How to Prep for Art Shows Without Losing Sleep

Springtime is art show time, and it seems most teachers participate in some type of art show. Some have school-wide shows with themes and a piece of artwork from every student. Some have major competitions with students working on specific pieces for weeks.

My students have artwork in 4 different shows. The first show up is the city-wide all school show. Then it is the Youth Art Month show at the State Capital.  Next, is the K-12 NPS show at Norfolk’s Art Center. Finally, it is the ESU 8 show in Neligh. Every show has different deadlines and requirements. Keeping it all straight can be overwhelming.
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After spending many LATE nights going through hundreds of projects trying to find “that one” for an art show, I have figured out a few things that make participating in multiple art shows a little easier.

Here’s how to prep for art shows without losing sleep.

1. Save Artwork
When I grade projects, I save about 15-20% of the projects to photograph and upload to Artsonia. These are also the projects that I display in the hallway. Before I prepare my hallway display, I take the top 10-12 pieces and store them in my art show box.

art show 1
2. Save Rules and Regulations
I have a designated folder for art show information. As soon as that information comes in, it goes into the folder. It makes it so much easier to keep all of the different rules and regulations straight. Some shows want hanging tabs, some do not. Some shows want certain types of tags or certain information on the tags. This folder keeps me sane!
3. Sort Artwork by Show
When February hits and the art show season starts to heat up, I put two tables together, set out a sign for each show and start sorting. You will want to think about the unique characteristics and “feel” of each show while you sort. For example, I send my best pieces to the YAM show and send a variety to the All City Show because the judging is hit or miss.

art show 2
4. Check Names
Each teacher has different opinions, but I will only send one image, per student, per show. Hypothetically, a student could be in all 4 shows, but he or she would have one piece in each show. I use a spreadsheet like the example below to help keep track of everything.

art show checklist
5. Attack all the Mats at Once
Presentation is so important when it comes to art shows. Regardless of which show I am sending work to, each piece is matted neatly and bordered with a colored paper.  Since I do them all the same way, I precut a lot of the mats and work on getting all of the pieces matted at the same time.

art show 3
6. Store the Show
After I have pieces ready to go, I store them by show. When the time comes to mail off the artwork or deliver it, I don’t have to search all over for it.
7. Relax
You have the hard work done. Now you can continue on with your grading, lesson planning, room cleaning, hallway displaying, technology integration, and more!
Regardless of how you choose to do your art show or how many art shows your students participate in, remember that the art show is the equivalent of our music concert or state tournament. The art show is the opportunity for your students to show what they have accomplished. The students will appreciate all the work you put into showcasing their creations.

What is your favorite part of art show season?

What tricks do you have for making your art show prep easier?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jennifer Carlisle

Jennifer Carlisle, a middle school art educator, is a former AOEU Writer. She loves exploring and teaching art through both traditional and digital art mediums.

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