Art squirrels, strangers and social media: a performance project

Last night was the opening for Andreanne Hudon‘s THE WALL OF SQUIRREL at culturshoc gallery – a terrific series of sculptures of 32 individually crafted squirrel heads on hunting plaques that references the myth of the big game Canadian wilderness.

As curator and social media and the arts guy, I was concerned that our new and small gallery on Queen Street West does not have the critical mass of members yet to provide satisfactory numbers of attendees to an opening of an emerging out-of-town artist. As any marketer worth their branded salt will tell you – this is not a problem but an opportunity.

So I decided to make a performance out of the evening, to attract new people and to create media to use in the promotion of Andreanne and my gallery in the future. After all – is media not the most valuable assets of exposure for an  artist? It is if you are concerned with grants and applying for exhibits for a living.

Anyways, it has always been fun here to have sort of impromptu fashion shoots with friends and visitors, so I decided to offer “free photo portraits with art” – a takeaway value for participants. I even stood on the street corner with a camera beside our sandwich board sign and asked people walking to come in. Afterwards we offered them a drink and a snack and they hung out. A group of friends smoked in front of the gallery, adding to the interest and spectacle of the show and event.

I met some really interesting artists and people! I also frightened some people – maybe they thought I was a freelance porn producer. I learned that a technique to say “no” is to “yes, ok” but keep walking. But generally, I had little trouble in obtaining individuals, couples and groups to stop in. I set up an old projector to light the wall work strongly from one side and this contrasted nicely with the natural lighting from the front windows.

Some people hung out and bought stuff from our boutique in the back. I gave a card to each participant and told them they could download their portraits off of our facebook group – our page has resulted in spike of memberships and activity, and these photos are popular already. Which is good for Andreanne, and good for the gallery. Oh, and my ego.

This supports my assertion that the best method for social media marketing for arts and culture with local relevance is to meet people and shake hands. Please find some photos of strangers below.

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