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Art galleries need more content, not more art.

Granted, this is coming from an outsider. I am not a gallery owner or even an exhibitor, at this point. But as with many things we love and cherish, sometimes an outside perspective is needed. Particularly from our audience. It doesn’t matter what you do, at some level you have an audience. Without whom you probably would not have a job or career in your chosen field or industry. So I speak from the audience.

As a fundamental part of human nature and all cultures – art, artists and those who consume art, or profit from art and artists, must have an audience that continues to grow. And yet, art is being left out of our schools and education institutions more and more, so there is danger of it’s decline. So this article is not meant to criticize but to consider how we might make art spaces better and more successful, as businesses and as social enterprises that help balance the lack of art education and participation in our schools.

Art galleries are in a difficult position balancing the business of art with the value of art, while also continuing to create demand and drive engagement to existing and especially new audiences.

 

Without taking into account the many factors that are present for every gallery, like location, size, accessibility, community, leadership and budgets – there are some things that are universally important to the ongoing success of all galleries and the art scene as a whole. That is education and participation. It’s clear that schools will not be the place this is made a priority. All aspects of education eventually lead back to a form of art, depending on your definition. And being better educated and more literate about art can add value and demand for almost everything.

What is the least “artful” profession? We could ask Mike Rowe, but let’s take a dirty job like digging ditches? Well, ask any great ditch-digger about his work and you will find that he can be as passionate about the details, the planning and the process as anyone. And with a few more artsy nouns, even ditches can be seen as art. Crafted with the help of imagination, aesthetic, style, form and execution. Some ditches are just more beautiful, functional or well made, and their creators are usually in higher demand.

You say, but what about a job on an assembly line? How is an art education going to help or make a difference? Easy, every assembly line has a process, stages, a start and finish and a desired outcome. Making a better widget is just as important as making another piece of art. Or at least it can be to the creators if everyone sees it that way. And guess what, the emotional and therapeutic benefits of creating art will manifest given these feelings and motivations, just like they do for those creating anything.

When companies make a point of sharing the outcomes and bigger meanings of the organizations work with all employees and workers, some interesting things happen. Turn-over goes way down. Job satisfaction goes way up. Morale and work culture improve. Quality, efficiency and reliability levels rise.

Virtually all problems can be solved better with creativity. Taking a creative approach to problem solving is easy for some people, but very difficult for others. For those people it can be transformative to learn how to access and nurture their creativity. To understand the path and process to being more creative thinker. Allowing space for imagination and dreaming to add to the possible solutions or avenues to a solution. In the world of business there may not be a greater skill than creative problem-solving. It makes an average worker into a superstar worker. It allows solutions to bubble up from creative thinking and that leads to innovation.

The way that galleries and museums can benefit and establish themselves as invaluable to society is to build engaging content into the process. Especially if it can provide learning and educational aspects. Content that goes behind the scenes, into the process and the journey of artists and creators of all kings. Content that challenges and demands participation in spaces that take away the elitist, entitled attitude that leads most people to visit more immersive experiences.

The galleries of old, where viewers strolled and lingered and contemplated, must be replaced by spaces where levity usurps gravity and experimentation demotes contemplation. A place where vision and imagination are experienced first hand, and critique is properly used to debate not to degrade. Where the only failure is not to try. And growth is planted for long-term reward rather than short-term gain.

This happens when we all see art’s purpose.

Binding us together is the work of art. It is what happens from art. Art’s work is both in the viewing and in the creating. Yet the viewing is often a short experience that allows the finished message to disseminate. The message though, is rather short. Yet it may have endless meaning. The creating on the other hand, is usually a longer process. It has stages, from conception to completion. There are many choices and considerations, along with inspiration and passionate action. Even if the artist is alone and isolated while creating, they are tapping into and moving energy that transfers to another dimension. And with the purpose of creating art being for others to experience and appreciate, the connections form before the brush meets the canvas. All perceptual influences are necessary to bring about new actions – meaning every artist must perceive first before being able to then conceive and create.

The binding work of art is powerful and begins before we are born, when we begin to perceive light and sound. Music is likely the first art that we experience. And the sculpture and color of toys probably next. Then taste, smell and touch complete the perceptive receptors. We take it all in as we develop. And we are all doing that collectively. The same process happens over and over, for every clump of flesh. For all. With each filter of experience, the input of data through our receptors and processed by our brain drive is reflected back in light, sound, taste, smell and touch. And so art is our binding force. The reflection of all that we are that we cannot be. At least as close as we can create on our own. Which is very close to oneness.

With experiences of art, comes oneness. Notice that is not the perceiving of art, but the experiencing of art. Where deeper engagement and long-term passion will be ignited is with moments of inspiration and creation. The audience must be invited into the process. They will witness the things that are the mysterious magic of creators and discover how others have done it. They will do more than appreciate a picture or artefact, they will remember the story of it’s creation, and the path of it’s creator. They will learn something. And they will leave broadened with potential for further growth.

What is this content? I knew you would ask that. And of course the answer is for you to discover. There is no magic filter to make your content appear more tantalizing for your audience. But if you look closely at your audience and what motivates them, and you look for and align opportunities to weave experiences into your gallery shows and exhibits, you just may find that you not only create a more compelling and attractive event, but you build deeper connections with an audience that will grow into loyal art supporters.

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