Last night, the RAW Artists's SAVOR showcase event was held at The Pourhouse downtown Minneapolis. It was a beautiful Autumn night for an art show -- which means that there were no environmental challenges for attendees. It seemed as though there was healthy attendance, and lots of happy artists.
I was honored to be selected to be part of the event and generally enjoyed myself, but believe that it'll be my last gallery show for the foreseeable future. In the end, it was the biggest external art event of my brand's existence, which is a bit sad considering I've released three books (without a single book launch).
Remains of the Day
Here are some reflections and observations from my experience at the showcase. Below are unfiltered ruminations, and I apologize in advance if this recap is too honest. My statements aren't made to diminish either the support for or from RAW Artists, The Pourhouse, and/or the amazing people that made it downtown Minneapolis on a busy Wednesday night.
One Man Army
Roughly 30 paintings + 30 books. 2 6x6 copper-piped gallery showcase frames, disassembled into 8 pipe sections. 2 6x6 Nets. Table. Laptop. Decorative lights. Tie straps and S hooks. I haven't worked that hard for an event since I worked with bands, helped lug gear to shows and set up. It felt similar to those experiences, only I exist without extra resources to support my brand work (where I once lugged gear to help bands set up, I now carry my own). Luckily, I was able to find a parking space within a block of the venue, and that reduced the length which I had to traverse to get the Showcase to my set up spot. The whole experience would've been a lot more painful if I had to park further away. As it stood, it took me an hour with ten trips from my car to the venue before I was fully unloaded; it was the same state at 11:00PM when the venue had cleared. I was the last artist out of the building, and was drenched with sweat by the time I able to make my way home after midnight. Still, it made for a long workday having started set-up at the venue at 2:00PM (and prepping since early morning that day). A resource-rich brand runner would've enlisted assistance for show set-up, but I didn't want to lean on friends to take off half a day to help and have no one attached to the brand that can provide that aid. Ten years since the formation of the Sere brand, I'm still a one-man army.
SAVOR was intended to be a sexy show -- rap artists, catwalks with lanky models wearing skimpy and flashy clothing, fashion divas and colorful artist stations. I thought it'd be valuable to highlight content that follows my "Oviod and the Od" story, especially during the Halloween season. Unfortunately, I became known as the "dark corner" of the event. Beyond the glitz and flash and thump and bump of the main showcase areas, my gallery space felt like the closet of The Pourhouse where the monsters are kept. I painted up, brought the dark story to the Pourhouse and pre-promoted the heck out of the event and my content, even detailing it out pretty clearly in a previous blog. For all the work I put into trying to create an experience that highlighted the story, it was all lost in the rush of hundreds of people passing distantly (and sometimes, confusedly) by. It was almost the perfect example of the last decade of my existence as an artist -- mostly passed by on the way to another destination.
The glass half-full approach of looking at the show would note that my content was vastly different than the majority of the artists at the event and helped reinforce the artistic rebel in me.
The half-empty reality is that I sold nothing (even though I personally invested close to $700 in the show), had very little brand pick-up and engagement post-event, and faced more apologies from people for not going to the event than cheers for the greatness of the showcase. If I apply marketing metrics to this analysis, the show was a failure for me. I fully appreciate all of the great people in my audience that attended the event based on my invite, and the others that stopped by and encountered Artemis Sere for the first time. It was an awesome opportunity to connect with some people that I haven't talked to in a long time, and to expose what I do outside of my day job to co-workers (who are also my friends).
Serenity Gallery Showcase Design and Placement
Blessing and a curse: The size and design of the Serenity Gallery Showcase was perfect for the space allocated. However, the location hid my gallery station in the upstairs corner of the venue, the farthest possible distance from the front door, meaning I had very little traffic throughout the night. Unfortunately, my desire to build a unique experience in order to stand out only reduced my visibility, because I created a request that required unique accommodation than the rest of the visual artists that were enlisted. Sometimes, conforming to the norm has benefits...
On a positive note, I was told several times by attendees experiencing Artemis Sere art for the first time that my booth had the most "presence", and was the best showcase at the event.
MEA + Local Conflicts
In Minnesota, Thursday, October 19th and Friday, October 20th are considered "MEA Days" -- teachers of the state participate in an Educator's conference that closes the schools for those two days. The ripple effect on schedules is profound -- school events are shifted to the Wednesday night before the Minnesota Educator Academy event, and parents with kids in the school system take advantage of the time off by vacationing. Unfortunately, that created a perfect storm of people in my world that were unable to attend the show because their kids had sporting events that night and/or were traveling to take advantage of the short break. My own family was unable to attend my event due to a High School sports conflict.
Messages Not Received
What drives me most crazy is the "I didn't know" response, when I made many efforts over email and social media in weeks leading up to the event -- both at work and in my personal life -- to push attendance to the show. No, I didn't make personal phone calls begging people to come. I didn't personally coordinate attendance, nor help in the logistics of anyone that needed help coming to the show. Returning to my theme of "One Man Army", I was focused on executing the best show I could. And I did, better than any show or experience that I've personally coordinated. But social media and email failed me, as is my constant complaint about both -- my organic impressions over social media were disappointing in places like Facebook and Instagram, and most people that I sent the invite to at work never saw my message. What good are our communications platforms if they only exist to push ads and useless promos? I get hundreds of junk emails every day a day at work and in my personal life, and that clutter and noise -- and the need for our automated systems to filter out clutter and noise -- made my marketing efforts relatively pointless for the SAVOR event.
At the end of the day, of the people I invited, only co-workers and a handful of good friends showed up at my invitation. I have roughly 50,000 followers scattered across a number of social platforms, and I had no attendees come to the event due to my social media efforts.