This post is by Luann Udell, regular contributing author for FineArtViews. She's blogged since 2002 about the business side--and the spiritual inside--of art. She says, "I share my experiences so you won't have to make ALL the same mistakes I did...." For ten years, Luann also wrote a column ("Craft Matters") for The Crafts Report magazine (a monthly business resource for the crafts professional) where she explored the funnier side of her life in craft. She's a double-juried member of the prestigious League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (fiber & art jewelry). Her work has appeared in books, magazines, and newspapers across the country and she is a published writer.
WHY MILLENNIALS DON'T BUY OUR ART: Maybe They Will, Someday?
And if they don’t, don't worry, just keep doing what you love!
(6 minute read)
I’m sure last week’s post about why millennials don’t buy our art may have landed harshly for some. It can be hard to hear all the reasons why, especially if it’s our own attitude that gets in the way.
I’ll repeat what I’ve said, over and over: There’s rarely any art that is loved by everybody. Trying to please everyone, or even someone else, is not why we do what we do, nor why we make what we make.
We do it for ourselves first. There’s something in us that has to be in the world. Our job is to make it happen, and get it out there so others can experience it, too.
Most of the reasons we covered are physical: Younger generations haven’t achieved their peak earning level - yet. When they do, when they have discretionary income, they will be back.
Their houses may be smaller, too, if they even have a house. If, like my daughter, they’ve been collecting the work of other creatives for years (and have begun to pursue their own creative work), then there may not be room for grand-sized art.
And of course, the subject matter, matters. My own art collection (other than my own work!) ranges from a few still lifes to landscapes, abstracts to wildlife, and everything in between. What matters to me is if it speaks to me. And as I pointed out last week, if later learn the artist is a pretty nasty person, then that aura eventually overshadows the work, and I move it on. Hence, last week’s subject. (That doesn’t bother everyone, of course, but it’s actually one reason Vincent Van Gogh struggled.)
So what does work for us moving forward?
Fortunately, many people generously offered insights into what works for them.
Prints and smaller works brought the price down, making art more affordable to younger people.
Some artists don’t frame their work. This can lower the price, and have the benefit of avoiding the hassle of a customer who loves the work but doesn’t like the frame. If you try this, make sure to finish the edges, though. A one-inch thick (or more) will look more finished if the edges are painted, either to match the painting itself or in a coordinating solid color.
Offering classes has always been a way to expand our income streams. If people are enchanted by our work, there are ways to teach that don’t encourage people to try to recreate our own unique body of work.
Teach and/or exhibit in unusual environments. In a recent blog post, Learning to See, I shared my own experience in a one-evening painting workshop offered by a friend at a winery in New Hampshire. It was fun, we drank a lot of wine, and a good time was had by all.
Explore local attractions and events that often attracts crowds of all ages. Brainstorm with others about what linked connections could provide art-making and art-selling opportunities there.
Subject matter: One young artist I met painted children’s toys as still lifes. They were well done, and whimsical and playful in nature. I suggested they approach galleries near the high-tech areas in California, where young people with money and young families might snap them up.
On another note, as the manager of our local open studio tours in Sonoma County said a few months ago, “Art events aren’t about making money today!” Although great sales are wonderful, not every event will be successful, for us, for everyone, every time.
Art events are about making connections.
Open studios, exhibitions, art fairs, gallery presence, social media marketing, etc. All these are sharing what we love and why we love it. Even if people don’t buy, because of all the reasons people don’t buy our art, they may indeed “be back” down the road. I’ve had people watch my work for years before decided to take the leap. People who weren’t sure I was who I say I was, who finally came on board. People who couldn’t afford my work, but came back with friends who could. People who don’t necessarily go for what I make, but have purchased for loved ones who do.
When I meet younger people in my studio, they are allowed to get comfortable. They love that they can pick things up, ask “dumb” questions, and be met and treated with respect and courtesy.
I share what is unique about my work. I share how I got there. I share what I’ve written about it. I share the “why”.
The conversation doesn’t just center on me, either. At some point, especially when I can tell they just aren’t ready to buy, I turn the tables on them. I ask what their creative work is, and listen deeply.
If I can’t share my art with them by selling it to them, I can share parts of my journey that may make their own easier. I can validate their own individual interests, skills, sense of purpose, and their own unique journey.
By encouraging them to do the work of their heart, to make room for it in their lives even if they do something else for a living, it shows I see them as not just potential buyers, but as people. Real people, with their own life goals, their own journey, their own dreams and desires, fears and setbacks.
One of our responsibilities as artists is to “pay it forward”. I want everyone who leaves my studio to go with a renewed sense of joy and “what if?” I encourage them to come back if they need advice or just someone to listen to. When they share setbacks they’ve encountered in their own work, I try to share a name, or a book, or a solution that could help. After all, there were plenty of people who encouraged me to stay on my path. I want to do the same!
And even as I finish this series, I realize there are real opportunities for me to take my own advice. People are begging me for classes, and though they are a lot of work (and take away precious time from my own work), I know it will benefit me and them alike if I make that happen!
I hope if you’ve find an approach that helps you attract a younger audience, you’ll share in the comments below. Don’t worry about the “pie getting smaller” if everyone has a slice. When it comes to the work of our heart, the universe is pretty big, and the pie is infinite.
Oh, and please, no more negative comments on millennials! This entire series was to expand our thinking, and our hearts. To be open to kinder ways of being in the world. If I didn’t change your mind, that’s okay. We are all entitled to our opinions! But trash talk and negative thinking doesn’t help anyone, and shuts down the conversation.
Instead, let’s all find new ways of getting our work out into the world, so that the world can be a happier, more beautiful, more loving place, for ourselves, and for others.
As always, if you enjoyed this article, let me or my editor know! If you’d like to read more, you can either read more of my articles on Fine Art Views or subscribe to my blog at LuannUdell.wordpress.com. If you think someone else would like it, please forward it to them. And if someone sent you this, and you liked it, ditto!
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