The concept of the Pop Up Gallery has been sweeping the world by storm. Rather than let the galleries display the art, entrepreneurs are waging a battle against gallery only art by creating these innovative momentary art galleries in abandoned buildings, street corners, fields and anyplace else they can find a place to put them.
Artists must be proactive these days and find new and unusual ways to show their work. Its a battle to get seen and everyplace that humans can go becomes the battlefield of beauty.
So with that in mind I am experimenting with the concept.
My studio is my home. We have small duplex where we live on one side and have our studio on the other side. While not nearly big enough most of the time, it serves our purposes. Geographically we are located just a few blocks from the wealthy and well traveled tourist destination of New Orleans Garden District. Our street by no means is wealthy. We are on the poor side of the Garden District you could say. But traffic is constant especially during the Carnival season. The 5-6 weeks that begin twelve days after Christmas and lasts till Fat Tuesday puts us dead center of Mardi Gras madness.
Now in past years I always leave the door to the studio open during Carnival season and the occasional tourists stop through to see the art and chat. Its a pleasant time of the year.
Right after Mardi Gras, the Indian season starts. The Mardi Gras indians are a New Orleans tradition that many are not even aware of. But for another 5-6 weeks the neighborhood becomes the stomping ground for dancing indian tribes in ornate costumes and second line parades. It it truly a wonderful part of New Orleans living. But it also places me in a great position to try some artistic experimentation.
So I went out to the Home Depot today and bought 3 shelving units to put on the front porch. I will expand this over the coming week to 9 shelving units that reach to the top of the porch. There is already quite a bit of unsaleable art outside in the garden and around the porch area so it attracts the eye. When I am in studio I will move some of the smaller art out to these shelves and see if anyone takes an interest.
Right now I expect little to no interest, but as the carnival season comes on in January I suspect things will change a bit and might very well create an interest that sustains even after carnival season ends. The gamble is small because if anything I can use the shelving units for storage.
There are issues though. Theft is always a possibility so bringing in items when I am not in the studio with the door open will be important. Then there is the issue of how you advertise such a thing? How do you get peoples attention to want to drive down the street and see if I have anything new out? Is it merely word of mouth that creates such a thing? I will have to look at putting up a sign I think. Since I will be putting up the Little Free Library soon, that will help with attracting the eye since its curbside. But since my house sits back its harder for people to see, so other things will have to be considered within the bounds of what the city will allow.
So once the shelves are fully in place there will be things to consider. Lighting will be another issue since I work a lot of night hours in the studio. I really don't expect anyone to stop at 2AM in the morning, but keeping up appearances is important. And who knows, I might be able to turn midnight art into a trend. We once considered calling this the Night Gallery, so perhaps its time for bringing back that concept.
There are also holidays to consider. We traditionally sit out with friends on Halloween night. So here is a way to show art. Because of our gentler climate here in the south even Christmas isn't out of the question as an outdoor event.
The important thing is, always keeping one step ahead of the galleries. No offense to the gallery system, but the artists who find ways to circumvent this system will be much more successful.
So here you can see the first stages in creating the Pop Up Porch Gallery. I've put 3 shelving units in so far. One can't be seen because its behind the vine and it will used for supplies, gardening, etc. The 2 shelves seen will be added to later so they stretch to the ceiling of the porch. Tonight I am working on lighting because as the time change takes place soon, daylight hours will decrease and I want it attractively lit for visitors so they are not afraid to approach.
Of course this page will be updated as this project continues. As always feedback and ideas from others who have done pop up galleries is greatly appreciated.
Our first official experiment sort of flopped. I wanted to try taking advantage of a neighborhood full of parents and kids for Halloween. Set it up, posted some ads for it and got a freakishly bad storm that hit. All the kids came the night before because the city advised that kids shouldn't be out during the storm. The weather was so bad that nothing could even be put outside. But we still went through all the steps in order to train in what was needed and how much time should be given to setup and tear down. So me and the interns got some good experience even though no one showed. More experiments to follow!
A few months have passed. In the time period between my work with popups kind of ground to a halt due to the news of organizing a large show in March at the YaYa Arts Facility. But during this time I've also been taking steps to organize the studio and the outside area in order to host a series of popups during the Mardi Gras season. The first of the Uptown New Orleans parades begins on January 29th. From then on until February 9th, there will be about 30 large parades passing within blocks of the studio. When this occurs there is a constant string of people passing by heading to and from the parade route. In prep I have placed not only a free library out front to attract people to stop but also a large new sculpture in front of the garden and a brand new sign to attract visitors to come in and look around. I am also remodeling the front porch area and repainting the studio door. As weather permits, art will be displayed outside and inside. We will see if this preparation attracts visitors. More to follow in the coming days...
