Sunday, July 6, 2014

Showing in Restaurants, Coffee shops, Salons, etc.

"The Sky is Now Blue", Pastel and charcoal on paper, 22T"x30W", 2014/04/04,  This drawing was not in the show at Common Roots Cafe.

 I recently had a show at a nice little restaurant in south Minneapolis, Common Roots Cafe.  The cafe is in a wonderful old building with high windows which drench the interior with sunlight in the afternoon.  I expected to sell nothing when I perused the space and determined what I would hang, opting for larger works.  Why is that, you may ask.

At the very basic level it is about venue.  People go to cafes for food and drink as well as ambiance.  But on the purchasing side, they are primarily there for the food.  And the owners/operators of the restaurant need to keep it that way or they will go out of business.  And this leads to the primary objection some artists have to showing in these settings.

Without a dedicated staff actively promoting sales of the artwork, it is most likely no sales will occur and therefore what the cafe owner really wants is free and changing decor.  The argument is that the artist, once again, is taken advantage of.  While there is some truth in that argument it isn't the reason owners want local artists hanging original works in the restaurant.  In fact it would take much less time and effort to simply purchase decor and change it out periodically, like the big chains do.

Most of the independent restaurants want to be, and if successful, are, part of their local community.  And they want a vibrant, stimulating environment for their clientele to enjoy.  This is the exact opposite of fast food setting where the very seating is designed to make you uncomfortable in a short time and the decor is garish clash.  Though fast food owners also want to be part of the community the franchise rules must be followed.

Having rotating art showings can give a restaurant or salon the sort of stimulating local community oriented environment they desire but it is not free or easy.  They have to put time, effort, and dollars into showing original artwork.  At Common Roots I hung the show with an employee, Andy.  We spent several hours hanging artwork and putting up labels.  Andy also spends time going through submissions and communicating with artists, many of whom he told me he was hanging their first show.  This is a real expenditure for the owners that is not directly related to cooking or selling food.

A show is also costly for the artist involved.  I showed 16 22"x30" drawings in gallery frames behind plexiglas.  The quote I received from a professional frame shop was over $350.00 per frame including matting.  This is $5600.00 worth of frames at full retail.  As I know how to build my own frames from raw stock they cost me much less.  My actual cost for this show was minimal as I built 30 frames for a solo show a year earlier. 

As a side note I sold nothing during this show but I did have several very tasty sandwiches and positive comments.