Day of the Show
On the day of the show, set aside enough time to pack up the work and get to the site. In the past we have tried to arrive about one hour to 90 minutes early to have enough time to install. Load all the art safely into your vehicle. Bicycles and carts work, but it is ideal if someone has a van or a truck. `
Hanging the work
After we unload all the work and set it on the sidewalk, it's time to get down to business. With a handful of people and the right supplies this goes pretty fast. It's always a good idea to bring some extra cardboard to use as backing for work that could be blown away, just in case.
(photo by Rob Prideaux)
Over the years our first choice for attaching flat work is with binder clips and zipties. We attach the binder clips to the corners, and then either
- staple the handles of the binder clips to the wall, or
- zip tie the clips to the chain link fence
The ziptie/binderclip combo quickly secures the work, but can but cut away easily once the work is sold. We try to avoid damaging the work in any way, but if the artist hasn't made it especially easy for us to hang, we'll do whatever we need to do to get it on the wall in time. Methods we have used have been stapling, and screwing the piece to the wall. Remember to keep things moving. Usually people will come early or just hang around looking. Often they are willing to help hang, so just ask them. Because you added the inventory number to the back of the piece and the label, these new found helpers can often hang the labels next to the work by simply matching the numbers.
People will start asking what you're doing. Most are just curious because it is unusual. In the past we've found that most people react in the same way you present the information. So if you explain you are having an art show, and it's fun and exciting, they are more likely to respond with a feeling of fun and excitement. If you act suspicious, they will have a suspicious feeling (this goes especially for our friends the cops too). So try to be welcoming, honest, and friendly. Answer any questions, but tactfully avoid topics of legality or permission. Most people don't care anyway. If they seem concerned at all, I mention that it will all be cleared away soon.
If anyone has a serious problem, like police, fire department, or property owners, just try to work with them. Ask them what you should do or make some suggestions for reasonable solutions. Can you move down the street a ways? Across the street?
During the Show
photo by Rob Prideaux
Everything is set up, people are checking out work: now what?
- wear a name tag so people know who you are
- say hello
- talk to people who look confused
- talk to people who don't look confused
- ask people to sign up on your mailing list.
- have a few people available to accept payment for work and answer questions
- have a good time
Beyond photographing all the work for the website, find someone who can take pictures of the opening for you. (You may be a great photographer, but you will be busy handling sales. You can put these photos on the website later and use them as documentation of your event. They will come in handy when you promote your show the next time.
A Police Story
One time the San Francisco police passed by one of our shows. There were close to 50 people on the sidewalk. They slowed in front of the show. Cynthia Yardley greeted them with a smile. They asked "what is this?" Rather than shoo them away, she called back, "It's an art show! Park and come on over!" While many couldn't believe she was actually inviting them to the show, then again, what are they going to do? "Nah, nah, we're on duty." they said. (Hmm, maybe Cynthia had a plan all along.) Cynthia, just as enthusiastic as ever, shouted back, "Come back when you get off work!" They said, "Ok, we'll think about it." as they pulled away. They never came back.
Not To Worry
The police (in San Francisco at least) generally do not hassle our shows. Some theories as to why...
- By being on the sidewalk and not damaging anything, we're not really breaking any laws.
- There are 50-100 people around, which is harder to disperse. And it's not worth the trouble.
- We are polite and friendly if they want to talk to us.
- If the police have a problem, we ask them for the solution. For example:
OFFICER: There's a lot of people on this sidewalk and if someone came with a wheelchair, they wouldn't be able to pass. STEVE: Oh, ok. What do you think we should do? OFFICER: Well... just make sure people can get through. STEVE: Ok End of story.
What to bring
We have a portable toolbox that we bring to install shows. Over the years it has accumulated all the supplies we need. We often forget to check it and make sure it has been replenished before we go out to the next show, so I recommend you don't make the same mistake we do. Otherwise, it's handy to have everything you need packed already.
- Binder Clips
- thin wire
- Battery powered screw driver / drill
- Drywall Screws
- Staple gun and extra staples
- Spare Drill bits
- Name tags
photo by Rob Prideaux
- Battery powered boombox
- cheese and crackers (or other snacks)
- Clipboard, mailing list, pen
- light, folding card table
- extra cardboard
- Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman
The Next Step
In the days after your opening week, you should follow up with artists and make sure they are paid.