Private Exhibition Tips

Written by Terry Southwood (revised 2 Jan 2015)

Before You Apply

There is nothing like having your own art exhibition, but please make sure you understand the extent of this commitment before applying.

You will be solely responsible for the entire exhibition, including hanging the artwork, putting on the opening reception, sitting the gallery for the duration of the exhibit, and taking down the show at the end. (To share both the workload and the expense, it is a good idea to invite another artist or two to participate in the show.)

Your artwork must meet “community standards”. If the Gallery Director questions this, the ultimate approval will be up to the Library Board.

Any insurance on artwork is your responsibility. Neither the Canmore Public Library nor CAG will be held responsible for any damage or theft of artwork.

If your artwork is to be framed, the cost can be significant.

Private exhibitions are typically booked two years or more in advance. Do not expect an immediate date.

If you are already represented by a commercial gallery in Canmore, you must obtain approval from that gallery before booking your private exhibit with CAG.

Once the exhibition is booked, you will be expected to meet your obligation fully.

Booking Your Show

Any artist who has been a member in good standing with CAG for a minimum of one year may request a private exhibition. Due to the limited number of slots available for these shows, CAG encourages that more than one artist participate in each private exhibit.

Contact the Gallery Schedule Coordinator, or a Gallery Director, to select a time slot for your show, or to be put on the waiting list.

If asked to do so, submit an exhibit application for a private show. The application form is available off the website.

A deposit of $100.00 must be paid to CAG at the time the show is requested. You will not be wait listed or booked until the deposit is received.

This deposit will be fully refunded if the gallery is left in the same condition after the private exhibit as it was before, or if the booking is cancelled at least 180 days before the opening date. If less notice is given, the refund amount will be at the discretion of the executive.

When choosing the time slot for your show, contact the Head Librarian to find out what other events may be booked into the gallery during the course of your show. In reality, the gallery is a multi-use space which is under the direction of the Library. You can expect that other events will be booked into the gallery during your show, sometimes with little advance notice. Make sure there are no serious conflicts, such as a conflict with your opening reception. Also find out what dates may be best for hanging your artwork prior to your opening. It is your responsibility to check with the library for any events that conflict with your show’s schedule, and to continue checking just before, and even during, your exhibition.

Sit the gallery for other private shows. The more you help other people, the more they will help you when your turn comes.

Three Months before the Opening

If you haven’t already done so, attend some art openings, both at CAG and at some commercial galleries. Better yet, volunteer to help with a CAG opening or two. Ask questions so that you can get a handle on the necessary details. There is nothing like first hand experience.

If you do not know of a suitable printing company, ask around to find out which one is used by CAG or by other members who have held a private show.

Two Months before the Opening

Contact a printer to arrange for the printing of posters and invitation postcards. Put your most stunning artwork on both. Consider ordering some half size posters, as the smaller size is often more acceptable to merchants. Decide if you want business cards at the same time.

The poster must display the logos of both CAG and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

The back of your invitation postcard should have all the details of your show — including things like gallery hours, payment by cash or cheque, and your website URL if you have one. A good invitation postcard has the potential to significantly increase sales at your show.

If you do not already have a mailing list, compile one. Include your family, friends, doctor, dentist, auto mechanic and certainly anyone who has ever bought some of your artwork. It is also useful to compile an e-mail list.

If you wish to change any key dates, such as the opening or closing date, you must check with the Head Librarian first.

One Month before the Opening

Pick up your printing, and address the invitation postcards from your mailing list. Mail them so that they are received early enough that people can plan to attend, but not so early that they forget.

Get out every bit of advertising you can think of. Free announcements are available in the local and Calgary papers, as well as some radio stations. Local papers are sometimes willing to do an article on your show. For a copy of a contact list of media outlets, please click on Media Advertising.

Two Weeks before Opening

Make up your title cards, biography and sitter’s calendar. Prepare a list of all the artwork in the show, with prices, for your cashier. A handout sheet having a list, or thumbnail images, of your artwork with the title, size and price is nice to have for visitors. You may also want a sign-up sheet for any visitors who wish to add their street or e-mail address to your notification list. Buy a guest book if you don’t plan on using CAG’s.

