How to walk into an art gallery

Jim McGrath was able to create an artist’s rendering of the view of downtown Wilmington from the window of his studio during Tropical Storm Irene.

Yes—many people absolutely cannot do it! Perhaps they’re too shy, or maybe they feel inadequately conversant about art in general to go to a gallery or an exhibition opening. Good news: browsing art galleries and open studios is supposed to be nothing like retail shopping. No one expects you to pop in and buy something the first time, or even every time.

Here’s what to do:

Rustle up some curiosity and open the door.  Say hello right away to the gallery staff or artist and try some non-art small talk—“Nice day, isn’t it?” That is all you need to say for openers. Take your time to browse the artwork or craft pieces. If certain works appeal to you, maybe you can casually chat about the artists or makers: Where are they from? Is this new work? Where else have they exhibited? Should you happily discover a painting or sculpture you might seriously consider buying, be direct: Can you send this to my home on trial? Can I meet the artist? What, if any, investment value might this artwork have? Do you have to sneak out if you aren’t interested in what you saw? Not at all. When you’re satisfied you’ve seen enough, thank the person who showed you around, perhaps add your name and email address to the gallery’s mailing list, pick up a business card or brochure, and promise to come back again.  The more you do it, the more you’ll learn—and the more enjoyable it will be.

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