Open studios are a wonderful way for artists to get their work noticed. If you have an opportunity in your area to participate in one of these tours, think about signing up. It can be a game changer if you’re serious about furthering your art career.
In fact, I just registered for my local tour called Sac Open Studios!
I’ve been a part of my studio tour for over eleven years and will share some of my experiences and the benefits and downfalls of participating.
What Is An Open Studio Tour?
Open studio tours are events where artists show the public their studios, workspaces, and art. These tours let people to see the creative process and an artist’s work. They also allow people to chat with artists and even buy their art.
The art tours are often self-guided and free to attend, though some organizations charge a small fee. Open studios let art lovers watch artists’ demonstrations and learn more about the tools they use.
Many regions sponsor such tours – especially areas with a high concentration of artists. They are typically annual events sponsored by art groups, museums, or galleries.
What Are the Advantages of Open Studios?
There are so many reasons for an artist to do an open studio tour, and some of the best reasons are:
Exposure. Open studios are a fantastic way to have your art seen by the public. It’s also a way to show people your studio where you make your art. Additionally, interior designers, art consultants, gallery owners, and museum store curators attend these shows. I have met many art and design professionals through open studios, which have resulted in having my art placed in businesses, homes, galleries, and even hospitals!
Feedback. Everyone has an opinion, and studio visitors are no exception. Visitors can offer excellent constructive criticism, as well as advice and ideas. I welcome ideas and feedback and have incorporated some changes that have paid off quite well. That said, not every opinion needs to be acted on, but at least listen politely. If several visitors have the same comments, consider acting on their suggestions.
Networking. Besides meeting new collectors and spending time with art lovers, open studios bring out many artists. If you get a chance, visit other artists’ studios when you’re not participating in the tour because you’ll get to see some fantastic art and meet other local artists. Attending open studios as a spectator also lets you see how other visual artists set up their studios, particularly for live shows and studio sales. Meeting other artists can also lead to fun collaborations and invitations to show your work in other venues.
Education. Many students attend art tours to learn more about a particular medium and see how art is made. Also, the tour is a great way to gauge interest if you want to teach a workshop or start teaching art classes. Put out some flyers with a class description and a sign-up sheet, and see if your visitors show interest or want more details. Teaching your craft can become another potential income source, so have an email sign-up form ready and follow up after the tour.
Sales. If you are new to selling art, this is your chance to make sales. Open studios are also a great way to sell off old work, art supplies, tools, and more. Many people attend these tours with the sole intention of buying art, so be ready to sell! Some artists join open studios and don’t sell their work, but I’m not among them. I do very well with sales on tour, and it’s a great way to show off new work and sell off older works at discounted prices. Be sure to have your prices marked, and have a way to accept payments.
How Much Does It Cost to Participate?
The costs will vary depending on location, the length of time the tour is occurring, and the size of the event. Some studio tours are just one day, while others are over one weekend or multiple weekends.
If you’re thinking of joining an open studio tour, here are some costs you’ll need to consider before signing up:
Registration fees. Most tours charge a registration fee to be part of the event. These costs depend on the venue and range from $25 to several hundred.
Promotional materials. Many artists have business cards or postcards printed with their names and contact information to hand out to visitors. And to promote their show, some artists print flyers and posters to hang in various businesses and public outlets. These can be designed on canva.com and printed for a nominal charge.
Travel costs. If you have to travel to participate in an open studio tour, be sure to factor in these associated costs. Will you be staying with a friend or another artist? Or an Air BnB or a hotel? And remember to include the cost of your meals and gas.
Display materials. Displaying your work well-organized is important, so consider how you will do this before you register for a show. Many artists display their paintings on easels or walls, matting them and placing them in cellophane sleeves. Depending on your medium, you’ll want to display your work so people can see and admire it easily. And don’t forget to label your work with the name of the piece, the medium used, and the price.
Refreshments. Offering light snacks is an added expense, but they are a nice touch for visitors. Serving treats can keep people at your studio longer, resulting in sales. Many artists offer bottles of water, individually-wrapped packages of almonds or candies, cookies, and lemonade. (NOTE: avoid putting out items with peanuts because of people with severe peanut allergies).
Costs of sales. Depending on the tour, you could have to pay the sponsoring gallery or organization a commission. Moreover, you’ll need to factor in sales tax if you live in an area that requires it, in addition to processing costs and charges associated with taking credit cards, VENMO, or other online payment options.
