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Benny Shaboy Publishes $8.1 Million Opportunities for Artists & Photographers

There is often additional information on the recording that is not in this written interview.  Inspire yourself and listen while you make art.

My primary goal in these interviews is to inspire you with stories of people who make a living helping artists make a living making art and who consider it a real job. The art professionals I interview here have valuable tales to tell you about how to work with them.

 Benny Shaboy, Art Opportunities Monthly Photo © Fain Hancock

Benny Shaboy is the publisher and editor of Art Opportunities Monthly. He was the founding editor/publisher of studioNOTES and the author of "The Art Opportunities Book," now undergoing revision. Benny has worked as an editor, researcher, writer, teacher, carpenter, draft and military counselor, cartoonist, fashion jewelry designer and craftsman, and at many other paid and unpaid jobs, and is an exhibiting artist under another name. Benny's mother and younger brother share his artist profession, and he hates to see fellow artists get "ripped off." He lives in Benicia, California.

Get your share of the over $8.1 million from Benny's Art Opportunities list, published monthly for artists and photographers. Art contests, grants, juried art competitions, fellowships, residencies, public art commissions, art awards, scholarships, teaching assistantships, calls for art, art deadlines, scholarships, art shows, photography contests, RFPs, RFQs, sculpture commissions, percent-for-art, slide registries, university art galleries, non-profit art galleries, or other artist opportunities and venues normally outside the commercial gallery system. Sample copy at:

Art Opportunities Monthly is the only service that double checks each art opportunity to make sure it is real and worthwhile. This is especially important because many of the so-called competitions, contests and other calls for artists are scams that will take your money (and sometimes your art) and do nothing for you. Many opportunities are well meaning but just a drain on your time and budget. AOM doesn't list those.


A.C.T.: What is your experience as an artist and entrepreneur?

I have been an artist for more than forty years, working primarily in sculpture and drawing. I have had a number of solo shows and participated in several group shows, all this under another name.  Along the way I have had various day jobs, mostly self-created.  Art Opportunities Monthly (AOM), started thirteen years ago, is the latest of these. Prior to that, I interviewed and wrote about what artists (including some famous ones like William T. Riley and Nathan Oliveira), art dealers, art historians and collectors were doing and thinking.

A.C.T.: What prompted you to start Art Opportunities Monthly?

AOM is a spin-off of an earlier publication, studioNOTES which also included solid information on technical, art-making and marketing subjects, gathered from artists, curators, art historians, art dealers and the like. studioNOTES was started well before the Internet became popular. Unfortunately, production, printing and mailing costs far outstripped revenues, so we had to stop after about eight years. AOM began as one section of that - the back page, in fact - and gradually became a separate publication.

A.C.T.: What is the mission of Art Opportunities Monthly?

To provide artists with accurate, honest, information about sources of support and exposure outside the commercial gallery system: juried shows, public art commissions, grants, fellowships, residencies and other sources of exposure and income.

A.C.T.: Please tell us about the journey from founding Art Opportunities Monthly until now?

In the beginning AOM was print only, going from one page to four to six to twelve per month. By the time we reached twelve pages we carried about 100 entries. We now publish fifty to sixty pages, in two parts, with 400-500 entries each month, and AOM is available only by email, as a PDF.

For the first few years, we had to obtain the material by sending postcards and letters to organizations that might be offering something. After a while, we began to get on several mailing lists, but still had to send out lots of inquiries. As the Internet developed, we were able to do more and more by email. Now about 50 percent of what we publish is sent directly to us by the organizations without our asking. We still have to edit thoroughly. Most of the rest, we hunt down, often by checking the sites of the organizations whose listings we published eleven or twelve months earlier to see what they have currently. We have a database of several thousand. In addition, we have correspondents in various parts of the world who send us things.

A.C.T.: What services do you offer now and what are your plans for the next few years?

We check every single potential opportunity listing to make sure it is from a legit organization. We know many of the organizations well enough by now so they are automatically approved, but we still have to check to find the exact url address of each prospectus, as well as the names, phone numbers and emails of the contact persons.

