I had an art show at the hospital in Kearney, Nebraska. It was a great experience, and I am glad I was given that unique opportunity. One of my friends worked at the hospital and took me to the “Walkway Gallery” and I thought it was perfect. It was a long hallway with nice soft lighting with art on both sides. At the end of the hallway the artist’s name was up in large letters. It was very inviting. The hospital has a gallery to help patients and family be able to get their mind off their troubles for a while.
Here are a few things I learned about having an art exhibit for the first time:
1) It is expensive to have an exhibit.
You need to figure in printing costs as well as marketing costs. I had business cards printed. I also designed a marketing postcard to send out to local car dealerships and businesses so they would be aware there would be large car photos for sale. The hospital required that I use plexiglass (which is expensive and scratches easily). In the end, I spent around $2,000.
I printed most of my photos on metallic paper, and used acid free matting. I tried to cut costs on the framing by refinishing some used frames as well as buying frames at Hobby Lobby when they have their half price sale. So, I was trying to be conservative, but it was still really expensive. I had 24 prints for sale in the show. So, don’t be surprised if your show costs more than you anticipated.
2) Have your glass or plexiglass cut to the exact size.
I also had a glass-cutting place cut my plexiglass. They cut one that was too big. So, they tried to sand it down so it would fit the frame. When I got the plexiglass it was dinged up (which didn’t work for an art show). So, that was a bit of a learning experience.
I thought they did some cutting for other artists, so they would know it shouldn’t be that exact size. So, since I said I wanted plexi for a 16″ by 20″ frame they didn’t automatically assume that needs to be a little bit smaller than 16″ by 20″ to fit. So, if you go to a glass cutting place that isn’t used to doing art exhibits for people you will want to tell them the EXACT size…such as 15.75″ by 19.75″ so they don’t cut it too big.
3) Decide if you need to charge sales tax.
If the buyers are in-state, you are supposed to be charging sales tax. (If you sell photos online through an online web store like Etsy, sales tax will already be figured in if they order through the site.)
4) Calibrate your monitor, and adjust as needed.
If you don’t calibrate your monitor your prints will probably come out darker than you anticipate. I recently bought a Sypder 3 Express monitor calibration software. After I calibrated my monitor, the final result was my monitor looked a little lighter and brighter.
However, even AFTER using the calibrator, my prints were printing a little bit darker than what was acceptable. The way I solve this issue is I open up my photos in Photoshop. Then I move the middle slighter in the levels dialogue box about .35-.50 to the left. Then the prints come out great.
My favorite lab to use is Mpix. However, for some of my large prints I would print at Nations Photo Lab when they have sales on large prints.Some of my canvas prints, I printed at Redipix.com. I printed one of my prints on aluminum from Bay Photo lab. It turned out okay.
5) Metallic prints are hard to keep flat.
If you have small metallic prints, it is no big deal. If you have a 24″ by 36″ print…you may have waves in your print when you try to frame them. I used spray glue to mount the metallic prints to foam core. I was kind of stressed about the whole situation.
In retrospect, I would have printed the large prints on Kodak Endura (regular professional) paper and had the lab dry mount them to matte board. I wouldn’t do the spray glue process again. That was tough. My local Hobby Lobby would not dry mount metallic prints. However, you can dry mount prints on regular paper. My view of large metallic prints are they are very pretty, but they are a huge headache when it comes time to frame them, because they have a mind of their own.
6) Make sure the prices are affixed to the prints.
One of the problems of my show was the prices were not on the prints. I think they were trying to be “classy” and just keep the prices on the brochure. It was a nice idea in theory. They probably wanted people to feel relaxed and not have any form of “sticker shock” or something. However, often times I am not sure people even saw the brochure that was off on a counter around a small, partial wall.
However, some people were seeing the brochure, but I would go to the exhibit and sometimes they were out of brochures. So I tried to solve the problem by printing a price list and have it a frame sitting up on the counter.
Ideally, it would be best if you would exhibit at a place where the prices are clearly known and people know how to purchase the prints. After you put a lot of work into a show and spend a couple of thousand dollars, you really hope that some of your prints will sell to at least offset the cost of some of the prints. If I were to do the show again, I would liked to have set up an artist’s easel at the end of the gallery with the price list and the brochures in a more visible place.
7) Do your homework in regards to shipping if someone wants to buy a print after the show.
Another rookie mistake I made was making a deal with a lady online after she saw my exhibit. She wanted one printed (not the framed one in the show). I told her it would be best if she dry mounts the print so she doesn’t have “waves” in it. (I didn’t want her to experience the “joy” of dealing with unmounted, large metallic prints).
So, later on I realized that significantly “upped” the cost involved. Then when I went to ship the print, since the print was so large, the cost was so much higher. So, I hadn’t done my homework on “dry mounting” and shipping oversized prints. So make sure and get a good idea of the cost of shipping large prints before you quote the customer a price. Those large prints you will want to ship via UPS and not USPS, because UPS will be cheaper if the prints are really large. (Also, I would insure any large prints that you ship.)
If you have are given the opportunity to have an exhibit, I suggest you go for it. There are some really fun perks to it. The beauty of an art show is people see your artwork at full size. They aren’t looking at a image that is four inches wide on their computer screen. They get to see 24″ by 36″ prints in all of their glory. An art show also gives you a little bit of “celebrity.” People who meet you for the first time may recognize your name and say something to you to the effect… “Are you the person who took those pictures at that gallery?”
If you have any questions regarding having an art exhibit, feel free to contact me.