a sign spotted in New Orleans reminding gallery-goers not to be intimidated
This afternoon, I received this image via email from my great friend and fellow art lover, Alex West, the co-founder of Wonderroot. He and his family are in New Orleans this weekend and, not surprisingly, he has been doing some gallery hopping this Saturday. He and I have talked repeatedly about how to make art less intimidating, which is one of the unintentional bi-products of Wonderroot's mission. By "uniting artists and community to inspire positive social change," Wonderroot also ultimately brings art to the masses and abates people's fear and intimidation surrounding the arts.
As a gallery owner, I think the most important tool a gallery-goer can possess is knowledge. AND, the only way to be more knowledgeable about things with which you are unfamiliar is to ask questions, and lots of them. If you have ever visited the upper-east side galleries in New York City (or those in Chelsea for that matter) there isn't even usually anyone present to inquire to. Often times the seemingly sterile white box galleries are just that, sterile. There is no desire to make people feel comfortable, welcome, or at-ease, and being inquisitive certainly seems out of the question (no pun intended).
In the south, things work a little bit differently. I always greet people when they walk in the door and introduce myself. I usually encourage people to walk the loop around the gallery and engage them an additional time to see if they have any questions. Gallery owners as well as managers, directors, and interns are all more than willing to answer questions and often great conversation can be started with one simple question. Asking about the artists' process, their medium, their background or even the intention of the work is a successful way to learn more about the work and why you may have been drawn to it.
I think my eagerness to inform the viewer and my outgoing nature is a product of my upbringing. As Alex actually recently pointed out, my dad is a great conversationalist, in large part due to his willingness to ask tons of questions. In turn, he is one of the most knowledgeable men I know. So, please "be inquisitive; ask questions." Do so at the galleries and in life. Although it may be intimidating at first, soon you will become a wealth of knowledge (like my dad).