Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Does your art society do events and workshops?

The demonstration
14" x 11", pencil and coloured pencil in Daler Rowney Sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Most Art Societies have an annual exhibition. I've noticed that some are very organised about providing a range of free events and fee-paying workshops at the exhibition or associated with it - while others do absolutely nothing at all!

I've also heard a range of of excuses over the years as to why such events have not always been very successful.

In my opinion there are some simple reasons
  • why it's a good idea to do events, demonstrations and/or workshops in association with exhibitions
  • why some work and some don't - and I explain why below
What do art societies do?

Fee-paying Workshops: The Pastel Society has a member artist running a workshop on every single day of the exhibition. Other art societies have a more limited number of fee-paying workshops or only hold them at weekends.

A two day workshop held
during an exhibition
in the Bankside Gallery

Demonstrations: Most societies organise some free demonstrations. Some charge a fee. Other societies (eg Society of Botanical Artists and the Miniature Artists) focus their efforts on having an artist demonstrating on every single day of the exhibition. It takes a bit of organising but free daily demonstrations is something that is perfectly feasible for all societies.

Talks: An artist is sometimes invited to talk about their work. The popularity of this tends to depend on the society and the artist concerned. Other societies have an artist who introduces work in the exhibition to interested visitors.

Panel discussions: NEAC is fond of this one. It's often interesting but less interactive than maybe it could be.

Drawing - a discussion
(New English Art Club - Annual Exhibition 2007 )
8.5" x 11.5", pencil in sketchbook
copyright Katherine Tyrrell

Why hold events, demonstrations and workshops at the annual exhibition?

Here are my suggested reasons why it's a really good idea to organise events, talks, demonstrations and workshops at your art society's annual exhibition. If your art society is not doing any of these why not ask them why not?

8 good reasons to hold events and workshops at your art society annual exhibition
  • better image - an active and well organised society which puts on successful events enhances its reputation
  • increased support - whether it's increasing the number of members or Friends, a Society which demonstrates that it's active and vibrant is more likely to attract supporters and increases the chances that people will return again next year and/or become more involved
  • promotes society's aims - many artists and collectors and potential buyers are fascinated by how artists draw or paint particular subjects and/or with particular media. Demonstrations and workshop events can enable a better understanding of the reason why societies exist and demonstrate what can be achieved
  • more visitors - attendance is increased when an exhibition has additional features - such as FREE demonstrations and/or chances to talk to individual artists and/or an opportunity to learn about art
  • more buyers - more visits by people who are interested in this type of art increases the chances of artwork being sold - always good news for both artist and art society!
  • increased take-up - demonstrating how media works increases the chances of people who are interested becoming involved in the use of the media or painting subject matter which is associated with the art society
  • increased future business - demonstrations and workshops allow artist/tutor members to reach a wider market - and potentially generates future business for them. Artists involved with such events will readily understand that this is, in effect, free marketing.
  • offset exhibition costs - holding fee-paying workshops can increase income for the art society and reduce the net cost of the exhibition
Do you agree? Can you think of any more reasons?

Does your art society hold events, demonstrations or workshops?
Which are the most and least successful?

What makes events and workshops at exhibitions succeed?

As somebody who's had a fair bit of involvement in making events happen for large and fee-paying audiences, I've 'got the T shirt' when it comes to understanding all the things that can cause an event to come unstuck and/or not achieve its original aims. I've also learned a fair bit over the years about what it takes to make an event succeed.

Understanding what people want (as opposed to what society members want to do!), good planning and excellent communication are all essential to making exhibition events and workshops succeed. However the principal reason why events do NOT succeed is when the people organising them lack the skills to make them work. Willingness to volunteer is not a qualification for making an event succeed when it comes to project management.

Events succeed for the same sort of reasons irrespective of what they are about. Factors which contribute to making any event succeed include:
  • identify the target audience/customer
  • understand what the customer wants and how they like to 'buy' - both literally and metaphorically
  • design a product which delivers specific benefits that meet customers' needs and/or wants
  • create a project plan and timetable for delivery which ensures key dates are met
  • define, describe and communicatethe event and associated features and benefits - and how to buy - in a timely way
  • ensure that people who project manage delivery understand the importance of all of the above
The simple truth is that anybody skilled in event organisation can make ANY event work even if they start off knowing nothing about its subject matter. That's how some people make their living. If an event does not succeed it's usually always because there has been some sort of weakness in the design or delivery.

