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How to Organize an Art Show and Sale

Art therapy life coach, artist, photographer, designer—Gina believes that the purpose of the arts is to enrich and heal lives.

"Enlightenment" by Gina Welds Hulse

"Enlightenment" by Gina Welds Hulse

I Had a Dream

Just a few short months ago, I uttered a statement to Master Alicea, at Alicea's Martial Arts School, about my desire to do an art exhibit/sale. What he said next set in motion all the planning and execution of my recent art show.

"Well, if and when you decide, just let me know, and you can use the school building," said Master Alicea.

That started a snowball effect:

  • Within a few days, I had picked a date.
  • A few days after that, I came up with a name for the event with a little help.
  • The poster for the event was designed by another dear friend, paid for, and then it was finally posted on my art page.
  • Upon posting, several other people came forward with a desire to help out in some way to the success of the show.

I thought a lot about the movie Field of Dreams, which I watched several years ago. There were days when I wondered if I could physically get enough work ready for this event. It has been quite a journey over the last year, with illness and other setbacks, but I set out on a course to accomplish a goal.

Here are some tips that I can pass on to you that I have learned from the experience.

What Is Involved and How Do You Reach the Public?

When you are an artist, there are always art shows to either put on, participate in, or attend. They are part of surviving as a professional artist. Doing art shows is a part of the artist's commitment to their art. The artwork has to reach the public.

But the how, what, where, and when of everything involved tends to escape our abilities as artists. After all, we just want to produce our work, right? We don't really want the task of getting the work out there in front of our audience. Well, who else is going to do it for us...if not us? True, you could hire some technology guy behind a website, but that takes a lot of money, and as artists, we may not necessarily have that kind of dough. Well, maybe you do. I didn't.

In this article, I will try to touch on various things to consider when you want to run your own art show and sale. You will probably have ideas of your own also. It can be done.

Working on a piece leading up to the show

Working on a piece leading up to the show

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

The first thing to do is to establish the dates, allowing time to have some promotional materials printed.

Trying to create or organize an art show can be very difficult if you don't know what you're doing. It was a challenge for me. However, I had a lot of help, and by following these tips and steps, you'll be putting on an art show in no time!

This is a checklist of things you need to think about when putting on your own art show.

If you take the time to prepare upfront, your show will come across as slick, well organised and professional, which in turn gives potential buyers of your art confidence.

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Read More From Toughnickel

Alicea's Martial Arts Studio: The Venue for My Art Show

Venue: The Where

Cafes are great places to have art shows. Try talking to the owners. If they don't have art on their walls, try introducing them to the idea. Not only will it make them look good (by supporting local art), you will have a place to exhibit your art.

Try any place:

  • Local shops
  • Libraries
  • Restaurants
  • Galleries

Things to remember when you are trying to get your work in a setting:

  • Call in advance and set up an appointment.
  • Make sure to smile and wear nice clothes.
  • If you have a business card (easily made on a computer), then they can call you in the future.
  • You may also want to have your social media information on the business card, as many people are connected via Facebook, Twitter and many other social media sites.
The postcard that was created for marketing purposes for the art show and sale

The postcard that was created for marketing purposes for the art show and sale

Name of Exhibit

It took me a while to come up with the perfect name, but with some help, I managed to find the right one: “A Voice and a Journey: Daring to Defy.”

Choosing a good title for your art is important. It says something about what the drawing or painting means to you as an artist and gives the viewer some clues about approaching the piece. The same can be said about the exhibit as a whole.

Write up a Budget for Your Art Show

  • Write up a budget for your project.
  • Include in your budget: artists’ fees, project fees, overhead, advertising, printing catalog and invitations, shipping and handling, customs duty, framing, installing, lighting and opening expenses.
  • Putting on an exhibition can quickly add up.
  • Plan any new work that needs to be made.
  • Make sure your mailing list is updated and ready to go. Budget for postal costs.
Hangers ready to be installed on the backs of the artwork

Hangers ready to be installed on the backs of the artwork

Getting Your Artwork Ready for the Show

If you are framing work, then you must consider that framing will take many hours to complete and weeks of planning- plus the time to ship them and put them together.

