5 Important things for starting regular grassroots events - a Guelph Art Hub reflection

I started a weekly figure drawing event at my house about one and a half years ago and I thought I'd reflect a little and discuss some things I've learned about the process of creating small grassroots events so that you can start your own.  Here are my top 5 important things to consider if you're starting a regular event.

1 - All in

Get behind your idea that you're passionate about and just committ.

The passionate part is important.

If you're the leader of the group, you're the one that has to be scrambling to get the word out about it!  In Guelph Art Hub's case, I made posters, postcards, a facebook page, a blog (which is inactive due to...), a tab on my website.

It takes A LOT of effort early on.  So much so that it requires a fair amount of...

2 - Perseverence

It's good to get used to things not working out.  Especially if your event requires a certain number to show up to make it financially sustainable, which I struggled with for a long time (and still am from time to time).  Roll with it, and accept that things aren't always going to go according to your forecast.  Blind faith is my strategy - probably not recommended for the logical, rational type.

Regardless, just make sure to have...

3 - Consistancy

This is such a key element.  The minute you start flaking, all of your participants will likely lose faith in your ability to organize and rally.  Regardless of doubts, stress, anxiety - just don't cancel.  In the beginning we ran our Figure Drawing sessions in a 'full speed ahead' fashion.  Continuing regardless of attendance.  This obviously required me to be at a loss, but the way I looked at it was as a 'long term investment'.  I believe now, that this was correct.  Even things like the poster costs added up, but I just kept running it regardless.  I think certain aspects of this was the innate challenge of organizing this in a smaller place than a large metropolis like Toronto or Ottawa.

It's more important to financially invest early on in order to allow it to grow and potentially flourish later.  This goes back to the perseverence.  Consistant running of the event is crucial so that those that show up only occassionally can 'assume it's still at the same time'.  This was crucial as it provided a sense of security.

4 - Don't ask participants for anything

As an organizer, rallier, leader, you will likely be getting used to building the bulk of the event yourself.  I feel this was especially important for me since I'd never done something like this before.  Make sure you're not asking anyone who comes to your events to make any committment to anything.  My goal with my events was to always allow a 'walk-in' aspect so that it never required any real investment, which can be an inhibiting factor for many.  I feel it's best to just carry the weight with you (at least as it is building in interest). Many people may also just want to try it out, especially for something as niche as figure drawing is.  Don't lock anyone into anything there is enough of that happening in their financial lives anyway.  I feel this is crucial for event longevity.

5 - Evolve

Realize that there should always be room for further growth or various special events from time to time. Some things I've been gradually trying to build is space on the website to host the work of the artists who attend, a house gallery (in May!), and other art events such as urban sketching and painting in the summer. I feel future growth potential for your event will allow it to continue to be fresh and just allow for new avenus, and thus, further interest.

Other random KEY THINGS to consider that I under valued:

As you're building the event, it's ALWAYS better to have more people involved than any solid financial commitment.  I started cheaper than was sustainable which allowed for early interest to build faster.  The more eyes on your event the better.

Also, and this is something I really undervalued, incentivize your participants to bring others to the events. Even offer than a free session or something similar. Stop seeing each participant as potential to have steady attendance, see them as one more person, who may have a wide range of friends, some of whom may have similar interests in your event.

This said, those participants that do come regularly can often be your savior - they are the best and can often make the difference of a session running and not running.

Don't get upset when things don't work out the way you plan.  This can even be boiled down to a participant level.  Don't expect anyone to come regularly regardless of what they may foresee - life is unpredictable, and if it's a paid event, it can be A LOT to ask others to come very often.

Conversely, practice being grateful for every time that people do come out instead!  I absolutely love when the room is packed to the brim with people coming to figure drawing.  Really makes me feel alive and excited.  Magic happens.

I could go on forever.  I hope that some of this is useful. I will likely add to this list.  Feel free to ask ANY questions about regular event making.

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