Friday, May 13, 2011

Promoting Social Connectivity in the Art World

My general aspirations as an art dealer are to sell art, build my business, and help artists develop their careers.   I also have a personal goal that doesn’t have any obvious financial rewards and might not seem important to my business model, but I feel is critical to success. That is the concept of promoting the art world for no other reason than to make it a more complex and interesting place to be.

There are many media options I use to accomplish both my business, personal and philanthropic goals.  These include print ads, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, email, Internet, social networks, blogs, radio, video and television. Many of these tools are low cost or free.  By developing lines of communication to the general art world we are letting them know who we are and what services we can provide the community.

To open these outlets of discourse requires a gallery to not only sell art but also devote time to social connectivity.  For social connectivity to work, you have to be willing to put real sweat-equity into your community on a regular basis before you can expect it to give back.

I recommend any gallery or artist looking to build his or her own identity, especially on a budget, be willing to go the extra mile when asked for help.  This includes providing content, donating artwork for charity events, being a judge, doing workshops, participating in free evaluation days, and even letting school kids visit and ask questions.  This social connectivity process allows you to develop a unique voice in your community and makes a difference to those you touch. 

Providing free content or becoming a resource is critical to become a leader in your field. The blog your reading would qualify as free content. I’m giving away knowledge of how I function as a gallery. You might wonder, “Why would I want to do such a thing?  Give away my trade secrets for free!” I do it for the same reason corporations and individuals provide open source platforms for developing computer applications.  It adds to the overall layers of a vibrant and growing community. 

The Huffington Post recently sold to AOL for $315 million on the backs of bloggers who added free content to their site.  These individuals feel their content was the basis for Arianna Huffington’s windfall. They were not compensated for their content and to some degree I can see their point.  A class action suit has been filed tying to get compensation for the sweat-equity bloggers.

I personally feel even though the bloggers were not compensated they will ultimately be rewarded if they can see past the dollar sign. I do understand a writer’s struggle to make a living in a world of freebies, but those Huffington bloggers have developed their own brand even if it wasn’t compensated in cold hard cash. Huffington is now hiring lots of writers to help build the community and to promote the worth of writers.

I publish a yearly catalog, Canyon Road Arts  that we give away by the thousands. Its goal is to promote Santa Fe as an art community and specifically the galleries on Canyon Road, of which I am one.  The book is heavy on content and light on advertising and its goal is to promote the art scene around Canyon Road, the city of Santa Fe and Northern New Mexico.  I firmly believe by promoting our community’s art scene it promotes the individual components.

I’m amused by some dealers who keep trying to figure out my angle. Why would I list their galleries for free, provide maps on how to find them and give books to my clients? Easy, social connectivity. To help other art dealers do well is a concept many of my colleagues find foreign.  By providing a book about my art community doesn’t mean I will do worse in my own business, in fact it’s just the opposite.  Other gallery’s success means its good for our Santa Fe art community as a whole of which I’m a part.  If all the Canyon Road Art galleries went under I can assure you it would also be very bad for me.

To achieve success as an art dealer/artist and improve your art community I boil the list down my own business concept which I call ARTS.  The acronym consists of 4 components:  Art, Responsbilty, Time, and Social 

The definition of ARTS:

A: Art: Communities’ require positive energy both locally and globally to succeed.

R: Responsibility: Have a vested interest toward improving knowledge about your community.     

T: Time: Consistently dedicate your time towards your community regardless of compensation.

S: Social: Use social platforms to bring attention to your communitie’s needs.

The last component, social, has the greatest potential for your identity to flourish. The costs are minimal. Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter are the big three social connectors. Through this social connectivity, business concerns are promoted and discussed which help promote your art community.

Social connection is the underlying basis of art. As gallery owners and artists we love to talk and share art. So why wouldn’t a platform where a multitude of users can appreciate what you have to say, recommend you or care what you think be of importance?

For a deeper understanding of our current social environment I recommend following Eric Fisher.  On his website,, Eric shares his insights from the vantage of one of Facebook’s bright design strategists who helps others understand the complexity of social design. By sharing his experiences and expertise, he is promoting his community and helping all of us understand the importance of free content, which helps to ultimately bring more clients to the social community.

So the next time your high school newspaper wants to do an article about the art scene at the last minute remember ARTS and provide your time, content, and images for free realizing you might not make a sale but you are promoting art.  Don’t forget to send it to your Facebook fans, Linkedin groups, and Tweet about it. I know I will as soon as I post this to Blogger.