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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Exhibiting Outside the Box










Exhibiting Outside the Box:
The Pros and Cons of Mounting a Non-Gallery Exhibition

Category: Professional Development for Artists

By Kirsten Chursinoff

Many unconventional venues are now being used to showcase art and fine craft. This can be a great opportunity for both emerging and established artists, but it is important to make an informed decision.

Possible venues may include libraries, theatre lobbies, cafés and restaurants, non-art/craft retail spaces, membership clubs, community centre showcases, window space in retail shops (often during neighbourhood art festivals), civic buildings and furniture stores.

Often you will be dealing with a proprietor or coordinator who may not be familiar with the usual operations of a gallery. You may have to take on more of the responsibilities. These responsibilities may include (but are not limited to) insurance, marketing, sales transactions, hanging the show, creating signage and contract writing.

I have found that most of my experiences with alternative venues have been good. It helps if you are very organized and have an entrepreneurial spirit. You can avoid most disasters by keeping the following in mind:

Insurance
Make sure that you are insured. If the venue does not have insurance that will cover your artwork, make sure that your home or business insurance will cover your artwork while in transit and at the venue. You may be asked to sign a waiver stating that you are responsible for loss, damage, and/or theft.

Security
Are there locked display cases? What about corners that are dark and difficult to monitor? Do they have an alarm system? Is there a risk of your work being damaged? Do they have enough staff, or are you responsible for your own security and monitoring of the show?

Suitability of Venue
Textiles may not hang well in a restaurant with cooking fumes, or a café with constantly steaming espresso machines; but this setting may be fine for craft that is framed and protected behind glass. Your erotic sculptures may dazzle the late-night theatre crowd; but don’t start yelling “censorship” when the preschool-friendly community centre rejects them.

Sales
Find out how sales are conducted at the venue. Do they process the sales for you, or are you expected to conduct all transactions with your customers? If you are responsible for your own sales, you have to consider the appropriate signage to mount with your exhibition. Let customers know how they can reach you by phone and email. Place a stack of business cards nearby, and mount an artist statement on the wall.

Marketing
When you are showing your work in an unconventional venue you must use creative marketing strategies. The display may look great, but that doesn’t mean the customers will find it. Decide who is responsible for advertising and promotion before you agree to the exhibition. If you have an email list, this is the time to get it in order. Do you know how to write a press release? Be creative with online promotion. Even if the owner does some advertising, you must also work to promote your show.

Dates and Viewing Times
If the venue is open by appointment only, or has very limited hours of operation, this may be very inconvenient to your customers. Try to arrange to show your work where it is accessible during reasonable hours.

Reception
For your opening reception, make sure you are clear about who is responsible for refreshments. Will you be handling your own sales, or will staff handle the details while you mingle with your clients?

Set Up and Take Down
Find out if you are responsible for mounting and taking down the exhibition. Prepare a toolkit in advance. Are you responsible for the layout of your show, or do they have a curator or an assistant that will determine the display? Be prepared for either situation. Will the walls or shelves need repainting? Find out who is responsible for this, and what kind of equipment is available. What about lighting? You may need to supplement with some lights of your own.

Contracts and Commission Fees
Get the terms in writing if possible, and be prepared to write up your own contract if they do not have one. Make sure to include names, signatures, addresses, dates, commission fees, insurance details and arrangement for marketing and security.

Comments or questions are welcome.

1 comment:

Jane said...

I held an exhibition in an old mortury chapel in 2005, it is a fab venue in the UK.
It's great to see new venues opening up for artists.