What takes even more time, though, is checking organizations we haven't heard of. In order to give them a fair shake, we look at the site, if there is one, or email them if there is not; check the domain registration; ask subscribers who live near them what they know about them, etc. You'd be surprised how many turn out to exist entirely for the purpose of collecting entry fees from unwitting artists. After, all anyone can set up a website and call it a gallery or a contest.

If the organization (often just one person) does give out the prizes they say they will - and not simply to their friends or partners - it's not a fraud, as long as they make it clear the show exists only on the Web. But many are rarely a good deal for an artist, because sales and prestige will be virtually non-existent.

AOM subscribers get each issue as a PDF, with clickable links to each website and email address so they can go right to the source for the prospectus or more information. AOM's table of contents is clickable, so an artist can go right to the section he/she is most interested in. PDF "Readers" (such as Adobe, PDF-XChange Viewer, Okular or Foxit) have highly sophisticated global search systems so someone can find every entry that accepts her/his medium. There is a coding system and a key to unlock the media abbreviations. The same method can be used to find geographic areas, opportunities with no entry fees, etc.

Subscribers also get a list of about 250-300 open deadline opportunities and access to our RSS feed. They can have work in our online gallery upon request. All at no extra charge. We publish the work of one subscriber on the front page of each issue and thumbnails of work from new subscribers inside.

We answer all questions from subscribers. Sometimes readers want to know about a particular solicitation they have received. We do the research and tell them.

For the future, we are developing some new tools to help subscribers uncover the material in AOM more efficiently, and are developing a new directory which we are not ready to talk about just yet.

A.C.T.: Who is your audience? How do they benefit from membership?

Our readers are artists looking for support and exposure.  They include students and grad students, but many have had several years as practicing artists and have discovered the need to pursue promotion in a serious way. A surprising number of subscribers received degrees and have experience in non-art fields prior to becoming practicing artists.

Several artists who have subscribed from the earliest days of AOM have attained a good bit of success. One is about to have a solo show in a major metropolitan museum. Others have had several large public art commissions, and some have won major prizes, or had their work appear in major magazines and Hollywood movies.

They all benefit from our hard work and honest effort at getting them the best information to help their careers. This saves them time and money, which they can then spend on developing their art. AOM has a 100% guarantee on our subscription.

A.C.T.: What peak moments, big and small, have you had through and with Art Opportunities Monthly?

The peak moments are when a subscriber artist tells us of a success. That keeps us going, as the work itself can become fairly tedious.

The low points have been the plagiarists. I'm talking about outright copy-and-pasting.

  • One was someone who started out copying and pasting huge sections of AOM but doing a find and replace to turn our abbreviations into their long forms!
  • Another was the manager for a national organization who posted an entire issue in the member's section of their website after stripping out all references to AOM. Hoping to win over her and their membership, we told her that while she couldn't do that again, she could post up to 10 entries if she gave us credit and had a link to us. A few months later we discovered she had posted another issue, also stripped of our identity. When confronted, she told us she was too tired to do it the way we asked, and besides the members of the organization "are not very computer literate and hardly ever go there!"
  • There are several other instances that have usually taken a lot of time and energy to address. The first example above was of a commercial enterprise that manages to flourish even today, but most of the other occurrences were non-profits who felt it their right to take anything we posted in AOM and use the information without credit or permission. Having spent several years in the non-profit world myself, I am shocked and saddened by this attitude, particularly among artists.

The organizations and individuals that have asked first have always been granted permission, often for more than they asked. Predictably, they have tended to be classy places (who also knew what the laws were), such as Yale University and the University of the Arts.

A.C.T.: What opportunities have you had and what opportunities have you created for your audience?

We are sometimes invited to give talks or workshops at colleges or art groups.

For our subscribers, we try to do better each issue. Many of them seem to appreciate what we publish and report that AOM has helped their careers. We've posted some of those unsolicited comments at

A.C.T.: What obstacles have you encountered in your business and how have you handled them?

The biggest obstacles are lack of money, lack of time and keeping to the task even when it becomes tedious. In theory, one can get more money, but one cannot get more time. Figuring out how to get more money is an ongoing struggle for any entrepreneur.

