Individuals and organizations are making plans for art exhibits in anticipation of greatly reduced covid infections. This article outlines the steps in planning a successful art exhibit by a major art organization. But the elements in this outline are useful to individual artists in planning a smaller exhibit.
I am planning to participate in an annual artist studio tour. For me this will take place outdoors and in my open garage. I live in a part of the United States, Sacramento, California, that currently has a low covid infection rate. It has moderate to very warm temperatures in the summer and cools a little bit in the fall. An artist studio tour is sponsored annually by the Verge Center for the Arts. It is planned for September 11 and 12 in my area of Sacramento. And set for the following weekend in another area of Sacramento. There is a significant cost to participate. Some artists do not make a profit off this exhibit. I profited greatly when I participated three years ago. There is a chance that I will not profit if art shoppers stay home due to covid concerns. As such, I may decide not to register this year and wait until next year.
1. Publicity. The Verge publishes an extensive booklet with details about each artist and event. They have details on their website. And they have lawn signs that the artist can put out so that neighbors are informed, and visitors can ensure they are at the right place. This year, the Verge will be presenting virtual tours of all artists’ studios and interview artists who register for the event. I will also publicize the event via my email list, social media, and via news releases to local newspapers. The local newspapers have been very generous and covering by prior art exhibits.
2. Participating artists. In the past, I have invited other artists in my neighborhood to participate in this tour but have not received any interest. This is possibly because my neighborhood is a little far out from the main part of the event which is downtown Sacramento. Also, several neighbors got together some years back to hold a group or exhibit/sale but were not successful. Sacramento had extremely hot weather the weekend of the event.
3. Where to exhibit. At this point I believe that some artists plan to invite the public into their studio. Others are only considering exhibiting outdoors. Still others will only do the virtual tour. Some artists will set up art exhibits jointly. And other artists will rent studio space just for the tour.
4. Safety precautions. Although for any exhibit there are safety considerations like making sure steps are marked, tripping hazards are out of the way, dogs are kept inside, etc. However, this year there will be a large emphasis on sanitation. For instance, I will put out sanitizer at several locations of my exhibit, in addition to putting out paper towels and a waste container. Furthermore, I will ask that attendees wear masks via posting signage.
5. Food and beverages (Optional). I may have small packages of potato chips, cold water in disposable containers (packed in ice). Other beverages will be served in disposable cups. Servers will wear gloves and a mask.
6. Restroom facilities. This may not be a concern for those showing out of a studio located in a larger center where bathroom facilities are open. And it has never really been a request by a customer of mine. However, there is always the possibility of an emergency. The artist needs to be prepared. I have a downstairs restroom that I can let the public use. It of course will be cleared of everything with only soap and toilet tissue available. It will be sanitized and re-sanitized. The person using the restroom will be shown to the bathroom through the house and someone will wait for them to get out of the bathroom to show them back outside.
7. Who to invite. As I mentioned previously, the Verge will publicize the event and I will also publicize the event to the public. However, if you were only having a small exhibit you may want to only invite your family and friends; or open it up by using the same methods of publicity discussed in the “Publicity” section.
8. How to invite. Again, this is discussed in the “Publicity” section. For smaller exhibits, personally inviting family, friends, and neighbors in person or via telephone is immensely powerful.
9. How to take payments. Of course, cash is always great. I believe the possibility of counterfeit money is farfetched. But it is your decision to use a counterfeit testing pen. Remember to use gloves when handling cash or at least sanitize your hands afterwards. Checks are risky unless you trust the buyer. Keep your cash and checks in a safe place. You can take partial payments but be sure to hold on to the art until it is paid for in full. This is a quite common practice. If you can take credit cards over the smart phone or iPad that will work very well too (using a square). If you have online shops, you can prelist your items on those shops and the buyer can use their credit card to buy via their smart phone, an iPad, or computer. There are other services like Venmo. In the end, the seller needs to be comfortable with the type of payment. Be sure to give a detailed receipt, and if possible, a certificate of authenticity if you are selling limited-edition art (California Law).
10. Photo/video documentation. It is very worthwhile today to document all your events photographically, and in video if possible. Many exhibiting artists will perform demonstrations during the exhibit. It is great to be able to post these photos and videos (not children) online and share them with the customers for their own records and to thank them. These photos make great publicity images too. I am pictured here on this blog demonstrating printmaking with my smaller press and a few attendees. When selling an original piece of art, it is desirable to take a photo of the artist, art being sold, and customer together.
11. Clean up. Regardless of the pandemic it is always smart to wear gloves when cleaning up and use a little bit of sanitized water to wipe things down. Sanitize any serving items. This would include tables, chairs, art frames, and bathrooms.