So here we are the first night of Carnival. The Mardi Gras parades start out small but work up each night to super huge. So I've not done a lot of prep work tonight. I put my sign out and I've lit the front a bit more. Other than that there won't be much tonight, but through the weekend I will keep sculpture works out where people can see them and invite them inside. I also have mardi gras music blasting, so festive! This photo was taken just before sunset with art intern Andrew helping.
So finally after months we are starting the monthly pop up art series at the studio. We've invited a couple of guest artists and I'll be doing some demonstrations of technique in the studio. I also decided to start a monthly artists exchange where artists can bring an item and take an item from an exchange table of odds and ends. My theory is that the more a pop up has to offer the more likely of guests coming to it. My ads have only been up for a week, so I expect a very small turn out this first time. But as the popularity grows monthly I hope that it will gain a following. We shall see. More after the event concludes. Here is the link to the ad page
So we've now had our third pop up event at the studio and this one surpassed my expectations. We had a constant flow of people throughout the evening who asked questions and really wanted to be informed about what they were seeing. There were two unforeseen glitches.
The first was termites. Because this was our first night popup, I had the garden blazing with lights so that the art could be seen easily. I use daybright bulbs for everything so that the light is pure and clean with no yellow tint. Here in New Orleans, for about a month, we get rather unpredictable termite swarms that come out on some nights. If you've never been in one of these, its a horror! And of course, termites are attracted to light, so it was like a magnet had been turned on. Once the swarm began I was forced to bring everyone inside and shut down the lights outside for about 45 minutes. Surprisingly it did not create a total disaster as everyone was very interested in what they were seeing. The good thing is that these little nightmares only last a month. So the next event it will not be an issue. But unforeseen natural occurrences are something that outdoor popups need to be aware of.
The second glitch was the gentleman who showed up about half way through the popup session. When the event was over he smiled and handed me his business card and said he owned an artists cooperative in the quarter. To my surprise his co-op was called the same exact name as I had been using for the popups "The Art Garden". His co-op was quite new and I was not aware that anyone else was using the name. He was very pleasant about it and even asked if I'd consider putting any of my work in the co-op and I told him that I would gladly change the name for future events so that he wouldn't get a ton of inquiries asking if it was his event. The same night I re-branded the Art Garden under the Immortal Artist name which in retrospect would have probably been a wiser idea. So all's well that ends well with that one.
Overall the popup went great though and for our first night event, other than the termites, everything went smoothly. It will allow me to tweak a few things. I've not required my artists to be present at events. In the future at least one other artist will be required to be here to help with greeting people. I am also considering going to a one entry per one artist concept, where instead of allowing an artist to bring three pieces, we instead focus on a single piece which is promoted in the three weeks prior to the event via social media and includes a broader right up about the piece. This would allow a more focused approach to each piece of art and allow for including more artists in a limited space.
The last thing I have to say is that it really allowed for expanding the name of the studio. A lot of the people who came were artists who were very interested in affiliating themselves with events that we do. That could have benefits for the future where my personal goal is to make the name of the studio locally well known.
I will write an additional update after the next event in June 2016.
We've now had the fourth in our series of popup shows. Here is what we've learned so far. The key to a successful popup is not in the people that attend it. It is in the amount of advertisting prior to the event. In simpler terms it doesn't matter if anyone attends, what matters is that the advertising and build up to each even is strong and innovative. After four of these shows over four months, the comments and feedback I get the most of, come from people who never even attended.
This is important. Primarily because an artist showing there work thinks that success is just in the number of attendees. Its not. Its in a whole lot more than that.
With this in mind I did something different for the June show. As I said in the last update, I changed the submission format from several artists showing a larger number of works to a larger number of artists showing only one piece each. The difference is that the artist and the piece get promoted in the weeks leading up to each show. Each time the artist is mentioned is one more opportunity to have their work seen online. Even if a show has no attendees, the artists still get a month of promotion for their work.
This was successful in the first venture with 5 artists in attendance for June. Each artist was required to submit a photo of the piece they were showing, a brief description of the piece and why they created it, specs on the piece and pricing. This data was then entered onto the webpage for the show and hard copied to be included with the piece at the actual event.
What we've noticed is that four of the five artists are planning to submit a new piece for July and we've already received two new artists entries and its only in the first few days after the June show ended. We will require artists for July to also submit a brief one paragraph biography of themselves to include with their work.
The keys again are early planning and promotion and innovation. The more unique we can make each event, the more people will hear about it and come the next time. Patience is important because on the outer face of things a low attendance number seems like a failure. The opposite is true and reflected in the daily and monthly stats for how many are viewing the information for each show and how many are talking about it before and after.
I will add another update as more information becomes evident.