack of responses, resolving to gallery websites for information has gave opinions to go towards the exhibition. (Peter. S, Baltic., 2018).
For more basic information about gallery education, the website, Engage, offers helpful advice about the subject. Engage explain that “‘Gallery education' and 'gallery learning' are terms used to describe a field which aims to widen access to the visual arts.” These are aimed to a wide range of audiences. So far learning from other galleries, the audiences include any age, disabilities, groups and families. Education for art is important as it helps people learn visually. Engage do projects within their gallery education. They work with:
• Elderly people
• Artists / Art educators
• Galleries / Gallery educators
• Youth workers.
When emailing Empty Shop, they suggested to come and meet for an interview instead of typing answers back. Their website gave a foundation of understanding to what the organization is and so questions were not repeated when interviewing. Empty Shop is an organization based in Durham. “We specialize in placemaking and the provision of accessible platforms for artists and practitioners of all levels and backgrounds to create, share and promote their work.” (Empty Shop CIC, 2018). The aim of Empty Shop is to organize events in empty buildings/spaces.
On Thursday 29th November, Nick (who is not an artist but curates and produces events) and Carlo (who has a background in art but who's practice had finished 6 years ago) agreed to have an interview with a group of the students who were looking at different angles of the exhibition, being curators, marketing, fundraising and education. Nick and Carlo began the interview by talking about themselves. When discussing about themselves, Carlo explained how they do “organizations at a basic level”. He explained how him and Nick have found two potential spaces in Church Square for the exhibition to be in. Empty shop has said they “like to work collaboratively… offering support and resources...support where necessary”. This pleased the students but discussed how independence was wanted as much as possible. Nick explained how the “education system doesn't prepare for the whole thing” such as hanging, displaying, going about finding a space. By getting in contact with Empty Shop, they will “help find the skills of finding a space” (Carlo, Empty Shop, 2018).
Nick recommended that the undergraduates should “contact small regional art organizations and ask about their audience numbers (the students will) be surprised that they are very low numbers.” He explained that people think “Baltic and Mima are the norm, but they are not” and with a smaller number of visitors means “much better quality of conversation”. When asked how can the exhibition be promoted, Nick's advice was to “put on events such as ‘Meet the Artists'. He noted down that there are 15 artist students whose work will be put up. With that big of a number, “15 people can reach out to a lot of people.” Carlo discussed how there is an event on the 30th November 2018 and other events on Church Square where the artwork can be promoted and “interest visitors.” This is a very important fact and a couple of students from the marketing and curating team volunteered to help Empty Shop on their event, an excellent opportunity to bond with the future collaborators and a chance to promote ‘Generation Dystopia'. When promoting the display, if advertising on social media, everyone should have the same logo displayed in the profile photos, banners as a statement. Another great opportunity to gather interest, especially for an opening day/night is to contact Tees Valley as “Tees Valley will want to know who has potential (in artworks) and they will want to come back”. (Nick, Empty Shop, 2018). Finally, both Nick and Carlo is to contact the new institution “Pineapple Black”. After the interview, Nick, Carlo and the students who came to the interview agreed that when it is confirmed where the empty space will be, that the students are granted access to start planning and prepping.
When visiting the local galleries in Newcastle, there was information around the space including educational spaces. With this information, it showed how successful galleries run educational programmes. For example: the Baltic museum has an ‘Art Mix Hub', which is a free social space. The hub is designed for exclusive Art Mix members, whom have full access to it during the galleries hours. Information was displayed about the hub around the walls. The hub has a “wide range of materials for the members” as well as the custom of computers with editing software available to use. The Baltic put on workshops for their members throughout the year for 14 to 19 year olds. The Baltic also has a school community project called “Baltic Stars” which is a 3-year project. It celebrates creativity through contemporary art for young people. Baltic constantly encourages young people to explore the arts and use their creativity to learn new skills. Baltic engages with 2 special needs schools within the North East on top of everything else. After looking at what this popular gallery, the students option of running a workshop during the opening hours of the exhibition. (Baltic Gallery, Newcastle, 2018).
