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How to Build An Artist Network to Kickstart Your Career

It’s easy for art students to get caught up in the typical web of final exams, term papers, club meetings, tailgates, social events, and everything else that comes with being an undergrad. While these are certainly important tasks every art students must tackle, it’s important not to forget the impact building an artist network while in school can have on your art career.

While earning a degree is a major accomplishment – and a necessary step on your path to career success – networking can play a major role into getting your first art related job. Networking for artists, in particular, is all about building relationships that provide the opportunity to show your work, explore alternative art career tracks, land gallery representation, practice interviewing, or obtain leads for potential collectors. Networking can occur both in person and online – perhaps you’ve decided to attend an artist networking event, or you’re surfing the web for creative types whose careers you admire. The idea is that you’ll build an artist network that can help take your career to the next level.

But, let’s face it – networking can be awkward, time-consuming, and much less appealing than time on the couch watching your latest Netflix addiction. Instead of letting networking take a back seat to your goals, Artrepreneur has outlined some tips that will help make networking easier.

Set a Goal for Building Your Artist Network

Everything you do in life should be done with an intention, and the same is true when building your artist network. When setting out to engage new people, you should first consider what your goals are in creating this artist network. Are you looking for potential partners for a particular exhibit? Searching for advice on how best to get into a gallery? Wondering how you should curate your portfolio or artist CV?

No matter what you’re seeking from your artist network, you’ll want to establish that goal and keep it in mind throughout your networking endeavors. If you are going to a networking event, set a goal for yourself before the event; whether that’s exchanging contact information with a particular artist attending the event, or getting multiple business cards to build a large artist network. Regardless of how big or small your goal is, be sure to implement a networking strategy that helps you meet that goal.

artist network
Determine what you plan to achieve in building a network.

Arm Yourself with An Icebreaker

Building an artist network is a vital part of any successful career, and for many artists that means going to events and meeting new people. Of course, most people would rather be doing anything else than having to make small talk with a room full of strangers. So, instead of showing up unprepared and uninspired, consider some talking points you might bring up during an artist networking event. Research some art related articles, prepare an elevator pitch to describe your work, or research some of the event attendees and prepare some questions about their artistic practice. One of the most important things to remember when attending a networking event is that everyone is a bit uncomfortable, so be confident and have a few icebreakers prepared so that you are ready to engage someone in conversation.

Share Your Passion and Know Your Stuff

Building an artist network is your chance to leave a lasting impression about your work. You’ll want to make sure that you’re leveraging your network as efficiently as possible by creating a system through which you keep your artist network informed. That could mean anything from implementing a newsletter to monthly meetings with fellow artists. The goal is to keep your artist network abreast of what you’re working on, inspiring opportunities for collaboration or sharing resources.

In networking and sharing your ideas with other artists, you’re building a support system that can have important long-term effects on your career. You never know who might recall your work down the line and ask you to participate in a group show, sit on a juried panel, or apply for that coveted residency. so be brave about sharing yourself and know your market. Talking about your passions and being able to discuss the field you are interested in shows the person you are talking to that you are an interesting, educated, and well-rounded individual.

Listen and Learn

As an art student attempting to build a network, it’s important to remember that your primary goal is to meet other artists and learn from their work. An artist network should foster collaboration and encourage information sharing. In order to fully relate to an artist and engage them to become a part of your network in a meaningful way, it is important to spend a good deal of time listening to them and asking good questions. People love to talk about themselves – especially when they can tell the person listening is interested and engaged. Showing someone that you care about what they’re saying establishes trust, which can lead to a good working relationship in the future. If you’re trying to build an artist network, give your contacts the attention they deserve – ask meaningful questions, seek advice, and be open to sharing advice when it’s needed from you.

networking for artists
Developing a solid network starts with demonstrating that you’re interested in each other’s work.

Follow Up

Building an artist network is all about diligence. it isn’t a fly-by-night endeavor; rather, it requires you to reach out and establish a relationship over a longer period of time. The most important component of networking is following up so that you remain top of mind while strategizing how to best utilize the new contact you made. If you connect with someone at a networking event or online, make sure you exchange contact information and follow up with them regularly. Follow up can be as simple as an email to schedule a coffee date, or an invitation to join an artist collective or networking group.

Do you have an artist network? How did you build yours?

About the author

Kate Mackie

Kate is an intern at Orangenius.

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