Marisabel Gonzalez at her stall during the Opening Night of The Other Art Fair in Sydney July 2022. Photo courtesy of artist Marisabel Gonzalez
Your complete guide to hosting a successful open studio event, packed with actionable strategies from start to finish.
Hosting an open studio event can be an exciting and rewarding way for artists to share their creative space, showcase new artwork, connect with their community, and potentially make sales. However, organizing a successful open studio takes thoughtfulness and preparation.
Artwork Archive recently hosted a webinar with professional artists to discuss best practices for showcasing your work and your studio space. We also received a number of insightful questions from the audience that we will aim to address here.
In this post, we’ll share feedback and tips from the webinar discussion, as well as questions that came up, around planning, prepping for, hosting, and following up after an open studio event. We’ll also share how Artwork Archive's tools can support you through the process.
Define the goals for your open studio experience
First, get clear on your intentions. During Artwork Archive’s webinar, “The Art of the Open Studio,” artist and coach Nancy Murphy Spicer advised asking yourself, "What are [my] goals? Making sales, getting feedback, connecting with peers, or building an email list?"
Identify what kind of experience you want to have and who you want to attract so you can tailor your approach accordingly.
If hosting a full open studio feels too intimidating or you are uncomfortable inviting guests into your home studio space, consider alternative options. You could partner with other artists to rent a shared public venue, contribute work to a local art walk or fair, or host a virtual open studio online.
As artist Omari Booker advised, "The best route is the one that makes sense for you right now. Don't worry about perfection, iteration is key!" Choose the approach that aligns with your comfort level and resources. A successful open studio doesn’t have to match someone else’s template.
Here are some additional tips that we received from Artwork Archive artists:
"Work with a local artist group so you will be involved in all aspects of your event and can have larger publicity for your work and theirs. Much more rewarding!" -Fay Wood
"If you can have artists nearby, all participating there is more diversity and your show has a greater draw.” -Leslie Wilton
Once you've decided on your approach, consider timing based on your audience's availability, community events, and your own schedule. For example, weekends or evenings may work best if hoping to attract working professionals.
“My motto has been if you want 30 people to come, you have to invite 300,” Omari also suggests. “I’ve done gallery shows where the gallery did all the promotion and there were eight people there. I’ve also done shows where it was me doing all the promotion, and there were two hundred people there.”
Be sure to send out invitations to your open studio early.
A common theme that kept popping up from artists is the importance of sending out invitations early and often. Here are some of their tips:
"Send out invites and reminders early. [People] will forget if you forget to remind them. It needs to be personal. The more personal the invites, the more likely they are to come." - Leigh Coffman
"Prepare marketing materials ahead of time & send out weeks before either email, social media or both, then send a reminder two days before." - Sandy Miller
“One time, an important curator came to my studio, and I told him, ‘Oh, this is so nice of you to come.’ He said, ‘No. Actually, this is my job. I’m out almost every day of the year here in this city because it’s my job to know what’s going on in the art community.’ So that's perspective, you’re doing people a favor by letting them know about artists they need to know about in their community.” - Nancy Murphy Spicer
Additional resources for building your art business:
Prepare for your open studio by updating your inventory & studio archive.
One of the most important things you can do to prepare for an open studio event is to inventory your artwork and ensure your records are up-to-date. Capture details like high-quality photos, dimensions, medium, and titles to actively archive your practice.
“Once people purchase a piece, you wrap it up for them and they walk off with it, you won't see that again,” Nancy cautions.
“So if you just have a quick snap from your phone in bad lighting, that's it. And you might think, ‘Oh, that doesn't matter,’ but it does” she continued.“ It really does matter. Because for the whole legacy of your career, you're gonna want good images all along the way.”
If you plan to sell artwork, be sure to have clear prices established.
And, if you have gallery representation, or have previously sold work at higher price points, you'll want to remain consistent with your pricing—rather than deeply discounting pieces just because it's an open studio event.
This maintains the perceived value of your artwork over time.
"You want to be consistent,” Omari added. “Not just for others, but for the value of your work—and for how artworks should appreciate over time. If someone comes to your open studio and sees the same kind of piece for five hundred dollars that they spent fifteen hundred dollars on, then they're not going to feel good about that at all.”
However, this does not mean that you can’t have fun with it and offer special discounts to buyers who show up to your open studio. Again, this goes back to what your goal is for the entire event. If you want to offer promotions to encourage sales, things like discounted percentage tickets pulled at random can incentivize buyers without devaluing your work overall. This is an open studio strategy that wouldn't apply in a formal gallery setting.
Short videos to learn more about showcasing your artwork:
Don’t neglect the importance of an inviting physical studio space
When prepping your space, clean and stage areas for guests, but keep some evidence of an active working studio.
Audience member and artist Rosalie Street suggests not over-cleaning or packing away all of your studio materials. ”People are coming to see a working studio, they want to see dirty paint brushes and works in progress and your process. Keep it real. Be working on a piece as they arrive instead of tapping your fingers in anticipation.”
Consider comfort and safety factors based on attendees.
Will kids be around hazardous tools needing to be secured?
Is refreshment spillage a concern?
Often artists think that they need to provide snacks and drinks, but Nancy Murphy Spicer offered an alternative perspective to balance hosting generosity with the ultimate focus. “I feel like we are already very generously sharing with [guests], and that's our gift. You know, that's the sustenance we're bringing to them.”
Don’t have artwork to sell? No problem. Open studios can still be highly valuable for non-commercial work like performance, installation, or conceptual projects. It presents an opportunity to share your creative process and art ideas. That visibility and engagement could in turn open doors with galleries, museums or other institutions.
In addition to making sure your space is presentable, it is also important to prepare proper signage to guide and inform guests during their visit.
