Tips for Galleries During COVID-19
Posted March 30th, 2020 by Blaine Garrett
7 Helpful Tips for Galleries to Flourish Now and Into the Future
The local art community is struggling under the shadow of COVID-19. Galleries that are used to lively openings and in-person sales are figuring out new ways to adapt. Gallery owners may feel pressure to continue "business as usual" or to drastically "pivot" to do something totally new with the gallery. Regardless of how you navigate this time, you are best positioned to determine what to do. It's ok to be candid with your audience. It's ok to try new things and make mistakes. It's also ok to do nothing.
For those with the means to be active during the crisis, here is a guide to help shape your efforts.
1. Start With Your Goals
Your goals as a gallery may look different than they did three months ago or they may remain the same. Either way, clearly define what your goals are now and write them down. Is it to sell art? Is it to cultivate future collectors? Is it to support your represented artists? Solicit donations? Educate? Entertain? You can have more than one goal, but be clear to yourself about your goals. Don't try to do too much and be cognizant of your abilities and capacity.
Related: There are several different goal setting frameworks out there such as SMART and OKRs. These frameworks can help guide your thought process, but don't get too hung up on the frameworks themselves. The most important thing is to set goals.
2. Boost Your Online Presence
As most people are currently at home experiencing the world through the Internet, it's a good time to evaluate how you are representing your gallery online. Don't worry about creating epic viral campaigns that make the front page of Hyperallergic. Instead focus on clear calls to action to achieve the goals you documented above. Whatever your goals are, your online presence should be working to accomplish those goals.
Clear Calls To Action
While people are spending more time online right now AND likely want to help support local arts, their attention is being increasingly divided. Make sure your calls to action are straight forward and easy to understand. For example, if your goal is to sell artwork, when promoting work for sale, make sure it is clear that is available for purchase and how to buy it.
You likely have a great website. However, it may have been designed for a different set of goals than you have right now. Evaluate the front page of your website. Are the calls to action clear and support your goals? Is it easy to figure out what artwork is available for sale and how to make a purchase? Does someone need to click on several links to find the page where to donate? How easy is it for someone to join your mailing list? A simple way to evaluate your website is to tell your goals to a friend or family member and ask them to use your website to accomplish a desired task (such as making a donation). If they have a hard time, evaluate if there are changes you can make to your website content to make it easier. Once you have made changes, try them out with someone new and re-evaluate. Don't focus too much on aesthetics. More so, focus on the calls to action, information clarity, and ease of use.
Related: Evaluating your website in this nature is a part of the field of User Experience (UX). While this is a massive field of research blending psychology, sociology, design, and technology, here is a practical guide to start evaluating your own website.
Your Social Media
Now is also a great time to evaluate your approach to social media. Not every post needs to be a sales opportunity, but the ones that are should have clear calls to action. Think about the platforms you use in the context of your goals to determine where to focus your energy. If posting on Facebook used to get a lot more foot traffic to your openings than posting on Twitter, it is likely posting artwork for sale or soliciting donations will work similarly. It is also a great time to explore the potential for other platforms such as LinkedIn or YouTube. If you are having trouble finding your voice on these platforms, pay attention to what others are doing and emulate them. Don't be afraid to experiment. Just as your goals might be different than they were before, your approach to social media may be different.
3. Make It Easy to Purchase Artwork
If your current goals include selling artwork, make it easy. Previously, you may have not wanted to post all the work in an exhibition so to not spoil the opening reception. However, without feet in your physical gallery, you'll need eyeballs on your virtual one. If you do not have have your website set up to easily browse work for sale and purchase it, we highly recommend e-commerce platforms such as Shopify or Squarespace. Use your existing website, social media, and mailing list to drive traffic to these platforms. Contrary to popular belief, collectors are increasingly buying online. At the very least, using these platforms can supplement your current sales process and potentially generate new collectors locally or out of state.
4. Promote Artists
Artists are the reason we are all here and they need support for us to continue to exist. Even if you do not represent artists, now is a great time to help promote artists you have worked with in the past. Re-share their social posts. Offer to make their work available for sale via your online presence. Buy their work for your personal collection. Offer to facilitate a virtual artist talk. The artists you support now will likely return the favor in kind.
5. Create Video Content
If you have the means, a great way to bolster your social presence is through video. Flanders & Associates and Studio Pintura have produced some great video of their current exhibitions. Groveland has posted interviews with their artists. SooVac is conducting virtual studio visits via Instagram Live. Others have been hosting virtual happy hours via Zoom and Jitsi Meet. There are lots of great options out there. Don't be overly worried about producing Oscar-winning films with professional lighting and make-up. We all are long overdue for a hair cut and even the local news anchors are having technical glitches broadcasting live from home. Your cell phone camera is just fine. This is new territory for everyone, and people are mostly forgiving. Remember your goals and use video as a means to support those goals. Some simple ideas for unique video content include: interviewing your artists over video conference, giving a video tour of your personal collection, or doing a personal video talking about how you started the gallery. Also, we highly recommend if you are doing live virtual events, let us know in advance and we will get it listed on our calendar and share in our weekly news letter and on our social platforms.
Related: Some simple tips for producing quality videos on your phone.
6. Find Your Voice
The world we're living in right now is like nothing we've experienced before. There is no roadmap for how to navigate this time. That is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. Galleries are a reflection of the courageous people who run them. Find your voice during this time and represent it through your website and social platforms. If you are trying new things, know that you will make mistakes and that that is ok. Mistakes are how we all learn and grow.
7. Help Us Help You
We love our local art galleries. We're in awe of the powerful and immediate gallery responses we've already seen in this crisis. We're looking forward to what's next. We're going to get out of this together.
MPLSART is here with you, struggling and evolving to support the art scene in reaction to COVID-19. We're listening, sharing, and building new tools. We have great things planned and will be announcing more soon.
In the meantime, our local art scene is active and vital. Our website traffic is strong. Our social media audience is growing. Various artist talks are keeping us all connected. Art sales continue from safe distances. And people are still looking for ways to engage with visual art.
Let us know what you're struggling with and any ideas you have.
Please continue to submit your virtual art events to our calendar.
Tag us in your social posts and we will reshare with our audience.
Send info to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Credit: Nicole Thomas