Words: Verity Babbs
Let’s be honest: loads of galleries have intimidating staff, cliquey private views, and strict classroom vibes. We can all agree that that’s not what art is about.
If you’re a gallerist looking to make your space friendlier, here are our top tips.
1) Hire front-of-house staff who love speaking about art
We’ve all gone to a gallery where the staff are either rude or silent – looking you up and down as if you don’t belong there. Make sure that the people you’ve hired to be the first impression visitors get of your company are genuinely engaged with art and want to share their knowledge. It is always better to hire someone who is friendly but inexperienced, rather than hiring someone snobby with a Masters degree.
2) Relax your dress-code
Do your staff need to be in suits? Wouldn’t having them be dressed smart-casual or in relaxed clothes make them more relatable for your visitors? If your staff are dressed like they’re going to a funeral, it’s a massive ‘DON’T COME IN’ for art-lovers strolling by in jeans and trainers. Your staff should reflect your clientele, and why would you want to exclude anyone from your art space?
3) Play music
Background music (not necessarily the Top 40 Charts) can make an art space feel less tense. Perhaps ask your curator to create a playlist of songs or instrumental pieces they think would be suitable to accompany the exhibition, to play at a low-level throughout the day.
4) Have print-outs about the show readily available
Make sure that information about the show is ready-to-go so no visitor feels lost or “not clever enough” to understand the work at first glance. Handing over an information sheet is also a great way for front-of-house staff to engage with clients and remind them that, should they have any questions or needs, they know who to ask.
5) Have print-out information about your next show ready to give out to each visitor
If you can hand out a flyer for your next show to each visitor, they’ll know that they’re welcome back. Loyal visitors who come back show-after-show are the foundation of your community.
6) Host events
After-hours events are a great way to bring in new visitors to your gallery, easing them in rather than plunging them in at the deep end of a silent viewing. Talks, musical performances, and screenings are a brilliant way to attract and build a community. They show that you’re going above-and-beyond to support the arts and bring art to everyone.
7) Have a friendly social media presence
Do you respond when someone mentions your gallery in their Instagram story after a visit? No? Why not? Engaging with your audience online will ensure that people know that your gallery is a welcoming, down-to-earth space. If their first encounter with your gallery is online, and you’ve been unresponsive or cold, why would they visit you? They probably won’t drop a large sum of money on buying an artwork from you either.
8) Remember why being open and engaging is so important, and write this into your brand DNA
Have a think about why you’re in the art world. Is it so you can make a lot of money and superior? Hopefully not – and if it is, then that’s a problem you might need to talk to someone about. If you say you want to give people access to great artists and exhibitions, mean it. Do everything you can to make everyone feel welcome, and make this a pillar of your brand identity.