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  • Writer's pictureBeverly Todd

Ultimate cheat sheet on "How to Dress For and Talk About Art"

People have awesome excuses.

Excuses that keep them in their comfort zone.

You know the zone. In sweat pants. On the couch. With TV remote in hand. Nothing interesting happening here.

It wasn’t a surprise to me when arts expert Andrew Saladino, Executive Director of Omaha Creative Institute, reveled to me over a cuppa joe (him) and tea (me) that the top excuses given for not attending an art event are…

I don’t know what to wear.

I don’t understand it.

I’ve heard them first hand. From my art-benefit date Bobby, a profession salesman who could talk his way into any doctor’s office, charm the nurses, and leave with a mega-buck order for medical equipment. He could own any room. But…

Bev… what do I wear? The brown blazer? Shirt tucked? Untucked? Brown or black shoes? I won’t understand anything they are talking about. Cubism? Dadaism? What’s an ism?

To help my friend Bobby… and the rest of you on the couch… here’s the Ultimate Cheat Sheet on How to Dress For and Talk About Art.

Dressing -- Let’s get you out of the house. Creative atmospheres allow for quite a bit of leeway when it comes to your outfit. Choose a look that makes you feel good… with a wee bit of attitude… and you’ll fit in.

  • Go Classic. Wear black. Wear a suit. But don’t be a suit. Add a little bit of your personality to the ensemble like a sparkling broach or bright tie.

  • Dress down. I-don’t-care is in. Absolutely. Cocktail attire is not necessary. Classic jeans with beautiful blouse or sport coat are timeless. If you go BoHo, be sure to go fresh, clean and void of rips, sags and bags.

  • Fun it up. I‘m handing you the permission slip that says “anything goes.” Remember, this is the art scene. Polka dots with stripes? Yes. Grandpa’s vintage fedora? Sharp. Velvet with biker boots? Wicket! Have fun with your look.

Talking – You look sharp, now let’s talk art. First, you don’t need to understand modern art to enjoy it.

You’re heard the comments, “Looks like a three-year old did that.”


Youngsters have no inhibition. Every single one of them believes they are an artist. We should all approach art, and life, just like that. Fearless.

  • So, talk about art like a kid. You know the kid. The one always asking questions. Which makes artists smile; they enjoy your interest in their work.

When you created this/named this, what were you thinking?

How did you make this? What tools and techniques did you use?

  • Give compliments, too, like a kid.

Oh, I love that bright yellow color! I wish I could wake up that that bit of happiness every day.

Way to go. I so admire your creativity. You paint so free and happy.

  • And children, need I remind you of your manners in the gallery? Please…

Don’t say I could do that. You probably couldn’t.

Avoid advice to artists. I’m an abstract artist. Once, a friend said I should paint photo-realistic mountain scenes. Why? He liked mountains. I don’t do mountains.

Watch your critical comments. The artists or their family could be the person standing next to you.

Watch your commentary. No rules here, but it is about the arts. Leave your work at the office (not the place to pitch your new product). And leave your complaints about politics at home too. Now’s the time to explore something new.

What else to expect?

  • Wine, cheese and few other snacks. Most often light fare; eat dinner before or after.

  • It’s for sale That’s how artists make a living and pay the rent. Usually prices are posted, but feel free to ask. If it’s too high, just say “thanks for the information.” And don’t haggle. That’s for the flea market. Be prepared to pay the artist’s asking price. You are not expected to buy unless the art speaks to you, take me home.

  • Do five minutes of homework before you go. A quick online search will tell you a little about the gallery, the artists and the show.

Go with your eyes open and the attitude of enjoying a fresh experience. No excuses needed.

TOP PHOTO: Opening reception for Beverly Todd's collection "Playing Wild" at the Kansas City Artists Coalition, Dec. 9, 2016.



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