Art Show - Timeline

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Art Show - Timeline

This is a rough timeline for when you want to accomplish tasks involved in running an art show. It is not tremendously detailed, but serves as a checklist of tasks and reference to the rest of the article. Items in each time category are shown in roughly the order they need to be done. It seldom hurts to do tasks earlier than shown. Some also need to be revisited or confirmed periodically. There is some leeway in most of these, and you may not be able to do some items this early, but this is when you would like them done. The times are for a “normal” weekend convention – you should change them to suit your convention.

As soon as you know you're having an art show:

At least 6 months prior:

Four to six months before the show:

Two to four months:

  • Contact your auctioneer(s) and get commitment(s) from him/her/them.
  • Arrange time/space for auction(s), reception, etc.
  • Arrange transport of art show supplies to and from convention
  • Work with hotel liaison regarding room space, lighting, power, locking, reception if you have one, etc.
  • Order award certificates/ribbons
  • Recruit volunteers
  • Panel replacement/building
  • Recruit art show judges

One month before the show:

  • Check your supply of forms; reprint if necessary.
  • Reconfirm all your volunteers, auctioneer(s), and judges
  • Check hooks, bulldog clips, and other hanging materials.
  • Arrange treasury supplies, including cash register, starting cash, phone line
  • Arrange cash management

Two weeks before the show:

  • Assign display space. If you do this “first come, first served” you can start earlier, but you can’t finish until you’re sold out. I don’t like that method anyway – see Art Show - Assigning Space.
  • Check control table supplies; restock as needed.
  • Pick up awards.
  • Confirm transportation and delivery of hangings the day before the con opens.
  • Make sure your volunteers will be there to help move and set up (food and beverages are an excellent incentive).
  • Make appointment with treasurer to write checks after convention

One week before the show:

  • Collect all mail-in art. Enter all art information onto your forms or control books, if not already completed by the artist.
  • Double check anything from earlier lists that still needs a follow-up.

Day after shipping deadline:

  • Contact artists whose work has not arrived.

Day before convention (usually Thursday):

  • Move hanging hardware, other bulky but low value items to convention site, if possible (requires at least storage space)
  • Start doing whatever set-up is possible

The first day of the convention (usually Friday):

  • Arrive as early as possible and get your crew to work!
    • Check hotel’s room set up.
    • Lay out room.
    • Start erecting panels
    • Set up office and storage (packaging, tape, office supplies, hardware, paperwork, bag check, cash register, computers, ballots, pens).
    • Lighting
    • Signs, panel labels, and hand-outs
    • Hanging mail-in
    • Receiving walk-in
  • Open
  • Start security before opening
  • Expect rush of quick sales, bidder registration
  • Cash management
  • Reception – if you have one, this is usually when

Second day of the con (usually Saturday):

  • Judging for awards.
  • Auction can be late today, or next day
    • Close written bidding
    • Auction prep
    • Auction
  • If you have an auction or masquerade in the evening, announce art awards.

Last day of the con (usually Sunday):

  • Day for final sales and auction (if not done already)
  • After auction sales (if auction Saturday)
  • Art pick up after auction (some buyers may need to leave early)
  • Artist check-out (some artists may need to leave early)
  • Pack mail-in art in the original boxes
  • Dismantle panels, lighting, office, etc.
  • Keep all the records (sales slips, bid sheets, control sheets) together until all artists have been paid.
  • Ready everything for return to storage

Day after con (usually Monday):

  • Reconcile books, calculate insurance amounts
  • Return ship mail-in art
  • Return art supplies to storage

The week after the con:

  • Meet with treasurer to write checks.
  • Make copies of the control sheets, etc. to send with checks.
  • Address envelopes to the artists, mail checks and reports to artists.
  • Post show letter
  • Post Mortem
  • Abandoned art
  • Post show accounting

Post-show timing note

The exact order of items after the show closes will depend on what methods of record-keeping you are using, and larger shows may need more time for some tasks. Specifically:

  • Return shipping mail-in art may take more than one day if:
    • You have many (over 50?) boxes to send back, don’t have vehicles large enough for them, or are sending via many different carriers.
    • You need to calculate insurance amounts and haven’t recorded sales yet. If you cannot record all sales in the next day or two, you should use some other method of setting insurance amounts for return shipping.
    • It should never take over a week to ship all artwork back to the artists – even for the largest shows. If it takes you a month, artists will (and should) avoid your show.
    • If you have abandoned art or art with payment problems, plan to ship it back separately if necessary. Do not wait to resolve the issue before sending the rest of the artist’s work back unless the artist has explicitly permitted it. Don’t hold their checks for this, either.
  • Reconciling your books may take more than a day if:
    • You have not recorded sales yet.
    • You sell over ~1,000 pieces.
    • Your forms or procedures are poorly designed (this is common - especially procedures)
  • Making copies of control sheets, etc. may take more than a day if:
    • Your show has over ~100 artists and you have to actually copy the control sheets (duplicating control sheets or print-outs of computer records are both faster).
  • Even if the above tasks take only a day each, it will take several days to do all of them if you are one person trying to do all of them alone.

Some people will disagree with this timeline for after the convention. It’s no big deal if it takes you two weeks to return ship artwork, if that’s all you promised (and larger shows get more leeway). But some people think it’s perfectly reasonable for a mid-size show to take a month to ship artwork back, and two months to pay artists. While some artists are resigned to such timelines, none like it. It's a sign of poor organization as well as a financial hardship for the artists. You will lose artists if you do this.

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