There is so much to think about when you're getting organized for an art exhibition.
Above all, you should be making and finishing the art. I'll leave that part to you, but an exhibition checklist will keep you on task for your show so you can concentrate on the art part.
The tasks on your checklist, and the deadlines you give them, will depend on the following:
- The type of exhibition (juried, self-curated, open studio)
- If the venue is in charge of sales and refreshments or if that’s up to you
- Whether you’re showing with other artists
- The amount of time you have to plan
With this in mind, you can use the list below to customize your own timeline.
Or click this big yellow button to download the comprehensive list.
Do It Now
Set a goal. What would you like to have happen at this exhibition or as a result of it?
Plan your budget. How much can you afford to spend on materials and framing? How much can you allocate to promotions, printing, and a reception?
Identify a theme and curate the work accordingly. Your exhibition should make sense. What will hold the works together?
Give it a title because titles distinguish one show from another on your résumé.
Titles with your name in them scream “solo show!”
Update your postcard list to include new acquaintances and your email list to include those who have requested to receive email from you.
Discuss all arrangements with the venue’s contact person. These include sales, dates and deadlines, insurance, security, opening reception, advertising, and other items on this list. You don’t need any surprises or miscommunication.
Sign the contract. If you're having your exhibit anywhere but your own home or studio, you should have a written, signed contract (or letter of agreement) with the other venue. No exceptions! Again, we’re trying to avoid any unwanted surprises.
Create a Pinterest board around your exhibition.
Do It Soon
Design and print invitations or postcards, if you have time.
Pull together publicity material.
Have promotional brochures or flyers ready to hand to people that describes you and your work and reminds them of upcoming events. Put together a notebook with plastic sleeve inserts that details your accomplishments (magazine articles, resume, statement, etc.). You can display all of these in the exhibition space.
Address, stamp, and deliver invitations.
Print object labels with your name, title of artwork, and medium on them.
Get straight on your prices and create a price and inventory list.
Organize sales material. Gather your credit card materials, receipts, and cash box, if needed.
Get help. Call on good friends to help with the installation. Ask a friend or family member to help greet visitors and make them feel comfortable. Designate someone to process sales for you.
Schedule any educational programs, such as an artist or slide talk.
Plan refreshments. Have something for your guests to eat and drink so that they stay awhile. Keep it simple (but special) so that you don’t add stress to the event.
Look into extra insurance if you are hosting in your home or studio. Are you covered for your work and exhibition space? Do you have liability insurance for your guests?
Post the details of the exhibition on your website or blog. Create a special page that is easy to send people to.
Post a quick teaser with a link to the exhibition information on Facebook. Tweet it, too.
Write and send press releases.
Two Weeks Before The Opening
Send an email invitation to your mailing list.
Send personal emails to people you want to come who aren’t part of your bulk email list.
Ask your friends to invite their friends.
Repost teasers and info to Facebook and Twitter.
Just Before The Opening
Deliver and install your artwork. Double check the lighting. Learn how to light your art properly!
Ask the venue to sign off on the inventory you’re leaving in their hands.
Devise a way to count visitors. (Use your extra help for this.)
Send an email reminder to your list the day before the opening.
Text close friends you want to pay special attention to.
Grab plenty of business cards.
Get refreshments ready for the opening.
Put out your guest book and make a clear note of how you will use people’s information when they sign up.
Wear a name badge. Add the word “sales” to the tag of your designated salesperson.
Assign someone to interrupt you. It’s important that you’re free for all of your guests, which means keeping others from monopolizing your time. If you find yourself stuck, a good friend could tap you on the shoulder and say that so-and-so would like to meet you.
While The Exhibition Is Running
Follow up with any leads you had at the opening.
Write Thank You notes to everyone who helped the show come together.
Just Before The Exhibition Closes
Send an email to your local peeps to remind them that the show is closing.
After The Exhibition Closes
Follow up with any leads.
Review these three things:
- What went right?
- What went wrong?
- What do you wish you had known?
- What would you do differently next time?
Once you have a reliable system in place, your art exhibitions will be much less stressful. You can save your energy for making the best art you can and showing lots of love to those who attend your show.