Putting together an art show is a lot of work.
This year will mark my third art show at my current school and my seventh art show in my twelve years as a teacher.
I have learned a few things over the years, especially the last three.
For the last three years, my coworker and I have taken on the massive task of putting on a district wide art show in which we include at least one piece of artwork from every kindergarten through twelfth grade student who takes art in our district. This means we select, prep, hang, display and eventually take down nearly 1200 pieces of artwork.
I told you it was a lot of work! But we have learned some things over the years that can make this task much easier and a whole lot less stressful.
Here are 6 secrets for installing a successful art show:
Student portfolios are essential. All of the students in our district keep an art portfolio. As the year progresses students add artwork to their portfolio. Once art show season rolls around they can easily pull out their portfolio and select their best work for display.
In our school, each student typically selects his/her own work to display.
- Simple Labels
Three years ago we thought it would be great to list each child’s name, the title of their piece, the medium they used and their grade level on each label. Trust us, that gets old after filling out 100 labels let alone 1200. This year we simplified it to name, grade and medium. Next year, we will probably just do name and grade.
- Glue Dots
I am not getting paid to promote glue dots and that’s fine by me. They are still a life saver and the best discovery I have made when it comes to prepping for an art show.
The first year we attached artwork to the background paper using masking tape. After we rolled 67,810,034,789,182,349,104 loops of masking tape, I was rolling masking tape in my
dreamsnightmares for weeks. Not only that, the masking tape was fickle and for the week that our show was installed, we spent most of our free time running around and adding extra masking tape to hold pieces to the wall.
Last year we discovered Glue Dots. This little miracle was not only a life saver but a time and sanity saver as well. Instead of rolling and taping each art work as we went, we could pre-stick all of our artwork. By just removing one side of the protective strip we could stick the dots on each corner of the artwork. Then all we have to do on the set-up day is peel of the top protective layer and stick. The dots are super strong and re-sticking artwork was almost non-existent.
The best part is that I had my students put glue dots on their own artwork as they selected it. All my artworks were ready to go well over a week before the art show set-up date!
- Good Helpers
I love to get students involved. Sure I could do all of the work myself. I could beg coworkers and family members to come help me set up. I could activate the PTO. But honestly, the best workers are the students themselves. While I do write out the labels just to ensure uniform, readable handwriting; the students attach all of the labels and the glue dots to the artwork. I help out some, but the majority is done by the kids.
On the day of the art show set-up (which is an all day affair) we select a handful of responsible high school students to be our assistants. They get to get out of class for a day, we treat them to pizza lunch, and we spend the day installing the show. The feel responsible and special and it is a lot of fun. They realize they are a part of something big and it feels good.
- Promote and Invite
We try to tell everyone about the art show in the weeks leading up to it. We shout it out on social media and send notes home with the kids. We put it on the daily announcements. We even mail handwritten invitations to the school board and district administration. The more you share it, the more people are likely to show up. And that’s the goal right!?
Yeah, I know that’s easier said than done. Things will go wrong. The superintendents grand-kid’s artwork will go missing. An entire wall of your display will come crashing down. Artwork will fall off the wall and plummet behind the wall-mounted library shelves. Some elementary kid will steal a matchbox car that was glued to a high school students project. Things can and will go wrong. The trick is to look at the big picture and realize the magnitude of what you did complete and not “sweat the small stuff” as they say.
Have you ever set up an art show? What advice do you have? Please share in the comments!