Work Out Your Objective
Being clear about what you want to achieve, right from the off, will save you time and heartache. Are you promoting your own art or bringing together a collection of artists? Will you need a theme to bring it all together? Do you want to make sales at the event or do you want to introduce your work and grow your network? Knowing what you want to achieve from the event will help you decide on the size and scope as well as the timings. Once you’ve chosen the type of event you want to host, then it’s time to set the date. Don’t just look for a date that works for you, you also need to find out what’s else is happening in your area to ensure there aren’t any conflicts. And give yourself plenty of time to prepare and promote. An informal gathering may only need a few weeks but a bigger show, at a hired venue, may need 6 months or more and you’ll need to factor in availability of the venue, especially as there is currently a back-log of events meaning dates are currently limited.
Choosing Your Venue
Once you know the objective of your event, it will help you decide on the most appropriate venue. An ‘open house’ format is a lovely way for people to see your art in a home context and creates a relaxed atmosphere for conversations. Hiring a venue is obviously more formal and expensive but can add an element of style and exclusivity that helps generate desire and leads people to crave a piece of work on display. There is a huge range of venues now available for hire so don’t limit yourself to the town hall but find a place that suits your style, from underground vaults to a chic cocktail bar. The right setting will give your event the personality to help it stand out.
If you’re going down the open house route, think about how much of your home you’re prepared to open up; people love to see how artists work so your studio space is ideal but hallways, sitting rooms and even bedrooms can work as they help people see your art in different settings. Be practical (lock rooms, hide valuables and offer refreshments). And then it’s time to set about deciding how to display your work.
Basically you’ve got two options. Embrace your real home with any clutter that might entail or go all out and transform the space, removing furniture and painting walls. Both work, so choose the style that reflects you and your work best. However it’s worth remembering; you are creating an event so our recommendation is to spend some time thinking about what impression you want to create.
The entrance is important as you need to create the right impression from the start. Lighting is a simple but effective way of creating an atmosphere and can be changed as the event progresses to create a different ambience. Make sure your styling compliments your art; everything should be working together to tell the same story.
If you want to exhibit at a gallery then you’re going to need to put together a pitch proposal explaining the concept of the show, along with images to accompany the report. Be clear on the size of space you require, how flexible you are on dates as well as the theme of the exhibition.
Wherever you host your event, you’ll need to attend throughout it all (people love to meet the artist) and also keep an eye out to make sure no-one damages or even tries to steal the art. This can get tiring. So get some help. As the artist you need to be free to chat, so lean on friends to help out with the hospitality aspects.
Who Should You Invite
People are busy. They also say they’re going to attend (and to be fair, they usually they mean it) but if it’s raining and been a long day, well they don’t always turn up. So don’t be afraid to invite as many as you can. It really is the more the merrier as you want to create a buzz and atmosphere. Don’t underestimate the fear of missing out as part of the selling process so a busy event with a sense of excitement helps generate a desire to be part of something which can be achieved when you buy a beautiful piece of art direct from the artist.
Family and friends are a good place to start and will help with confidence. Then move on to the public. If you’re hosting your event at a venue, see if they’ll include you in any of their marketing activity. Promote your exhibition on social media. And promote it again. You’ll feel like you’re going on and on about it but if you want to be heard, then you’re going to need to shout. And if you don’t have your own newsletter this is probably a good time to start one. Building up a database of people that are engaged with you is invaluable for keeping in touch and building relations with anyone who has shown an interest in your work.
We all dream of the press attending and publishing a big two page glowing review but journalists get a lot of invitations so you’re going to need to stand out if you want them to attend. What you can your event offer that makes it compelling and is relevant to them? Is your event specific to a local area? Can you offer exclusive content or interviews? Once you’ve decided the angle put together a press release and don’t forget to include a clear call to action. Are you asking to be included in any listings, be interviewed for a feature or for a journalist to attend?
Whoever you’re inviting, use the invitation as a chance to set the scene. A beautiful invitation is where the event begins and is a great way to start generating that excitement that we mentioned earlier. This is your chance to grab attention and set the tone of what to expect. Keep it short and be specific and think carefully about the imagery, tone and colour. Print up flyers or posters and ask local shops, bars, cafes and art galleries to distribute them. Seek out fellow artists or bloggers and see if they might be prepared to promote your show.
Create an experience
To generate a buzz about your event you’ll need to do more than let the artwork speak for itself. Be prepared to meet your guests and make them feel welcome. The most important part of any event is that everyone enjoys it. Some sort of hospitality with fresh flowers is a given but think about how you can tailor the event to reflect your art. Think blinis vs bright bold doughnuts. And it should go without saying, that you’ll need to have some options for different dietaries. The way you display the food could be a great way to surprise and delight your guests, and create conversations and memories.
What else could you do to make the event an experience? Are you able to demonstrate your art? People love to take photographs and share them on social media so see if you can create some Instagram moments with beautiful styling or inviting performers such as musicians to help create an atmosphere. Encourage your guests to post on social media by having some prompts with your hashtag or account name dotted around. And don’t forget to engage and follow-up with those that posted.
Health, Safety & Legals
At the time of writing, in the UK, we’re just getting ready to reopen galleries and welcome guests to our homes. The guidelines for what’s required to host an event safely are understandably changing fast so it’s important that you keep up with any new announcements. You can do this by looking at the latest legislation published by the Government here. This will cover details on any social distancing, mixing between groups, face coverings and cleaning. It’s also important to make sure you’re guests feel comfortable and be sensitive to how different people feel about mixing again.
It’s also worth considering public liability. If you’re hosting an event at a venue, then they should be able to provide this for you but if you’re opening up your home then remember that this brings responsibilities. You can get find out more and get help with legal guidance on the A-n website here.
If you don’t want miss out on more event inspiration and news sign up here to our newsletter, Eventspiration.
It’s a bi-monthly summary about what’s happening in the events world including industry news, key trends & styling tips, venue profiles and interviews with event experts and helps event professionals stay ahead.