Workshops help artists market what they create

By Aaron Francis, Enterprise

An artist’s creativity knows no bounds.

An artist’s ability to sell that creativity? That obstacle may take some extra homework outside the studio.

Luckily for the starving artist, learning how to draw a crowd is not as complicated as it sounds.

YoloArts, an art organization and designated state-local partner with the California Arts Council, has recently launched a professional development workshop series offering marketing advice and guidance on how to maximize an artist’s sales and profits.

Painters, musicians, sculptors, photographers and more have gathered from across Yolo County in hopes of learning how to make a good living off of their art.

Workshop attendees learn how to identify and target audiences to reach specific goals, network, expand influence and use modern-day social media technologies to manage contacts and simplify communication among their fans and followers.

“This is really our first hard look into marketing and helping artists with that side of their work,” said Alison Flory, YoloArts executive director. “As an organization, one of our goals is to support the local arts community with technical resources.”

The workshops also teach artists different ways of engaging audiences, while finding efficient ways to communicate with media outlets and art professionals.

YoloArts received a Creative California Communities grant from the California Arts Council last year, which made funding the series possible, as well as hiring an experienced consultant and social benefit entrepreneur, Michele Alexander, to educate artists about marketing.

“A lot of times, artists jump in without a clear vision or a sense of where they want to go,” Alexander said. “But if they start with exactly what they want for their vision — the change you want to see as a result of your work — then the content and the marketing come more naturally.”

As a 16-year veteran of the art-marketing field, she provides guidance to nonprofits, professional artists and creative startups.

She also touches on a common mistake that a novice marketing artist might make when seeking to engage an audience for the first time: Instead of assuming what they want, ask what they want.

The most recent workshop, “Acquire an Audience,” took place Saturday, April 8, at Sacramento City College’s West Sacramento Center. Alexander offered several pointers to the ambitious artists in attendance about how to best engage their audiences while balancing their creative workloads.

“Devoting 25 or 30 percent to your time in marketing and sales and interacting with your audience is a make-or-break difference,” she said. “The artists that I know who are successful take that pace very seriously. If you want to turn this into a career and make it financially, you have to take that time to talk with your audience.”

The room was filled with imagination as fellow artists shared their experiences and inventive ideas with one another. They even enjoyed a few laughs when telling each other stories of creative experiments gone wrong.

While Saturday’s workshop was part of the current professional development series, YoloArts has been offering workshops to refine and encourage artists since it was established in 1981.

Joseph Bellacera is a well-known content creator in the region who has benefited from attending past workshops. Six years ago, while he was listening to an art expert from Los Angeles, he realized he could go public with his art.

Bellacera’s most famous creation, “Catch a Book,” an 8-foot-tall polychrome steel structure featuring a messy stack of colorfully patterned books, proudly stands in the heart of West Sacramento.

His paintings, statues and other creative works have been featured and sold to several museums and public gathering spots across the county.

Regional artists who missed out on the recent workshop will have plenty of chances in the coming weeks to learn how to become the next Joseph Bellacera without having to travel too far.

“When we were developing the program, we wanted to avoid having all six workshops at the same venue,” said Janice Purnell, associate director. “We wanted to spread it around Yolo County. There are different artists in different communities. So we’re having some in Woodland, West Sacramento and Davis.”

YoloArts’ next workshop in this series, “Make Friends with the Media,” will take place at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 9, at the Woodland Opera House, 340 Second St. in downtown Woodland.

The event will feature a panel discussion that covers how to create and maintain a successful relationship with the media and craft story pitches. The shifting trends in journalism also will be addressed.

Another workshop will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 20, at the Pence Gallery, 212 D St. in downtown Davis. This seminar will aim to leave participants with newfound knowledge about how to partner with galleries and retail outlets to increase exposure and generate more revenue.

Natalie Nelson, director and curator of the Pence Gallery, will give a presentation.

Both events will once again be facilitated by Alexander.

Tickets are $12 for the Woodland event and $35 for the Davis event, available for purchase on the YoloArts website, https://yoloarts.org/professional-development.