The challenge of mainstreaming Native American art

native art

There is absolutely no doubt that Native American art forms have a rich and storied history. From ancient times to the present, from the people of Alaska down to the southernmost tip of Chile, art has been a huge part of the cultures since the days of rock paintings. The art from gas evolved though face and animal paintings, amulets and trinkets, woodworking and totems, breathtaking pyramids and so much more.

Even today, there is a growing number of well established Native American artists. However, they all have faced the perennial problem of getting their work viewed by a mainstream audience. But then came along the internet and the dissemination of information was truly democratized. No longer were we bound by arbitrary rules set by gatekeepers with unknown agendas. This very website is an excellent example of this. Since 1998 (yes that long ago) I have been able to sell my art to an international audience with just this website.

The challenge still remains though. Even with the massive advantage the internet accords artists who in yesteryears may have been anonymous local artists, the rapid growth of this medium means that it is getting easier to remain just another anonymous artist on the internet. Well now you get to be anonymous on a global stage. This may be a good or a bad thing depending on your world view.


Totem pole

This is where influencers come in. Love them or hate them, web personalities have become influential celebrities in their own right. They don’t just have to be singers and actors nowadays, but social media personalities from sites like Instagram and Youtube as well as review sites┬áhave followers that run into the tens of millions. Yes that is not an audience to be laughed at. A blog or social media update from one such influencer can reach a bigger audience than a prime-time television show.

So it is time that Native American artists identified their own influencers and got their art in front of new audiences. Natural ability and creativity just won’t get your art sold. We may want to be idealistic and say good art sells itself but the reality is that being “good” just isn’t enough anymore. If you just rely on the customer that come to you, you’re leaving so much on the table. you have to go to where your customers are. And increasingly, this just so happens to be on social media. And with the advances in e-commerce and shipping, getting your art to them is getting easier and easier.

So what can we, as cash strapped artists do to tap into these opportunities. You don’t have to pay an influencer to promote your art. However, you have to put some work into the promotion aspect. As long as you have a smartphone and internet connection, you have all the tools you will ever need for this new age promotion. All you need to do is to take photos and videos of your art and post them to social media. You have to be entertaining and creative in your presentation though. As a good artist, this should come easy to you. Once you have that down, you should easily stand out from the run-of-the-mill everyday social media posts.

Then all you have to do is keep it up daily and wait for the one post that will go viral. If you put as much into promotion as I suggest, one post going viral will lead to an avalanche of new viewers of your old posts that you have worked on. however, if you have been lazy and you get lucky and your viral moment finds you with just a handful of uninspiring posts, you mis your chance to turn those new viewers into long term fans. So you need to be strategic. But it all starts with that first step. Make it today.