No two paths into the art world are the same. In the past, this has been a disheartening fact, blurring what I thought was my path to work at a museum. But now I feel like I have found my place in the art world—it’s just not where I thought it would be.
While in school, I struggled with the eternal question many students ask: do I study something that I love or something that will make me money? After a whopping nine majors, I went straight down the middle and studied something that I kind of liked that was also lacking in job prospects: European Studies. What is European Studies you ask? I’ll let you know when I figure that out myself.
Most of the time I was in school full-time, I also worked full-time, which was exhausting. It also cemented the fact that I was done with school. I had a bunch of different jobs during this time—sales, call centers, fraud analyst—and I finally settled into a marketing job. I had no experience in marketing, just an overactive imagination, wit, and the ability to speak French. At first, I felt like an imposter, like my lack of formal training was a detriment. It soon became very clear that the experience I did have in other fields (including my forays into different majors) was far more beneficial than a degree in marketing would have been.
While this job was great and I finally felt like I had a career, it just didn’t ignite my soul. I wasn’t passionate about the product or the vision of the company, and helping other people make their dreams come true while I was sacrificing mine was depressing. I decided to make a change. Here I was, two years after graduation, and I felt like I was trying to pick a major again. I was once again looking for something that I was passionate about, wanting to keep learning, and hoping to feel like it was something important to the world. I thought about the places I was most curious about, the places I loved spending countless hours in, and what I loved teaching other people. The answer was clear—I’d choose a museum over almost any other place on earth. So, in September 2015, I moved across the pond to begin my master’s in art history in London.
Breaking into the Art World
What I didn’t know when I began my master’s was how extremely difficult it is to break into the art world, especially the museum world. I’m talking years of applying to jobs, cover letter after cover letter, and getting nowhere. (I am genuinely curious and scared to find out how many different cover letters of mine the Met has on file, but I digress.) I was able to get a gallery assistant job and an internship, and then a million temp jobs to help me pay the bills, but it wasn’t the dream. I realized I needed to find a way to reconstruct my dream using the skills I already have.
Through these jobs, I finally saw the Grand Canyon-sized gap in the art world: marketing.
Marketing is a broad subject, and is most commonly associated with social media. Social media is an important part of marketing, but it requires so much more than just posting nice photos on Instagram or announcing the next exhibition on Facebook. Marketing, when done well, requires strategy, research, and a lot of work. It can be daunting to approach marketing by yourself, with little or no experience. Then don’t even get me started on how you know that your efforts are actually effective.
That’s where I come in. I started my company, Inspire Awe, to help museums, galleries, and artists improve and establish their digital presence through creative marketing strategies, engaging content, and building connections.
How will Marketing Help the Art World?
I’m glad you asked! My personal belief is that art is for everyone, and everyone can benefit from art. The role that art has played in my own life is the driving force behind this belief; quite simply, art has changed my life. At the 2019 American Alliance of Museums annual meeting, I found this belief everywhere. Only in museum speak, it’s known as Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI), a goal in most museums. I was encouraged to hear of all the efforts being made to welcome everyone into a museum. Then I realized that I only heard about these efforts because I made the effort to go to the conference. So many people don’t feel welcome in the art world because of the established status quo, though the institutions themselves don’t feel that way. Therein lies the ultimate value of marketing for the arts.
Beyond my personal beliefs, museums, galleries, and artists need marketing because they are, to put it bluntly, businesses. In order to survive, businesses need clients, investments, and technological advancements. It is becoming ever-more apparent that in order to thrive and succeed, the art world must stop thinking like an isolated institution, and broaden their vision to include everyone.
To get in touch with me about how I can help you with your marketing needs, visit marketing.inspireawe.net.