This includes price tags so collectors understand what pieces are available for purchase and how much they cost. Clear artwork labels also help provide details on individual works. If your studio is difficult to find or access, provide clear navigational signs to help attendees once they arrive. You may also want signs detailing any rules or policies guests should be aware of regarding touching the art, taking photos, etc.
If you plan to sell artwork, ensure you can process sales from start to finish, including materials for safely wrapping artwork. Test any electronics you'll use like speakers, card machines or a laptop computer. Have business cards and a guestbook or email list ready and visible to easily capture contact info for following up with visitors after your event.
From left to right: Tear Sheet, Portfolio Page and QR Labels in Artwork Archive
Artwork Archive tips for planning an open studio.
Use the Schedule feature to plan and keep track of dates
Update Piece Records and upload high-resolution images of your artwork.
Print Artwork / QR Code Labels to adhere to back of your work or on the wall
Curate your Public Profile so those who attend can have easy access to more information about you & your work
Use Contacts to track and manage invites to your top collectors
Stay present and energized throughout the entire event.
On the day your open studio finally arrives, start by taking a moment to breathe and reconnect with your goals before the first guests walk in. This mindset check-in can help calm any last-minute nerves.
As guests start trickling into your space, greet each one warmly. If you plan to have background music, keep it at a volume conducive to conversation. While remaining primarily in the studio is ideal for security reasons, don't feel chained to any one spot.
More introverted hosts don't need to position themselves front-and-center actively engaging with every guest.
Having a side activity, like working on a painting, can provide moments of relief. As artist Nancy suggests, "Have something that you can be doing so people can approach if they want to talk to you."
The ultimate intention and comfort level of you as the artist takes priority over any expectations around constant social interaction. If possible, arrange for friends to cover the door while you take occasional bathroom or mental breaks. Make sure to refuel with quick protein-rich snacks to keep your energy balanced.
While close friends already familiar with your work might initially dominate the conversation, make an effort over the hours to engage with every type of attendee— from young artists full of questions to seasoned collectors and curious neighbors getting their first art experience. Find points that resonate in discussion organically rather than reciting rehearsed spiels about each piece. Value quality exchanges over quantity.
View hosting your open studio with the same diligence as any other job responsibility. As Booker emphasized, "Make sure to stay open the entire advertised time, as you never know when someone may arrive!"
After the webinar, Artwork Archive artist Heather Stivison reached out saying, “[I] took the advice not to pack up too early, and less than ten minutes before closing time; I got invited to present a solo exhibition.”
Tansy Lee Moir, another Artwork Archive artist, suggested to, “Collect emails from everyone. Encourage them to sign up for your mailing list. Don't be disappointed if there are few sales to begin with. Think of it as an opportunity to learn about your audience and to network with like minded people.”
From left to right: Slideshow view, Digital Invoices in Artwork Archive
Artwork Archive features to use during an open studio.
Log in to your Artwork Archive account on your phone in case you need to reference any details quickly.
Send invoices immediately to those purchasing pieces or wanting to put down a deposit for a commission
Use the slideshow view to allow guests to digitally flip through past work
Have the option for guests to sign up for an email list so you can later add them as a Contact
If hosting a public event, don’t forget to take photos to use for a news post after (or have someone else take a few!)
Update Piece Record statuses as artwork is sold or reserved
Give yourself time to reflect and then follow up with guests after the open studio event.
As the last guest waves goodbye, take a moment first to breathe deeply and observe how you feel.
Did the event unfold aligned with your original goals?
What surprised you?
What would you tweak for next time?
Give yourself space to clean and reset the environment back to your private studio sanctuary before diving into administrative tasks. Spicer suggests to perform any rituals like music, aromas or window openings that "allow you to feel like [you’re] reclaiming the space." In other words, don’t be afraid to mess it up again!
Within the first 48 hours, send personal thank-you notes to everyone who attended the open studio.
If you captured email addresses, they can easily be added directly into your Artwork Archive contacts list from which you can then easily send a note. Reference any enjoyable conversations or if sending individually, mention artworks the guest appreciated.
Include links to your Public Profile, a Private Room or Collection for anyone still mulling over purchases. The immediate courtesy and continued access make studio visitors feel valued while keeping your work top of mind for possible future sales.
Compile photos from your event for hashtagged social media posts or for sharing reflections in a News post on your Public Profile further engaging past attendees. If you want, you can even invite those who couldn’t make it to schedule private studio visits soon so they don’t miss out until next year.
Review expenses like marketing, refreshments or framing invested into your open studio against revenue brought in from artwork sold. An Income Report in Artwork Archive analyzing profitability helps determine scale and budgets for future open studio events.
Artwork Archive tips for following up after an open studio.
Create Contact Records for each guest and add any notes or sales associated with them
Add those who attended to a Contact Group so you can easily send a follow up email to all who attended
Send along a Private Room to those unable to attend on your email list so they can view and purchase pieces
Create and send along a Portfolio Page of any pieces that attracted specific collectors
Write a News Post to add to your Public Profile with images and a short reflection from the open studio
Add any Expenses from the event to your Income tab so you can write off during tax time
Keep the momentum going long after the event.
Just as maintaining Artwork Archive records lends to your practice legitimacy with curators and collectors, dedicating time to nurture regional camaraderie helps anchor you within an energizing creative network. The connections seeded from an open studio event—between fellow artists, collectors, curators, writers, and other industry professionals—often unfold over years or decades rather than overnight.
Leveraging the open studio as a starting point to forge bonds across the art community pays dividends over the arc of an entire career through future collaborations, referrals, employment opportunities and more. So keep the momentum going with attendees over time, not just immediately post-event.