Physical Space

How to Make a Rotating Art Gallery

Image of Art Award

Have you ever wanted to start a legacy project that highlights the extraordinary work of your students? Do you find yourself stressing over covering every bare inch of wall space in your school? Are you looking for ways to advocate for your art program? Creating a rotating framed art gallery can be the perfect solution!

Image of student artwork on display

Here’s how it works in 4 simple steps:

1. Scope out space.

Remember, It’s okay to start small. Perhaps the first year you frame art, it’s simply an exhibit in the main office or your classroom. Then, you can branch out to different areas of the school over time. The most difficult part is the start.


2. Seek permission from your administration.

Go to your principal with a plan. Explain that you would select a certain number of artworks each year to frame. Be clear about location and the artwork selection process. Your administrator might even like to be a part of the process! You could have a “Principal’s Choice” piece selected to hang in his or her office. When the student leaves the school, the student would eventually get to take home their framed artwork. For example, if you teach at a K-5 school and a student receives their artwork framed at the end of their 3rd-grade year, their artwork would be on display while they are in 4th grade and 5th grade. Then, the artwork would be given to them at the end of their 5th-grade year.

Looking for more ways to display artwork? Check out: 4 Innovative Ways to Display Your Students’ Work4 Reasons to Create a Principal’s Gallery This Year, and The Best Way to Fill Your Display Cases.

3. Select artwork and purchase frames.

Once you have decided how much artwork you can frame for your school, it’s time to make the display. Be thoughtful about how many artworks from each grade level are chosen. Also worth considering are factors like gender and socio-economic status of students. For example, choosing artwork only by female students may not represent your school’s population. As for making the artwork look professional, a frame with glass is an attractive option. There are many places you can choose to get your artwork framed. Check with a local frame shop to see if they will cut you a deal on bulk frames. Also, consider buying common size frames from a craft store or comparing prices online. Any of these options could be a good fit.

As always, each school district will have varying degrees of financial support. Here are some places to look for increased funding:

  • Ask school organizations such as PTO for support.
  • Use art fundraiser money.
  • Order in bulk online.
  • Use a display fundraiser like Artomé.
  • Partner with a local frame shop.
  • Call parents/guardians and ask to fund all or a portion of their student’s frame.
  • Ask the high school woodworking class to make frames using wood and plexiglass.

Student Artwork on Display

4. Celebrate your new rotating gallery!

For the most part, a few select artworks will be chosen out of thousands. It is important to celebrate this achievement. This can be done at an end of the year assembly where students whose artworks are “retired” can be returned to them. Then, new artwork can be highlighted. It is most exciting when everything can remain a surprise. Consider giving a special, handmade art award (handmade ribbon, certificate, paintbrush award, etc.) for students to take home instead of their framed art. If you decide to present framed art at an end of the year assembly, consider inviting families of framed art recipients to see their student receive the honor. The sense of pride on students’ faces as they realize their artwork will be on display, or they finally get to take their artwork home is so rewarding.

Image of Art Award

5. Don’t forget the final details.

Remember to track which students you select each year so you can spread the love. There are so many talented artists in our schools who would benefit from this kind of recognition. Not to mention, this is an obvious advocacy tool for your art department when people see framed art right when they walk through the front doors.

Instead of those drab, blank walls, imagine stunning art from students hanging in the halls, no matter the time of year. It is beautifully framed and labeled neatly. It’s hung around every corner, in the principal’s office, in the staff lounge, and in the library. Now, imagine each year, new artwork is selected and rotated out, so your framed art collection stays fresh and exciting. Go ahead, try this new type of legacy project—it is truly exciting and ever-changing!

What legacy projects do you incorporate at your school?

How do you instill a sense of pride in student artwork?

How do you envision starting a framed art program?

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.


Sarah Krajewski

Sarah Krajewski, an elementary school art educator, is AOEU’s Social Media Content Creator and a former AOEU Writer.

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