Besides a lifetime of artmaking, I had a thirty-one-year career in communications: writing news releases, doing radio and TV interviews, answering media inquiries, designing posters and pamphlets, producing newsletters and PSAs. I’ve done most of my own art promotion. But things are different today, so for this article, I’ve consulted today’s professionals on both sides of promotion.

Be Prepared

You always should put your best foot forward and be prepared to promote your work, however and whenever possible, by having quality photos of your work, a biography, a resume/CV, an artist statement, a website, and maybe even calling cards you can design and print yourself on a computer (or just one card that people can shoot with their iPhones).

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iPhone photo of calling card.


If you are fortunate enough to be in a gallery or included in gallery exhibits, those venues should take the lead on how, when, and where to promote your work. You should learn from them and piggyback on their efforts by sharing with family, friends, classmates, fellow artists, and others who may have an interest. Whether or not you are in a gallery, the following advice should be helpful.


As I said in my last installment, take (or have a friend take) good, well-lit, high-quality, digital photos of your work, maybe from different angles, in the case of 3D work. Take photos of 2D work in its entirety, edge to edge, before it’s framed. You can straighten images and correct for color or exposure on your computer or even on your iPhone. You may need those images for promotion, record-keeping, or submissions to juried shows, in which case you will be told what file size and dimensions are required. Usually you will want the original file size to be kept as large as possible. Photos of the pieces in frames also may be useful for sales.

Besides photographing your work, you should have a friend occasionally take photos or even videos of you at work, as people are very interested in how art is made. Also take some good photos of exhibits your work is in and snapshots of yourself with it, as well as some of the crowd or friends at the openings. These may be useful later for publicity, in addition to building a historical record of your progress.

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UMVA board member Janice L. Moore in her studio (photo: Christoph Gelfand).


Write a brief paragraph or two about where you are, where you come from, your artistic background and education, what you’ve been doing as an artist, important milestones or recognition, and other personal information that others might find of interest.

Artist Statement

You should have a brief artist statement of what your work is about, what you are trying to do, what inspires you, why you work with certain materials, styles, or subject matter. It can be very hard to write but it forces you to think clearly about what is most important to tell others. The first one I wrote, after many years of writing experience, was held up by the workshop leader as, “the worst artist statement I’ve ever seen,” because it was written from a then-popular “customer service” point of view. When I rewrote it to say what I really felt about my art, she held it up as “the best artist statement I’ve ever seen.” Both exclamations may have been hyperbole but they illustrate the importance of stating who you are and what you care about as an artist—regardless of what the world may think. That overall statement then can be modified to fit a particular piece, body of work, or exhibit.


Also have, if requested, a one-to-three-page resume or CV (curriculum vitae) to include your education, experience, collections your work is in, exhibitions, and publicity (articles/reviews of your work). The focus should be on your artistic profile, not other work experiences. There are numerous models and templates for resumes on the Internet but many have distracting flourishes. The simpler, the better.

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Mock biography, artist statement, and resume.


As a serious artist who wants to be known, you should have a website, as that is how the wider world will find and learn about you. It doesn’t have to be difficult, expensive, or fancy, especially if you have a tech-savvy friend who can help. You can find website services on the Internet but it is good to ask around and look at other sites to see what might fit your circumstances the best. I’ve found to offer a clear, straightforward format, easy to navigate and easy to develop, for a reasonable $200 a year. Think about who you want to reach, how to grab their interest, and what you need them to know. This might include images of your best and most recent work (first and foremost), biography, artist statement, selected exhibits, selected reviews, collections, selected events, contact, and links to other sites related to your work. Include what you can of these subjects and build on them over time. Keep the site up to date.

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Mock website home page.

Press Releases

Today the old standby of a press release to the local paper doesn’t work so well. Many smaller newspapers cannot afford to meet their obligation to report fully on the local art scene, which often is represented mostly by commercial galleries. Instead many papers report only on exhibits at nonprofit art centers, libraries, and museums. Christine Dunkle, Arts Editor for MaineStay Media, publisher of several local papers, agrees, except for exhibits that have a community-fundraising component. She says that, while those submissions may go online, the only guarantee of print publication is to advertise (due to space constraints). As for writing a press release, she advises: “Stick with the basics and a whittled-down artist’s statement about style, inspiration, etc. Don’t overdo the resume inclusion with education, artists you’ve studied with, lists of where you’ve exhibited . . . Avoid sounding like a job application or a sales pitch and appeal to the layman. It’s a cliché, but less is more.” Good advice.

Here’s more good advice from UMVA’s communications director on the board, Ann Tracy, an artist, former journalist, and PR professional: “Always remember all the details (who, what, when, where, and why) need to be in the first paragraph of any news release. The inverted pyramid (the most important information first) is still the way that journalists like to get their information. We get more play from the media when we give them what they want. This website has all the info you need. Regardless of the news medium, have a media-savvy friend help you with writing a news release and don’t forget to include photos.

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Mock news release.

Art Reviews

Critical exhibit reviews are even harder to come by. Large papers may still review gallery exhibits but often just include facts about the artists, the work, exhibit location, and duration—avoiding controversial critiques that might rile some readers, advertisers, and thus the editor. (That could be a good thing.) One exception in Maine is Alan Crichton, co-founder of Waterfall Arts and UMVA board member, who often writes sensitive, contextual reviews in The Free Press out of Rockland. Another is Jorge Arango, art reviewer/editor for the Portland Press Herald, which he says values informed criticism and has published articles he wrote that riled the Portland Museum of Art and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art, both advertisers. Jorge is also a knowledgeable reviewer who describes the nuances of what he sees, offers his opinions of the work and places it in contemporary or historical context.

