16 Tips: How to Show Art in a Café

Have you visited a business, like a coffee shop or bookstore, and seen local art hanging on the walls and thought, “How can I show my art in a café?” Showing your art in alternative spaces is a great option for artists just starting out or not yet represented by a gallery. Hair salons, lawyer’s and dentist’s offices may also be receptive to displaying art. People don’t necessarily go to these places to buy art, but networking throughout your community and gaining name recognition and relationships is a great way to get exposure. Art is more likely to sell while on display than hiding in your closet. So, get it out there!

Click here for our list of Businesses in Edmonton where you can show your art.

Rooster Kitchen at 10732 82 Ave Edmonton

Before you start

1. Is your art compatible? First, make sure your art fits in with the environment. You want to show your art at a business that compliments your style while engaging its customers. Find a location that attracts your desired customer. As an example, if you do edgy, alternative prints, you want to show your art at a location with the same kind of aesthetic. If your art is a match it benefits both the artist and the business.

2. Ask for the proper contact. When you’re looking to show art in a café or business location find out who’s in charge of the décor or art display. Sometimes this is the manager, but it might be arranged through a third-party consultant. Get their contact information and ask for advice on the best time to reach them.

3. Develop your approach. Practice your phone pitch and draft an email inquiry that tells them who you are, and why you’d like to show. It’s important to identify the common values between your art and their business or clientele. In addition, attach images of the work you are ready to hang. It is important to show a consistent theme or style so that your exhibition will feel professional. Keep this proposal short and sweet, because you don’t want to overwhelm them with information.

Things to negotiate when showing your art

4. Exhibition times – An art show at a café or business might range from a couple of weeks to several months.

5. Red Dot or Sell on the Spot? Most businesses would prefer the artist handle sales transactions. Consider whether switching new work for sold works is convenient, or if a red dot sold sticker might be good marketing to encourage further sales.

6. Display at your own risk. When you show your art at a café expect some wear and tear, nicks in frames, and despite everyone’s best efforts and intentions, theft could occur. Businesses have insurance to cover losses due to fire or flood, but artists need to be aware that claims only cover the cost of the materials not the retail value of the art. Artists and businesses should understand the risks.

7. Is there a commission? Will the business take a percentage of the sale in exchange for showing your art? This will depend on the amount of work that happens on their end. If they host openings, invite their mailing list, work to market your work and conduct the sales transaction, then they could ask for a 10 – 30% commission.

8. Will they pay an exhibition or rental fee? Art enhances every space. Additionally, it should be recognized that an artist who is savvy in their marketing efforts might draw more customers to the space. In another scenario, you might ask for a set fee, or you could cleverly negotiate a barter.

Rooster Kitchen at 10732 82 Ave Edmonton

Tips for installing your art at a café or business

9. Measure and evaluate the display area.  Many locations have limited wall space, so propose pieces that will fit attractively into the space. Equally, ensure your work is framed and ready to hang with proper D-rings and wire. Furthermore, be sure to discuss hanging methods and lighting options to reduce the damage to the walls.

10. Provide professional labels for your work. Be sure to provide your name, title, size, price, and website or Instagram. The Paint Spot has written: Read Tips for Pricing Your Art

11. Install your show efficiently. When you come to install your work, arrive on time, make sure you have all the tools, and be as compact and tidy as possible.

12. Make sure people can contact you – Leave business cards or postcards, or keep clutter to a minimum by creating a QR Code. Save it as a jpeg and include it on the art labels or a poster.

After your art is on the walls

13. Promote your show on all your social media. Be sure to mention, thank, and tag the business, then do this several times during your exhibition.

14. Plan meet-ups to bring clients to see your art. Now that work is on display remember to take advantage of the opportunity and cement your relationship with the business.

15. Check in often. Owners and employees are busy, which is why it’s important that you’re hands-on and look after your show. In particular, ensure the signs and labels remain in good condition, that the art hanging straight, and that marketing materials are replenished.  

16. Send thank you notes when your exhibition is over. Thank you notes are so rare that they are truly appreciated. A thank you and a tag on social media are just like a virtual hug.

Do you have tips or suggestions about this article? We would love to hear from you. Contact.


More ideas for where to show your art

  • Places to Show Your Art in Edmonton
  • List of Art Walks in Alberta
  • Join an Art Club
  • How to use Social Media to Sell Art.

Kim Fjordbotten: As the owner of The Paint Spot, Kim Fjordbotten is passionate about helping artists use materials and make art. She is available as a speaker and educator for teachers and art associations. The Paint Spot offers exhibitions, classes, and beautiful art materials to inspire your creativity.

Notice you are not bombarded with advertising while sourcing this information. Please help us by purchasing your art supplies from The Paint Spot. We really appreciate your business and it means we can keep making educational posts for free.  Thank you.

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