Senior Seminar
fine arts/art education/art therapy

The Exhibition


Preparing for an Exhibit

Exhibit Checklist | Selecting Works | Marketing | Framing, Matting & Bases | Receptions | Documenting | Arranging Works | Hanging Works |

Gallery/Exhibit Schedule

Whenever you are planning an exhibit, you've got to plan a long way ahead...and then plan backwards.
Establish the date of the show's opening, and then plan backwards.

Your exhibit planning includes:

Develop your exhibit concept, vision and goals. Just what kind of a viewer experience are you creating?
What needs to be done? Identify all of the tasks that need to be completed in order to make your vision a reality.
What order? Figure out the sequence that tasks need to be completed in. Some tasks depend on others being completed first.
How much time? Figure out how long each task is likely to take. Be both realistic and generous in your estimates.
How much money? Assess costs of completing the tasks (and artworks and the exhibit).
Plan your calendar backwards. Line up all the tasks to see what needs to be done by when — schedule your tasks.
Plan and commit time each day to get it done. Figure our what hours today, tomorrow, and this week are dedicated to fulfillng this dream.
Hold yourself accountable. Keep track of whether you are on schedule - at least once a week, compare your actions with your plans.

Give yourself a schedule of tasks and deadlines along the way  — it is far better to deal with many manageable tasks than to be faced with the one, sole, daunting "task" of "put on a show."
Break it down into bite-size pieces and figure out when to bite into each one...spread it out.

Dates for our semester's exhibit preps

Exhibit Planning and Implementation Topics

Task Key Questions to Ask When to work on this? Deadline

Set the Date, Gallery & Partners

When will the show open?
When do you have access to the gallery to prep and hang the show?
Which gallery will you be in?
Will you be sharing the gallery? If so, with who? If so, will you isolate each artist's works, or intermingle works?

Get this info as soon as you can so that you can start to envision and plan your exhibit.
— at least 8 weeks before... preferably earlier.
-10 weeks

The Grand Concept

An exhibit is a work of art.
Think of it that way.
Conceive your exhbition as a creative-expressive experience for your viewers in the same way that you consider an individual artwork.
You may have a message or a theme that unifies the works.
You may have a look, feel, style or attitude expressed by how works are arranged along with lighting, signage or other elements in the space.
Are there key artworks that the exhibit centers on?
Take time in your sketchbook to brainstorm, envision and develop your exhibit concept.

Now if you've not already started.

Have a section in your sketchbook where you keep notes on exhibits you see in person, on line, etc. Store up your best ideas.
Gradually add to, refine and clarify your ideas and your vision.

-9 weeks
(9 months is better)

Timeline for Show Prep

Develop a week-by-week plan for getting ready for the exhibit. Break the tasks down into doable pieces.
Get as much done early as possible.
  -9 weeks


Count the costs. Identify where you will be spending money.
Explore ways to save costs.
If its a group show, identify who is responsible for what expenses (and tasks).
  -9 weeks

Assess Gallery Resources

Find out what supplies and equipment will be available for your use in the gallery.
Walls? Bases? Glass cases?
Repair/Cleaning Supplies: paint, spackle, brooms, etc.
Ladder (to adjust lights or hang tall works)
Hammer, nails, screws for hanging. Levels.
Reception facilities? (kitchen, fridge, tables, etc.)
  -9 weeks

Select the Artworks

Begin early considering which works you want to exhibit.
Consider what works you have underway or planned that you want to include in the show.
Look for any "holes" or weak areas that you'd like to improve.
Arrange to reaquire any works that have been given, loaned or sold.
Consider whether you have major "magnet" works that draw viewers in -- key works that you know they will be drawn to, and intend for them to remember.
Assess completed works.
Assess works yet to complete.
Outline/plan dates for completions
-8 weeks


How will you tell others about the exhibit?
Traditional basics include invitations and a show poster and gallery sign.
What social media channels might you use? Plan to use at least one, and likely several. Plan your approach.
Consider campus radio announcements.
Consider an announcement in the school paper or the local paper. You might prepare a short press release to distribute to each paper serving your area.
Consider an announcement to members of any club or organizations that you are involved with.

Explore options early so you get everything arranged in time to submit, print and distribute, or upload your content.
Be sure you have a clear timeline for your marketing steps -- don't let this fall behind.
- 6 weeks


If you are responsible for the reception (rather than, say the gallery owner or dealer)...
When will you have a reception? What day? What time? (start & close)
What food, drinks, decorations, tableware, glasses, etc. will be needed?
Is access to the kitchen arranged? (just off the main foyer)
Where might you serve food? (foyer or gallery?)
Who can help prepare food, set up, serve and replenish food/drinks, and help clean up? Arrange help.
Plan your budget and shopping list.
Traditionally, the first day of the exhibit is popular. However, any early date during the exhibit will do.
Consider who you might have traveling to see your exhibit. Try to balance their schedule with dates/times that students and faculty can conveniently come.

Initial Planning: 4 weeks before
Get familiar with lobby and kitchen.

Final Plans, Purchases & Arrangments: 1 week before

Set up: 1- 2Hrs before reception. (depends on how much hot/cold/cooked goodies)

- 4 weeks


-2 hrs

Invitation List

Who do you want to send an invitation to?
Consider those you can't easily contact without a personal, direct invitation.
Also, consider that a formal invitation is a special honor — you send to people that you would really like to come.
Collect the names:
Get the mailing addresses and/or Campus Mail addresses.
Get email addresses.
If mailing printed invitations, estimate costs.
- 4 weeks


Design the invitation. Explore alternatives.
Plan, schedule the printing, estimate costs.
Get it printed. (assume 1-2 weeks for printing, though quicker is possible)
  -4 weeks


Consider where signs might be placed outside the gallery (in the foyer and outside the Art Building).
Consider bulletin boards on campus or at coffee shops or at other galleries, community centers or arts groups.
Design, execute and print your poster. Include essential info. Express the character of the show.

