Creativity Inspiration

Making Art in a ‘Vacuum’?

Making Art in a ‘Vacuum’?

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5 Simple Ways Savvy Artists Can Exhibit Their Artwork

At times you may feel you are just making art for yourself; no one sees it; no one knows about it; and, ultimately, no one cares about it. However daunting showing your artwork to others may seem, it can help you get out of this type of rut and become more confident with your art-making process.

Ready to be seen? Here are five helpful ways you can start exhibiting your artwork and garner more exposure as an artist.

1. Get Your Foot in the Door

If you don’t have much experience, seek out possibilities to show your work at public libraries, government agencies and municipal buildings. Check into your local city hall or chamber of commerce, which may have empty space available to use for free. Likewise, you could find a native politician willing to put up your work on loan to decorate their office—a win-win for them and for you.

Another great way to start promoting your art is by joining a nearby art club, artist co-op or nonprofit gallery to exhibit your work. Restaurants, coffee houses, and other businesses in the area might also be willing to let you showcase your art.

Various places and businesses around your hometown are generally low-cost, high-effort prospects that offer exposure and free publicity and visibility for your work. Keep in mind you likely will pay for show cards, listings on social media, reception costs and doing any necessary legwork on your own, but this all saves a lot of money in the end (while also putting you in the right direction to start making money!).

2. Collaborate with Other Artists

If you are really ambitious, make up your own show with a group of artists by renting a space in a vacant storefront and sharing the costs. You likely can get free publicity from news outlets looking to cover something unique—an art “happening” rather than just another gallery opening.

I organized a show in a local hardware store where the artworks were placed in and among the tools, nuts and bolts, fertilizer bags and barbecue grills, mixing art into an everyday business.

Local as well as national media sources covered this peculiar event, which brought in more than 150 people at the opening reception. In fact, the store doubled its business over the two-month run of the exhibit.

Please feel free to steal this idea if any hardware stores in your town would be up for the exhibit. At the very least, I hope this unusual art exhibit inspires you to think outside of the box. The lesson here is to use your own creative brain to make a place for your art.

3. Be Cognizant of Online Opportunities

A cautionary tale, there are lots of opportunities to exhibit your work all over the web. These online exhibits most likely will encourage you to enter art competitions for a fee, sometimes exceeding $30 or more. Though many of these are legitimate contests and galleries offering actual exhibitions and prizes, it’s important to remember there are a lot of scams, too.

Read over the entry guidelines, look for past winners or featured artists from preview competitions and galleries, and find out what all is included if a fee is charged.

Remember, these competitions are pretty much art lotteries that may or may not go your way. Make sure if you do enter any online galleries or competitions, that they are worthy of your investment. For example, international shows and contests will attract large numbers of people from across the globe, which means tons of other artists are also submitting their art, too.

Moreover, look into how the online gallery/competition requests your art. Are there shipping or uploading costs involved in addition to the entrance fee? Are there any limitations or extra charges for weight and size dimensions?

My advice: Do your due diligence and research, research, research. Make sure there aren’t any hidden fees and that the online gallery/competition is legitimate before submitting your work.

4. Take the Open Call

Oftentimes, open calls are available to artists to apply for shows organized by public galleries in museums and colleges that have little or no application fees. If you find an open call for such an event, it’s well worth the effort to apply. Often these sites have thematic exhibitions that your work may fit into—landscapes, portraits, still life, abstracts, etc.

Due to the exposure and the likely large-scale audience that will be in attendance, these opportunities are very desirable to most artists. What’s more, being accepted into a museum show is also a very good footnote on your resume, too!

Apply for Galleries

Applying to show with an established private gallery can be an intimidating and frustrating process. A reputable gallery already has their own group of artists, many of whom have been with them for several years, and they rarely look for newer artists to invest in.

Running a private gallery is indeed a huge investment of time, effort and money which can be a tough road no matter how good the economy. So when a gallery director looks at your work, it’s not just about whether they like it, but rather if they can sell it for a profit.

Private galleries typically get 50-60 percent commission to exhibit your work, and that’s standard in the business. If that seems outrageous, keep in mind they have to pay an expensive rent, a salaried staff, for advertisements of your work as well as foot the bill for the reception and any other expenses.

The real talent of sales managers at galleries, however, is to convince a prospective buyer that your work is worth the price they’re asking. If they fail, you fail, too; and that’s a lot of pressure all around.


Dean Nimmer is a North Light Books author, artist and teacher. Check out his art his fun-filled video workshops on and/or at the North Light Shop. You can also learn more about Dean and his art by visiting his website,

Watch the video: The Art of Making a Nixie Tube (August 2022).