Blog / 2021 / How to Get Art Opportunities When You’re Not on Facebook and Instagram

November 17, 2021

The worry is that if you’re not at the party you won’t know what’s going on. I get it: I spent years in that nail-biting space. I was emotionally ready to dump Facebook in 2016 when Trump was elected, but I didn’t manage to quit the Zuckerverse until 2020.

As of today, it’s officially been a year since I deleted both Facebook and Instagram, which is owned by Facebook—also known as the Meta company now. Besides doing a happy dance and high fiving myself all day, I want to share tips for having a thriving art career without social media.

  1. Develop a strong mailing list.
  2. Now is always the right time to start asking friends and art lovers if they want to receive your newsletter! There can be no excuses, because the mailing list strategy is completely free—or as free as Facebook and Instagram anyway. Similar to social media sites, there are plenty of mailing list sites that will host your newsletter in exchange for access to your demographic info.

    My favorite part of the mailing list is that it turns down the pressure on posting all the time in order to be noticed. Unlike the hungry monster of social media that howls inconsolably in the space between your cells if you don’t feed it enough, newsletters demand quality over quantity. I have one list for those who prefer monthly updates and another for the people who want weekly emails.

  3. Establish and maintain a website you are thrilled with.
  4. This does cost money—if you count my Vimeo membership and the email that uses my domain name along with the URL and hosting, mine shakes out to about $160 a year. But the beautiful thing about having your own site is, of course, that it’s yours. No one’s going to change the layout suddenly or decide which of your images will be seen.

    Plus, a site can lend your work that professional feel, but with one caveat: it must be maintained regularly. If you don’t know how to upkeep it yourself, the site will look as out-of-date as it is, so it’s a good idea to hold off on building your home on the web until you’re ready for that commitment. That said, compared to all the learning and relearning of FB and IG you have to do every time His Zuckiness decides to make a change, picking up a bit of HTML is really not that complicated.

  5. Sign up for calls-for-artists lists.
  6. I’m on the New Jersey State Council of the Arts’ list, which sends out an email enumerating many of the opportunities in my state every month, and there are plenty such lists that send out calls-to-artists nationally and regionally. These kinds of emails can quickly become overwhelming, so I recommend limiting the number you sign up for, while also promising yourself to look at the calls as soon as they appear in your inbox.

  7. Make your own opportunities.
  8. As you might imagine, the most exciting possibilities for getting your work in front of new audiences are not actually compiled into newsletter form or promoted on Facebook or Insta. The good thing about quitting socials is that you suddenly have lots of brainspace in which to imagine how you want your art to be in the world, regardless of whether or not there’s a well-worn path for getting it there.

Gwenn Seemel in the Asbury Park Press
screenshot of the Asbury Park Press

Since deleting the Zuckerverse, I’ve gotten better at contacting arts writers who might be interested in what I’m doing, resulting in this mention among others. News alerts like Google Alerts and Talkwalker bring potential writers right to your inbox, as I explain in greater detail in this post about finding artists when you’re not on socials.

Gwenn Seemel speaking at Venture Café Philadelphia and the Princeton Public Library
Venture Café Philadelphia and Princeton Public Library

Quitting FB and IG has also made me more confident. After watching a few art talks offered by Venture Café Philadelphia, I just up and asked the organizer when I could speak. Similarly, my show at the Princeton Public Library this summer as well as my favorite talk I’ve ever done are a direct result of my gentle but insistent reminders that I wanted to partner with the library.

Gwenn Seemel, True Artist Diamond Painting
my art as a True Artist Diamond Painting

There are plenty of opportunities that have come more easily too. The owner of True Artist Diamond Painting licensed my work after seeing it on the Jersey Artist Registry, and my art appearing on beautifully crafted bags is the direct result of keeping in touch with a talented person I met in college, which is possible to do even without FB and IG! The most prestigious and least expected opportunity that happened since deleting the Zuckerverse is my artwork finding a place in the archives at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France—as you can see there’s no way I could have predicted that situation.

Gwenn Seemel’s art on the cover of Larry R Jacobs’ book, Democracy under Fire, published by Oxford University Press
screenshot of Oxford University Press

My art appearing on the cover of an upcoming Oxford University Press book is also not something I directly pursued. Sadly, though I was sure to ask, I never got a proper answer for how the OUP team discovered my painting, but I do know that it wasn’t on Facebook or Instagram.

screenshot of artist at work on Twitch
screenshot of Twitch

The last self-made opportunity is my Twitch project, live painting a series about mental health. At first glance, this may seem like a backslide, since I signed up for a new social platform (ie Twitch) instead of continuing my great escape from them, but I promise I’m up to something worthwhile.

While I’m not excited to be back in the land of likes and follows—especially considering that the union-busting tax-evading Amazon is the owner of this particular platform—Twitch is the better option in this case. I used to stream on YouTube, and I have thousands of subscribers there, but, since that site has bullied me in a multitude of ways with the help of our very broken copyright system, not doing this new project there is a small but important act of rebellion. My Twitch-based open studio hours are first and foremost about making space for conversations about mental health, but one of the added goals is to use my Twitch time to invite my YouTube subscribers away from Google’s toxic video site and onto my mailing list.

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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