Art shows are wonderful. Art shows are also terrible. They are wonderful because they celebrate the hard work of you and your students. They are terrible because they take time and cause stress. They became an expectation of the art teacher profession many years ago, but have you stopped to evaluate whether they are still necessary? If you are wondering if the negatives outweigh the positives, you are not alone.
Let’s evaluate five reasons why you should have an art show and five reasons why you shouldn’t.
Here are five reasons why you should have an art show.
There are many reasons why art shows have remained a staple of art programs for years. If you are considering giving them up, understand that there are benefits you must be willing to part with.
1. They promote your program.
How much do administrators and parents know about what goes on in the art room? Do they think art is all about finger painting or making pretty things? Art shows are a way to promote what goes on in the curriculum. If you include data visualizations in your art shows, the event will allow stakeholders to see wonderful polished artwork and evidence of student growth. You already have the attention of your visitors. Use it to promote all of the wonderful things that happen in art class, and advocate for what will make it even better!
2. It shows students their art has value.
An art show makes students feel special. It shows them their artwork has more value than just hanging on the refrigerator for only their parents to enjoy. It’s worth a whole event full of adults and peers alike who enjoy looking at their art. It also feels like a celebration, honoring the students for their hard work.
3. It acts as a fundraiser for the art department.
What better opportunity to make money for your department? Have students sell their crafts, snacks, or raffle tickets to make money to promote even more artmaking in the future. Visitors are more likely to support your program financially when they see the pride that students have in their artwork. Even if you choose not to turn your art show into a fundraiser, it still shows stakeholders the value of the art department. They will likely be more willing to donate money or supplies in the future. If you are looking for alternative ways to fundraise, check out our Fundraising at the Secondary Level Pack in PRO Learning!
4. It’s a networking opportunity.
Invite community members outside your students’ parents and families to your art show to fully leverage your hard work. Invite local art leagues and business owners to see what your students have done throughout the year. Before the show, talk to your students about how to network with the guests. Older students can inquire about internships, ask the guests questions about their job in the arts, or discuss their own art and ask for professional opinions. To help your students prepare to network and inquire about arts-related internships, check out this article. You can also ask community leaders if they are interested in coming in to speak with your classes.
5. It connects you to parents who aren’t responsive to online communication.
Do you have parents who never respond to your emails, don’t read your digital newsletters, or have never visited your classroom website? They may not be ignoring you. It could be that they don’t have access to online communication or aren’t as experienced with technology. Art shows are a way for you to meet these parents face-to-face and make connections over their student’s art. Just be sure to send physical flyers home with your students so that parents know about the art show, whether or not they read their emails!
Let’s explore five reasons why you don’t need an art show.
If you already know art shows are beneficial but can’t help wondering if they are really necessary, weigh the positives against the negatives. Don’t consider art shows a must-do until you have looked at the drawbacks.
1. Parents can already see their students’ artwork.
If your students upload pictures of their work on blogs or a class website, parents already have the opportunity to see their student’s artwork without making a trip to the school. Instead of putting on an in-person event, advertise a link to student artwork. Whenever students finish a project, remind parents and administrators to check out the results online.
2. Hosting an art show is stressful and time-consuming.
You mat hundreds of artworks and spend hours attaching them to walls or arranging them on easels. You work and rework the organization so each artwork is in the right place. You come up with a theme and then spend time decorating the exhibit space or hallway to match. You coordinate refreshments and entertainment and then advertise to your target audience. While the results are stunning, it’s all for only one show before you have to take everything down.
3. Not everyone shows up.
While parents, administrators, and community members have good intentions of coming to support your art show, sometimes life gets in the way. If you don’t have as many people show up as you hoped, it could result in low morale for you and the students.
4. Not all students want their art displayed.
Despite their artistic growth throughout the year and the encouragement you give them, some students will never be comfortable showing off their art. However, if you allow them not to participate in the art show, other students may follow their lead and pull out as well. Do you force the students to participate despite their discomfort? Or do you allow students to take the easy way out? If you give up art shows altogether, it’s a decision you won’t have to make.
5. It can take the focus away from experimentation and fun.
If an art show is the culminating event of your school year, it lingers in the back of your mind at all times. Every project you assign is run through the mental filter of being “art show worthy.” While this results in art that looks fabulous on a wall, it puts unnecessary pressure on your students to make perfect art every class period. Students need the opportunity to experiment, fail, and have fun in art class. It’s what allows them to learn and produce a unique style. When perfect art is expected each time, it’s a barrier to risk-taking.
So, do you still need an art show? There are valid reasons for and against it. While it’s stressful and time-consuming, it’s also a great opportunity for your students to network with the community. On another note, it can help raise money for your art department and promote your program, but it can also detract from the experimental nature of artmaking. If you haven’t decided one way or the other, determine which factors mean the most to you. Evaluate your workload and whether or not you have the physical and mental energy to take on an art show this year. Don’t forget, it’s okay to let some things go. It’s up to you whether an art show is one of those things!
Do you think art shows are necessary?
How do you reduce the stress of putting on an art 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.