The Laing museum has exhibitions where the visitor would have to pay to enter the advertised artists work. When visited in October 2018, the Laing had an “Enchanted garden” display, exhibiting the works of: Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Beatrix Potter, Pierre Bonnard, Lucien Pissarro, William Morris, Patrick Heron, Francis Bacon, Stanley Spencer, Vanessa Bell, Duncan Grant and Claude Monet. A leaflet was available for visitors giving information about the display. There were selected dates for guided tours with the curator, Amy Baker for a small fee of £4. For the Enchanted Garden, the Laing had also run workshops alongside it and named it “Enchanted Flowers and Plants”. There were 4 available workshops to do. They all started from £50 to £60 in price to part-take. Each session's duration was 2 hours long and visitors had to book for the given dates. Workshops were provided as a summer Art School for children aged 11-16 years old (5-day duration) and 7-10 year olds (3-day duration). Finally, the Laing additionally provided lunch time lectures with a specialist on gardening, garden designs and gardens within art. The Laing is a very good example of attracting visitors as it has many ways in providing for the individual's interests. (Laing Museum, Newcastle, 2018).
How can students entice visitors to see their work?
Signs and Leaflets
Signs are visible and eye catching. Students can make signs for low costs and hang them in popular places. The largest audience the students could attract at one time is putting signs up around Hartlepool Football Clubs surroundings. As shown on this up-to-date graph, Hartlepool Football Club attract on a rough average, a crowd of 3,000 people. The purpose of possibly advertising to the football fans is that there are many people who may have the interest in visiting on their journey home. It is not far from the town centre. If the signs lead from the football grounds past the town centre, then the exhibition has more chance of attracting a bigger crowd. The football team plays weekly. If the exhibition is on longer for a week, then the advertisement might be seen by another passer-by's that did not see it previously. Obviously, the question here is how many football fans are interested in art?
With inspiration from the Laing Gallery in Newcastle and seeing how successful a leaflet is, access to leaflets with the display's details on can be very beneficial. However, the leaflets would have to be placed in practical locations i.e. on front desk reception where people constantly walk past. This is where working with local business would help. The students can also post their advert in local newspapers or broadcast it on radios. (Laing Gallery, 2018)
“We (mainly) rely on tourists to buy the art that we (Old School Gallery) sell so most of our business during the holiday season”. (Penny, Old School Gallery, 2018.). Penny explained that they try to link the gallery to the location as it is beautiful and attractive to visitors. She also explained how they “opened a coffee shop and had brilliant street food available” which also brought people in. This is a suitable idea. To collaborate with local businesses to promote the exhibition will widen the number of people it reaches. The coffee shops or local food cafes will want to make sure they get enough business to make it worth their time. The businesses can advertise the exhibition prior to the open evening/day during their working hours where customers can have easy access to it. The student artists would be relying on promotions over location. Hartlepool does not have a tourist attraction in Church Street as it is a deprived area. (Old School Gallery, 2018).
Another way of spreading word of the exhibition is through social media. This more than likely will be the best and easiest way of reaching an audience. Many artists and institutions post online such as Cindy Sherman. Regular uploads of advertisement on social networking can be easily accessed and shared to other network pages. Old School Gallery also confessed that they too “post on Instagram … we also use Facebook.” (Penny, Old School Gallery, 2018.). Displaying artworks that will be shown will show visitors what to expect. This links with the thought on selling artwork as in showing pieces that express artists interests which people may also be interested in. A preview evening was suggested. This can attract a big audience, aimed towards schools/colleges, Northern School of Art's own students, family and friends and local galleries.
After reviewing the entire report, the information collected have both positive and negative outcomes. The most effective outcomes will allow students to be able to complete successfully is promote on social media as with the large number of people, it will reach out to a lot of other people. Another promising scenario are the upcoming events in the area which bring the locals together, a great time to have fundraising and marketing areas to adapt in. The negative of this is, because Hartlepool is a deprived area, the exhibition is relying on other big events to get recognised and promoted for big crowds. Empty Shops have a lot of connections that would be interested in a well-known university to put on an independent show. Individuals will gain a lot of learning and new experiences to put up a show as it will be the first display some may have done. With the help of Carlo and Nick when it is needed is a motivational aspect to the set up. The undergraduates will have to think about fundraising and costs to afford advertisement if social media is not enough to promote. Penny from Old School Gallery's advice was useful for the majority, however some of the techniques used would not be applicable for Hartlepool. Old School Gallery rely on tourists for income. Hartlepool is a deprived area with very little to barely any tourist attractions. The best current movement Level 5 Fine art students can approach is through social media. Every single person is connected on the internet at least one way. With the big number of pupils taking part, it will promote the display a lot quicker and wider. There is a lot of tactics that can be used depending if the organisers are prepared to work for it.
It is recommended that Empty Shop stays in regular contact and update the undergraduates with information about the potential space that will become available. It is also advised that local galleries, curators and artists are aware of this exhibition that will be put on later in the year.
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