Seven Steps to Scale Your Career as an Artist | Step Four: Build Your Network and Stay Connected

Friday Jul 19th, 2019

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Regardless of where you live and work as an artist, you should establish and maintain networks with fellow artists, cultural professionals, venues and institutions, vendors, publications, and clients in markets around the region, the United States, or the world. It's important to note that there is a difference between networking, marketing, and selling. Networking is purely about building relationships and expanding the horizons of who you are connected to both socially and professionally. Relationship building has to be genuine and cannot be approached as a transaction. When forging new relationships, take a sincere interest in a person and their work. Additionally, ask first how you can be of assistance to someone before asking if they are willing to help you.

If it is within your financial means, travel outside of Erie to experience first-hand what’s occurring in other markets. Even if you cannot plan a multi-day getaway, it is worthwhile to simply spend an afternoon in another city to learn more about their arts community and cultural scene. When planning excursions, take into consideration both the cities that are largely known for being vibrant destinations as well as potentially less known destinations that have a growing reputation for being fun and funky.

Erie's geographic location puts us in relatively close proximity to a lot of cities worth exploring.

Cities within two-hours of Erie:
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Cleveland, Ohio
Akron, Ohio
Buffalo, New York
Chautauqua, New York

Cities within four-hours of Erie:
Toronto, Ontario
State College, Pennsylvania
Rochester, New York
Ithaca, New York
Columbus, Ohio

Cities within six-hours of Erie:
Detroit, Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Fort Wayne, Indiana
Baltimore, Maryland
Washington, DC

Cities within eight-hours of Erie:
New York City, New York
Chicago, Illinois
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Charlottesville, Virginia
Richmond, Virginia
Indianapolis, Indiana
Louisville, Kentucky
New Haven, Connecticut
Traverse City, Michigan

When visiting another city, arrange to visit arts institutions and meet with cultural professionals. For an even greater impact, reach out to fellow artists who live and work in the city you’re visiting and ask to conduct a studio visit. The formation of these types of direct connections is invaluable.

Always, yes ALWAYS, carry business cards with you. Invest in well designed and quality printed business cards. Don’t be shy about handing out your cards. Once you connect with someone be sure to follow up and nurture the relationship over time.

Any event can be an opportunity to network. Don't be overwhelmed about breaking the ice or asking the first question to get a conversation started. When doing so, avoid questions that can be answered with a simple "yes" or "no."

You should also make it a point to say informed about what's occurring broadly in the arts world. This includes being up-to-date on contemporary art trends and the issues affecting the sector. Consider subscribing to, and reading, industry publications or blogs, such as:

ARTnews Magazine

ARTnews is the world's oldest and most widely circulated art magazine. It reports on the art, personalities, issues, trends, and events shaping the international art world.

Hi-Fructose Magazine

Hi-Fructose showcases an amalgamation of new contemporary artists, both those who are emerging and distinguished in their careers. The magazine spotlights awe-inspiring creative spectacles from around the world.

Juxtapoz Art & Culture Magazine

Juxtapoz was created by a group of artists and art collectors to help define and celebrate urban alternative and underground contemporary art. It works to connect modern genres to the context of broader more historically recognized genres.


Hyperallergic is an online forum for serious, playful, and radical thinking about art in the world today. It combines the best of art blog and magazine culture by focusing on publishing quality and engaging writing and images from informed and provocative perspectives.

Artists Network Magazine

Artists Network empowers artists with techniques, knowledge, ideas, and inspirations that help ignite their visions and brings careers to life.

Black Art in America

Black Art in America is a leading online portal and network focused on African-American art. BAIA amplifies thought-provoking commentary on today's visual arts scene from a variety of perspectives.


ArtForum contains a breadth of information for those looking to stay abreast about what's happening in the art world. It includes information about major gallery openings, previews of museum events, and sales reports from recent art auctions. The magazine also features in-depth articles and reviews of contemporary art, as well as book reviews, and columns on cinema and popular culture.

Take note of who serves in administrative roles for industry publications and who is writing the articles. If the work being featured is relevant to your creative discipline, make it a point to connect with and introduce yourself to the team responsible for either the publication as a whole or the individual article. This can be done by sending an email or through online networks such as LinkedIn.

The same can be said about industry professionals in general. Know who the individuals are that serve as either gatekeepers, decision-makers, or influencers. When making contact with industry professionals online, do NOT bombard them with information about yourself. Instead, lead by expressing how you're familiar with them or their work. Below are some examples:

Contacting a person who writes about art:

"My name is (insert name). I'm a (insert discipline) living and working in Erie, Pennsylvania. I recently read your article about (insert subject of the article) and I found it fascinating. I look forward to reading more of your work in the future. Do you contribute to any other sites or publications?"

Contacting a curator:

"My name is (insert name). I'm an (insert discipline) living and working in Erie, Pennsylvania. I recently had the pleasure of visiting the (insert name of exhibit) exhibit that you curated for (insert name of institution). I found the exhibit to be exceptional. Do you have any other exhibits scheduled for the remainder of the year? I look forward to staying up-to-date on your work and experiencing future exhibits."

Contacting a choreographer:

"My name is (insert name). I'm an (insert discipline) living and working in Erie, Pennsylvania. I'm writing in regards to the piece you choreographed titled (insert name of piece). I had the pleasure of witnessing this piece being performed by (insert name(s) of performer(s). Because I found that piece so moving, are there other pieces in your portfolio that you recommend I familiarize myself with?"

It's important to stay engaged with the individuals that comprise your network. Again, online networks such as LinkedIn can make doing so easy and convenient. At least once a quarter, send emails or messages to individuals that are new to your network as a means of checking in. Ask them what they're working on and inquire if there are any ways that you may assist them. Like and leave comments when someone in your network posts something that is relevant to your interests or area of expertise as a way to engage in a value-added dialogue. And, when applicable, schedule opportunities to meet in person over coffee, lunch, or happy hour drinks.

It's trite, but the saying "if you don't use it, you lose it" can be applied to your network. The more engagement you have with individuals in your network the stronger your relationships grow over time. As this occurs, you build more trust and credibility with those within your network.

In the next installment in this series, we will explore establishing goals and setting a routine. To read the past installments in this series:

Step One: Be Intentional When Using Qualifiers
Step Two: Build Your Portfolio
Step Three: Have a Web Presence

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