Simple guidelines to improve any art crawl. Attendees will greatly appreciate efforts made to develop the experience. Location refers to the site of artist’s display; it could be a building, studio, or home. Timing is everything. It is advisable to offer a variety of open hours. It is great when the event starts on a Friday evening and is open both Saturday and Sunday during the daytime. Don’t hold it on the same weekend as a major competing event, such as the Minnesota State Fair. It is good to coincide with other events in the area; a Zombie Art Crawl would be a fun addition to the Zombie Pub Crawl in downtown St. Paul.
The sponsoring organization or committee can easily increase attendance with clear information. The website should be updated with as many details as possible, include directions and a map. If there is construction nearby, offer advice regarding bus, alternative routes, and parking. Improve logistics with a detailed map available online and print some to be handed out at each location. Free parking is essential. Procure a trolley bus to ferry people around at large events. Make certain that the trolley makes frequent trips, at least every fifteen to twenty minutes. Invite neighboring businesses to participate by offering special deals for art crawl attendees.
It is okay to request donations to support the sponsoring group, as long as it is a nonprofit entity. Obvious signage is essential since many of the art crawl patrons are unfamiliar with the area. Post large signs with big print at each location (one for each entrance). Make certain that they are big enough for someone driving by to notice. Sandwich boards are helpful when a sidewalk is involved. Balloons or streamers are nice to add movement to the signs.
A smiling Welcome Host should greet patrons at all entrances to the building. It creates a positive attitude for the visitors. Hand out or post interior maps of each building. It is nice to have wandering Information Guides in large buildings to help people who become disoriented. Display a schedule of special activities occurring in the building, like performances. Clearly mark what areas to avoid, such as loading docks. Clean bathrooms with toilet paper should be indicated. Elevator and accessible buildings are essential. Utilize food trucks to supplement dining at large buildings or isolated locations with no restaurant.
The artist is the most important element of a successful art crawl. Friendly artists who actually want to show their artwork establish the tone of the event. Consider each guest as a customer. They may not purchase art during the crawl but harbor potential. Don’t display every piece of artwork but a few examples of each series. Prices should be clearly displayed with good lighting. Create an atmosphere with some background music and scent. The display space should be accessible for wheelchairs and strollers. If outside, make certain that the yard is cleared for walking and post additional signs if you want patrons to follow a specific pathway. Pets should be positioned away from the display because they may scare or become frightened of the art crawl attendees.
Good to have friends or family to help but always focus on the patron visiting. Be available for questions. It is fascinating to watch demonstrations or view a display of the process the artist uses to create their work but don’t ignore the guests. Business cards should be available with email and phone number. Simple refreshments are fine but extra points for homemade items, beverages, vino, and compostable plates/glasses. At the very minimum have a website or Facebook Fan Page featuring the artwork; create a separate account for personal friends and family. Twitter, blogs, and other social media accounts are good, too. If your exhibit space permits, invite an emerging artist to display their work and highlight all social entrepreneur activities (such as a percentage of sales get donated to a charity).
I felt honored to attend and review these events during 2011.
Art-A-Whirl on June 23rd
St. Paul Art Crawl on October 24th
Highland Fest & Art Fair on August 5th
LOLA Art Crawl on September 21st
Powderhorn Art Fair on August 25th
Thank you artists!
© 2011 Ima B. Musing