I recently enrolled in a professional development course entitled “Harness the Power of Your Online Presence,” offered by Rose Frederick. Rose is a marketing consultant who for many years (over 2 1/2 decades) curated the major international Coors Western Art Exhibit, plus numerous other art exhibitions. Rose’s consulting practice spans both advising artists on how to market themselves to advising collectors and arts institutions.
I enjoyed Rose’s course very much and would recommend her courses to any artist. Because of my positive experience in the course, I reached out to Rose to discuss several topics related to artists marketing their work through different channels.
JTW: What have you gleaned from your experience of serving as a curator and juror for art exhibitions?
RF: I summarize what curators and jurors look for in an eBook entitled “Upping Your Game”. This eBook is available for free to anyone who signs up on my website at www.rosefrederick.com.
In that eBook I discuss the typical judging process, which often involves 3 elimination rounds. I outline what gets you cut in the 1st round, what gets you cut in the 2nd round, what either gets you cut or selected during 3rd round decisions. It’s important to remember that many times what gets you cut isn’t necessarily a commentary on the quality of your work. For example, some people don’t provide requested information like artist statements or CVs. Other people may not meet listed criteria for the show. Maybe a show may be designed to feature artists from a specific state or working in a specific medium. If you don’t live in that state or work in that medium, you will be eliminated. The biggest issue I see is that an artist submits poor quality photographs of their work. Things like that can eliminate you from moving forward even if your work is good.
In my eBook, I mark-up a prospectus for a show to highlight items you need to understand and focus on in order to improve your chances of getting accepted.
I think the overall thing jurors are looking for is professionalism. By really reading the show prospectus and providing what’s requested, and taking good photos of your work, you will improve your chances of being selected. Failing to do that signals to jurors that you lack professionalism, or have an attitude, and just may not be ready for the show.
Good photography is one area where I always encourage artists to spend some money. If you’re not good at photography, then hire someone. The iPhone can take very good photographs, but photographing 3D work is tricky. You need to have special lighting and neutral backgrounds and sometimes you need to play with shadows to communicate to a juror “hey, this is what I’m looking at.”
JTW: Let’s step back a bit. We’ve been discussing how to increase your chances of getting into shows. From an artist’s perspective, what’s the value of participating in shows in the first place?
RF: Well, it depends on what your goals are as an artist. I tell artists all the time, “apply to shows.” Apply. Shake off your ego and fear of rejection and apply to shows. A rejection notice doesn’t mean your work sucks. It probably means that (1) you didn’t check a box, or (2) your work just doesn’t fit into the direction of the show, it’s not bad – it just may not fit.
Here’s the thing – so many more positive things happen to artists if you apply to shows. Every time I judge a show, I find an artist or two I want to work with on another project. You may not be accepted into that show you applied to, but you may get an email from me saying, “Hey, I think what you’re doing is incredible. It really doesn’t fit in this show, but I want to work with you. Here’s my email because I’d like to keep in touch with you.” So, the artist may not get into that particular show, but he or she is now on a curator’s or juror’s list as someone interesting. So, either way, applying to the shows is a win. And if you get in to the show, I’ll tell you that on opening night and even throughout the run of a show dealers and collectors are coming through. So again, you’re getting your work in front of the right people.
Applying to shows costs about $35 a pop. That’s the cheapest form of advertising out there. You are putting yourself in front of people you want to see your work. The trend nowadays is also to have the artist pay for shipping to and from the exhibit, so there’s a cost to being selected. But think of it as a cost of advertising or cost of doing business. So put yourself out there. If you apply to shows consistently, and you get into some, over time you will jump start your career to the next level.
JTW: We’ve focused mainly on exhibitions and juried shows. Many ceramic artists look at other venues such as galleries and art fairs. Do you have any thoughts on those options?
RF: I would say that people working with clay may have some of the same issues as jewelers. There is clay work that is more functional, fine craft, and then there is clay work that is more fine art. Jewelers have a similar issues, I think; there are finely crafted things like wedding rings but then there are also really unique, fine art types of jewelry. Juried shows help bring out more of the fine art side of the artist. If a clay artist has both sides, functional and fine art, then I would recommend that the artist push the fine art side through exhibitions and shows. I wouldn’t hide the functional side. As a curator, I don’t mind seeing someone working in clay with a fine craft side of their work. I look at that as bread-and-butter work suggesting they are a fulltime artist. That’s great. But for shows I would push the fine art side of your work.