In order to run successful exhibition events and workshops, any art society must identify people with the right sort of skills for planning, organising and communication.

5 reasons why exhibition events and workshops don't succeed

Too often I see information about workshops and other events going out too late and/or information not available on the website and/or not being distributed and communicated in time. As a result, it's not seen by the right people at the right time and consequently doesn't get the desired response. It's no good producing publicity material if you miss the deadline for the advert or post. All of this has implications for support by members and attendance by the target audience.

Here are some suggested reasons as to why this happens
  • poor skills = poor planning = poor communication = poor attendance
    • doesn't understand the marketplace - doesn't understand what customers are interested in
    • supply led rather than consumer led - guided by what members want to do rather than what consumers 'need to know' (eg which artist is involved matters a lot. The uncomfortable truth is numbers can vary hugely depending on the popularity and 'following' of the artist involved!)
    • fails to understand what people involved need to know and when they need to know it
    • lacks understanding and skills in planning projects
    • lacks understanding and skills in managing projects
  • poor planning = poor communication = poor support by members + poor attendance
    • failure to identify all steps in the process
    • lack of awareness of lead times and/or deadlines for delivery (eg print adverts on trade journals are much earlier than many people realise)
    • failure to understand all links between steps in the process eg likely to leave out critical contributors or dates
    • no project plan
    • non-existent timetables
    • failure to communicate key facts from either of the above even if they do exist!
    • failed to secure members help/support early or check availability for key dates.
    • failed to get firm commitments (eg when charging a fee, make sure you have a standby who can step in at short notice)
  • poor communication = poor support by members + poor attendance
    • failure to understand how the target audience reads/gets information (ie it's not about how you want to deliver the message, it's about how they want to get it!)
    • don't understand print processes / timetables
    • don't understand how to use the Internet to communicate events
    • website is not used and/or updated
    • very limited scope for communication activities
    • people don't get reminders
    • deadlines are missed - due to poor planning/project management
    • distribution doesn't work - due to poor planning/project management
  • poor planning = poor support by members
    • members can't provide support if they're not asked in good time
    • artists are very disappointed if they prepare for and turnup for an event only to find a couple of people attending. Unlikely to offer to do the same again next year
    • people need to be told what's happening and what they need to do and when they need to do it by
    • and then they need to be told again
    • and again............
  • poor communication = poor attendance
    • people can't book or won't attend if they don't know it's happening
    • people need to be told what's happening and what they need to do
    • and then they need to be told again
    • and again............
The bottom line - if you want to provide an event make sure it's organised properly!

Do you have any good stories about why events went less well than expected? Or were rescued and turned into a success?

Pastel Society Events and Workshops

This week I'm focusing on The Pastel Society exhibition which finishes on 21st June. See Exhibition review: The Pastel Society's 110th Annual Exhibition

The Pastel Society always holds events and workshops at the exhibition and I'm going to be attending one tomorrow.
Pastel Society Workshops
Note the fee charged for these workshops at the Mall galleries: £45 per day or £40 if booking four workshops. The Pastel Society reduces the fee for Friends of the Pastel Society or if booking four workshops.

Pastel Society Art Event Evening

Thu 11 June 2009, 6pm - 8.30pm

Members of the Pastel Society will demonstrate their different techniques with dry media. Tickets £7.50 on the door (concessions £5, including Pastel Society and FBA Friends).

Making a Mark reviews......

1 comment:

Pat Aube Gray said...

Katherine, this is a great post and one I am forwarding on to my fellow founding members of our group, the Atlanta Fine Arts League, Atlanta, GA. We are this year hosting our third annual national exhibition, have members' exhibitions and arrange workshops and demos for the membership. Thanks for all the information you put forth. I really don't know how you do it!

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