by guest artist/author: Miranda Aschenbrenner

The art gallery is a source of inspiration for many new and aspiring artists, but for others, the art gallery can be an intimidating and mysterious place.

As an emerging artist, it is important to involve yourself in your local arts community as much as possible. For some of us, this comes almost as naturally as breathing. For others, it is more of a struggle, but it is well worth the effort. Membership in a cooperative gallery, otherwise known as a co-op gallery, can be very beneficial to the emerging artist.

First of all, What is a Cooperative Gallery?

A co-op gallery usually involves a group of artists who work together to show their work, promote the gallery, and sometimes offer community art classes or workshops. Some will even have studio space available for their members to create artwork on site.
The co-op gallery will require a membership fee, which will go towards gallery maintenance, rent, promotion, etc. You may have to pay a commission to the gallery as well, upon the sale of your artwork.
Now, let’s dispel some of that mystery and look at the reasons why you should get involved at your local co-op gallery!
1. Visiting Exhibits:
At many co-op galleries, your one time membership fee allows you to visit exhibitions for free through out the year. This means that you can see a particularly good show over and over if you wanted to. Visiting exhibitions is important for a number of reasons. It can be a source of ideas and inspiration. Seeing what others are working on can expand your own ideas and lead you in a new direction. Even if the work is not to your taste, or is not applicable to your art practice, it is good to be aware of what is happening in the art world. Visiting galleries in a way of keeping in touch with the art world beyond your studio. It will also teach you how to prepare for your own gallery night.
2. Exhibition Opportunities:
Most galleries have a members show once a year which is open only to those holding a membership. These shows are often not juried, which means that everyone is accepted. This can make for a very interesting and varied show. For a beginning artist, it is the perfect way to build your artistic reputation, learn how to hang and display your artwork, get experience in the gallery, and expose your work to the public which might lead to finding representation with other galleries.
3. Networking:
Do not just go see the exhibits – actually attend the openings. This lets you meet other artists and build a network of connections. As they say, it is not what you know, it is who you know, and some of the best opportunities can come from other artists.
As you start attending these kinds of events, you will probably notice that you see many of the same faces over and over again. Get to know these people; they are the ones who are active in your community!
4. Artist Talks:
Another great way to get involved is by attending artist talks. This gives you another opportunity to network as well as getting a deeper insight into someone else’s work. It is one thing to look at art, it is something else completely to hear someone speak about their own work. Also, when the time comes for you to do your own artist talk, this will give you a better idea of what is expected of you.
5. Mailing Lists:
As a co-op gallery member, you may be asked if you want to be included in their mailing list. Say yes! Mailing lists are a great way for galleries to get information to you about shows, talks, events and exhibition opportunities. These include calls for entry to galleries and juried shows worldwide. Being on a gallery’s mailing list can provide you with many opportunities you would not find elsewhere.
Get Involved!
The bottom line is this: get yourself out there and get involved! Attend shows and openings, volunteer for fundraisers, and most importantly, talk to people. You never know where it might lead!
Miranda Aschenbrenner is a young fine artist who specializes in graphite drawings. You can visit her blog to learn more about her art tips and drawing techniques.


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