KCAC Forum Newsletter Volume 2 Number 1 January 1976
The Artist and Publicity
By Mary Carroll Nelson
Every artist is shy when it comes to self-promotion, is acutely aware of the limitations of his art, and more reluctant than any other professional to toot his own horn. Yet it must be done to achieve success. Unfortunately many artists acquire a bruised ego along with rebuffs and may be apt to offend the very people they need at their side.
Here are some fine guidelines and practical advice, based on a talk given by the author, Mary Carroll Nelson, before a recent seminar in Albuquerque on the theme, “If It’s Art, Can It Be Business?”… a whale of a good question.
In order to succeed as a professional artist one must be known by those who care about and buy art. The professional artists, therefore, needs skill in arranging for appropriate publicity. Attitude is the key word in the approach of the artist who seeks a route to the public. a confidence based on the conviction that talent is one’s greatest asset provides the faith the artist needs to overcome rejection. Combined with courage, the artists needs tact in dealing with others – enough to distance from self to realize no other person has a vested interest in his career but himself. Everyone else faces some kind of limitation.
Your own best promoter
No one is entirely free to promote an artist’s work even when it is preferred. An editor,m for example, may want to help but has to weigh space or reproduction requirements. The burden rests with the artist to plan publicity and never give up trying to get it in acceptable ways and places.
There is a fundamental question for the artist to ask himself before taking the first step in public relations: “Can I verbalize my approach to my own art?” If it is difficult to put into words such things as method, product, motivations, ideas, the answer to talk to those whose opinions are most respected. We really don’t know our own thoughts until we speak them aloud. After practicing there will be an ease in the choice of words. Then it is time to prepare a brochure…
…Attitude counts in approaching the media
Further publicity requires the help of others. To receive the help, again, attitude is all. The rule is: Don’t be discouraged, but don’t be rude and personal either. No one gets a second chance to be rude to an editor or a programmer. The wise course is to be canny. Figure out what the needs of an editor or media person are and approach the one who might have use for information about art.
Chances are that newspapers, magazines, television stations, and radio programs will have little use for news of a single artist who has no gallery or organization connection. Joining groups and entering competitions is a way to earn recognition. After earning awards or notice in a group, the artist has a better change at publicity on his own…
To solicit an article in a newspaper, newspaper supplement, or magazine is a suitable method for an artist to take, particularly if he writes a good query letter to the editor and sends the same selection of photographs mentioned above. If an interesting show is planned the editor might want to cover the news.
In order to do so he must know about the event long enough ahead to fit in with his lead time requirements. This can only be a few days for a local newspaper or several months for a national publication. When submitting material to an editor include specific information. One art editor complains that over 70% of submissions fail to tell the basic facts of who the release is about, what event is occurring, what hours it will be open, when it will close, whether there is a fee and any facts connected with the even that will arouse attention. there is more interest in local media in a preview than a review. However, reviews can be sent to national magazines.
Plan your goals
Publicity alone does not sell art. The product sells itself – and this is subject to fads and seasons. But there is enormous latitude in art. Excellence will sell eventually. By putting a total effort into one’s own work and persisting in it against odds, the artist surmounts difficulties. The overwhelming need is to know one’s goal.
Is the goal to sell locally? To achieve statewide fame? To become a nationally recognized artist? Each goal requires publicity, but of a widely different quality. All publicity will be briefly valuable. As part of a carefully planned career, it is a requirement. From brochure to TV talk show is not a matter of luck. It is the result of a well formed goal, a good plan, confidence, and tact.