I personally work with gallery wrapped canvases, so there was no framing involved, but I still had to plan to have all my work ready by a certain time, plus to have all the hanging materials installed on the back.

  • Keep in mind that making titles and labels with pricing will probably take a full day.
  • Consider laying out a show with a diagram if you know the size of the walls in advance.
  • Photograph your art work. Once it gets purchased then you might never see it again!
  • Frame your artwork if required. Allow plenty of time for your picture framer to do a quality job.
  • Make sure all your artworks are suitable for hanging or display with wire and O-rings attached.
  • Wrap your artworks up ready for transportation. Buy bubble wrap in bulk lots from a packaging wholesaler or supplier. Don’t buy small rolls from your office supplier. or you will pay too much.
  • Arrange a truck, hatchback or station wagon to transport your works.
  • Make a Certificate Of Authenticity for each artwork.
  • Have a special rubber stamp made up to use with the certificate. It looks great and buyers love them.

Guide to Items for Display and Possible Uses

  • Plinths: stands for works that need to be displayed away from walls. Usually reserved for sculptures, which is useful if you are working collaboratively with sculptors.
  • Hooks: attachments found at the back of frames, to allow hanging. The most common way of displaying works.
  • Tape: acid-free tape for non-framed works. You can buy this tape at any good art shop, and they are usually double-sided.
  • Ceiling hooks: if you need to hang works from the ceiling. Can be effective for a series of small photographs.
Some of the art work ready for the show

Some of the art work ready for the show

Exhibit being installed. Tables for the sculptures.

Exhibit being installed. Tables for the sculptures.

We hung the show in about three hours, with seven people helping.

We hung the show in about three hours, with seven people helping.

Press release for recent show

Press release for recent show

Press Releases and Announcements

  • Plan how you will advertise.
  • Make sure you send out notices to local paper weeks in advance to meet their deadlines.
  • Post regularly on Social Media, giving people an idea of how things are going, with images of your preparation and artwork. I love this Article that was written about my show recently.
  • Put up posters too around town.
  • Make letter size and smaller flyers to give out to friends in person
  • Mail out postcards, if your budget allows.
  • If you have an email list, send that out with a “save the date” email, etc.

Announcement Contents Checklist

  • Title of show.
  • Dates of show.
  • Hours the show will be open to the public.
  • Date and time of opening reception.
  • Venue and address, phone number, email, and website information.
  • Directions, if needed.
  • Parking info. This is especially important in high-traffic/urban locations.
  • Acknowledgments.
  • If the space is wheelchair accessible, note this on the invite.
  • List of artists in the show, or your name.


  • Consider bringing in other businesses to sponsor your exhibition.
  • Feature them prominently on your exhibition catalog.
  • Ask businesses to sponsor lucky door prizes.
  • Make sure you mention the sponsors clearly for each prize draw they sponsor.
  • You may even be able to get sponsorship for catering.
  • Arrange goody bags for each exhibition attendee containing sponsor leaflets, any freebies and your business card.

Sponsorship and Thank-Yous

You may want to have a Sponsorship poster made up for the event.

Don't forget to send "Thank you" messages to everyone who helped to make your event a success.

I have a lot of people to thank. These are in no order of priority or involvement. Everyone's help has contributed to the success of the show.
So here goes:
1. Alicea's Martial Art School for the use of the building, support, printing and so much more.
2. Christa Farrar Light for the materials for the workshop for the AMAS martial arts team, and emotional support.
3. Susan Skaggs Hopkins for food
4. Fabiola Steinbach-Fuentes for decorations and food
5. Shelia Raines Mobley for transportation assistance
6. Janice Morrow Hutson of Jan's U-Frame It for framing, and hanging materials, and for being a friend. I must, also, mention her husband, Bill, who cut up wood for the bases for the workshop, plus delivered work back and forth to my home.
7. Hal Catman Campbell who designed and paid for the poster/postcard and marketing materials. Thanks, also for the wine for the event.
8. Thank to the parents and members of the AMAS competition for a successful workshop, and ALL the best tomorrow.
9. Thank you to Enneke of Mrs. Mango and Co. for donating a gift basket for a door prize.
10. Thank you to Marcus Hhtv Gray for continued support.
11. Thank you to Alexis Fedon and Quincy Hulse for their assistance tomorrow.
12. Thank you to Siobhan Hulse, for helping with the wild, fun, and funky hairdo that I wanted.
13. Thank you to Terrie Stone, who has been a rock in ways that she may never fully realize.
14. Thank you to Joanna Collazo, with helping me see the vision, as well planning, marketing and so much more.
15. Thank you to Pam Harbaugh at Brevard Culture, with helping me to promote the event, and for the beautiful article written.
There are so many of you who have encouraged me along the way, who have shared the event, and for that I am so appreciative.

