Starting today we’re launching a four part feature on putting on your first show. I’ll be writing this from the perspective of a photography show, but nearly everything applies to any type of art show. I’m going to assume you already have a body of work and a gallery that you’ll be showing at, and focus on the actual production of the show itself. This is meant to be a general guide for putting on your first show, we might dive deeper into the various aspects in the future.The first step is to create an outline for everything that needs to get done before you’re opening. Lets get started!
Putting together a show is a lot of work, there are many different tasks that you’ll have to jump between. It’s best to get organized right at the start and put together an outline of everything that needs to get done. Start by making a list of everything that comes to mind related to your show, some things to include are: writing a statement, sequencing work, framing, printing, creating labels, applying for grants, submitting to media, inviting guests, etc. Include anything that you need to get from other people such as a floorplan from the gallery, media lists from your friends, grant application forms, etc.
Once you have what looks like a full list it’s time to prioritize, you can always add things to it (and you will) so don’t worry too much about if you have every little thing on there or not. First write down the due dates for anything that is concrete, grant deadlines and akimbo submissions are good examples of things that have fixed deadlines. Next work backwards from your opening date and figure out how long specific tasks will take. For example, if you need to have framed prints at the gallery a week before the opening, find out how long it will take to print (2 weeks) and frame (2 weeks) them, it’s good to add a bit of a buffer (1 week) to counter any mistakes or delays. Then add all those up to figure out when to start the printing process – 6 weeks before the opening. Generally things will take longer than you expect so keep that in mind.
Once you have all your concrete dates in and you know roughly when to start producing time consuming tasks, you’ll be left with a bunch of tasks that have no real deadlines but need to get done nonetheless, things like creating a media list, writing your artist statement, etc. After you have found all the dates for the concrete tasks you’ll have a better idea of when you need to finish the more flexible things. For example you will need an artist statment for grant proposal and for the media release so it’s best to get it done as early in the process as possible.
Hopefully you’re now well on your way to creating an outline / timeline for producing your show. In the next post we’ll take a look at editing – what to include and leave out from your show. Also, please let us know if you have any specific questions relating to producing a show and we’ll try to answer them in the upcoming posts.
See the rest of the First Show series here: