An Artist Guide to Pitching Your Art — (Part One)

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If you had someone’s attention for a few minutes and you wanted to get them interested in your art, what would you tell them?

The artists participating in the Arts and Business Council of Greater Nashville’s Periscope Program recently did just that — sharing their artistic work, business models, and needs in a three minute “pitch” presentation to members of Nashville’s business and artistic community. The pitch caps a six-week program that helps artists see their work through an entrepreneurial lens and provides them with the opportunity to share their work with an audience of business people, artists and members of the community.

I’ve been involved in the Periscope Program for two years now — both as a mentor and an instructor and I love the opportunity to meet and work with these talented artists. One of my roles in the Periscope Program is helping them prepare for the pitch. I facilitate a session on effective presentations for them that covers a variety of topics that are focused on helping them to effectively pitch their work — to explain to an audience who they are and what they do and what they need to move forward strategically.

A key element of working the Periscope artists is helping them to understand what a pitch is and how it can help them with their artistic business. After all, unlike the entrepreneurs who’s presentations are the basis of the pitch format these artists aren’t looking for investors. So why should they pitch? Why should you?

A pitch, or elevator pitch, is a brief, persuasive speech that you use to spark interest in what you do. A good elevator pitch should last no longer than a short elevator ride of 20 to 30 seconds, hence the name. Imagine that you find yourself on an elevator with a curator who is in the perfect position to boost your career. You say hello, comment about the upcoming exhibit that you just read about and mention that you are an artist. “Tell me about your art,” the curator offers. What do you say?

Yes. That example is somewhat artificial. When was the last time that you were in an elevator with a curator, or collector, or gallery owner, perfectly poised to advance your career? Maybe that doesn’t happen often. But when was the last time that you were at a gallery opening — not necessarily your own, or a party, or a business event, or talking to someone at the coffee shop. That conversation with the ephemeral curator could happen with anybody. “Tell me about your art.”

When you talk to that stranger, that person at the gallery or the party or some other event, and they say to you “Tell me about your art.” you never know where that connection will take you. That person may not be the curator. But she might know a curator. Or she might know someone who could become passionate about your art and introduce you to someone else who may be that curator, or that gallery owner, or that collector or who might have access to great studio space or another artist with whom you could collaborate. You never know who is going to be at the other end of that “Tell me about your art” moment. But you need to be ready for it.

And that takes work. It takes time to develop the content — to determine what you are going to say. And it takes time to polish the delivery — how you are going to say it. I’m going to cover those two elements separately.

Are you pitching yourself and your art? Are you consciously explaining to people who you meet who you are and what you do? What are you telling them? If you aren’t, why aren’t you? Let me know. Let’s start talking about talking about your art.

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