Send a jpeg image of your poster to the webmaster to be put on the CAG website.

The Week before the Opening

Put up your posters. Approach the local art galleries, tourist information centre, and any other businesses that could offer a visible display of your event. Don’t forget the Public Library Gallery itself. A list of poster locations is available off the Members Information page of this website.  Also, it is very important that you put a copy of the poster in the large file folder for these which is located in the storage room. These are needed for when CAAG applies for the Alberta Foundation for the Arts grant each year.

If you plan to serve alcohol at the opening reception, a liquor license is required for the evening and all provincial rules and regulations must be complied with.

Buy the food and beverages you will need at the opening. Keep it simple. After all, do you want people coming for the art or the food?

Get your helpers lined up for the opening reception. (See Opening Day below.)

The exhibition prior to yours should be out by Tuesday evening. Between then and Thursday night, hang the sho w. Make sure the gallery is available and allow plenty of time to do the hanging. Bring reusable adhesive to put up the title cards and biographies. Extra drop wires and hooks are available in the storage room if needed. (To adjust the hooks, depress the knurled knob to release the locking mechanism.) After everything is in place use the step ladder to adjust the track lighting.

Borrow a key from one of the Gallery Directors (NOT the Library). You will only need it for the Friday night opening reception, since the Library closes at 5:00 pm. You will also need an Allen wrench for the crash bars on the outer doors. Get a Gallery Director to show you how this works.

Opening Day

Finish preparing any food and beverages for the opening. Bring coolers and plenty of ice for both the punch and the food itself.

Assign jobs to family or friends. Choose someone to be the cashier, perhaps with an assistant to place red dots. Take them through the sales procedure as outlined in the Gallery Sitter’s Guide. Make sure your cashier knows that cheques should be made out to CAG. Give them the list of artwork, with prices. Opening night may account for 80 to 100% of your sales, so choose a good cashier and give them a thorough briefing.

Put someone in charge of pouring wine and replenishing food trays. Ask a couple of others to wash glasses.

You cannot do these jobs yourself, because you are the host. It is your job to greet your guests and visitors, invite them to get some food and wine, talk enthusiastically about your art and to be gracious when it sells.

Wear your CAG name tag.

Put your sitter’s calendar on the desk, for people to sign up for shifts. CAG members are wonderful at helping out. The artists in the show however, should try to sit the all-important first weekend.

Put out your guest book, any handout and sign-up sheets, plus business cards.

Relax and enjoy your opening! The evening will go far too fast.

At the end, pack up whatever food and wine is left, and clean up so the gallery is presentable the next morning.

Do not leave any cash, especially large amounts, in the gallery. Take it with you and then write CAG a cheque for cash received.

Make sure no one is in the washrooms and lock up the gallery plus the inside front doors with your key. The Allen wrench is needed to release the crash bars which lock the outer doors.

During the Show

Make sure there is a sitter on duty throughout the exhibition. If there is no sitter, the gallery should be locked for security reasons, but having the gallery closed when it should be open is bad for everyone, especially you.

Despite help from others, try to sit the gallery on a regular basis. It is important that you be there as much as you can — after all, you are the artist.

For the safety of the sitter, the gallery must be closed when the Library is closed.

Return the key to the Gallery Director at the first opportunity. You will not need it after the opening reception.

Any donations left in the donation box during your exhibition belong to CAG.

After the Show

On the final Tuesday evening of your show, have your artwork out of the gallery by 7:30 pm at the latest. Take down all title cards and biographies and clean the walls if needed. Vacuum and generally clean up as required. If the following exhibition is a group show, artwork will begin arriving by 6:30 pm or earlier. Try to be out of the way of the next incoming group.

You will receive a cheque from CAG for 80% of all the artwork sold during your exhibition. Provided the gallery is left in the same (or better) condition as it was at the start of your show, your deposit will be fully refunded. And as a CAG member, the Guild will support you by contributing a further $100 towards your opening expenses.