Not every seemingly good idea turns out to be, so knowing when to continue down a particular path and when to change course is essential, albeit difficult. As far as time goes, managing it is essential and I'm always looking for ways to do that better.

A.C.T.: What does it take to produce and maintain Art Opportunities Monthly?

Lots of clerical work, lots of reading, lots of editing, a good deal of computer savvy, and a fair amount of marketing to get new subscribers, keep the existing ones and get advertisers.

I sometimes have a part-time helper.

A.C.T.: What key advice would you pass on to artists who want to be successful?

  • Decide what success means to you. Then research how to make it happen. Each successful artist has done that differently.
  • Persevere. You'll get rejected more often than not. That goes with the territory in any field. For instance, the best professional baseball player gets many more strikes and outs than hits. You have to know when and where to be persistent. Confucius said, "No amount of stalking will find game in a field where there is none."

A.C.T.: What mistakes do artists make that keeps them from being taken seriously?

  • The biggest mistake I have seen is trying to market work before it is ready. It's fine to submit to juried shows early in one's development. In fact, that is a good way of finding out where your work belongs. But sending images to a serious gallery or having reproductions made up or anything like that before the work is ready can quickly brand you an amateur and naïve - and that brand that will stick for quite a while. The real art world is fairly small.
  • Trying to market serious, personal, thoughtful art the same way merely decorative work or ordinary merchandise is marketed. The contemporary art world has its own culture and what works in the world of regular business marketing can be the kiss of death for artists.  
  • Inflated resumes are easy to spot. Having a vanity gallery listed will absolutely ruin your chances of being taken seriously by a real gallery or collector.
  • Overblown artist statements.
  • A "cutesy" email address or one that has only a private meaning screams "hobbyist." 

A.C.T.: What are the best marketing strategies for artists? What promotional materials and actions do you suggest?

There's a lot of good advice out there nowadays. Ten to fifteen years ago there was almost none. Unfortunately, there are also people trying to cash in on the market, so there are a lot of bad blogs that contain merely guesses, hunches and ideas brought over from the non-art world. If you are really serious, though, you need to read as many of them as you can and filter out the wrong ideas.

  • Find the strategies and techniques that fit your work and personality. This will take experimentation and record keeping. Keep a log of all you do and review your progress regularly.
  • Talk to other artists, too. Ask them a much as you can.
  • If you can afford to get advice from someone experienced, that's a good idea. Keep in mind that any one answer might be only good for a particular person at a particular time.

In short, it took you a long time to develop your art. Even one painting can take a lot of scrubbing out, painting over, rinse and repeat. Building up your marketing knowledge will probably need to undergo the same effort and struggle.

A.C.T.: What changes have you experienced in the art market you serve and how have you navigated them? What lessons have you learned?

The Internet has made a tremendous difference in that artists and those looking for art can find work and information that would have previously been essentially hidden. Every artist needs to have a website, but for the most part it will serve as a portfolio to send prospects to rather than an actual store.

Artists looking for gallery representation have an easier time finding suitable galleries due to the Internet, but because other artists also have this easier time, the competition is much stiffer.
In addition, the Internet has unleashed scrillions of hobbyists, part-time students and amateurs who previously would have shown their work only to their families but who are now sending images to galleries, museums, on-line galleries, collectors.

The great thing about the Internet is how democratic it is. That's also the worst thing about it. I have no idea how this will resolve itself.

A.C.T.: How do you use social media and how have sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn changed art marketing? What has not changed?

AOM uses social media rather passively, mostly simply responding to requests to be "friends" or be linked.
We do tweet notices when the free version of AOM is sent out, so people can get it, and a few other things. Occasionally, we do broadcast a notice of a special offer.

I'm not sure the social media sites have increased the amount of real art being sold, primarily because there are so many images out there, but it is very good with letting artists know what others are doing, both in art making and in promotion.

A.C.T.: How do you feel artists can benefit from the types of programs, services and products we offer at and

As mentioned earlier, artists can benefit tremendously from a talk to someone who knows a lot about the marketing of art, as Aletta does. The Art Business Library has the full range of books dealing directly and indirectly with art business, art marketing and the artist's lifestyle.