New city? No problem. How to break into the art world

Moving to a new city can be the best thing to happen to a creative person - it gets you out of your comfort zone and introduces you to all sorts of new ideas and inspirations.  It can also be a huge task just to break into the art world - either because there's so much it's overwhelming, or because it's so small that it's hard to find.  You have to be a  go-getter to find the opportunities, as I have good reason to know - I move every 1-2 years.   So I've learned a few tricks along the way that may help you to access your new city more quickly and effectively:

1) Showing up is half the battle:Find out where and when the art openings are and go; even if you don't talk to anyone that night, you will start to recognize people and see who's who.  And I'm not just talking about the gallery openings - many cities have open studio tours once or twice a year and/or monthly 1st Thursday/Friday art nights with streets stalls and extended hours at galleries.  These events are a good way to find out about alternative art spaces and collectives. To start you off on a good foot, here's a couple of things to try out if you're in any of these cities:

Austin: E.A.S.T. in November and W.E.S.T. in May + 1st Thursdays on South Congress

Oakland: Art Murmur 1st Fridays around Telegraph and 23rd

San Francisco: Hunter's Point Shipyard Artists Open Studios in November (and sometimes May) + 1st Thursdays in downtown SF

San Jose: Subzero Festival in June + South 1st Friday Art Walk in downtown SJ

2) Get it "from the horse's mouth": I've found out a lot more about the art scene from word of mouth than from the internet. You'll never be able to find everything on your own, whether it's because there's too much or too little information out there, so at point you do need to start talking to people.  The best people to talk to are people who work in non-profit galleries, museums or education facilities because they want to help you out! You can start by asking questions of anyone working at the venue, but then set up an appointment with someone in a specific department. This may seem intimidating at first, but I've learned that most people are a lot more willing to help you out than you would expect given their busy schedules. They appreciate that you scheduled an appointment so it's a win-win situation.

3) Find out who's who: When you are looking at galleries and organizations online, be sure to check out the "Staff" section - this will let you know who you should try and approach at an opening reception, gives you contact info so you can make general inquiries with specific people, and/or gives you a name to address your cover letter to for a job application (a good tip someone gave me). *Sometimes they even list bios of the staff so you can find out other places they previously worked, which can give you talking points and put you on to other places you should check out - this has come in handy for me on several occasions.   

4) Don't just look online: Check out the bulletin board at art stores, cafes, libraries and community shows for upcoming events, classes and venues.  I know going to a library might seem antiquated, but you would be surprised what free programs they offer related to the arts (eg. info sessions on grant writing for artists) and they post opportunities and resources in the community.  Also pick up the local arts newspaper -  it's free and lists shows in all disciplines.

5) Find groups: See if you can join a collective, get a studio in a shared building or check out to find free or cheap art classes/groups. The latter simply requires you to create a free profile, and then you can access any number of groups. Even in the groups don't actually turn out to be that great, who knows who you'll meet? I've definitely found some great resources (and made some friends) through random groups that I joined.

6) Park & walk: I've come across some great venues when I've been lost in a new city.  This doesn't usually happen when I'm in the car, but if I'm cycling or walking, I'm going slow enough to look around. Often galleries and artist studios are in the same neighborhoods, so if you find one, you should walk around the area to see if there are others you didn't see online.

And if it all seems overwhelming and like too much work, just remember Thomas Edison's quote: "Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration." Your effort will pay off!