Blog / 2021 / How to Find and Follow Artists When You’re Not on Instagram

August 23, 2021

For a decade now, one little app has dominated the visual art world: Instagram. That may be changing as IG pivots to focus on video in an attempt to tap into TikTok’s popularity, but for now IG feels like a must for both artists and art lovers, so much so that it’s hard to imagine where else you might be able to find and follow creatives.

It’s been nine months since I deleted Instagram, and I’m pleased to report that I’m still seeing plenty enough art. You can too if you just:

  1. Create news alerts.
  2. There are a couple of free programs that allow you to choose a search term, like for example “New Jersey artist,” and then receive regular email updates for instances of that term appearing in the news or on the web in general.

    Google Alerts is popular and I’ve recently started using Talkwalker as well. They each give slightly different results for the same term, so it’s interesting to use both.

    News alerts allowed me to be writing about NFTs ten days before the rest of the art world had even heard of them. They introduced me to the artists featured in this post and were the inspiration for this whole rant about sweatshop artists as well as robot ones.

  3. Visit artists’ sites.
  4. I keep a detailed address book—it’s basically the equivalent of Facebook, but without photos and without the people in the book updating their own entries. One of the many functions of this list is to remind me of what artist sites I want to keep an eye on.

    It may feel clunky to type out an artist’s web address and visit their site when you could just have their work appear in your timeline, but the active life is full of its own rewards! Instead of passively waiting for your social media feed to provide for you, you make an effort, and that exertion builds an important muscle, one that’s atrophied in all of us since the advent of social media: free will.

  5. Don’t be afraid of rejection.
  6. When you’re working to be less reliant on social media or when you’ve deleted it entirely, you have the perfect excuse to email artists directly by saying something like:

    “Hey! I’m stepping back from using social media, but I still want to see your beautiful art on a regular basis. Do you have a mailing list?”

    There are three things in that message that most artists will respond to:

    • they’d probably like to be getting off socials too.
    • they love to be told that someone admires their work.
    • they’ll be inspired to put more work into their mailing list if they’ve allowed it to lapse.

    Of course, not all artists want to be contacted or know how to respond. That’s okay. However an artist replies (or doesn’t) it’s all good information for you and for how you might end up feeling about their art.

  7. Attend networking events.
  8. The best way to meet people is still just to meet them. I think that we’ve forgotten that “friending” someone online often results in a tepid familiarity that hardly qualifies as a relationship. To actually make friends or even acquaintances, you need a lot more than access to their social media posts.

    Recent networking that I’ve enjoyed are this MeetUp and a workshop for Patreon creatives through which I met some annoying people as well as this lovely one.

  9. Go out into the real world.
  10. This is not the best advice during a pandemic—because, yes, that’s still very much a thing—but, whenever we eventually stop failing at the group project of not dying en masse, being in the world will be one of the very best ways to find art again.

Princeton Public Library art exhibit
photo by Gwenn Seemel

And it can even be an okay way to find art right now, if you stick with awesome venues like the Princeton Public Library, where my art is currently on display as part of Letter Love! With its focus on rational safety practices, the library never stopped requiring patrons to wear masks this summer, and although it organized two talks to celebrate the show—one about my queer identity and one featuring Mic Boekelmann as well as me—both were held online.

Plus, despite the emphasis on avoiding being a place for COVIDdelta to spread, the Princeton Public Library has still managed to keep the in-person aspect of the show fun: when you visit, you can get this tiger sticker!

Explorer Tiger special edition sticker at the Princeton Public Library
Explorer sticker

All you have to do is peruse the exhibit labels for unusual animal facts and then share your favorite one with the librarian on duty at the second floor desk, and you’ll receive your very own sticker!

This is community engagement without the danger of a large group gathered IRL to meet the artists. It’s some learning and a gift to remind us that connecting with others and with creativity can be done at a distance, even without Instagram.

Letter Love
Princeton Public Library
65 Witherspoon
Princeton, NJ 08542

Open: EXTENDED through September 30th
Hours: 10a to at least 5p every day except Sunday, when it’s 1p to 5p


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