Last, but not least, I want to say thank you to the Staff of the Alicea's Martial Arts School, who have been, and will be, instrumental, in transforming the school and contributing to the success of the event!


  • Create a ‘running order’ for the show, which details the timing of events on the opening night. Distribute it to everyone involved in the show.
  • Invite a VIP person to open the show for you.
  • Brief your VIP with things they might like to mention.
  • Appoint an MC who will introduce both the VIP, yourself and any other speeches or exhibition events.
  • Prepare a speech. People will want to hear from you the great artist!
  • Announce any prize draws at least twice during the night.

What are your show opening and closing times?

Decide up front how log the show will be or run.

Everyone enjoyed the sounds of Onyx Brown.

Everyone enjoyed the sounds of Onyx Brown.

Onyx Brown setting up his equipment just before the show

Onyx Brown setting up his equipment just before the show

Food and Entertainment

  • What nibblies will you provide?
  • What drinks will you provide? Remember to provide both alcoholic and soft drinks. I once had a slushie machine and added spirit to the mix. Instant self service cocktails!
  • Hire in professional caterers if you haven’t got time to do it yourself.
  • Hire professional wait staff or get some friends in to assist with serving.
  • Do you need musicians, a DJ or at least someone to change a carefully chosen CD once in a while?

Music is a good way to add some ambiance to the event. The easiest way is to play music in the background. You can also invite some musicians to play live music, but it’s best that they are acoustic. You want the music to compliment your event, not overshadow it. Also, remember to feed and water your musicians to keep them happy.

Cheese platter

Cheese platter

Fruit platter

Fruit platter

Popcorn chicken platter

Popcorn chicken platter

Food Tips

For food its best to go for finger food of the non messy variety.

  • Sushi
  • Popcorn chicken
  • Crackers with nice colorful toppings
  • Fruit platter
  • Samosas
  • Savory pastries
  • Meatballs on toothpicks and dipping sauce
  • Cheese cubes
  • Wine
  • Non-alcoholic drinks

Finger foods will help people stick around longer to chat and admire the artworks. Its just a little treat that makes people feel a bit special.

So I’d say don't skimp on the nibbles.

Tables being set up for food

Tables being set up for food

Table set up for drinks

Table set up for drinks

Sales Tips

  • Create labels for every artwork containing the title, price, medium and size.
  • Try and have artworks priced in various ranges, so that everyone has an opportunity to buy something.
  • Get some red stickers for artworks sold on the night.
  • Try and have some artworks that are hanging but have been pre-sold before the opening night with red dots on them. It gives people confidence and encourages them to buy.
  • Appoint sales assistants and let them know how to process sales
  • Set up a system for receipting. This could be as simple as a carbon copy receipt book.
  • Keep details of all prices handy for your sales assistant.
  • Have a till or cash tin and keep it secure
  • Provide credit card processing facilities if you can. People are more likely to impulse buy if they can whack it in their credit card. If you are serious about this business then you should arrange a merchant account with a bank so you can process credit cards.
  • Be prepared to provide shipping and packaging costs. Some people will not buy unless they know these things up front. Your freight company should be able to provide a table. Estimate packaging weight and size for each artwork before the exhibition so you can quote quickly.
  • When someone seems interested in buying, don’t be afraid to ask for the sale. “Would you like to take this artwork home with you tonight?”
  • If a person wants to negotiate, state your price with confidence and then shut up! Let the buyer make the next move and then lead the sale to a conclusion. “How would you like to pay for that?”
Art hung and displayed for the event

Art hung and displayed for the event

Everyone was involved in setting up the exhibit, including my youngest son, Nicholas.

