Preparing for the 2021 BS5 Art Trail

Whether you’re a seasoned artist or this is your first Trail, read on below for some handy hints & tips in preparing for the Art Trail

Event Time Plan

Draw up a calendar just for the event as far in advance as you can. Make a list of tasks and give them a timescale. Tick them off as you do them.

Don’t forget to include things like copy deadlines for magazines particularly if they are monthly as these can be up to three months in advance of your event, and print deadlines for flyers, postcards and invitations, etc.

Marketing

Don’t just rely on event organisers to carry out PR and marketing for you. Plan well in advance.

Invitations are obviously essential, ensure they contain a map and/or directions to your studio, pub or home, as well as the full address and postcode, telephone number, website address, dates and opening hours.

Postcards are an excellent way to promote yourself or your venue. They can be used to promote your art trail, send them out with printed invitations, and sell or give them away during the event. Invest in professional photography – maybe ask other artists if they’d like to share the cost of employing a photographer for half a day. The same goes for printing, you can often save money by getting several postcards printed at once. We recommend Whitehall Printing.

Posters are very useful as they can be displayed in shops, pubs, homes and cars, and can also be used to decorate venues.

Sign Posts and Maps are essential, particularly for an art trail. Maps can easily contain contact details for participating venues this gives them a life beyond the event. As well as these, you want to make sure that your venue, if exhibiting from home, is easily visible as maps may not be sufficiently accurate due to scale limitations.  Innovative ideas include flags, balloons, bunting etc. 

Websites are a useful marketing tool and again prolong the impact of an event and enable visitors to contact you after the event. Some established events have websites, but ensure your own website address is clear on all your marketing materials, press releases and upcoming events.

Online marketing is an area often overlooked. Don’t forget to visit the local ‘what’s on’ style websites, tourist info. and local arts forums to submit details of your event to their calendars and what’s on listings. Contact other arts trail organisers to see if they will list your event dates on their websites in return for you listing theirs on yours.

Social Media is now the main way that people communicate online. The Art Trail has an Instagram, Facebook and Twitter profile and we recommend all venues (Inc. our group venues) follow us there.

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter

Biography/Artist Statements are a useful tool. Prepare well in advance, ask friends and colleagues to give you feedback, or ask them to write one for you (which can sometimes be interesting!).  Keep it to a few short paragraphs. Print out a large version and have it laminated and put it up on the wall of your studio. Visitors love to read them and it gives them/you an opportunity to get into conversation.

Databases are an essential part of your marketing plan. Prepare your own database, preferably using an address book type programme. These should enable you to enter name, address, telephone, social media handles, email details and have somewhere for you to make notes. A good database will contain details of what a customer has bought, notes of conversations, etc. You will then be able to create address labels and email groups.

Customer Database: existing customers and potential customers, including friends, family, neighbours, colleagues from work, your bank manager, hairdresser, old pub owners, everyone that you can think of! You can add to this database by having a visitor’s book at your event, don’t forget to include a column for addresses and emails addresses, make it clear that if people provide these details you will add them to your database (opting in). This then complies with GDPR

Send invitations and posters to your customer database at least four weeks before the event.  If you have email addresses you could email a reminder the week before the event too.

Press database: the arts editors and news desks for the local press, specialist interest arts press, local TV and radio, national listings.

You may wish to prepare a photo to illustrate the article, post and email versions to your press database a month before the event.

General database: local galleries, cafes and bars, arts officers from the local council, local curators, public art officers, etc. If you want to raise your profile with local galleries then it’s essential you invite gallery owners/managers to your event. Likewise, if you create public art then invite architects and planners, etc. These people won’t come to your arts trail unless they are invited!

Post/email/social media your invitations, posters, postcards and press release to the general database before the event. Email reminders the 5 days before the event too is recommended.

The Art Trail

Decide how you want to display your work. There are two options, either clear out your studio or home and transform it into a gallery, or tidy up by all means but leave it as a working studio, display work on walls, in portfolios or in cabinets. You could also set up a gazebo or tables outside your house. Group venues are recommended to leave rooms empty and you should get details of what space there is available ( wall, tables etc) . If there are several people exhibiting at the same venue, it is recommended that one person is nominated to be the go-between between artists and venue..

Demonstrating what you do is often the best sales pitch. Running workshops can also be rewarding, but can be time consuming too. Consider who may help you on the day.

Prepare your studio/home, venue, clean, repaint walls, fix hooks, etc.

Risk Assessment & Insurance 

Carry out a risk assessment, look for hazards such as trailing wires or tablecloths  and take action to minimise them. Decide the best fire escape route. Ensure that your space is safe for visitors and that areas that are restricted are locked or clearly marked. 

You could choose to have public liability insurance. South West Arts used to offer public liability insurance on its website. In 2021, one artist resident used Axis Web for £29/annually. Another has recommended A-N.co.uk but, although you get free insurance, its currently £38/annually. Others will no doubt offer similar offers.

Either way, we strongly recommend you print and display the following notice:

Liability Notice: You are invited into these premises as a guest. The organisers and the owners/ occupiers cannot be held responsible for any accident or injury, or the loss of personal possessions that may occur during your visit.

  • Please read any warning notices and take care at all times.
  • Make sure that your studio is well signposted and that it’s easy for visitors to find you, keep your door open if possible and to help comply with any current Covid-19 rules. If you can, make sure you are aware of the nearest stalls/studios of others on the trail so if people are doing the trail you can point them in their direction.
  • Don’t forget extra lighting, cheap clip on spot lights or track lights are ideal. Ensure cables are secured safely out of the way of any foot traffic.
  • Clearly label and price your work.
  • Make sure you have your visitors’ book and artist statement easily accessible.
  • Ensure you have a good supply of business cards, postcards, press releases, catalogues, etc available.
  • Put up posters for future exhibitions, workshops or classes that you are involved in.
  • Ensure you have appropriate packaging/wrapping. 
  • Decide whether customers can take away purchases or whether they have to wait until the end of the exhibition.
  • How will visitors pay for things – cheques, credit cards or cash? You will need a receipt book too. Print out some address labels with your details on and stick these to the receipt to speed up the process. 
  • Decide whether you are going to provide refreshments and ensure you have somewhere clean to provide them if you do.
  • Smile, make eye contact, be friendly, don’t read the paper and ignore people.
  • Give out postcards or business cards.
  • Talk about what you do with passion.
  • Don’t forget to network and make new friends.

Please do keep a note of footfall and the relationship between that and sales, as these details will be extremely useful for both you and the organisers, particularly when the organisers can use those figures to try to improve on future trails  and attract more sponsorship.

After the Art Trail

Make sure you have a system in place for visitor enquiries after the event. An order form or book is really useful so that you are prompted to ask for all the information needed.

Update your customer database, adding new details and making notes of conversations and sales.

Make a note to yourself of things that you forgot this year or things that you could do to improve the event next year.

Give feedback to organisers with practical suggestions for next time.