In public art galleries communications and marketing specialists work with other staff members to make the public aware of what is happening at the gallery, and to attract visitors. They also communicate with the media (newspapers, magazines, TV and radio) to provide timely information about exhibitions, programs and other events taking place at the gallery. This information often appears in the form of paid advertising, but it also appears in public service announcements and in local or national news coverage.

Communications and marketing staff write news releases, organize media conferences and special events, and communicate with journalists and other people in the community to promote exhibitions and programs. They also work with community and special interest groups as well as with  commercialPertaining to making money, i.e., creating art in order to sell it, rather than creating art for purely aesthetic purposes.  galleries, to spread the word about the gallery and to cultivate new audiences.

Communications and marketing also involves working closely with other gallery staff, such as the curators who organize the exhibitions that are staged in the gallery. Jen Budney, the associate  curatorAn individual or group, who conceives an idea for an art exhibition, selects the art works, plans how they will be displayed and writes accompanying supporting materials for the ideas presented. A curator can work freelance or be affiliated with a gallery, and serves as the link between artists and gallery.  at the Mendel Art Gallery (in 2008), likes to take her ideas for exhibitions to the marketing people and get their reactions. “Who would the audiences be for this kind of show,” she asks. “What are the marketing messages that would attract people to this show, and what can we do to broaden their experience once they’re here?”

Amy Thibodeau, the communications officer at the MacKenzie Art Gallery (in 2008), agrees. Because most exhibitions are booked three or even four years in advance, there’s time to do some strategic thinking about the audiences an exhibition might appeal to, and how to reach them.

“I think especially with  contemporaryCurrent, belonging to the same period of time. Usually referring to our present time, but can refer to being current with any specified time. (Artlex.com)  art, you know, people may not always feel comfortable with it,” Thibodeau observes. “And so, we’re really committed to that process of thinking what an exhibition might mean to this community, and how we talk about it is really key. We are a public institution and we are very, very committed to broadening that audience.”  

Communications and marketing now also include organizing and posting information on the Internet. Both the MacKenzie and Mendel Art Galleries have websites that provide information about current and upcoming exhibitions, events and programs. Both sites also provide information about artworks in their collections, and about the artists who created them. Images of some of the artworks can be viewed on the sites, depending on whether the artists have agreed to have their works displayed. (Works of art are the intellectual property of their creator, and are therefore copyright protected.)

The MacKenzie Art Gallery has also joined social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to reach younger members of the community who get a lot of their information online. This move was prompted by findings from a recent communications audit conducted by the MacKenzie that showed that many people between 16 and 30 years old were not engaged with the gallery.

“Of course, that audience is crucial to us,” says Thibodeau, “because that is our next  setThe hardening process of paint, plaster of Paris, concrete, resin, an adhesive, or any other material which must harden before working with it further. (Artlex.com)  of volunteers, members, donors. It’s the upcoming community. One of the things we’ve done is have a social profile on Facebook, a social profile on MySpace. We have some videos up on YouTube, and we are in the process of working through podcasting. Since doing that we’ve noticed more young people at openings, at programs, and they’re engaged.”

Thinking about becoming a communications officer for an art gallery? The first thing you need to do, Thibodeau advises, is to become a really good writer. Her writing skills have been a major component of every arts-related job she’s had, she adds. Beyond that, she recommends becoming comfortable with art.

“I mean, if you want to work in the arts I think it’s important that you read about the arts, you go to galleries, take advantage of local festivals, musicians and plays. I’m an arts enthusiast and an arts consumer, so in a lot of ways I am the public I’m trying to reach, and so I think that’s really invaluable. But the writing is really important!” says Thibodeau.

Amy Thibodeau - The Role of a Communications Officer
Amy Thibodeau - How Audience Influences Gallery Promotion
Amy Thibodeau - Online Audience
Amy Thibodeau - Benefits of Working in an Art Gallery
Amy Thibodeau - How the Gallery Team Works Together to Create a Show
Things To Think About
  • Visit the MacKenzie Art Gallery and Mendel Art Gallery websites and look at the various options they provide to visitors looking for information. Imagine that you are an information officer for the gallery.

    • Would you make changes to the websites?

    • What would you add?

    • Would you remove anything? 

    • Why would you make these choices?

  • The MacKenzie Art Gallery has added profiles on Facebook and YouTube. To attract and inform more young people, are there other Internet sites or services you would add, and why?

  • The information officer for the MacKenzie Art Gallery says it’s important to her job to be a good writer. Why do you think she said this?

  • Imagine you are a communications officer for an art gallery. Your boss asks you to prepare a news release for an upcoming exhibition. What information will you need for the release, and who will you need to talk to get the information you need?
Online Activity

Art galleries and museums try to promote public interest in their organizations so the community sees them as centres of learning and knowledge.

People can become art gallery members.  They may also participate in various aspects of the running of their gallery as volunteers, board members or fundraisers. Corporations and businesses often sponsor art galleries as part of an obligation they feel to their community, and part of their commitment is to donate money to galleries for programs or the purchase of artwork. As a business partner, the gallery might return favours by providing space for events or encouraging the donating corporation to take an interest in exhibitions, events and collections.

Now imagine you are able to act as a sponsor to a Saskatchewan art museum and continue on with the following interactive activity.

Studio Activity

Create your own “Gallery Event”

Dream-up and  designA plan, or to plan. The organization or composition of a work; the skilled arrangement of its parts. An effective design is one in which the elements of art and principles of design have been combined to achieve an overall sense of unity. Also [applied design], the production of attractive and well crafted functional objects. Subcategories of the design arts include: architecture, bonsai, fashion design, furniture design, graphic design, ikebana, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, stagecraft, textile design, and Web page design. (Artlex.com)  a special event to promote an art exhibition and celebrate the artists in your community. This might be a special “gallery” day at your school or in your neighbourhood, a reception, or an art appreciation and activity event as examples.

First, think about what will happen at your event by asking these questions:

  • At what time of year will you hold the event? Will you choose a time that does not compete with other events, so that lots of people can attend? If you live in a small town, could this be part of a homecoming event?

  • Will you have activities, music, dance, or other art forms at this event?

  • Will food be available?

  • Will there be presentations, formal ceremonies or special guests?

  • Will you have special decorations?

 

Now, prepare for your event.


  • Create a budget for your event.

  • Recruit some volunteers or form a committe.

  • Decide how to fund your project.

    • You might organize some fund-raising activities such as bake sales, yard or garage sales, or entertainments.

    • You might ask acommunity organizations to sponsor the event.

    • You might apply for grants, or consider approaching city hall.

  • Set a date for your event and write and organize a special press statement.

  • Design a poster online using a computer software program.

  • Create a list of recipients/organizations for your invitations.

  • Send out a promotional email.
Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning