NWT introduces new guidance to help artists sell their work

NWT Arts is hosting Selling Your Artwork, a free workshop series intended for both established and novice artists who sell or want to sell their artwork.

The workshops will happen on Wednesday evenings for five weeks starting on February 15. Topics include how to build a portfolio, pricing and marketing, and different methods of selling artwork.

“It’s our desire to educate artists on better business practices,” said .Johanna Tiemessen, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment’s manager of arts programming and traditional economy.


“Some of it is still an intro to a lot of the things, but it gets artists thinking about where they can take their art – and if they’re not selling it properly, it gives them a better idea on how to establish a model to price their work.”

According to Tiemessen, artists more often underprice than overprice their work. What most don’t realize, she said, is that doing so undercuts both themselves and other artists.

“A buyer could say, ‘I’ll buy that from this artist because it’s cheaper than that artist,’ but it’s worth more,” she explained.

“If you take two artists that are at the same point in their career and should be charging something for a piece of work that is very similar, but one is undercutting, they’re not doing themselves or anybody else any good.

“It sets people’s expectations of what artwork should be priced at, even if it’s not accurate.”


1,000 packages sent

Tiemessen said the workshops will help artists understand how their material and equipment costs break down, and how to account for the time spent creating art, so they charge appropriately for both.

Artists will be taught the difference between either selling directly to customers in person and online, or selling through retailers and galleries. Many artists in the territory sell art through personal Facebook pages, which Tiemessen says isn’t always effective. Over the five weeks, Tiemessen and a colleague will teach artists how to build and market their artwork through a business page.

“Through a business page, you can increase the value of your work, you can tell the story of your work and create a brand for yourself,” she told Cabin Radio.

All artists currently registered with NWT Arts – about 1,000, according to Tiemessen – have been sent packages for the series, including a USB stick with video content.


“We’re sensitive to the fact that streaming is not always great in communities,” Tiemessen said.

“That was part of our initiative for this project, to send actual materials to artists, and then they can also access it online through our website.”

The department’s economic development officers will also travel to communities to deliver the workshop in person.

Artists who are not registered with NWT Arts are welcome to sign up through the NWT Arts website (there’s also information on Facebook). Anyone taking part in the webinar will remain anonymous to other participants.

“It’s not like you go on Zoom and see everyone there. They’ll only be able to see myself and the other representative,” said Tiemessen.

“We’ll be able to get questions from artists in an anonymous manner and be able to answer them in real time as well.”

Tiemessen hopes the webinars serve as “a launching point” for more business supports that artists can access.