Reflections on the 2019 Long Beach Open Studio Tour—We were here, where were you?

Dave Clark's exhibition in the Long Beach Open Studio Tour, 2019

This is a follow-up to my post about why I participate in the Long Beach Open Studio Tour as I reflect on how mine turned out this past weekend.

Yeah, what an endeavor, Carol and I spent the weeks leading up to the two day tour with finishing up several pieces, building easels to show the works that hang as opposed to my free-standing pieces… cleaning, shopping, getting everything just right in the hope that what I have chosen to show to the people out on the tour, allows them to see who I am as an artist. That they walk away thinking my art is “good.”

But how to promote? How do I get as many people to attend, not only my studio, but those of the other Wrigley artists showing? Make that, all of the Long Beach artists participating over the month of October (60 artists showing at 50 some studios over 4 weekends)

Well there are several options

One is the Studio Tour’s own website. It is a solid site that is well organized, attractive, easy to navigate, and provides everything anyone who is interested needs to know to attend. But then, what is their traffic? How well do they market, and/or promote the site to get people there? What is the SEO like for them in terms of getting people to the site and thinking, “Hello, this is way cool and I just have to attend!” How many people know it is even there?

Then there is Facebook. Okay, the Tour has a Page and they create an event for the tour, but then we face the same issues as with the site. Who is being reached? How many members does the Page have (under 400) and what is their participation? Do people see anything from the Tour in their Feed?

They create an Event, but then again who is being invited and what is the reach? Just the members of the Page/Group? Or do they even create an Event leaving it up to the individual artists? Again, do people see anything from the Tour in their Feed?

Okay, so each artist has a personal page and an artist’s page on Facebook. We all create events, share information on the Tour, invite all the friends we know that we think could, might, attend. We also share to other Groups and Pages on Facebook (arts, neighborhoods, organizations, etc.)  hoping to reach as many as possible here in Long Beach.

We promote as best we can, as best we know how. But who do we reach? How many even see the invites or the various posts? FB’s algorithms combined with the habits of FB’s participants would suggest it is a crap shoot. Do enough of my friends and those here in LB see anything about the Tour in their Feed?

Then there is Instagram. Same issues with FB, as who sees the posts? How many followers do you have that are local? Does one even have an IG account? Ditto with Twitter.

The Tour provides brochures (maps) for us to share. Beautifully done and well organized, they are very helpful in seeing who is where and when they are participating. So, we give a stack to various businesses in the hopes that someone will pick one up and attend. But do people pick them up? Did we hit the right businesses? Did they generate traffic? No idea.

Then there are the local sources for news and the various organizations that support the arts. They post articles and links to the Tour, they write various pieces about what is going on, focus on a few key artists… but who do they reach? How many people do they reach? Do they reach the right people? Is what they are doing enough?

I get that there is only so many hours in a day, that there are other things happening in the City, and that resources are limited, so are these resources enough? Are they doing enough? Can they do more? Are they even able to do more?

So while all of these have issues, if we combine them all, one would hope that we should reach a fair amount of people living here in Long Beach and the arts community should be connected in a way that the artists not participating should know about it. One would hope. Besides this Tour has been going for many years. It is not something new.

Alright, so it is now noon on Saturday (the tour runs from 12-5 on both Saturday and Sunday) and no one is here. Beer is cold, music is playing, gate is open, sign is out front… but where are the people?

Okay, it is lunch time so give people a bit to down what they need and get where they are heading. Slowly they show up, and then quickly things fill up. People are coming and going. Many are staying and looking. Asking questions about what I do and how I do it. Most are genuinely appreciative of my work.

By the end of Saturday, we had over 80 people come through my studio. A decent increase over last year (around 60). Tired and hungry, what do we do? Head out to see a friend’s opening at a local gallery where we end up buying one of his paintings. Hit a place to eat, stop and have a drink, get home and get ready to repeat on Sunday.

Sunday comes with pretty much the same results as Saturday, though this time 86 people dropped by with the weekend total being around 170 or so people.

Nice, but it is interesting who attended and who did not attend the Tour this year. Yes, I did create an Event page and yes, I shared the Tour over and over on as many Long Beach Pages/Groups as possible. And I am sure many other artists did the same.

170 is a great turnout… but then I did invite well over 300 people I know personally here in Long Beach, and with all the shares to the various Group and Pages… one would think that there would have been considerably more. I get that people have other commitments or that art isn’t their thing. And man was it hot both days. But come on… more of you need to get outside and support the arts, and your friends.

Image courtesy of Suely Saro.

We spoke to many local artists and residents who had never heard of the Tour before this year. Wait, what?! You have lived here in LB, a few even around the neighborhood, and this is the first time you have heard of the Tour?! And you have never heard of the Arts Walk either?

Okay, we need to do a better job of promoting… or perhaps a different approach of promoting to reach more people. But then, they also need to become more informed about what is going on here in Long Beach. Goes both ways.

Anyhow, we spoke to many artists and gallery owners who felt this year was one of the best (everyone loved the idea of spreading the Tour over four weekends). It was great to see various “key” art people here in Long Beach come by, and to talk to them about my art and about the art community here in LB. Met many new people and reconnected with many others.

Many friends dropped by too, with many others absent in their attendance. But things happen and people have other things going on. No worries, still love you! What was not great was seeing who was missing. Who could not make it for whatever reason even though they are also “key” people here in Long Beach that are needed to help put the arts in Long Beach on the map.

Come on people, we all need to step it up. If you really want to make Long Beach arts a thing for SoCal, then you got to be out attending events, covering the arts, meeting artists, and so on. The Tour is only 60 artists here in Long Beach. The mid-city tour is another 30 or so. There is, at best estimate, well over 400 (visual) artists living here in Long Beach. With that in mind, who are the artists we need to keep an eye on, who are the emerging artists, who are the ones we need to promote, to raise up? I say there are way too many to count, as this is just a taste of what Long Beach has to offer.

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