Akshata Naik and Ian Dobbs
When we began this program, our goal was to set up an online sales platform to complement our Storefront Gallery by providing local artists with a way to showcase and sell their art online. Due to COVID-19 lockdowns, many galleries closed their doors, leaving artists who rely on exhibitions and sales for income with limited options. We took this opportunity to develop a platform that would fill that gap and connect local artists with interested buyers throughout the pandemic and beyond.
We reached out to several artists and selected seven individuals representing a diverse range of artistic practices and cultural backgrounds. We developed contracts for selling artists’ work online and crafted a plan on how to handle delivering artworks across the city, both challenges that we had never undertaken before. We originally intended to hire a photographer to take high-quality photos of the artists and their work, but decided against it due to budget constraints and difficulties scheduling photography sessions with COVID-19 restrictions. As a result, we had some challenges getting consistent images from the artists.
We were surprised how easy it was to set up an online shop that integrated with our existing website. This was thanks to the helpful team at Surface Impression and the useful training and discussions we had during the DART program. We were also surprised to find that our Storefront Gallery remains an important touchpoint for audiences and can help drive potential buyers to our website. We introduced rotating, eye-catching window installations at our Storefront Gallery which included a vinyl decal with a QR-code directing viewers to our online gallery to see more art for sale.
So far we have had a few sales including two paintings and some merchandise. We hope to increase our sales by developing our promotion strategies and hiring a part-time sales expert. We also plan to expand the online shop by increasing our artist roster and catalogue of works, as well as introducing a gift shop component featuring low-cost artist merchandise such as puzzles, coffee mugs, and face masks.
Through the program, we came to appreciate the importance of working with partners that understand our organization’s needs and goals. It was also extremely helpful having a roster of talented artists who represent diverse cultures and artistic practice that resonate with our target audience. While there is a demand for affordable art online, connecting with the right audience can be challenging and moving forward we will prioritize regular promotions and bring on a sales expert to support this work. Our strategy to highlight artists through a month-long window installation was very successful and not only animated our space but also helped promote artists’ work to the community.