showing art in an art gallery

Artist reception anxiety is a real thing! I know because I had a full-blown anxiety attack on my very first one.

It was in the early 2000’s at a very popular gallery in town. I was one of several featured artists, and we were opening on a 2nd Saturday. 2nd Saturday’s in Sacramento are monthly art walks where all of the galleries are open and it’s a crowded event.

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The artist reception opened on a rainy evening in November, and the rain didn’t stop the crowds. Music was blaring, wine was flowing, and the gallery was filled to capacity.

Not a lover of crowds to begin with, I began to feel anxious being surrounded by so many strangers. And when someone took their jacket off and draped it over one of my fused glass sculptures, I bolted from the gallery in a full-blown panic attack.

Fused glass sculpture in metal stand by glass artist Judy Jacobs
“Dearly Departed” – fused glass sculpture by Judy Jacobs (SOLD)

I drove home in the rain, feeling like a complete and total loser. Berating myself, I thought about how unprofessional I had been to walk out of my first artist reception. Then I cried about my artist career being over before it really began.

Taking the Easy Way Out

While I did continue to show my work in local galleries, I turned down many opportunities to do solo or featured artists shows. Instead, I was content with selling small glassworks and inexpensive paintings that didn’t require my presence during the artist receptions or art walks.

I never gave it another thought until one of my gallery owners asked me why I repeatedly turned down show opportunities and asked if I still even wanted to show my work there.

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I was surprised at her question, and at the time was so naive about the art gallery business. She shared information about the costs of running a gallery and the investment they took in each of their artists. She explained the price of marketing and overhead and the benefits solo shows were for successful artists. And she told me how critical artist receptions were to them and me.

She confirmed the faith they had in my art and my abilities. And in a gentle manner, told me I was sabotaging my art career by allowing my anxiety to win.

I was Given Another Chance

She then offered me an opportunity to be one of three artists in an upcoming show and gave me a week to decide. The artist reception would be held during another 2nd Saturday. Could I do it?

Quote from artist Henri Matisse

I chose to do the show and it was extremely successful. At the artist reception, I chatted with a ton of people and helped greet people at the door. I kept busy and proudly discussed my work with interested parties, and even several paintings that night!

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The fear didn’t go away immediately, but it did get easier as I practiced more and more. At last, I conquered the artist reception anxiety that had held me back. I can’t tell you how amazing that feels!

10 Tips for Conquering Artist Reception Anxiety

If you have anxiety over artist receptions, here are ten tips to help you conquer your anxiety. I hope they help you as they helped me!

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