Tips for putting on a show in your house

HEWING WITTARE launched in 2017 during the E17 Art Trail where we opened our home to the public with a 3 artist exhibition which explored the theme of migration.

Below are some tips that you may wish to consider when putting on a show in your home for 2019’s art trail.

  • Timings - Consider the length of time it is going to take to put the show together and be as realistic as possible. It goes without saying that putting together a programme will really help you and the artists work together.

  • Budget - Set yourself a budget. We funded our first show ourselves and unfortunately didn’t have the budget to pay for anyone's time, however we didn’t want anyone to be out of pocket from being part of the exhibition. This meant we paid for all shipping of works, transporting artists to our space, returning the works, and all installation costs.

  • Press Release - Get this done as early as possible. Realistically you want to have a first draft completed 3 weeks before the opening of the show so you can use it to publicise and get people interested. It takes time to get all the information from the artists, write a good piece of text and then receive sign off from each artist. Then remember that printing out press releases takes a long time, especially with a domestic printer, so don’t leave it to the day before to print.

  • Clearing the Space - This takes time too, not only to clear the space of furniture, putting it in storage and giving the area a good clean, but also making sure you have a realistic time to curate the space properly. Try to give yourself a whole weekend to install all the works as inevitably you will want to move things around and change the hang a few times.

  • Lighting - Remember that if the artworks need good lighting that you consider this before you start the hang. Do you need additional lighting or perhaps lower lighting if it is a video piece.

  • Locks - We added locks (mortice bolt locks) to the doors of rooms that we didn’t want people to enter. This meant we could comfortably lock any valuables in these rooms and know that people wouldn’t confuse these rooms as part of exhibition. At times the exhibition was very busy and keeping certain rooms out of bounds gave us piece of mind.

  • Help - If you need help with the install then make sure you have got all hands on deck to support you, even if it’s someone who can make everyone a good cup of tea or pop out and grab last minute materials. Moral support and a second opinion is valuable.

  • Signs & Extras - We had a HEWING WITTARE estate agents style sign printed and pitched outside our house with some red bunting. This enabled people to find our place on the street easily and show we were open. We also printed posters with directions and hung them around the area (this takes time, so set yourself a morning to do it). Additionally we added glittery curtains throughout the space and Gold Foil Blankets to the living room floor. This added to the sensory experience of the space and changed the space simply from being an ordinary living room to a considered exhibition space.

  • Artist in Residence - You may wish to give your house over to an artist to respond directly to the space. One of the artists from our show spent the weekend in our property whilst we were away and she created a beautiful sound piece in the bathroom, which was then installed in the room and the audience were encouraged to sit in the bath to listen to the piece.

  • Media Pieces - Should your artists wish to have a sound or video work, then make sure you have discussed who is providing the materials to exhibitied them. Then make sure you understand how to turn on the works every day, write down the instructions and provide them to anyone who is opening the space if you are not around.

  • Set Your Boundaries - If anything is off limits or your artists have certain requirements then do get these all out in the open early on. Be open, honest and clear with each other so you don’t come across any surprises later on.

  • Openings - We had an invitation only private view as our space is so small and we wanted to provide an evening with 20 guests to show them the works, drink wine and discuss the exhibition together. It was in the evening when we were closed to the public and enabled people to attend after work.

  • Opening Times - Consider having the same opening times each day so it’s easy for people to understand and make sure they attend. As soon as you have odd times on different days it becomes confusing and you’ll have people turning up when you’re closed.

  • Brunch & Performances - During our show we had three performances and one workshop. We provided brunch for one of the performances where we had coffee kindly given by Perky Blenders and we bought fizz, pastries and fruit for guests to munch on. We found this encouraged people to stay, relax and enjoy the performance.

  • Sponsorship - If you want sponsorship eg. refreshments provided or printing completed, then get this in the bag early. Talk to local businesses and build a good relationship up. Make sure you understand what they require from you in terms of publicising their product.

  • Workshops - Putting on a workshop is a great way to give back to the community and get a group of people involved with the exhibition. Just make sure you publicise the event early so you get enough interest and get all the materials the artist needs to run the workshop successfully.

  • Social Media - Social media is obviously a vital tool to get people on board with your show, continue to promote it and let those who can’t attend see what it's all about. Get this set up as early as possible. However, once open to the public it is distracting to keep updating all your platforms so get your content lined up, saved in an email with text and images so you can quickly push it out during the day. When you are showing people around the exhibition you don’t want to be distracted by needing to post more content or miss doing it and having empty platforms by the end of the day. The more you have prepared beforehand the easier it will be to push it out during the show.

  • Artist Take Over - To help with your social media strategy ask one of your artists to do a ‘take over’ and look after your platforms for a day. Not only will it give your audience a different perspective on the show, but it will give you the freedom not to worry about the platforms for a day.

  • Flyer & Poster - For the Art Trail definitely flyer and poster the area to promote your show, it works really well. Especially give all your neighbours an invitation through their door and talk to people in the area.

  • Press Pack - Get this sorted early so you can promote the show to press. The pack should include a press release, info on each artist, images of the works, price list (if relevant) and social media details.

  • Contacts - Put together a list of people and businesses that you wish to contact in the lead up to the show. Start sending personal emails (not great big mass emails) 3 weeks before hand and invite people down. People tend to respond to personal emails and we had a lot of people make an effort to pop along off the back of this. So set aside a weekend to contact people and remember only mass email people who have registered interest to be on a mailing list.

  • Daily Set Up - Whether it is your house or another space that your are taking over then try to be on site every morning to help open up and set the scene, especially if there are media pieces or specialist lighting that need turning on.

  • Prices - We had a printed price list for our show, however, on reflection I would suggest putting prices on the walls next to the artworks. This will help give a clear indication of what is for sale.

  • Editions & Postcards - If a lot of your exhibited artworks are of high value, think about having some smaller editions and postcards available for people to buy at a lower price.

  • Online Selling Platform - Set up an online platform to guide people to so they can make a purchase in their own time.

  • Visitors Book - Provide a visitors book for people to leave their email address and welcome any suggestions, compliments, ideas, better ways to do it etc.

  • Know Your Show - Read everything there is to read on the artists, know all the work titles, how they are made, what they mean and make sure you feel confident to speak clearly about the show. This is a really exciting process, so get the audience excited about the works too and give them the opportunity to ask any questions they wish.

  • Coverage - Don’t forget to take lots of pictures and videos during the show, these will become vital for future promoting and funding.

Best of luck!