Monday, March 28, 2011

On Studio Visits

Studio visits are probably the best way to get to know an artist. They are instructive and they are a strange social in-between. Intimate, brief and personal. Studio visits can be done between peers and between prospective business alliances. They are, to me, one of the truly interesting and enjoyable things that one can do as a member of an arts community. This is the space that still remains untrammeled by total co-option (to some degree). Studio visits are cultural dates that have the anxieties of making good impressions but also have a specific decorum and sometimes objectives.

The below are generalities. This is not specific to anyone or to any time, just a cursory guide of the expectations and etiquette. (This is based on a one to one, first time meeting).


When a time is set for a studio visit, both the artist and the visitor should be prompt. If there is any delay on either party or any cancellations to be made a generous notice or concerted effort of notice should be made.

Studio visits should last about an hour. Plan your schedule around this time frame accordingly. Never make the other person feel rushed in the visit. A studio visit that lasts under an hour is usually a sign of disappointment.

Beverages and Snacks:

If the studio visit is after 5:00pm, an alcoholic beverage should be made available. If it is before this time, coffee or tea should be offered. Snacks are nice to have on hand, especially if around a mealtime, but not necessary. Never have food on display, or leave evidence of a meal recently eaten. Water should always be close at hand.


The artist should have works that they want to be the focus of their visit on display ahead of visiting time. If the visitor has certain works in mind, it is helpful to express this beforehand. Works should be displayed in the best presentation possible in given space. Additional works should also be available to view in real time or on a computer.


The visitor should ask questions. If the work is completely un-engaging, questions should still be asked. Vague questions should be avoided. Artists are not responsible of asking questions. If your visitor is lacking in any questions it is okay to give directional statements of ones work to possibly lead to a question. Personal questions should not be asked beyond where one grew up and where one went to school. (Unless going really really really well).


Visitor should give comments. If there is nothing nice to say though, please keep to a minimum. Being critical about an artist’s work is okay and should be done as long as it is not rude or unjustified. Artist is free to remark or answer on comments given. The more open a visitor is, the better the visit will be. Comments are just opinions so they should not be taken too much to heart by the artist. The visitor is just that, a visitor. The visitor is in no way obliged to be flattering but positive remarks should be used to soften negative ones.

Visitor should refrain from making general statements of artists work such as “this reminds me of _____’s work.”


Artists should have a place that visitor can place their jacket, bag etc that is not on a messy surface.

Visitors should not poke around the artist’s studio or touch anything without permission.

A seat should be offered if talking about work/ideas in general terms for over 10 minutes.

Music or radio should be turned off completely.

No promises should be made by either party regarding exhibitions, projects, etc. during visit, discussion of such things okay.

Artist should walk visitor out to the door of building.

Visitor and artist should not take phones calls, email or text during visit.

The above are obvious types of things that I have been thinking about in regards to the function and the forms that take place during studio visits. I have had blisteringly curt and short visits and I have also had four hour wine fuelled ones. They are all interesting in the end and they do make the work more revealed as the work is the product of its maker. Being able to engage in meaningful and uninhibited dialogue with an artist or a visitor is to participate in the ultimate point of art making. The above aren’t rules by any means. They are a loose list that has been on my mind regarding this strange type of interaction. There is nothing more fun then to meet someone new, to bypass the niceties and go straight to talking about the more interesting things in life and in the mind. Always remember though that this too, as in all other social interactions, requires manners.