Sorry for any errors on the tips & how to pages. I'm doing this fast.
Monopolize your community or your area, if you can. Offer a book to publish and feature your artists. Engage the community by posting your needs: volunteer graphic designers, writers, editors, book designers, idea people, marketers, proofreaders, art collectors and art investors, and others. Tell them there may or may not be money, be ready for bartering and a lot of fun. Use your place as a meeting place. Let them know this early that I am encouraging them to buy your food and drinks while at your place. Meet and agree on a deadline. Have a few events to accommodate your artists and everyone else. Get the first print of the book and check for errors to avoid trying to sell a really bad book on the day of your first reception. Give two weeks for the printers to ship your final books to you. It would be good if you can assure investors and collectors that all the works you are selling will end up in more future art books. You will notice that this factor will be crucial in them buying the art from your business. You will be competing with other establishments, including the top galleries. Play with your prices. The idea is to encourage your artists to keep increasing their prices, even if the current price is $1.
I've been to a lot of cafes through the years. Recently, two cafes closed, although a few also opened in the neighborhood. Cafes usually allow their walls to have art for sale by local artists.
My most recent talk with a cafe owner was last month. He gave me some observations with the art for sale on display at his cafe.
First, he cannot dictate the price. It is always the decision of the artists, and he noticed that they usually are overpriced and not for the crowd of coffee lovers he attracts.
Second, he told me, he had always wondered this: How can an artist on display in his cafe suddenly become a big success, enough to make him rich as well?
I told him about the set of ideas that make up #valzubiriagenda. I told him, if he or his cafe publishes its own art books and group and solo profiles, essays and memoirs, then people, or more people, might become more motivated to buy art at his cafe. If a system of promoting artists were online, then even people from far away will find a way to come to the cafe to check out the art. At this point, I would call this activity "chasing art."
The cafe owner's motivation was helping and making a difference in the community, and since he has walls that can display art, then he is all for supportinng the artists in the community.
After committing to produce at least one book, or getting an artist to do it or price his or her art at an increasing price schedule, all a cafe needs to do is to display a hashtag #valzubiriagenda on a window of the cafe, and on a page on the cafe website. Then give it some time to catch on.
I used to chase science fiction and fantasy trading cards. These are like baseball cards, except they are images produced by artists in the science fiction and fantasy genre. Some of them illustrate comic books and some illustrate novels and their art is used as book covers for sci fi and fantasy novels.
I would learn about upcoming editions of trading cards from the monthly comic book catalogs. On their release dates, the comic book stores would have them. I used to reserve a full display box, which always contained four sets and one set of special cards, which are usually thicker 3D foil cards. After getting my box, I would visit all the nearby comic book stores and "feel" the packs for the special cards, which have a slight increase in thickness.
When Superman died in the early 90s, I was only into horror anthologies, that I completely wasn't aware that it was going to happen. I did not reserve any copies. When the news came out, I felt the need to chase the comic book. I went from comic book store to comic book store, asking if I can still purchase it. That was a strange time, when I saw grown men argue and fight with clerks accusing them of greed and hoarding, with both clerks and customers hurling expletives at each other.
It was around that time when I thought to myself, "This should happen with original art! People should chase original art, but how can that be?" Back then, I wondered how can comic book stores and cafes have original art that people will chase after? Five years later, I asked that again, but this time I asked, "How can comic book stores, cafes, restaurants and even law offices and doctor's offices have original art that people will chase after?" Years later, I asked myself, how can a child's art be chased? Then I said, "Even a janitor's closet should have chaseable art."
In 2007, I discovered Starbucks Saturdays. The expensive River North galleries in Chicago has, even now, Starbucks Saturdays. There is a nearby Starbucks where, every Saturday, people meet at 11am. At exactly 11am, someone from one of the member galleries would pick up people waiting at Starbucks and walk them to 4 galleries. The fourth gallery would be the one ran or owned by that Saturday's tour guide.
I decided to treat Starbucks Saturdays as my "church," treating it as my weekly thing to do, and I became a familiar face. I discovered aspects of the gallery business that otherwise I would not have been privy to. I made friends with them. Eventually, I pointed my video camera at the event, with the conclusion in my mind that this was an art movement, not by the artists, but by the galleries. I felt that it was important that this movement be captured somehow. I also saw that the galleries can become political.
