As many of you already know, I set up a group last year called the Exhibition Collective.
This group consists of over 60 artists throughout the UK who are either working as professional artists or working towards being professional artists.
The idea behind the group is that we find suitable venues in which to hold events and invite the other members of the group to take part.
It is a lot of work finding suitable venues; and difficult seeking out venues which are available at a reasonable price; finding dates which fit in around the other family responsibilities we all have, has also proved a challenge but I am delighted that this week we held our first exhibition at Denbies Vineyard in Dorking, Surrey, and it was a great show.
The work produced by the people who took part is very strong and we have some amazing comments from visitors, so we are all very pleased with the outcome.
But there is another story behind the success of this exhibition and that is to do with the connections people have been able to make.
There were eight artists showing work and even though I was the organiser I didn’t know all of the artists who agreed to take part in this inaugural exhibition.
However, we all know each other now.
All the artists were required to be involved and take on responsibilities. We all also took turns in stewarding the exhibition and in between chatting to the hundreds of lovely people who came along to see our exhibition, we were able to forge friendships.
These friendships turned into more, though. Two ladies have become such good friends in such a short time that they are planning to take part in SAOS (Surrey Artists Open Studios) in a shared studio, next year. They have realised that they would work well together, and their work is very different to each other’s and so there is no competition for potential purchasers. Indeed their differences mean that visitors will be exposed to very different artforms and they will have great fun building on the relationship which has already formed. I know that when they don’t have visitors they will have enormous fun chatting to each other and deepening their friendship.
Three other ladies have decided to share a stand at the Windsor Art Fair later this year as again their work is very different, they enjoyed each other’s company and having three people on a stand makes it easier to manage and take breaks when necessary. I have attended these large exhibitions myself and running a stand by yourself can be very difficult particularly when it is busy. Also when you man a stand by yourself, you simply don’t have the opportunity to go and see what other artists are doing and therefore additional connections with those artists become difficult to make.
Lots of discussions have taken place about arranging other exhibition possibilities which will be investigated by all of us and plans to meet on a social basis, to go out painting together and go on courses together are all in the air. It is so exciting to spend time with other artists.
Eight people who didn’t know each other a week ago have been thrown together, got on really well and formed new relationships. It has been so amazing and exciting to watch too.
Add to this the sharing of information, ideas and the support we have given to each other and this has been a total win, win for those taking part. None of this would have happened without each person taking a risk, getting involved and then making a commitment to be part of this group.
The benefits have been huge and will, without doubt, continue going forward. They Include:
Providing support to fellow artists
Forging new friendships
Providing a safe environment in which to share your artwork
Providing the environment in which to meet a new audience and
Increased your visibility as an artist.
I opened up my on-line membership group for the first time last week and as a result of the time spent with these people and five of them decided to join my group where we will be able to share information at a deeper level than we have been able to do this past week.
I love to use the quote ‘it takes a whole village to raise a child’ and this is true of artists and getting their work out in front of an audience.
The comradery is essential, helping deal with the negativity of some people and downright rudeness of others. One woman was heard to say, “my granddaughter could do that”. No she couldn’t. That woman clearly has very little understanding of the artist’s process and how would she feel if someone were to criticise say her dress sense, or her intelligence, we have to deal with rather a lot of insensitive comments from people and it is very easy to allow the negative comments to take over our minds and bring us down. Being part of this exhibition allowed us to put these comments into perspective and help that artist realise that she must not allow those remarks to damage her confidence. As I always say, unpleasant remarks like that say far more about the person who makes them than it does about the artist’s work.
Last but not least, putting your work into an exhibition gives an opportunity for people who support you, those people who really count as your friends, to come and see your work, and possibly purchase work from you or from one of the other artists you are showing with.
Those people who put themselves out to visit your exhibition, making you feel valued by them the friends and family who matter to you, making the lonely life of being an artist well worth it. Being part of something bigger with an opportunity to learn and grow is why there are so many good reasons for being connected to other artists, to take part in exhibitions like this and grow as a person as a result.
So if you work at home on your own, rarely connecting with others, I would encourage you to join a local art group, form a group of your own or find a group on line to join where you can gain the support that being part of something like this will provide.