Art Shows and Exhibits are Work!! by Sharon Webb

As summer wanes art shows and exhibits amp up. Both show attendees and exhibitors are looking forward to the cooler temperatures of Fall and the increased attendance at the myriad of art shows and exhibits that pop up during this latter part of the year. Nothing is more fun as a shopper than seeing the new and exciting artwork that is being showcased. Nothing is more work for the artist than exhibiting.

As an artist, Fall is a more profitable time of year to setup and sell your wares. Folks are looking for early Christmas gifts, decorating ideas, and just being able to get out-doors without suffocating heat is reason enough to stroll through an art venue. What most amblers don’t know is the hours of preparation, angst and hair pulling stress that is involved in organizing the show.

Months before the artist applied to a show or….heaven forbid…organized an independent exhibit….and now it is time to make it happen. Not discounting the hours of labor that was required in the actual art creation let’s look behind the scenes at setting up an exhibit.  First you have the venue – is it outside or inside. If inside then Yeah! If outside then Gee whiz. Let’s compartmentalize the different aspects of the show. You have – in a somewhat random order – marketing, travel, show set up, labor, finances, show break down. Easy enough but a little more in-depth analysis of the different points.

Marketing. Fortunately social media has taken the place to some extent of what was once postal. Which social media outlets are us using? How regular do you post? Content? Do you get a write up in the local paper? Do you issue invitations (think designing, mailing).

Travel. Is the show local or do you need room reservations? Loading your transportation to the point of bursting with all things you could possibly need is exhausting but necessary. Not forgetting your art or tent (have done that myself). Planning for the travel in itself can be a couple hours of juggling schedules and making reservations.

Show set up. Better have a comprehensive list of anything you could possibly need for the show and then have that list geared towards indoors or outdoors. Tent? Display setup? Screens? All the odds and ends that makes your set up jump out at potential buyers versus the guy or gal next door to you. Minute items that the ordinary person wouldn’t think to bring to an art exhibit like pliers and paper towels. Packing your show set up should be planned for at least two days prior in case your forget something. It will happen!

Labor. Do you need help? Will there be help to unload or pack? Is it going to be detrimental to your bad back hauling 50lb weights to your tent sight? What if you want to step away for a breather? One should always be thankful and grateful to any volunteerism that springs forth.

Finances. Have this thought out well in advance of your show. Who collects money? Do you have a credit card system? Does the internet work? Do you have change if you make a huge sale (Yeah!!). Sales material including tags, “thank you” bags, wrapping paper. Who is watching your stash when you take a quick 10 minute break and is it secure? Sales tax? Most importantly this part of your venture needs to be well organized. Potential clients get frustrated if the process is difficult.

Show breakdown. Hopefully you are tired and elated by the results of your endeavor. Unfortunately you can be tired and dejected. Have a system for your breakdown. Be kind to whomever is running over you in their haste to get home. There is always at least one vendor that creates strife at the end of a show. Be thankful to your host…even if you are in a hole financially. Remember you may want to go back next year.

This article wasn’t intended to present all the individual pieces of participating in a show or exhibit but hopefully provides some insight to both artists and art show attendees to the work that is involved in making a show seamless and enjoyable to both artists and clients. The question to be asked is why artists put so much effort into participating in events and the answer is simple. For the love of art (and the desire to make some cash on hours of creativity and labor).

October 4-25, 2019
Townsend Artisan Guild: The Best of Us
Emporium Center / Arts & Culture Alliance
100 S Gay St, Knoxville, TN 37902
Join us for 1st Friday Show opening 10/4/19