How do I find shows?
I live in the midwest and get to New York usually every other year. So, NYC is not a good bet for me. Gallery representation is largely dependent on relationships developed over time. A couple of days every other year is not enough time to develop these relationships. So, I look elsewhere, while not eschewing opportunities that show up from time to time in NYC.
Knowing where your work fits is key. My work is largely non-commercial, somewhat narrative and often installation based with a touch of performance. I have learned that it belongs in educational institutions and artist run alternative spaces. It took time and trial and error to figure this out. I learned from rejections and from looking at the past exhibitions of organizations I might be interested in.
I find exhibitions through referrals, google searches and online services. Referrals come through other artists and through my visibility locally and through social media. Friends send me prospects! I post jpgs of new work and work-in-process obsessively. The online listing services that I use the most are Art Opportunity Monthly and Call for Entry. When purusing these, I search by "solo," "call for Proposals," and by media restrictions. I also do google searches for calls for art. Just the other day I came up with 4-5 colleges looking for proposals.
I send out a lot of proposals. Most of the solo-show proposals do not require a fee. They take a lot of time to perfect, but what choice do we have? No one is going to come looking for you if you do not invite them. I have succeeded in securing large solo shows yearly. The market has changed over the years. You used to be able to rely on help with shipping or an honorarium to lecture and an airline ticket to come teach. I saw wonderful parts of the country on the academic dime. Now, there is very little money available and higher competition for exhibition slots. Shipping has gone sky high. So, I have limited shipped shows to one a year. Shows I can drive are easier.
What about group/juried shows? Sure, I do them. I can't resist having the art seen! I say yes to almost all local invitations to keep my name in conversation. I apply to group shows with jury fees when I like the theme, the juror, or the award money. I especially like to try out new work in these shows. If you are new to exhibiting, theses shows are a good way to begin to learn who your audience is. Set your budget for what you can afford to spend on jury fees. As of this week, most fees are in the $40 category. These fees finance the costs of the exhibitions, paying jurors, the light bills, the rent, the promotion as do the percentages deducted from sales. You don't get them back, although they are deductible on federal taxes, on Schedule C.
I also, from time to time, will develop and present a show in my studio space. My studio in on a main drag and I ran it as a commercial gallery for 9 years. It is still a known venue in town.