When approaching galleries, that is also where you want to show your fine art side of your work initially, so they see your versatility.
When I see clay artists in art fairs—and I frequently buy clay pieces in art fairs, typically functional pieces to give as gifts—I think of that more on the craft side. I am not saying one is better than the other or one is lesser than the other. What I’m saying is that if you’re looking at getting into a gallery or a fine art show, you want to stretch and show the non-functional fine art work, but don’t hide your functional work from your website.
JTW: Any other observations for artists?
RF: Yes. Hand-in-hand with applying to shows, is having the language around your work. I’ve heard artists say, “My work speaks for itself.” Good luck with that. I’ve been doing this for 30 years. I always read those artist statements. We jurors are not judging work by standing in front of it or visiting artists’ studios. We are looking online at images. Hundreds of images. And when looking at work online, I am dubious, and I know other jurors are as well. Images can be doctored. Colors can be juiced up. Something may be really eye-catching online, but no person in my shoes wants to look stupid by admitting into a show something that’s really amateurish. So, the way we safeguard ourselves is we read your artist statement and we visit your website. I can guaranty you that if you get past the first round, I’m Googling you. I’m looking at your website and your Instagram feed. I’m confirming that the images that I really liked in your submission aren’t just a fluke. I want to know that you consistently produce high quality work.
I will say one other thing, too. Sometimes I’ll get emails from artists who were rejected from a show, asking “What did I do to offend you?” or “Will you please look at my work on my website?” or “Can you please tell me what I can do better next time?” I used to respond but now I never do. I delete these emails. What I’ve learned from responding is that those artists are angry and they’re taking a show rejection personally. When I get those emails asking me to take a look at their work and tell them how they can improve, the artist is not really asking me what they can do to improve. What they want me to do is look again and tell them, “Oh, my gosh, I made a terrible mistake. You’re right, you should be in the show!” Anything I say, other than that, is not welcome.
JTW: You have two parts of your advisory business: working with artists, and working with collectors and arts organizations. Will you tell me more about your overall business?
RF: I do have 2 sides of my business. I’m in the process now of refining my rosefredericks.com business so that it’s focused exclusively on marketing for artists, helping artists with the language on their website, getting into shows and galleries. I was working with a clay artist yesterday. She’s wondering how to market a series of work. So, I gave her some avenues to go down and it was really specific to what she needed.
What I try to do with artists, first, is listen to what they really want to have happen next in their career, whether it’s getting into museums or big art shows, or selling classes to students, or finding a market and selling work directly from their website. Then we craft a conversation around those specific goals. An artist who wants to target museum curators has a much different message from an artist who wants to collaborate with interior designers and place work in hospitals or hotels.
I am starting a second website which is really for collectors, teaching connoisseurship and giving collectors inside tracks to artists, but that is separate.
JTW: Interesting. I suppose I’m surprised to hear there are services like that for collectors.
RF: Well, think of it like this. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of someone coming up to you and saying, “That’s so interesting what you do. How do you do that?” You might think they’re asking about the mechanics of throwing a pot, or building a sculpture. The artist can explain all types of details about clay and glazes and firing temperatures, but that’s not what the collector may want to know. That’s not what they’re asking. They really want to know how the artist comes up with these ideas. Where does creativity come from? How do you tap into it? Are you afraid, as an artist, that you won’t make money out of this? ‘Cause I’m afraid if my kid takes up art as a career she’ll end up in my basement for the rest of her life. They want those stories, those conversations. In a way, it’s sort of like the artist speaks Spanish, and the collector speaks Russian. I’m in the middle, translating. I can help the artist communicate to his or her audience, and I can help collectors understand what artists are saying.
One thought on “Rose Frederick – Art Consultant”
Excellent article. I too have taken a class from Rose. It was very helpful with organizing and prioritizing a variety of things that can be done to improve the professional look of online presence for artists. Her insights from decades working with galleries, museums, and artists make her an excellent resource. Thank you for another opportunity to hear what she has to say in this area.