Getting a Coffee Shop Show

When I first starting showing my art I had a lot of questions about how it all worked. It seemed that "Artists" already had all the answers and I felt kinda silly approaching them to find out how to get started. Now, I have been doing shows for about 6 years and at the time this blog is published... I will have done 54 shows. Wow. I just counted. So, although I don't think there is a right or a wrong way to go about showing with a coffee shop... I do know my method. And, since I've successfully done this for years... I am going to tell you MY METHOD. Feel free to put your own spin on it. Omit or add anything you like. I would also love to hear your feedback about what works for you. I can always use more tricks or tips. 

Write a Letter: You can contact venues either via email or physical mail... but either way you're going to need a letter. In this letter you should introduce yourself, say a little about what you do and basically just prove that you know what you're doing. Even if you don't exactly know what you're doing yet. It is VERY IMPORTANT to not forget to add your contact information. This is an example of a letter I might send out:


Jennifer Sandquist
ADDRESS HERE
Jenniferdsandquist@gmail.com
www.jenniferdsandquist.com


Hello, 

My name is Jennifer Sandquist and I am a local artist... living, working and showing here in Minneapolis. I specialize in acrylic painting and I think my current series of vintage neon signs would work well in your coffee shop. I have included a few examples of my work to give you an idea what I do. I am currently booking shows for Fall/Winter of 2013 and I am interested in showing with you. Please look over the samples I have enclosed. Included you will also find a copy of my art resume. I am professional and easy to work with. If you have any openings coming up in 2013/2014 I would love to hear from you. You can also visit my website for more information on me and to review my studio blog: www.jenniferdsandquist.com

Thank you for your time! 
Have a great day.


Jennifer Sandquist
PHONE NUMBER 
jenniferdsandquist@gmail.com



Make an Art Resume: Although this is not totally necessary I would recommend including a resume with your letter. If you have something to brag about... do it! It looks professional and only works to build your credibility. (If you don't know how to write an artist resume you can google it... and I will write a future blog about it in the coming weeks) 

Print Some Photos: I like to include little photos of my paintings when doing a physical mailing. It gives the person doing shows something to reference easily and quickly. I usually print up photos at Target or Costco. You can save money by putting 2 or 4 on a 4x6 print and then cutting them at home.

Scout Locations: You can do this online easily. Search coffee houses and restaurants in your area. Hair salons are also a great place to show... people need something to look at for the hour they're sitting in a chair doing nothing. I would recommend actually doing the leg work and visiting these places to make sure they in fact show art and that your work is well suited to the clientele. 

Keep a Database: You are going to want to have a way of keeping track of names, addresses, and pertinent information about each venue. And, once you start showing... there are other things to keep track of... that will be easy to access if you're keeping the information at hand. (more on logistics of showing in a later blog post) I would recommend a google doc that is easy to edit, print and email. 

Get Business Cards: They are cheap or free (www.vistaprint.com) and they add to your credibility. Enclose them in your mailings or simply hand them to the owner of the coffee shop when you go to scout. Which leads me to my next thought.

Introduce Yourself: I personally think that mailing a shop owner your information and some samples of your work is way better than bothering them in the middle of their work day... because these people are busy... and you don't want to leave a bad impression by making their day harder. But, use your judgement. If you're scouting a place... and it's not busy... you could ask the person behind the counter who books their shows. Get the information you need to contact that person. Now and again the person behind the counter says... "That's ME!"... then you can hand them your business card and introduce yourself as the awesome artist you are!

Keep a Calendar: Once you start booking shows you're going to want to have a calendar dedicated to the dates you have booked. It can get confusing once you start making commitments for months or sometimes years in advance. A lot of places will have their art schedule booked as far out as a year or two. So, they might as you to hang in August of next year. You're not going to remember that unless there is a place to keep everything organized. 

Ask Questions: When you get the phone call/email saying they'd like to have you do a show with them, there are some questions you'll need to ask.

How long is the show?
What day/time do you need to hang? Take down?
Do they take a commission? (personally I don't show at places that do... there are plenty that don't)
What type of hanging system do they have?
How many pieces should you bring? What are the dimensions of the space?
Do they have a ladder? Hooks? Hammer? Nails?
Can you hang tags on the wall with prices?
How do they collect money? Do they sell the pieces or do people need to contact you directly?
Is there someone there to help you hang?

Hanging my show at Artifex Manum - photo by Oliver Kriston

Hanging my show at Artifex Manum - photo by Oliver Kriston

All of these tips will get you started. Again, this is MY METHOD. I know it works. I have been using it for years. But it's not the only way. Feel free to add or subtract anything that doesn't work for you. If you are interested in showing your work... I know this works. If you do the leg work on this... it gets easier every time. You will have a database of contacts. You will have a letter you can easily edit, business cards on hand and files set up to print photos. I can do a mailing and book shows out for an entire year or more... by simply spending a couple of hours folding paper, cutting photos and licking stamps. Showing your work in these little venues is a wonderful way to have fun and make money at what you love. I have had countless surprises and made many friends by showing my art. 

Good Luck! 

Jennifer Sandquist
Co-Founder, MPLS CREATES
www.jenniferdsandquist.com