I’m thrilled to share with you the experience of holding my first solo art show and the lessons I learned from it. The exhibit recently closed after being on view for 6 weeks. For your solo art show to be successful, you absolutely need to plan for it.
So let me just say this, a solo art show will stretch your abilities beyond what you think you’re capable of. And my abilities were definitely stretched. I discovered that a solo art show has so many moving parts. And the scariest thing of it all is, YOU are responsible for keeping all those moving parts in sync.
Some of the main moving parts involved in a solo art show are: planning for your solo art show, curating the artwork, “production” (creating the artwork), presentation/installation and publicity. As promised, I’m going to write about how I handled many of these moving parts in my r.ecently ended show.
In this first part of what’s going to be a multi-part article, let’s start by talking about planning for your solo art show. Without a question, the most effective way of handling the moving parts in a solo art show is to plan ahead.
A Solo Art Show is A Production Not A Solo Event
Holding a solo art show is an entire production in the truest sense of the word. Although when you see a movie or a Broadway show you can’t easily tell how much work went into creating it, the credits at the end of the show, are your clues to what it took to pull the show together.
Similarly, holding a solo art show is like a showbiz production and you’ll need to plan ahead for your solo show to be successful.
3 Steps to Getting Organized for Your Solo Art Show
Let’s just start by saying I’m a planner – for better or for worse. I am. So to get organized, I started off first, with research and lots of it. Just by reading this article, you’ve already put yourself ahead of the game. In my case, I read several articles but I couldn’t find a detailed account by a fiber/textile artist. So I’m writing this article to hopefully make things a little easier for you.
Secondly, I met with some of my artist friends to discuss the show and get more ideas. Nancy Whitcher, president of CWA, my friend and mentor was of invaluable help to me with this. Just talking and bouncing off ideas provided me with a wealth of information and a launching pad to jump off of.
Thirdly, gathering the information from both my research and from talking to others, I came up with a list. It’s a list of things to do during the planning stages for your solo art show. My list included what I needed to do to be able to pull this show off.
Before we go any further, let me say this. When planning for your solo art show, there’s one thing you absolutely need to do. Forget the word solo in “solo show” and focus on the word show. It’s a show. It’s a production and you can’t go solo on your solo show. You need help from people.
So now with that said, this is what you’ll need to get yourself organized for your solo show. Preparing these things ahead of time will ensure that you’re not overly stressed.
5 Items You Need on Your Solo Art Show Planning List
- Curating: Come up with theme/concept and artist statement to guide your art show
- Artwork Layout: Measure wall space and determine sizes and number of pieces to display (this is needed whether you’re creating new work or showing existing work)
- Promotion: Create promotional materials and the list of people and organizations to contact for publicity. Also, consider whether you’re going to create a catalog with price list, artist statement and or images of your work
- Installation: In addition, plan for and secure help for installation day. Figure out how you’re going to transport artwork to and from the venue and be sure what types of installations are allowed, nails in walls or not
- Opening Reception: Also, you need to decide on opening reception or alternative event. In my case, it was not possible to have an opening for my show. So I decided to hold two meet and greet events. You’ve got to be creative. Think through the obstacles and come up with alternative ways of achieving your goals
4 More Items to Put on Your Solo Art Show Planning List
- Photography: Plan on how you’ll have your work photographed before the show – full shots, side view shots, detail shots. Also, plan on having someone record the event. i.e.photograph the installed artwork, video record, photograph opening reception etc.
- Sales: Prepare for sales. Create certificate of authenticity & get receipts to issue when you make a sale
- Shipping: Figure out shipping and how to treat the associated costs. Who will be responsible for receipts of sales (you or the venue), any commissions? Discuss ahead of time and get it in writing
- Communication: In addition, plan to meet often and stay in touch with the gallery/store management up until the show and during the exhibition period.
So given the above list, you should now have a pretty good reference point to plan your solo art show. Remember that planning will reduce the stress involved. Of course, stress cannot be completely eliminated, but you can minimize it to the barest minimum with a planning list.
I can’t tell you how much the list helped me and how many times I referred to it. In addition, seeing the check marks on my list actually gave me confidence that I was making great progress.
So, now that you have a plan, in a later post, we’ll talk about some of the items on your planning list and how best you can get them accomplished.
Question: Finally let me ask, what do you do when you have a major project? Do you plan ahead or do you wing it? Why or why not? Let’s discuss below.
You may also be interested in the other titles in this series:
1: Planning for Your Solo Show
2: Curating Your Solo Show
3: Laying out Your Artwork
4: How to Promote Yor Solo Show
5: How to Write a Press Release
6: Installing/ Hanging Your Art Show
7. Opening Reception
Clara, Thank you for this. I will be using this as a reference. Currently planning an art show for myself and production is REAL!
Clara Nartey says
You’re most welcome, Francis.
Production is real indeed.
All the best with your art show.