Insurance. Many shows require artists to carry liability or show insurance. If you publicly open your home studio, please discuss coverage with your insurance broker. Most homeowners’ policies don’t cover liability claims on anything associated with business events. Artists can check out ACT Insurance, which provides short and long-term liability insurance for artists, craftsmen, and trades. You can purchase a short-term policy starting at $49 to cover a single event or an annual policy starting at $279. This group offers policies in all 50 states with a rating of A+.
Signage. You’ll want signs announcing you’re participating in the tour and directional signage. Many tour sponsors provide signage as part of the registration fee. If not (or you only get one sign and want more), check to see if you can order or purchase extras. If not, create your own signs and place them in high-traffic areas in the neighborhood. And add some balloons or streamers to attach to signs to draw additional attention to the sign.
Can an Artist Make Money Participating In a Studio Tour?
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! Many visitors attending open studios come with the sole purpose of purchasing art for their home, business, vacation home, or gifts. And some artists make a lot of money during the tours, so think about selling your work.
If you plan on making sales, make it easy for people to buy your art. It’s easy to accept credit cards and online payments, which you can do via Squareup, VENMO, and APPLE PAY. And remember, you will pay processing fees with these options, ranging from 2.75% to around 4%.
Offering various price points is essential, and engaging with your visitors is equally important. Not everyone is a buyer, but they are likely at your place because they love art. So if they don’t buy today, thank them for coming by and ask if they would sign up for your email list so you can let them know about future shows and new works.
What Are Some Disadvantages of Joining Open Studios? And Ways to Overcome Them?
While participating in an open studio tour has many advantages, there are some disadvantages you need to be aware of. Here are a few:
Costs. The costs to participate in a tour can get expensive. To help offset some of them, consider joining other artists at a single location and enjoy the benefits of increased traffic. Working with multiple artists also lets you split the costs of food, advertising, etc., and tourgoers love visiting sites where they can see lots of art at a time.
Rejection. Some open studios are juried, so you must apply and be accepted. There is always a chance the jury won’t accept your application, so learn from the experience if this happens! Plan on attending the tour anyways and going to as many studios as possible. Gauge your competition, check out their work, look at their displays and setups, and see how to improve your application to reapply next year.
Logistics. Certain venues present unique challenges, like parking costs and scheduled setup times. These can become deterrents when setting up your show, so consider them carefully when determining if you will register. If you have a limited setup window, bring helpers to get your things in quickly and then come back to set up properly.
Sales. Be aware that participating in an open studio tour does not guarantee you will make sales. You need to try to promote yourself and your work – you can’t just rely on a printed guide to market for you. Your success will also depend on the quality of your work, how well you display your art, and how well you market yourself.
Competition. With larger tours, there are more studios for tour-goers to visit. And with so many artists and limited time, attendees must choose their studio visits wisely. So work with other artists in your immediate area and create a map of each other’s studio to hand out. Visitors will appreciate seeing more art, especially if it’s nearby.
Time. In addition to the actual tour days, preparing your inventory and marketing yourself takes a lot of time. You also need time to make enough inventory to sell! Be sure you have adequate art to show, then carefully plan how you will show it. Try setting up a day or two before the show to be prepared and calm on opening day.
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Safety and privacy. This is probably one of the artists’ most common and important concerns. Opening your studio to the public can be frightening and in some instances, dangerous. Always try to have at least one person with you to help with visitors and to back you up if you need to take a break. And if you’re doing the tour by yourself, always carry your phone and have a can of pepper spray and/or a stun gun nearby, just in case. If you’re selling, use a cash box or wear an apron to hold your change. You can also refuse to accept cash though you might lose sales this way. Don’t let strangers use your bathroom or go into your home unattended. Always listen to your intuition, and do whatever you need to remain safe and sound.
Learn From The Experience
Success isn’t measured simply by how much money you make – your gold may lie in the contacts you make or the students you sign up for future workshops. You might meet new artist friends and get invited to be in a future show with them.
And if you are disappointed with the number of visitors or sales you made, be aware you may get people contacting you after the tour. It’s not unusual for people that couldn’t attend your show to ask about scheduling a private studio tour, which can lead to making more sales.
The bottom line is open studio tours allow you to have your art seen by lots of people. They are also excellent learning experiences and are a great way to work on your social and selling skills.
So if you want to jump from being a hobbyist to becoming a professional artist, join a local open studios tour today!
BEFORE YOU GO – Check out these storage ideas for artists