When Debbie Schwartzman asked me to do the volunteer
publicity for ArtQuilts at the Sedgwick
I decided to approach the task in the same way as I do with my own art quilt business.
In the two and a half years that I've been doing the
committee job, I have found that it is far easier to promote an event than it is
to promote myself individually.
The best advice I can offer an emerging art quilter is
to make opportunities to show your artwork. Establish a small group of artists who
either work in the same medium as you do but with differing styles, or a group
that work in different mediums but with the same theme.
In 2003, my Studio Art Quilt Associates region came
together under the name "Fiber Revolution". Each member was tasked to contact three
venues each year and propose an art quilt exhibition. By doing so, we were able to
have eight exhibitions our first year and as many scheduled for 2004. Individual
members took on additional responsibilities. Gloria Hansen developed our web site
and Cindy Friedman designed our postcards.
One of the early key factors in our success was putting
together a group portfolio and offering it to art centers and retail galleries as
a pre-packaged exhibition. Barb McKie gathered a quilt image and information from
each member and arranged a few pictures on each page.
When looking for places to exhibit your quilts, try
non-traditional but highly trafficked spaces such as corporate lobbies, libraries,
government buildings, and bank lobbies.
Then actively promote the exhibition before, during, and after.
Create A Publicity Plan
The very first thing I did regarding publicity for ArtQuilts
at the Sedgwick was to write down a series of goals for the types of publications
that needed to become aware of Art Quilts as a valid collectable art form. I
started with magazines and newsletters in the quilt world, moved on to the fine
craft publications, followed up with quilt magazines in foreign countries, and
I am now pursuing those in the "contemporary art" category.
ArtQuilts at the Sedgwick is an annual event. Although
most of the year I focus on magazine placements, the same plan works for local
newspaper coverage. In Philadelphia there are multiple citywide newspapers and
at least two dozen local community weekly papers; all of who need to be contacted
again and again.
Know Who To Contact
Once you've established your categories, you need to
start making lists of key contacts. The masthead in the newspaper will tell you
who the senior editor is along with the various departments. Arts & Entertainment
is the obvious, but don't overlook the Lifestyles, Community, or even the Home
Décor sections. Since ArtQuilts at the Sedgwick is located in Philadelphia, I
also send press releases to the Getaway Weekend columns for other cities such as
New York and Washington D.C.
You want to get your exhibition listed in as many calendars
as possible. The Internet will go a long way toward help you out. Most local newspapers
and communities now have web sites where you can submit the What, Where, When information.
Libraries, schools, and even church bulletins are more
than happy to add your event. Don't forget to contact alumni newsletters for each
of the participating artists. If any have a "day job" in a major corporation, find
out if the company has an internal communication.
Most quilt and fine craft magazines will list your event
for free if you send them the information 3-4 months in advance. The next time
you’re in Borders or Barnes & Noble, check the publisher's page for these magazines
and jot down the information. It's usually on the page right after the table of
contents. Many now print the key email addresses or at least the magazine's web site.
Work The Plan
Newspapers need a ten-day lead-time to print a blurb in
their upcoming events section. Full articles with pictures often take longer to
arrange, sometimes as much as six weeks in advance.
Be prepared to provide all the necessary and ancillary
information when the publication calls: the press release, high resolution .jpg
images of the artwork, background information on each artist, and a written
explanation of what an art quilt is and even isn't. Often the staff writer assigned
doesn't know about our medium.
Keep a file on each publication and record what you have
sent to whom (writers often shift jobs within a newspaper) and what you plan to
send in the future. For the area Philly papers I send out pre-event press releases,
photos of the artists by their artwork from opening night, and post-opening press
releases on the award winners.
Follow Up Early and Often
It often takes a number of your patient and persistent
contacts before a newspaper editor or staff writer will realize that your exhibition
deserves an article. Send out the press release with a different headline every
few weeks. A few days after each one, place the call to see if they’ve received
it. And don’t worry about being pest: the newspapers need our news to fill their
Co-Marketing of Art Exhibitions
Are there other events in the surrounding communities
scheduled for the same time frame as yours? This approach was tremendously successful
for ArtQuilts at the Sedgwick.
The Snyderman-Works Galleries have been extremely supportive
of AQATS. In turn, I've been able to get them additional media coverage for their
biennial Fiber Survey exhibition. It's far easier for me as a volunteer for a
non-profit community center to pick up the phone and chat up our concurrent events
with the magazine and newspaper editors.
We have the same co-marketing arrangement with the Gross-McCleaf
Gallery. Director Sharon Ewing even moved her annual Contemporary Art Quilt Exhibition
from January to April last year to benefit from the publicity.
Since FIBERARTS magazine focuses on different areas of
the country, I called up the editor and offered to put together an article.
Collectors made a special point of attending our opening to meet the artists who
had flown in from all over the country. The owner of Snyderman-Works told me that
people came to his gallery from Washington D.C. and New York with the issue in
hand because it was mentioned as a Philly fiber exhibition.
Marion Haslam, then editor of Popular Patchwork, made
the trip from England specifically to review ArtQuilts at the Sedgwick for the
August 2002 issue after seeing the write-up. While in town, she visited with
some of the local quilt artists and will be featuring them in upcoming editions.
The Perks of Volunteering to do the Group's Publicity
Each article I write for ArtQuilts at the Sedgwick ends
with a byline that refers readers to my web site. FIBERARTS and The Crafts Report
both featured my site in articles as a thank you for providing them content for
Next Quilter Community issue:
"How to Write a Press Release"
©2004 Carolyn Lee Vehslage maintains an onboard studio on their Mariner Yacht
"Fandango". Carolyn Lee Vehslage's computer series are viewable online at
Her award winning artwork is in private, corporate, gallery and museum collections
around the world.