Works/Price List
(Exhibit Program)

It is helpful to have an information sheet or booklet available at the gallery. This may have information about the artists and their works, and it may include pricing/purchase information on the works.
Many viewers want to know what is for sale, and for how much. Answer that for them.
Get initial draft laid out early, but expect to wait until shortly before the exhibit for final details. -3 weeks


In the exhibit, each artwork should be easily idenified by its label, usually mounted on the gallery wall near the artwork.

Note: if multiple exhibitors are presenting in the same space, labels must make it clear which artist created the work.

Consider an introduction to each artist that is exhibiting — it may be on single printed sheet, in a brochure, in the exhibit Program, or it may be a sort of small poster mounted near the entrance, or near the artist's work.
Consider a photo(s) of the artists, essential biographical info, and an artist's statement.

Work on these while doing your works/price list ... they involve much of the same info. -3 weeks

Matting, Framing & Bases

Every artwork needs to be ready to hang or present.
Most works need a frame and hanging hardware. Many will need a matt and/or glass.
This takes time, planning and usually skill and/or money.
Plan the presentation issues with each work you'll be exhibiting. Estimate the cost and the time involved.

Videos on Matting & Framing:

Mat Cutting | Mat Cutting |
Mounting Photos on Acrylic | Mounting Photos/Prints with Spray Adhesive |
Mounting Large Format Prints | w.Roller | Vehicle Wrap |


Artist's Statement

Write a statement about your goals or motivations for the works in the exhibit. Help your viewers comprehend and appreciate your works.

Note that you might write a background statement for each of the works you're exhibiting as well. This certainly isn't required, but is appropriate for some works and is much appreciated by visitors.


Usually there is a guest book near the entrance of the exhibit. You can use a standard, purchased guest book or you can create a more personal and/or interactive guest-response opportunity.    

Gallery Prep

The gallery may need cleaning.
Walls may need to spackled and touched up with paint. (this should be done by the prior exhibitor...but be prepared to spend time getting the gallery ready to hang the show.)
Just before you bring artwork into the gallery, usually just after you get access to the gallery.  

Arranging the artworks and gallery

You'll need to distribute your artwork through the gallery and compose the space for best effect.
You may want to add temporary walls or shelves (which are in storage) and rearrange any benches or other features.
Just after cleaning.  

Hang the Show

Figure out where works will go...
Does any particular sequence matter?
Should works be grouped in any particular way?
How should they be arranged... at the same height... stacked?

Consider laying out works along the floor before hanging to better previsualize how works might hang.

What tools and supplies do you need?
Nails? Screws? Hooks? Wire? Hammer? Screwdriver? A laser level?

usually 24 to 48 hours before opening.  

Adjust Lighting

Gallery lighting is critical to the success of many works.
Develop adequate illumination for all works. Build more intense illumination where needed. Work to avoid harsh shadows. Be careful of lights that are blocked by viewers who stand in typical viewing positions -- walk around the gallery and note when strong cast shadows distrupt..
After hanging works; a few hours before opening.  

Mount Labels

Hang any labels, artist's statement or other materials that will be a part of the show. After hanging works.  

Post-Hanging Clean-up

After you've got everything hung, mounted, positioned and adjusted. Do a quick sweep and pickup of remnants from all that work. Eliminate anything that might distract a viewer. Do this just before opening the exhibit... you're almost there!  

Get yourself ready for the Reception

Plan a bit of time to clean up, relax, and just savor the moment.
Look over the gallery. Get ready to smile for your guests.

Reception Cleanup

Look over the rules for use of the kitchen. Get it back into good order. After your reception ends. Plan a friend or two to handle clean up, if possible.  

Photograph all artworks

Do I have good quality, high resolution digital images of every work in the exhibit?
If not, get them now while your works are gathered and in ideal condition.
This is essential for building and maintaining your portfolio, which is essential for getting subsequent work.
May be done before hanging works, but might also be done while the exhibit is open. This is best done after hours, when the gallery is closed to visitors.  

Photograph and/or video the exhibit space itself.

While your work is clean, presented well and mounted for viewing, take images and video of your work and of the gallery exhibit as a whole.

Consider social media.
Shoot and edit, say, a 90-second "welcome to my exhibit" video that introduces potential visitors to your exhibit.

Get some shots/footage during opening.
Get shots/footage when gallery is empty.

Check the gallery

Each day the exhibit is open, someone needs to check and see that everything is as it should be. Sometime works get bumped or smudged or labels fall off. At an art gallery, the dealer and staff will do that -- in a university gallery, its a good idea to check on your own exhibit.
Early each day, do a quick walkthrough.

Take Down exhibit

Take all the work down.
Have a plan and materials, for safely moving and/or storing your works.
Plan arrangements for delivering purchased works.
Arrange help.

Repair/Clean the Gallery

Fill/spackle nail holes. Scrap spackle level. Let it dry, then sand it smooth. (if the gallery does not provide these services.)

Paint walls as needed. (often the spackle is discreet enough to not require painting, but larger repairs will need to be painted.)

Put bases and walls back in gallery storage.
Task Key Questions to Ask When to work on this? Deadline


Harding Art Gallery Policies and Practices

Access & Keys

Preparations & Setting Up

Reception & Kitchen Use

Take Down & Clean Up



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Greg Clayton
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