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Art show season is upon us! Spring art shows are simultaneously a deeply rewarding and infinitely stressful time of year for most art teachers. The typical school year is full of right-brained activities, focused on creativity and imagination. But, art show preparation requires a significantly different set of skills that are decidedly left-brained and organizationally focused.
How does an art teacher survive the cognitive shift art show preparations require?
In my experience, the success of an art show is often a function of the thoughtfulness and time put into pre-show preparations. As a result, I tend to start sorting and labeling artwork weeks (and sometimes months) ahead of the actual art show. But, the challenge with early preparation is that too much time passes, and you are faced with piles of art you can’t remember sorting! Which class is this? Is it a complete class set or is artwork missing? That pile was assembled almost three weeks and forty-five cups of coffee ago, so who knows?!
The advantage of a container system paired with a class artwork tracking form will be immediately apparent as you start to finally hang your show. You can tell with just a glance whose artwork is missing, what still needs to be labeled, and what is ready for immediate display.
My art show philosophy matches my teaching philosophy; all children are artists, so all children get honored at the art show by showing artwork equally. For me, this means my display features two artworks by every student, no exceptions.
But, “practicing what I preach” is not without its challenges. Committing to that volume of artwork creates a lot of issues for me. Mainly, instances where someone could potentially be forgotten.
These factors all result in a long list of students who don’t have completed artwork in the above-mentioned boxes and are at risk for being forgotten in the crazy shuffle that occurs when getting a show ready. I keep track of each of these instances on a single form. You can download your free copy below. I keep a stack of these forms on a clipboard next to my laptop, so I can individually address everyone as the art show nears.
Your art show is the single most crucial advocacy event of the year, so don’t deny other people the chance to be involved in a project they might become passionate about! Arts education is essential, and your community knows it… so reach out for help!
In my experience, a critical factor in gaining volunteers is asking for a very defined and limited contribution. Requesting an open-ended commitment like, “Can you come help hang the art show?” usually results in only a handful of highly dedicated participants because people don’t have a clear sense of what they are getting themselves into.
In contrast, asking for a specific (and short) period of time seems to gather a much more substantial base of helpers. This year, I asked my staff for 25 minutes of help, directly after school the day of the art show. I was shocked when more than 17 teachers signed up to assist, and an art show of over 1000 masterpieces was put up in less than half an hour.
Finally, the last strategy for organizing the art show is to color code as many aspects as possible. A color-coded system will help you organize as you assemble the show and will also help your viewers navigate the art show efficiently.
Finally, after implementing these tips and strategies, don’t forget to stop and enjoy the process. Take a breath and appreciate how beautiful and significant it is that we live in a culture where children’s art is celebrated in such a big way!
What do you do to add sanity to the art show process?
What tips do you have for organizing your show?
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.