It was then that I discovered a couple of artists who can't seem to sell their art even though they were known novelists. I figured their books should match their art. An artist's memoir would have been a better book for them. This was 2007, and my first draft was finished and published in 2006, although I took it our of circulation later in 2006. It signaled to me that I might be on the right track.
In my analysis, I think it was that confidence in myself, being that I had written my first book and seen it published in book form, my great appreciation for their galleries, not to mention that I was also going to their Starbucks Saturdays in a nonjudgmental fashion that they came to appreciate me. There were times in winter where there were only three of us attending the walk. The walk still happened, and the three or four of us were welcomed as if we were a bigger crowd.
I was eventually asked to meet with the executive director of their organization, because obviously the group met once in a while, and I became a curious object. After that meeting, I was given an unofficial designation of being a "friend of the galleries," and that it was okay for me to continue my ways of appreciating the galleries.
So I was visiting a familiar gallery who had become familiar with me. I noticed this lady making out a check for a work that I had seen many times during my many visits. I knew the price tag had five figures.
I approached her and praised her for her purchase. I learned that she and her husband have an art collection in both their home and the office. I asked her, "Do you know the artist?" She said no. I asked her, don't you think if you had a party, for example, that you can tell people a little about the people who made the art? She said no, and she was quick to say, "My husband is a jealous man, so I don't make an effort to know the artists. I just buy the works for me and my husband to have."
She was right! This is why I am proposing for the artists, and now, even collectors, art investors and cafes and other venues to present themselves, their motivations and their art in book form! People can talk about everyone's lives but still be detached.
The lady I was talking to was very elegant. She must have been in her 60s. Her age showed. I'm sure there would be someone out there who would steal her from her husband.
Here is a way to one up the competition, which will include the expensive galleries.
Cafes can publish their own art books and essays featuring the artists they display.
Before you say this sounds impossible. I want to tell you a story. I was so much into having recently been the River North Gallery's accepted and most-welcomed nuisance that I went to check out other galleries in other locations. I once went to a gallery in Evanston. The owner / manager was there busily pasting the paper backing of a newly framed artwork. I had looked at my watch, and she had so much art, that I was sure I was there for a good hour before I approached her. I saw her being precise with the pasting of the paper backing. She was doing it for a good hour, somehow going back and forth looking busy as if it were a show for the passersby. Nobody but myself was there during that full hour. I seriously want to be anal about all this because of what she said to me.
So I approached her and we talked. I told her about Starbucks Saturdays, which was something she did not know. After this, I told her about publishing and that anyone can now self-publish. I told her that I noticed she can produce more than one book from the number or artwork she had in the gallery, and the number or artists that she had.
She said one sentence that got hammered into my head for all these years: "That just sounds like too much work!"
I'm telling you this because I did not make this up. You need to know that if a gallery says something like that, then you as a cafe, a father of a child who can paint, a doctor's office with a lot of wall space, or even a janitor's closet can compete with galleries. Self-publishing has evened out the playing field. Not all the galleries will do this, and not all the cafes will do this either. However, if you feel you have a mission to help your local artists, and if this is the reason you have art on your wall, then form a group of volunteers. You will have neighbors who can write, design books and photograph works. You will have local artists who cannot get into these exclusive but just as cash-strapped galleries who will be willing to be featured in a solo or group art book.
This is the reason I came up with this. I hope the cafes and restaurants come up with art books. I hope you will be welcoming that even the homeless local artist can be included.
That lady who said "That just sounds like too much work!" closed her gallery a year after my visit. The economy was bad, and she occupied three store fronts.
I'm probably just trivializing and romanticizing this encounter. Artists in galleries are usually represented by more than one gallery. I was told by one gallery that if they sponsored an artist, two things will happen: Their other artists will cry foul and the published artist can use the book to leapfrog into another, more expensive, more exclusive gallery. I think cafes and other non-galleries have a different premise for coming up with the same or even better quality art books. This other premise or mission can become your advantage over the galleries.