Denver

Artists take hard look at business of financial survival

Experts share insights on tough task amid rising rents, internet sales

Posted 6/26/17

A gallery became a classroom-of-sorts for dozens of artists at a business development forum tagged "Connect. Develop. Thrive." The June 20 event brought creativity and practical marketing know-how …

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Denver

Artists take hard look at business of financial survival

Experts share insights on tough task amid rising rents, internet sales

Posted

A gallery became a classroom-of-sorts for dozens of artists at a business development forum tagged "Connect. Develop. Thrive." The June 20 event brought creativity and practical marketing know-how together at Space Gallery in the Art District on Santa Fe.

"The backbone, the untold story of the Denver art scene, is plein air and realist painting," said Daniel DiGriz, marketing and education director at The Clark Hulings Fund, an organization that helps visual artists find their way in the market. "There are a lot of hidden gems here - you might not see them at every hip show."

DiGriz, who came from New York for the forum, spoke to artists from Denver and beyond about how to better market themselves in a changing economy - something he said isn't talked about enough.

"If you just pay attention to art scenes, you'll hear that abstract expressionism is (all people want)," DiGriz said. "You'll hear realist art is antique, outdated."

The scenery in Denver is rife with natural beauty that lends itself to more realist, less currently popular visual art, DiGriz said. Combine that with an upheaval of rising rent and internet sales, and artists are facing challenges that require them to think outside of the box.

That box, for most artists, is spending all their time working and not enough time putting their work out in the public eye, DiGriz said.

"Often, they're faulted for not spending 100 percent of their time in the studio," said DiGriz, who said that stigma keeps artists from taking time to market themselves. DiGriz's organization tells artists how to form local and regional groups to influence the market and "control their own destiny," he said. That includes educating them about business practices.

"Artists need to collaborate and not just rely on one (method) of selling art - hire a marketer, split it 12 different ways," said Shannon Robinson, chair of Windows to the Divine, a Denver-based nonprofit that hosts art shows and connects artists to collectors.

Robinson, an Evergreen resident who formerly lived in Denver, said Denver has to "grapple with rising rents" for galleries and studios. DiGriz said galleries are taking a hit due to art viewing and buying on the internet, but Robinson said demand worldwide has gone up because of the internet, and that can be an advantage.

One way to capitalize is to share other artists' work on Facebook, said Rebecca Tolle, an artist who moved to Minnesota from Erie, Colorado, three years ago.

Tolle was involved in Next Gallery in the Navajo Street Art District in northwest Denver - a gallery that moved to Lakewood this year amid rising property values in the area. Tolle said that's a problem in the Art District on Santa Fe and across the metro area.

"My strategy is to do more social marketing, more online, more Instagram, and more setting up pop-up galleries with other artists," Tolle said at the event's end.

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