Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Putting on your first Show part 4: the Reception

All the pieces should now be in place!


You have worked hard and now the show is coming together. All the pieces should be fitting together. Last step, is the opening reception or the meet and greet!

Having an Opening 

Depending on where and when you are displaying your work, you might want to have a little meet-and-greet with the public. The most successful shows do have a reception. For art galleries this is standard. So depending on your venue, you should plan on a reception near the opening date of your show.

Reporter interviewing guess at reception.
Even offices often have a lobby reception when they have artists in. This can be co-coordinated with the public relations department, or owner in a small office for an after-hours party. Coffee houses will often have a small party for new artists, but restaurants can be a little difficult for this. But you will find that your show will be more successful if there is a way for you to interact with people viewing it. For restaurants, having a night that they can say the artist will be present will make it more successful for both of you.

Eat Drink And Be Merry

The refreshment table should be neat and clean
What exactly should be involved? Something simple is called for. The emphasis is on the art, not the refreshments, but that does not mean the refreshments are unimportant. Keep it simple keep it relatively mess free and have lots of it. Finger foods that are easy to eat and hold are what is called for. Crackers and cheese are good stand bys, as are chips and dips, but with any dip, be a bit cautious. You don’t want something really drippy. While salsas are popular, most are drippy. So go easy on them. Cake is fine, but make sure you have time to cut it before hand. Cup cakes and mini muffins usually work better, the smaller the better. Bit size is the way to go. Finger sandwiches are really good, but unless you really enjoy making these, they can be a bit tedious. Cocktail rye is perfect along with easily spread-able spreads. Easy spread-ables! If they are too chunky and awkward people become uncomfortable with it, and that can have a negative reflection on the show. Sounds silly, but it is true. Easy things. Have many drinks; Coffee, tea, cold things in a chest of ice. Small serving drinks are usually easier on everyone than large 2 litter bottles that must be poured. And there is not waste later if all are not drunk up. If possible, ask a friend to be in charge of this. Receptions can easily become overwhelming and crowded. Having someone in charge is really necessary. Have paper plates, napkins, drink cups, etc. and have a good-sized waste can. And the table should be neat and presentable. A nice table cloth, neatly stacked plates, etc.

If you are having an opening in a coffee house or restaurant, you want to be a little backwards on what is served free. Coffee houses and restaurants are in the business to sell food, and usually they are having you in for little or no pay. So do not backhand them. I know one artist who brought in several carafes of coffee so his guests would not have to buy coffee from the shop owner. This is not good! She was very disgruntled to have a full restaurant and not sell but cups of coffee for the entire night! Yes, you can have a small tray of finger foods, but this was a slam on the owner who allowed the artist to display his work for nothing, she did not even take a commission from sales. So openly telling his family and friends not to patronize that coffee house was insulting.

People come to see the art.

Extend the Invitation

Go over what to expect at the reception with the venue. Each place has its own “rules” and expectations.

If the venue is a gallery, they will have established customs for this, and can guide you. Make sure you add to the reception by having your own list of people to invite. And invite everyone! This is a case where the more the merrier!

All For Sale and Sale for All

You art is most likely for sale. So prices should be either on the tags for each piece for in a catalog. Where this is displayed will depend on the policies of the venue. But there should be clear information on this. Most states require that you collect sales tax, and many towns or counties now have their own sales tax. Make sure you understand this and are prepared. Many states have sales tax charts you can download.

Handling Sales

At the reception, you should not handle the sales. There should be a helper whose job this is. Make sure you have a 3 sheet sales book. And make sure the sales person understand just how to handle this. Sales receipts are important documents. Receptions can get quite hectic, so make sure everyone knows what to do.

Have a 3-sheet book. You can get these at office supply stores. Top sheet stays in the book. Yellow or second copy is for the patron. Third or pink sheet is for the venue. The sales receipt should be filled out completely, with name, address, etc. This information will pay off in the long run. You really want to know who is buying your work. And make sure the person who is supposed to handle this understands it. My first show, my husband was to do this, but he had a great time with everyone and simply used the first sheet for the first sale, the next sheet for the next, etc, and did not use the 3 pages right. It did not matter to him, and afterwards, I had no records of what was sold or for how much. The only written copy was giving to each person as a receipt. It was very discouraging. It was not important to him, it was only my hobby, and he had a great time when he did not expect to enjoy himself. Grudging help is no help. This is where having someone who understands business and how important this is to you is really important. It is really hard to reconstruct afterwards!

Receptions can get quite busy!
Tagging Sales

If the venue requires that artwork remain on the walls for the length of the show, make sure you have sold tags. Nothing encourages sales like other people buying it. When that first sold tag goes up, it can start a feeding frenzy. People seem to suddenly realize that they can buy this stuff. You would think the presence of prices would clue them in, but such is not the case. It is like a light bulb goes off! I have see this happen time after time. When the first sale goes thought, people start thinking seriously of buying. In the art world most people are sheep and like to follow others. So have those tags ready. And sold should be in bright read letters. Nothing subtle here!

If people are going to be taking the artwork home as they buy, so much the better! Nothing encourages sales like things coming down from the walls. Know if the place wants you to replace art as you go, but do not replace it at the reception. empty spaces speak for themselves! wait a week before restocking!

Dress the Part

Press Comes to visit too!
This might sound silly, but please, dress the part. This is a reception highlighting your work and your art and you should be presentable. I don’t care what the stereotype of the mad artist is, but respect yourself and your guests. Dress the part. You are an important player here and neat clean dress is appropriate. Shower and if you are male, shave. You don’t have to dress fancy, but please be clean! No need to go the route of black tie and tails, but you should be able to put together a nice outfit. Make sure it fits. Too tight and too sexy detracts from the artwork. Expect the press and expect to have your photo taken. This is your first show, and how you present yourself will live forever in those pictures! Remember that publicity you worked so hard for, Now it pays off!


Relax and enjoy the reception. If you have done your homework, it should be an enjoyable experience. Smooze with everyone. They want to like your work.

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