Everyone was involved in setting up the exhibit, including my youngest son, Nicholas.

Another view of the exhibit area

Another view of the exhibit area

6 Weeks Before the Show Opens

  • Design your email and snail mail announcements, or work with a graphic designer.
  • Check all spelling, and use the announcement checklist to make sure you have included all of the necessary information.

Be sure that the reader will understand the difference between the run of the exhibition, and the date and time of the opening reception. This is especially important if the reception is held on a different day as the first operating day of the exhibition.

  • Get bids from printers, if needed. This allows for enough time to shop around for the best price.
  • Print announcement.
  • Email a Save the Date announcement.
The Author and her friend, Moyaha, who is modeling one of the Author's wearable art pieces, a scarf

The Author and her friend, Moyaha, who is modeling one of the Author's wearable art pieces, a scarf

The Author with some of her patrons, Susan, who also donated food for the event, and her sister

The Author with some of her patrons, Susan, who also donated food for the event, and her sister

Things Not to Do

  • Don’t underestimate the amount of time it will take to hang your exhibition.
  • Don’t be a diva. If things aren’t going right, negotiate gently. Just because many legendary artists were quite temperamental doesn’t mean you have to be.
  • In your speech, if you stuff up and miss some important things you wanted to say don’t let everyone know by fluffing around. Nobody knows what you are about to say other than you and any stuff ups you make will probably go unnoticed anyway.
  • Don’t get drunk. It’s easy to do as you will be running on adrenalin and people will keep serving you drinks as you are the most important person there.
  • Don’t ignore people or be shy. It’s your party. People want to know and meet you.
  • Don’t get caught up talking to one person. You need to circulate. Pay special attention to potential buyers and VIP’s though.
  • Don’t get depressed if people are not buying your artworks on the night. People sometimes have to think about an expensive purchase. Follow up any leads after the show.
  • Don’t make artworks that can only be sold as a set. People are picky and will often just want one.
  • Don’t fluff around when people ask you the price of an artwork. Know your prices. State them clearly with conviction. Your confidence will tell the potential buyer that your artwork is worth what you are asking.
  • Don’t forget to thank everyone who was personally involved in helping to put on your show.
The Author with her family

The Author with her family

4 Weeks Before the Show Opens

  • Recruit people to help with the reception: bartenders, parking attendants, ticket takers, gallery sitters, etc., as needed.
  • Distribute publicity (announcements, flyers, etc.) and post on social networking sites.
  • Mail announcements, if using bulk mail.
  • Mail press releases to newspapers, weekly publications, reviewers, and radio stations.
  • Make a checklist of those things you need to do to finish the work; e.g., framing, installation hardware, painting walls in gallery, etc.
  • Send a Save the Date announcement to your email list.
Front office set up for payments, etc.

Front office set up for payments, etc.

3 Weeks Before the Show Opens

  • Make sure your artwork is ready to install.
  • Go over any special requirements with the venue to make sure you are in agreement with the site management.
  • Design and order any exhibition signage you will need.
  • Arrange for photographer or videographer to document the work or performance at the exhibition site.
  • Mail announcements, if using first class mail.
  • Send press releases to broadcast media.
  • Assemble and mail press packets to special writers and publications.

2 Weeks Before the Show Opens

  • Make calls to calendar listings managers to make sure your event will be listed.
  • Make phone calls to arts writers and invite them to the show or event.
  • Create social network event invitations and invite your friends.
  • Schedule installation and/or performance rehearsals.
  • Design and print any handouts, exhibition checklist, price lists, artist statements, programs etc.
  • Email invitations to your email list. (Put your email addresses in the BCC addressee area to ensure that private email addresses are not made public.)
"Duet". Original art by Gina Welds Hulse.

"Duet". Original art by Gina Welds Hulse.

