How to Host an Art Show (i.o.w. how to help someone else’s dreams come true)

We all believe in our own dreams (some more, some less). And sometimes we can even elevate another’s beliefs about what he/she can accomplish toward a dream. When we get behind what another person is doing, when we believe in their efforts, we increase that person’s feelings and beliefs about the possibility of their dreams coming true. That’s what I was up to this past weekend.

I hosted an all-out art show for my son a week past his high school graduation. Most kids just get an open house to honor surviving 12 years of schooling, but I wanted to do something special, not only to recognize his academic pursuits, but also to share with others the artistic talents he has developed during that time.

I’m not going to lie, hosting an art show takes a little bit of effort, but any aspect of the process can be scaled back depending on your needs and circumstances. Follow these tips for hosting an art show as good as any professional gallery (well, almost).

The Graduate/The Artist
The Graduate

1. Invite your artist – Do you have a good friend or family member who creates art? Maybe they’re already in art school, or maybe they wish their craft was more than just a hobby. Here’s your chance to make them feel special about what they do. Don’t be surprised if you invite someone to participate in an art show and they reply with something like, “I’m not that good,” or “my art isn’t worth a show.” It’s common for artists not to value enough what they do. It’s up to you to convince them that you think their art is spectacular enough to share with others. You can do it! Think about your own pursuits and what you would want to hear if the shoe was on the other foot!

Your featured artist will have to have created a portfolio of work, somewhere between 12 and 20 pieces depending on their size (and the amount of space you can devote). You can even invite two artists to share the show. If their work complements each other, a joint show can be a fun option and increase the number of people who can be invited. In my case the artist was my son. For the past two years he has been compiling a portfolio of work and he had about 30 pieces to display. See Imaginary Worlds Gallery below for a peek at some of his work.

2. Design an invitation based on a theme. Work with the artist kestrel grad inviteto identify a common element to the work. The artist may already know right away what to name the show, or it may take some time to define. Sometimes an outsider, like yourself, can more easily identify the common thread among the pieces, so don’t hesitate to offer suggestions. Set the day and time. We choose four hours, but six would work as well. My son had his limits as to how long he wanted to hang around. Here is the invite we created. We used one of his more favorite prints and faded the colors before overlaying the text in white. Pretty cool, huh?

3. Send the invitations via email, facebook, or snail mail. We invited all of his friends and his family because it was also a graduation celebration. Invite friends, but also, whoever you think would enjoy viewing and maybe purchasing some original artwork. Interestingly enough, a lot of people like to shop for and collect works by less renowned artists. They know they can get great deals on fantastic one-of-a-kind originals rather than spend high prices on prints by famous artists. So don’t be shy about inviting as many people as your house can hold. Invite your entire “friend” list. Have the artist invite their “friend” list. Have the postman invite his/her “friend” list. The more, the merrier. Don’t worry, They won’t all come at once anyway.

4. As the big day approaches, you will need to work with the artist to prepare the prints for display. Have a plan for set-up at least two weeks in advance. Scrambling around at the last minute to try to figure out how and where to put everything won’t be fun, so don’t wait. You want your “gallery” to look as professional as possible. First, because it makes other people take the work more seriously. Second, it will make the artist feel more proud of their work, which will help them talk to others about their process and vision, something they will need to do on the day of the show.

My sister used to own her won framing business. She was a great help.
My sister used to own a framing business. She was a great help.

You can buy inexpensive mat board wherever teachers in your area buy education supplies. We paid $4 per 4×5 ft. sheet. Use acid free double-sided tape to attach art to mat board, then to foam core (also at education supply). Press-in or stick-on hanging clips can be found at any framing shop/location. For other types of art, drape a chair with a white sheet (from Goodwill) to display sculpture pieces. Cover cardboard boxes with fabric and place on a covered table to display smaller items like jewelry, clothing or craft items. Make sure each piece of work is completely visible, if possible. Don’t layer.

Family Room/Dining Room converted to Gallery space
Family Room/Dining Room converted to Gallery space

6. Set up your home gallery two days before the show. Begin by removing as much of your own furniture and décor as is possible. You will want a clean and uncluttered look. We draped our dark couch with a white sheet because it was too big to store and we didn’t want it to compete for color. Inexpensive white sheets can be purchased at Goodwill and used for a lot of display and background. Be creative with how you hang or display the work; just don’t bunch things up. People will want to take time to look at each piece and you don’t want everyone crowding to see all the art at once.

How much should I make this piece?

Day of the Show
Day of the Show

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