Toolkit for organising a brilliant student art show!

1. Decide on a theme (if required) and a name for your show

For our show Create Connect Converge we had a unifying theme that we all worked towards, which also meant that we created work specifically for the show.  A brainstorming session with visiting speaker, Mel Jordan from the RCA, helped to generate some ideas.

Failing that you could try this:

2. Venue

The space where you have your exhibition can be anywhere. It doesn’t have to be in a square gallery with white walls.  It could be a coffee shop, on a bus, in an airport, in your house – the possibilities are endless.

3. Money, money, money

Fundraising is a key function of the show’s organisation and preparation.  You can do this in various ways including sponsorship from local businesses and organisations, cake sales, gigs and so on. To get started quickly on this, getting a contribution from everyone of a small amount like a fiver will buy some marketing materials like posters and postcards.

4. Make a Facebook event and discussion group

Create a Facebook event as soon as you have decided on the name, date and time of the show. The venue and images can always be added later. And invite everyone you can to the show’s preview night.

Invites need to go out ASAP in order to get that date in everyone’s diaries! An electronic version of the poster or postcard invite is mandatory.

Facebook was very useful as a communication tool and also as a record of the show’s development. It is essential to communicate freely, but bear in mind that it is important to be respectful of each other.  Arguing is a big time waster!

5. Publicity

If you want to distribute marketing material outside of the university, postcards rather than posters, seemed to be preferred by the NN Gallery, Northampton Museum and other local businesses/institutions. You will also need to decide on quantities.  We ordered about 500 postcards and 100 A3 posters.

Press release – who, what, where, when and why?

Keep it concise, free of jargon and make it pop!  This can be forwarded to the university’s marketing department, which means that it will go to all the university’s press contacts and the news feed on the website. If the press are interested they will call you, so make sure you have a contact name, number and email address of a suitable person who is enthusiastic about the show in the Notes to Editors.  You can get a template for the press release from the marketing department. 

If you use the university logo on any marketing material then you will need to have it approved by the university’s marketing department, as it is also important to protect the university’s corporate identity. This is what happens in most businesses and organisations.

6. Create a blog

Our tumblr blog was created so everyone could track the progress of the show.  It is best to keep it updated regularly with blog entries to keep it fresh. Everyone should be able to access it and upload images.

7. Plan your show’s opening and get a YBA to come along if you can

Refreshments: keep it simple – red, white, OJ, water and crisps.

One of the university’s Articulation talks was arranged for the same night as the preview for our show. This could have been a disaster, but we seized the opportunity to get YBA Gavin Turk to come to our show after his talk!

8. Post show and data capture

Think about sending selected guests, curators and other contacts something post show like a CD ROM of the show’s catalogue, for example.

A good quality visitor’s book will have columns for names and addresses, but you could also make postcards for people to fill out and leave behind in a box. This will give you a database of names and addresses of people who are interested in the arts in your local area that you can use for future events.

9. And finally…. Good luck!

Gavin Turk getting stuck into the Hive!

Gavin Turk getting stuck into the Hive


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