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.


  1. You have some great points here on social connectivity.
    In particular "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".
    I will add these to my marketing plan, thanks for sharing this information.

    Kind Regards

    Roger Gregory-bird artist

  2. This attitude behind this post has so much truth in it, that it makes my skin tingle. It explains what seems intuitively true to me, the idea of giving to one's community as a way to prosper both as oneself and as the community, but which in a selfish world is difficult to justify. Thank you for reinforcing a wise and giving idea, which I feel will resonate with many people. It has already confirmed a recent decision of mine to create and give of my own art freely, as a way to create a "more complex and interesting world of art." This post is an excellent and highly commendable service to the arts community and the world at large. Thank you, Mark. You have indeed inspired me and I'm sure, many others. Oh and before I forget, I'll be sending this out on social media of my own, about this as a way of forwarding the motion.

  3. Wonderfully put.....a philosophy that takes one beyond one's self.

  4. I completely agree with what you have written. After all, as artists, our main aim is to connect and spread art, not just do business. Otherwise, we could have been working in companies that sell sodas and potato chips and contribute to the unhealthy lifestlye of generations.

  5. I found you by linked-in, and read a bit of your blog look to your art gallery, an so on.
    I am so glad, and it makes a refreshment to my soul, knowing that there are art dealers - gallery that care about fine art painting, aesthetics and share this knowledge that take so many years to develop as well as to understand it.

    Best Regards.

  6. Thanks for a nice share you have given to us with such an large collection of information. Great work you have done by sharing them to all. simply superb. Photo Recovery

  7. As a practising fine art painter of unique and powerful imagery, I've found it liberating and inspiring to work with young children. I've now painted more than 40 interactive paintings with children, taking boards into primary schools, working with sometimes 200 children on one day, each of them contributing one drawing, then taking this magical, jumblesale jigsaw of amazing images back to my studio and spending days, sometimes, weeks painting around their drawings and bringing in my own background, with elephants and dolphins making huge landscape backgrounds. Some truly beautiful fine art paintings have emerged, blowing the kids minds when I take them back to their school and enormously enhancing my own understanding of the painting process, design and sheer joy of standing back to view this bipolar world macro and micro, hobbit world and universe and poured out passionately onto the boards. Liberating because in tacking these projects you have no option but just to let go and watch the whole world drop out. Some of theses paintings can be viewed along with my own powerful work on my website. please take the time to share my joy and don't hesitate to contact me if you can offer exhibitions or art dealer contacts. My great weakness has been in marketing myself and my work, something which I'm trying hard to recify and if you can offer any help or cantacts I'd be delighted to talk. May your heart start to dance with a butterfly garden. Richard Heley London, UK