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Be A Professional Quilt Artist #2: Get Press Coverage posted: 1/28/2004
by Carolyn Lee Vehslage Printable Page
Category: Tips Method: All Series: Be A Professional Quilt Artist
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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 pages.

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 other issues.

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.

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