The Proactive Artist

Image: The Gallery Upstairs, Poole

Being given the opportunity to exhibit your artwork in a non-commercial gallery is an exciting prospect for any Artist. Whether exhibiting 'solo' or as part of a group, these gallery spaces are the perfect opportunity to get your work in front of the general public and to build your CV. It also marks the beginning of a 'to do' list that, if not managed effectively, can leave you in a state of organised chaos the night before the exhibition opens (been there, done that !)

Here are just some of the lessons I've learned along the way - please feel free to add your own in the comments below:

First things first:
- Visit the venue, if possible.
Understand the space where you will be exhibiting - (dimensions/lighting/access etc). Take photos (get permission). If you can't visit, contact someone who has exhibited there before and ask questions.

- Read ALL of the paperwork you are sent by the gallery team
Ask questions about anything you are unsure of - the sooner the better. Every gallery is different, from commission to how your work is to be displayed; from opening hours to requirements for a private viewing. Sign and return necessary paperwork, pay the hire fee, get a receipt.

- Find a safe place for all of your paperwork
I have a lever arch file with a plastic wallet for each exhibition. I write key information on stickers. Everything relating to the exhibition goes in here (I also keep an electronic back-up copy)
Using sticker checklists to keep organised

- Put all dates (and times) in your diary
Not just the start and end dates of your exhibition but the hanging and take-down dates, private viewing, stewarding rota, press & interview dates.(I use a Sasco Year Planner to track all of my exhibitions.)

- How many pieces of work do you need ?
Sounds obvious but work out approximately how many pieces you will need (plus extras to replace sold pieces). Check the gallery paperwork to ensure your work fits the size/weight/composition requirements

The countdown to the exhibition:
- Advertise your exhibition
Make posters / flyers - share them on social media (tag the venue - there's a good chance they will share it too) Take flyers to local Tourist Information Centres, libraries, other galleries etc.
Share details with local arts organisations / publications (examples include Evolver / Borough of Poole Arts Service newsletter / Whats on in Dorset website)
Create an event on Facebook and invite all of your contacts.

Image: Examples of a Facebook invite / poster and flyer created for a recent exhibition

- Create a 'Hanging / Installation Plan' for your work
This can be a photograph of all your work laid out, a handwritten list, an Excel spreadsheet etc - something you can take with you on hanging day to refer to.

Image: An example hanging plan where I used the wall plan from Moors Valley to overlay images of my work.

- Create a checklist of everything you need on hanging day
I have a checklist for each of the galleries where I have regular exhibitions - it saves time when you're getting ready for hanging day.

- Pack well and label everything !
I use Stiffy Bags to protect my work in transit (they come with pouches for labels) and I have a tool box big enough for everything I might need on hanging day (expect the unexpected is my motto !)

During and after the exhibition:
- Get a mobile card reader
By far the best investment I've made is my PayPal Here card reader (other makes are available). I take 80%+ of my sales through it.

- Promote your exhibition every day on social media to draw in visitors
Use relevant hashtags and tag the venue in all posts.
The type of content to use can include - before and after hanging photos, videos of the work, behind the scenes at the gallery, photos of the general location, visitors and customers (with permission), red dots alongside sold works etc.....

Just some of the photos posted to Facebook during my last exhibition

- Keep a record of number of visitors, all sales made and payment method.
If I don't have my laptop with me I keep a track in a notebook and update an Excel spreadsheet each evening.

- Pay your commission promptly
Using your visitor / sales tracker it will be easy to calculate how much commission you owe at the end of the exhibition. Pay this promptly and get a receipt. Its also always helpful to send a summary of visitor numbers to the gallery team.

Please note I am not affiliated in any way to any of the companies, galleries or products mentioned in this blog. All opinions are my own.

Who is Maxine Walter?
Maxine is a Digital Artist based in Wimborne, Dorset. With over 25 years experience working in a number of creative industries Simply Love Art was founded in 2015 'to create unique, inspiring and affordable art for individuals, private and public sector clients.’

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