Daily: Studio Visits Do’s and Don’t’s

Studio Space at Elysian Collective in Mount Holly, NC

Studio Space at Elysian Collective in Mount Holly, NC

Last week, we spent time with a great group of curators, artists, and arts administrators from all over the southeast. During this meeting, Rachel Reese, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Telfair Museums, approached the group with an interesting task: write down your top 5 do’s and don’t’s for studio visits, in regard to professionalism and etiquette, for both artists and curators. So here it is – consider it your road map to studio visits. Conceptualized and compiled by Rachel, with input from more than twenty professionals around the southeast.



Do’s for Curators:
Be on time
Be prepared
Be flexible in mindset
Be clear with your intentions – what is your interest in visiting the studio?
Extend the invitation to visit – sometimes artists are afraid to ask
Do your research – know about the artist’s work, tendencies, and motivations
Take advantage of your conversations in person – aim for greater understanding
Ask questions – those informed by directly looking and thinking about the work if possible
Set a time limit, be clear about how long you can stay from the beginning
Allocate sufficient time in your schedule to run over if need be
Aim for clarity about what you are seeing, while in the studio: process, materials, concept
Be respectful of the artists’ time
Focus on the artist and the conversation at hand
Listen to the artist
Let the artist lead
Follow up with thank you’s
Remember that it is often difficult to open up – sometimes artists are nervous and this is an overall vulnerable exercise
Research any shared connections or contacts you might have
Connect artist to others of interest – other artists making similar work, style, region, etc.
Provide resources or whatever help might be needed
Be generous
If you enjoyed the visit, share info about the artist with others in the field who may be interested – curators, collectors, gallerists
Ask them to recommend other artists to you that you should be looking at
Be honest in your interactions and reactions
Be kind
Be genuine
Ask questions but don’t presume answers
Allow time and space for artist to respond to questions
Respect the artist’s time
Don’t offer ungrounded opportunities or make promises you can’t keep
Take notes or a record of your visit
Call if you are going to be late
Express gratitude
Ask before taking pictures or recording conversations, etc
Be direct – don’t talk around a question

Don’ts for Curators:
Don’t discuss other artists, unless related to conversation or that would be of help to artist
Don’t arrive early
Don’t be late!
Don’t make promises you can’t keep
Don’t critique the work unless invited to
Don’t be misleading
Don’t offer to make introductions that you can’t fulfill
Don’t talk too much
Don’t say “This reminds me of…”
Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver
Don’t presume collaboration
Do not ask for free services
Don’t make comparisons
Don’t offer creative advice unless specifically asked, but then be honest
Don’t intimate that a show is a sure thing
Don’t visit without studying artist and their website
Don’t be distracted
Don’t solve problems in the artist’s work, unless asked for advice
Don’t overtalk, the artist may learn more by articulating his/herself
Don’t leave the full burden of the conversation to the artist
Don’t forget to ask follow up questions
Don’t be obnoxious
Don’t be a jerk, even if you don’t like the work – find something positive and constructive to say
Don’t check your phone or email
Don’t bring others unless you ask first and get artist’s approval
Don’t overplan your day – allow for ample time if making multiple visits
Don’t commit without funding in place
Don’t critique the work likes it’s a school crit
Don’t overpraise or hype the work
Don’t use the word “wonderful”
Don’t forget to follow up
Don’t rush
Don’t touch or handle the work without asking first!
Don’t ask about work that is put away or not displayed
Don’t ask variations of the same question

Do’s for artists:
Have a concise message
Edit yourself – present your best work
Offer food and drink
Make sure your bathroom has toilet paper and soap/sanitizer
Be prepared – research the curator and institution
Confirm meeting time in advance
Provide helpful info – address, directions, cell #, parking info, etc
Send a thank you note / email
Be a good host! Make your guest feel welcome – they will stick around longer and be in a better mood to engage with you
Relax and feel comfortable in your own skin and with your own work
Practice your talking points in advance if you need to – be able to say a few sentences about each work
Speak to what you KNOW – process, ideas, interests, materials
Discuss what you are working on now, what your current priorities are
Be transparent
Ask/tell what you’d like to get out of the conversation (besides an exhibition)
Be at your studio before the time you ask your guest to arrive, don’t make them wait on you
Prepare your studio in advance – pull/display works, clean-up
Provide and offer seating
Be well organized
Give space for silence – both time and mental space for the curator to think
Do your homework on who’s coming
Be respectful of your guest’s time
Respond to follow ups
Allow for extra time if need be
Create a good environment to show your work
Have work accessible, turned on, ready to go when guest arrives
Use this opportunity to get feedback
Slow down, explain yourself simply and clearly
Limit what you show – less is more
Have questions on what you are honestly seeking perspective on
Clearly articulate a vision
Treat your visitor like a guest, not a repairman
Pay attention, listen
Keep things in perspective – no single visit will change your life
Understand each visitor comes with his/her own perspectives
Keep an open mind
Have a takeaway – card/website etc
Offer bathroom
Express gratitude!
Clean your studio a bit, but not too much
Tell your guest in advance if there is no heat or air at your studio
Read context clues about your guest

Don’ts for artists:
Don’t show everything
Don’t be pushy
Don’t show up without an appointment
Don’t cold call (phone, email, portfolio) and don’t send materials unless invited to do so
Don’t expect an exhibition
Don’t invite other artists or guests to the visit
Don’t expect immediate reactions or approval
Don’t show everything you’ve ever made
Don’t show work that is several years old unless you are showing a progression – otherwise it just illustrates you haven’t made any new work
Don’t wear out the visitor
Don’t believe everything a curator tells you – they have their own tastes and agendas, too
Don’t be too casual or colloquial
Don’t be overly scripted, allow conversations to occur naturally
Don’t try to show too many bodies of work
Don’t look at your phone
Don’t take pictures / record without asking first
Don’t use your website or the internet if the work is at your studio in person
Don’t argue with a critique – ask questions instead
Don’t be late
Don’t be afraid of enthusiasm but don’t overshare
Don’t leave the burden of discussion to curator
Don’t present an inhospitable environment
Don’t have shipped your work off somewhere
Don’t make promises you can’t keep
Don’t name drop when it isn’t immediately relevant to the conversation
Don’t have any expectations or preconceived notions
Don’t hold back – share your thoughts, concerns, questions
Don’t rush
Don’t assume you’re “in”
Don’t assume total control
Don’t mention work that is in storage or say “it’s on my website” if you aren’t going to show it
Don’t ask for a show
Don’t ask “What did you like best?”
Don’t go on for too long
Don’t over prepare – talk naturally
Don’t make your guest wait
Don’t feel you have to preform
Don’t work for free
Don’t expect the curator to solve all your problems
Don’t overshare or provide overly personal information
Don’t assume your guest knows about your work in advance – start with basics

One thought on “Daily: Studio Visits Do’s and Don’t’s

  1. Pingback: Ep 17: The KCHUNG Simulcast with Rachel Reese | Brain Fuzz Podcast

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