1 Week Before the Show Opens

  • Make sure all supplementary materials are printed or in a binder.
  • Make sure your résumé, artist statement, price lists, reviews, guest sign-in sheets, etc. are ready.
  • Make sure the venue is ready for you to install the work and, if needed, do so.
  • Patch and paint any walls or surfaces.
  • Install exhibition signage.
The Author with Jan of Jan's U-Frame-It

The Author with Jan of Jan's U-Frame-It

2 Days Before the Show Opens

  • Set or adjust lighting.
  • Print, mount, and install any labels needed.
  • Clean or paint any wall surfaces.
  • Set up guest book and supplementary information.
  • Get reception supplies that don’t require refrigeration.
  • Test all equipment and do any rehearsals necessary.
  • Send a very brief reminder about the opening to your email list.
  • Take any clothes you plan to wear to the opening to the dry cleaners, if necessary.

Hanging the exhibit

  • Measure the exhibition space and plan how you will hang you artworks.
  • Does the space need to have a theme or decorating in some way to give it extra pizzazz?
  • Make sure you have hanging equipment suitable for the space you will be displaying in. You may need to investigate the space closely to figure out how you will hang the works if it’s not a gallery with built in rails.
  • In some spaces without obvious wall hanging opportunities you may have to hire in stands from an exhibition hire company.
  • When you deliver your artworks to the venue, lean them against the wall directly underneath where you will be hanging them, so you can get a feel for the layout and your hanging assistants will get a better idea of what they are doing.

Installation Procedures

What tools are available for installation?

What equipment and technical support is available?

Are there issues with electrical outlets and extension cord routes?

Do you have special lighting needs?

"Bloomin'".Original Art by Gina Welds Hulse.

"Bloomin'".Original Art by Gina Welds Hulse.

Opening Day of the Show

  • Buy any reception supplies requiring refrigeration.
  • Don’t forget the ice.
  • Check to make sure everything is installed and working.
  • Show up on time to the reception.
  • Call any special friends or writers to remind them about the show.

During the Run of the Show

  • Document with video or digital images early, in case you need to re-shoot the images.
  • Connect with your fans.
  • Make any appointments with curators or writers at the venue.
  • Have fun!
"Sound Waves". Original Art by Gina Welds Hulse.

"Sound Waves". Original Art by Gina Welds Hulse.

Recording the Event

  • Arrange a photographer
  • Arrange a video camera operator
  • Contact press photographers and ask them to come along

After the Show

After the exhibition comes the pulling down. Be careful with this process, so you don’t damage the works. This is especially pertinent if you are handling a sold work. Clean and vacuum the gallery and return the keys to the owners once you are done.

  • Send thank you notes to everyone who volunteered.
  • Send letters to those who donated money or in-kind services to your show, and include a 501(c)(3) letter if needed for a tax deduction.
  • De-install the show, making sure that the space is returned to its original condition, if required.
  • Make sure your show is taken down in time.


You deserve it after all that stress. Maybe you’ll decide to do it all over again, in which case I recommend having an extra stiff drink.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2016 Gina Welds


Nancy Yager from Hamburg, New York on January 22, 2017:

If you are an artist, it is always a good idea to partner with someone who can handle the business end of art shows. Also many non-profits are willing to fund and host art shows. It pays t o solicit them.

Gina Welds (author) from Tampa, Florida on January 11, 2017:

Hi Shauna. Thank you, and thanks for visiting. It was very professional-looking and I did have a lot of help to put it together. It certainly is one which I could not have done alone. It was a lot of fun for those who attended. It did provide a lot of exposure, although monetarily it did not meet my goal. One of my main goals was to help out the Karate Competition Team. That part certainly went well. I did learn a lot of lessons from the experience. I know what to improve on the next time around. Yes, I do plan to do this again. :-) ....on an even bigger scale this time. I am currently working on a 101 Days of Creativity project which should result in a book at the end of it....a sort of Manifesto. Stay tuned. (smile)

Hope you are doing well. I will be visiting.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on January 10, 2017:

Congratulations on your show, Gina. Wow, what a lot of work! Sounds like you put on a real professional exhibition. How did you do?

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