Studio visits are very important.
Sometimes making work can be an insular process, where you agonize over details that fade away once the work is in front of an audience. A studio visit is like the Sriracha of your practice: you get a lot of bang for your buck, and it is functional as well as totally awesome. The best studio visits leave us excited to dive back into our work when they are over. And most of all, studio visits are about community building and are opportunities to nurture your peers as well as to gain access to unique opportunities.
We've outlined a few guidelines below to inspire confidence for your next studio visit.
Some tips to get started:
1) Ask some friends or colleagues to come by for a visit. This will help to alleviate any anxiety about hosting people in your studio and talking about your work, especially if it's new work. It will almost always lead to interesting and deep conversations, since it will allow these individuals to become more intimate with what you do. And they might ask you to come by their studio, too.
2) Do your research. Think about who you would like to ask to visit your studio. Studio visits are about building your community, so reach out to someone you graduated with, that you connected with at an opening or party, or whose ideas and way of thinking excite you. The key is that this person is interested in your work, can challenge you, and add meaning to the situation. Someone in your comfort zone won't always be the best choice. Push yourself.
3) Presentation. Think about how you want your work to be viewed. Don't show images digitally when you have the real thing to show. (Otherwise your visitor might as well just sit in their office and look at your images on-line.) Make sure that your work is presented in it's best form, well-lit, the sound is working and that basically, it looks good. If it is someone who is new to your work, you may want to set things up in chronological order, or if they are familiar with you already, you can present recent developments. If an art professional has contacted you for a visit, you can assume they are already familiar with your work and therefore you can ask them what he or she would like to see.
1) Clean your studio. Or at least make it somewhat comfortable so another individual can spend a couple hours there. Be a good host.
2) Chairs. Have enough chairs for you and all of your guests.
3) Make sure your work is well- lit. Rig up some lights or borrow some if you have to.
4) Snacks and beverages. Studio visits can be very tiring, so definitely have water, coffee, tea, some healthy snacks, and offer wine or beer if you think it's appropriate.
5) Put away unfinished work that you are not ready to discuss and have older/other work handy to pull out in case the conversation steers towards it.
6) Provide your guest with clear, detailed directions to your studio and exchange cell phone numbers before the visit. Always check in the day before the visit to remind your guest of the meeting.
7) Take notes or ask your guest if it's ok to record your conversation. There might be some gems in there that you don't want to forget.
8) Listen carefully to the questions that are asked, since each studio visit is a different beast: like any growing experience, some comments may not make sense until months or a years afterwards.
and most of all
8) Celebrate your sacred studio space, your work and the time that is being set aside to discuss it.
What if I don't have a studio?
Borrow one, rent one for a day, or have someone over to your home. Many artists can't afford the studio space they desire or don't feel they need one for their practice. That is normal and totally fine. The same rules apply to the visits as stated above. Check out the resources section below to see links about short-term rentals in the NYC area. (Kind Aesthetic's studio is available for half day and daily rentals in the Gowanus area of Brooklyn. Email us for details.)
What if I make installation and/or ephemeral work?
Focus on the best possible presentation of your work, which could include video clips, photographs, making a model of the installation, or having raw materials on hand to best help your visitor understand your process. Talk with friends and colleagues to make sure you are showing your work in the best way.
What if my studio visit felt like a bad blind date?
We are going to quote Jackie Battenfield here: " When visitors toss out zinger remarks during a studio visit, it's nearly impossible not to feel hurt and dejected. When it happens to you, take solace in the knowledge that every artist has four five similar stories. Take in and use the productive comments, and do your best to throw the others away. Remind yourself it's just one person's opinion." And no one ever said being an artist was easy.
Stephanie Diamond's Listings Project- an amazing resource for NYC based artists
In The Make- an inspiring resource about West Coast artists
Big Red and Shiny Studio Sessions- some Boston based artist interviews
MoMA PS1 Studio Visit- virtual presentations of artist studios
The Studio Visit- a non-profit curated web journal dedicated to supporting the importance of studio practice and process
A View from the Easel- Hyperallergic's photo series of artist workspaces
We'd love to hear from you!
Please share any stories about studio visits you've had, or any helpful resources.