Reminder: Open studio etiquette

Michael Eade in his studio at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts during Open Studios last year.

Michael Eade in his studio at the Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts during Open Studios last year.

There are TWO open studios this weekend: The Elizabeth Foundation's for the Art's Annual Open Studios and Gowanus Open Studios! Concerns about artworld over-programming aside, open studios are a lot of fun! Read on for some tips on what to except and how to have the best time.

What is it?
An open studio is like an open house - an artist opens their studio to the public and anyone is welcome to come in and see their space, their work, works in progress, talk to them etc. Artist studios are often grouped together and it's common for buildings/areas that have a high concentration of artist studios to organize open studios en masse. In NYC for example we have EFA Open StudiosBushwick Open Studios, LIC Open Studios, to name just a few. 

What to expect?
You will not find an artist working away frantically on a painting. Artists have tidied their studio, usually hung up some of their newest work or works in progress, put on a clean shirt, and laid out some snacks. 

Why should you go?
This is a unique opportunity to see art in a casual and intimate environment. It's the closest you will get to a behind-the-scenes perspective. You get to see artwork where it was created and talk to the creator! Seeing an artists' work space, how they organize their supplies, the materials and paint colors they hoard, the books on their shelf, all of it adds another layer to my understanding of their work. And then having the added bonus of the artist RIGHT THERE to talk to...what more could you want?! When open studios are a building or neighborhood wide event it's a great opportunity to discover artists you don't know. 

What should you do?
Open studio etiquette is pretty simple:

1. Ditch the posse, Fido, and Jr.
Go with a friend or two but not a gang. Artist studios, in NYC especially, are usually small spaces and traveling with a large group of friends is a bad idea. Definitely do not bring your pet or toddler - neither of them will have a good time, it will be too easy for them to accidentally damage a work of art,  and you will be too distracted trying to manage them. 

2. Acknowledge the artist
You don't have to make small talk, but a polite hello or nod of the head is a must. You are not walking into a shop, you are walking into a personal space. Party manners apply. 

Unless there's a sign saying 'Touch Me' next to a piece of art don't touch it. You're there to LOOK at art. Hands off. 

4. Ask before you take a picture
It's courtesy. ESPECIALLY if you're about to take a selfie with someone's work...actually...pls don't take a selfie with someone's work. Just take a photo of the work. 

5. Ask questions (if you have them)
Wondering how something was made? If it's for sale? How much it costs? What it means? Just ask - The artist is right there! Be polite in how you phrase your questions:
"Is this piece still available?" instead of "Is this for sale?"
"Can I ask what the price is on a piece like this?" instead of "How much?"
"Can you tell me a little bit about your work?" instead of "What does it mean?"
If you think something is too expensive - keep that opinion to yourself. If you can't think of anything nice to say don't say anything at all. 

6. Stay on track
This is not the time or place to talk about your art or your friend's art. You are there to see art made by the artist whose studio you are standing in. 

7. Be understanding
Curators, art journalists, serious collectors, and dealers all frequent open studios. So if you've been trying to catch an artist's eye to ask a question but they are staying very engaged in their current convo chances are it's an important contact. Don't take it personally - this is a really important conversation for them. Don't take it personally if an artist isn't being super talkative/chirpy either, open studios are usually a weekend long event - so artists are understandably tired. 

7. Take notes
If you really like an artist, sign up for their mailing list, take their card or give them yours. Follow them on instagram, twitter, facebook - Stay in touch. 

8. Have fun!

Highlights from EFA Open Studios 2016

Sarah BurneyComment