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Grey Cross Studios
1920 4th St, New Orleans , LA 70113
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Friday, January 25, 2019

Creating an Art Team (Show Prep 101)

Are you ready to put on your first art show independently of a gallery? 

I think a key to a successful show that you put on yourself is the strength of the team you get to help you put it together. I think as artists we tend to want to do it all ourselves and that is where we can often fail.

Having a team of volunteers to help you with the basic details takes (some) of the weight off your shoulders and lets you concentrate on being the artist.

When a gallery sponsors a show for you, much of the burden of set up and tear down rests in their hands. The artist can take time to work on the general feel of how the art work is displayed without the responsibility of handling everything themselves. When you put on your own show the weight of that responsibility lies squarely on your shoulders.

It is not enough to have a team of volunteers that help on the night of the event only. Then they are only grunt labor. With my first show, my intention was to make the volunteer experience into a learning session also. Volunteers are fellow artists who are interviewed first, briefed on whats happening and then assigned key roles in the process of creating the show.

With a solid team brought in early in the process it allows you to focus on the key creative aspects of a successful event. If you can do what you do best (create) and let others handle some of the weight of the fundamentals then you create a winning format.

Once your team is ready to go, they will then be asked to take key roles in specific parts of the show. I've divided these into several categories:

  • Setup
  • Show Time
  • Tear Down
  • Artist Support

The first three are self explanatory. The third involves people to specifically help the artists involved in the show. This includes helping with everything from hotel reservations for out of town guests, art pickups and drop offs, curation, materials, food, drink, and lighting. 

The point is that to make a successful show you need to be prepared. Having your team in place guarantees that.

You may struggle with finding qualified persons. Start early. Give yourself several months before show time to bring in the right people and make sure they are reliable. Vet them first. Make sure they know what you want and that you have a good rapport with them.

Some won't make it through the until show day. Expect this and plan for a few extras in order to absorb the loss of key people. If you are using other artists as part of your team, offer them a chance to not only learn about the process of putting on an independent show, but consider offering them a chance to show a few of their own pieces. 

In the first show I put on, we had 300+ pieces of art which included 3 primary artists and 9 artist who were part of the team. They were allowed to show up to 3 pieces of their own in a special area set aside for them in the venue. 

Your goal before anything else should be to put your support team together first. Don't wait until the last minute or you will be stuck doing it all yourself. 

Don't try to control everything. Put your own creativity to work by creating an overall game plan that people can follow to bring your show together.

And most of all, remember that not everything will run smoothly. There will be problems. Cope with them calmly and be prepared for a certain amount of damage control. 

We now live in an artists age where we cannot rely on galleries to host us. Do it yourself. You can pull it off and you can create excitement for your art and any others involved.


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