As to what will pique Jorge’s interest, he says to ask yourself, “Why is this important now?” Unless you are a well-known artist, what grabs his attention before anything else is an arresting image right below the release headline. Then he wants to see the “who, what, where, when”—the location, beginning and end dates of the show, etc. “Next, what makes the show unique? Is it a new body of work that departs in some interesting way from this artist’s former oeuvre? Does it address a pressing contemporary issue (political, artistic, or otherwise)? Does it focus on the work of an exciting emerging talent? In other words, it needs a news angle that is compelling” and answers that question above.

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Jorge Arango reviewing Sean Kernan’s The Missing Pictures at Cove Street Arts in Portland (photo: Bruce Brown).

Jorge also offers general advice on press releases. They are best if they are only one page in length. If you include a short CV of exhibitions, awards, fellowships, make it a brief paragraph. Include contact information for the venue and/or the person responsible for getting more images. He tries to respond to all releases but it can be difficult, as most editors are overwhelmed with ideas and submissions, not to mention their own workload. He says if you don’t hear something back within a week or two, it is fair to send a follow-up inquiry. Finally, he says to remember that most publications, especially magazines, are working a month or more ahead of publication to line up what they will cover. That means that press releases should be sent out as much in advance of the show as possible, but at least a month beforehand—even though most papers have deadlines for news items just a few days before publication.

Promotion Alternatives

For $25 you can become a member of the Union of Maine Visual Artists and be included in a coming new website that will offer a free listing by discipline and geographic location, a biography, an artist page with narrative and images linked to your website, a calendar for posting events, an online newsletter sharing member activities, a chance to be showcased in this Maine Arts Journal that reaches 1,600 subscribers and is widely shared, engagement in advocacy-art projects, exclusive studio visits with well-established artists, and important artist connectivity throughout Maine.

You can register for free with the Maine Arts Commission and also get a listing and artist page with narrative and images, plus a calendar and newsletter with information about exhibits, grants, workshops, and other opportunities around the state. Some art centers like the Center for Maine Contemporary Art in Rockland also offer artist pages with their membership. Waterfall Arts in Belfast offers many free benefits, including frequent informal gatherings of artists to meet and share their work. For $10 you can have your news release and image(s) published in the online magazine Maine Arts Scene. For a few hundred dollars, you can place an ad each fall in the next May’s Maine Gallery + Studio Guide distributed free to tens of thousands of Maine artists, galleries, art organizations, and tourists. It also entitles you to publication of twelve news releases and photos in the monthly online newsletter Café des Artistes. Of course, you also can print and inexpensively post your own flyers on bulletin boards around town at co-ops, libraries, and other community centers.

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Promotion alternatives.

Social Media

Besides all this and sending out personal emails, many artists are turning to social media to promote their work. I have found that free online subscriptions to Maine Artists, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are useful social media platforms for widespread promotion of work. Reddit, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube are other possibilities. In addition to reaching a much wider audience, you can track the number of followers, respond to comments, and make new friends. Each platform has its own services and conditions you can read about before signing up.

Exhibit Participation

When you are first starting, you will want to take advantage of most opportunities to exhibit. After you have had some success, you may want to be more selective about what bodies of work you exhibit, where, and with whom, all of which establishes your “brand” or your place in art circles. That is to say, exhibit in venues that have a good reputation and work to promote you, and only enter shows that will enhance your reputation as a serious professional. The same is true of pricing your art in a way that accurately reflects the value and quality of your effort, as well as its marketability. Galleries can help with these judgments.

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Jon Taner, UMVA member and President of Bangor Art Society, with Kapow, and new UMVA member Pamela Faber, with Black Forest, at BAS opening (photos: Ellen Taner).


As in everything else, relationships are important, maybe most important. You should seek out ways to engage with fellow artists and others interested in art, by attending openings and participating in other communal activities. If there is an artist reception for an exhibit you are in, you should attend it and engage with the visitors. They want to meet and get a sense of the artists. They want to know your interests, inspirations, favorite influences, motivations, and methods. Ask them what they see in your work and what piques their interest in a particular piece. Even if you are shy or a curmudgeon, just be yourself and you will find it rewarding. If you are more outgoing and you are having a solo show, you might consider brief remarks at the opening and a gallery talk later, maybe one that is recorded and uploaded on the gallery site or YouTube. You should also seek and take advantage of opportunities for media interviews prior to, during, or after an opening.

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Gretchen Violette, right, events coordinator at the Fiddlehead-Inspired show at Wintergreen Arts Center in Presque Isle


You might consider inviting selected gallery visitors or buyers to visit your studio to see more work, or scheduling an open studio time. Discuss that with the gallery in advance so it is not surprised by or uncomfortable with such connections. Do not use them to undercut the gallery with studio sales at lower prices. Depending on your agreement with the gallery, you might want to refer interested buyers back to the gallery for purchase of any studio art. The gallery should timely notify you of and pay you for all sales, as well as give you the identity and contact information of buyers, so you can acknowledge and thank them—unless they insist that their contact information remain private.

Additional Advice

There are several sites on the Internet that offer much more advice in depth about all aspects of exhibiting. One new and promising free site is RedDotBlog from Jason Horejs, owner of Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, Arizona, and author of books and workshops around the country. I attended one of his workshops many years ago and found it very helpful. Another site is Litsa’s Blog.

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Red dot blog.

I hope you have found this advice helpful. My next and final installment will be “How to Think About Curating.”


Image at top: Emily Sabino, Sally Stanton, and Libby Sipe with UMVA President David Estey at their Waterfall Arts opening of You Are Never Alone (photo: Lenin Sabino Gonzales).