How To Organize An Art Show

After the doors opened to the public, a fellow artist asked me “How do you do it?” So I decided to write down the steps encase anyone had the urge to organize their own art show. It’s not that difficult, anyone can do it really. But you do need a bit of organizational skills to pull all the pieces together.

1. SECURE YOUR VENUE

A lot of businesses these days are open to hosting art shows and are wanting to support artists. You just need to find a willing venue. But before renting a space, ask if the venue would like to partner with you in the adventure. This way they might be willing to help out with the promotions, as well as, lend you the location for free.

Here are some places to try… local hotel conference rooms, wineries, community centers, cafes, etc… or try contacting a retail mall property manager to see if they would open up any of their empty retail space for you.

2. PLAN YOUR SHOW DETAILS

There are a lot of little details that need to be sorted from easels, lighting, food, promotion & signage, volunteers, gallery hours, to set-up & take-down. It is best to iron out these nitty-gritties at the start as it makes recruiting help and promotion a lot easier.

3. PUT OUT THE “CALL TO ARTISTS”

There are always artists wanting to participate in an art show. You just have to find them. Contact your local and surrounding area art councils or any community art groups with your show details. It is important to get the artists involved in their own success by word-of-mouth promotion of the show, artwork sales during the show and set-up/take-down.

4. PROMOTE YOUR SHOW

After you have recruited your artists and volunteers this is when the hard work begins. You need to start promoting your art show to the public. Many times this is forgotten and people are disappointed when the show attendance is low.

You want to invite not only other artists but also the general public. Promote, promote, promote. And after you have finished promoting, promote some more. It always seems you can never promote enough.

5. SHOW SET UP

This is where the fun begins. Have artwork delivered at a certain time and send the artists away. Well-meaning artists tend to want to stick around to help. You can use some extra hands, but sometimes they want their own art displayed in the most prominent areas. You will be less productive if you have too many “cooks in the kitchen”. A curator needs to be impartial to who has created the artwork and focus on the actual painting.

  • Setting-up an art show is kind of like painting. First you need to set your composition or layout of the show by putting up your temporary walls, easels or display structures. You need to establish a focal area in the most prominent place with other areas of interest that guides a natural flow through out the room. Remember to incorporate different levels for interest using small tables with easels or floor easels.
  • Next, place your anchor pieces or the large artwork that will attract the most attention.
  • The smaller artworks are then placed to create groupings around these anchor pieces and build the show out from there.
  • Continuously, step back to evaluate your progress. Look for artworks that compliment each other in colour and subject matter. Balance out areas of clutter and emptiness. Create areas of colour blocking that move the eye from area to area.

6. OPEN THE SHOW

You can celebrate your show’s opening with a mini party with all the artists in attendance. Just like hosting a party in your home, this opening party requires additional planning to implement.

After this mini party is set-up, now is the time to wait for your guests to arrive. If you have done your job to promote the show, visitors will come and you will need to be a gracious host.

Don’t just sit in a corner but engage with your public. Guests love meeting the artists and finding out about the creative process. And, the more energy and busyness in the gallery space the better to attract more walk-by traffic.

7. TAKE DOWN

It always amazes me how fast an art show comes down. One minute the room is bustling with activity and the next it empties out to quietness as all the artwork and easels go home again. It’s like magic. Make sure nothing is left behind and that the space is left as before you came. If you make an extra effort to leave no-imprint, the venue might be inclined to have you back for future events.

8. EVALUATE

After the conclusion of the show, evaluate your success or failure. Every art show has them. The experience you gained from one show builds onto the next. The next time you organize an art show you will be able to tweak what didn’t work and keep the systems that did. Document your findings so you can refer back to it for future shows.