Thursday, December 8, 2011

Ideas for Hosting an Art Reception

As promised a few weeks ago, I will describe some of the planning and set-up details from the Open Studio Reception we held in early November (see photos in two earlier posts below). My studio is a small nook in (of all places) our master bathroom (this post shows the arrangement). People enjoy seeing such a novel and yet functional use of space. Also, it is surprising to me how many people are curious about how artists work and what our work space looks like. So, as we had two years ago, we invited a number of friends, neighbors, and acquaintances to join us on a Sunday afternoon from 2 - 5 to enjoy a party and see some paintings. UPDATE: I have now added an index to all blog posts about planning and holding an art reception. Access it here.

Our two receptions have been more elaborate than such events need to be. The main goal is to display artwork and, in a very casual and low-key way, to offer the pieces for sale. We wanted to make the occasion a fun party, too, so hired a piano player and offered beverages, appetizers, and small desserts each time. It's fun, but fairly expensive--and was a ton of work the first time before we acquired a catering daughter-in-law. In the future, I would like to try a reception with very simple food--maybe just cookies and punch, or cider with cheese and crackers.
I sent out postcard invitations to a wide list of people. The guest book information from the first reception was an invaluable source for the second. In order to encourage everyone to sign the guest book, I offer a prize drawing using the guest book signatures. Each entry is numbered, so late in the party, I simply put little numbered squares of cardboard (made in advance)--one for each actual guest book entry--into a bowl and draw the winners. A large poster board sign outside the front door read: "Please sign our guest book for a chance to win a prize." It listed prizes (this year, first prize was a $100 gift certificate toward any painting, second was a custom tote bag printed with an image of the same painting as on the postcard invitations). It gave the time of the drawing (4:15) and that you do not have to be present to win, which is an incentive to provide contact information in the guest book. This works very well; I am quite certain that every guest to both receptions not only signed the guest book, but provided an address and email and/or phone information.
Some of you might be interested in other details of the planning and set-up, but this post is long enough already. If you would like a description of my price and painting care information sheet and/or list of planning tasks essential to preparation for this kind of event, I will include that in a future post. Let me know. For now, I include photos of some recycled art bookmarks, an idea from Linda Blondheim, that guests enjoyed and purchased by the bunch. The process: After finishing the last couple paintings, I cleaned the palettes (always hate to waste paint) by stroking various leftover colors mixed with some white gesso in a sort of marbled pattern on the back of unneeded studies and a painting reject. Then, I cut them neatly into bookmark-sized strips, which creates interesting abstracts from the original paintings. These sold for $2 each, or 3 for $5. One photo shows the "fronts" and one the "backs" of the bookmarks.
Question of the day: In your area, do you see fewer people going to formal art galleries to purchase art? What are some other ways you see artists and craftspeople marketing their work?


  1. Being an avid internet shopper...well, not avid, but it is my preferred method of shopping, I find it a sublime way to look at art. If I knew of, or knew how to find open houses like you have, I think it would be so fun! I wish I could do something like that here (not have one but go to one). I also love the idea of the studio/house walks that I've heard of in some communities with artists. Heck...I wish I could find a local group that meets on a weeknight or a weekend night. The only one I know of here meets during the days on Fridays. Not enough energy or gumption to start one of my own...

    Yeesh, Mary. Didn't mean to kvetch. Fatigue is getting to me.

  2. Better watch that fatigue, Sherry--this season is extra hazardous :>). I would recommend that more artists and craftspeople try something like this, remembering it can be much simpler than our gathering and still be terrific. A woman I know who makes jewelry has sales at her house with 4 or 5 other artists, so that the show is varied with paintings, pottery, unique cards, and other works in addition to her own.

  3. Hi Mary,

    I have enjoyed reading your posts about your open studio reception. I always prefer to see original art in person, rather than through a photo or over the computer - it just can't compare. I think a lot of art would probably sell better if the people could see it in person, so your reception sounds like a great idea. However, it does seem like a lot of work too, and I am sure not crazy about having people wandering through my home. Maybe if I had a separate studio or something. I am glad to hear that it worked out well for you, your paintings are beautiful. Best of luck on future receptions!


  4. LIsa, you are so right about how important it is to see original art in person--there is no way to capture the depth, colors, and glow of a painting in a photo. Yes, the reception was a lot of work, but was a fun party, too. In the future, I want to try a much simpler kind of gathering.

  5. Droppin' by to wish you a Fabulous Christmas and a Fruitful 2012! :)

  6. Thank you, Cher--you are a dear, just as your name says :>)! I hope the same for you and yours.

  7. Mary...
    Wow... I have so much to learn from you. I have been toying with the idea of participating in a Art Studio tour here in the Valley but hesitated for many reasons... one reason being is that my studio is in the "retreat" of our master bedroom which is upstairs.
    So I guess since you were able to do it, I could too. Did you, however, worry about people taking things from your personal spaces??

    I too, thought Linda Blondheim's idea for recycling old paintings was a great one. I may try that as well.

    I'll come by to see more... Thanks so much for sharing your successes and your art!

  8. thanks for your very kind comment on my blog. This post has me thinking many an idea for the future. Peace and Hope Wayne

  9. It's great to hear from you, Marian! Since our event was by invitation, we had fewer worries than we would have in an open-to-the public kind of event. However, our mailing list was large, and we don't know all the people very well, so I was a bit careful. I put jewelry and a couple of other small valuables away in a closet (needed the dresser top for small art pieces on easels anyway). Also, our home is a modest sized single story; it would be harder if people were out of sight on an upper or lower floor. You could recruit a few friends to take turns hanging out near the studio, just to keep an eye on things. Thanks again for visiting and commenting.

    Wayne, your blog is terrific, and I truly enjoyed visiting and seeing your lovely art work. I very much appreciate your visit and comment here and hope to hear from you sometime again.

  10. Congratulations on the show. It is work but it will pay off in return friends and customers. Good for you! Thanks for the inspiration.

  11. Thank you very much, Jo, both for your visit and for your kind comment. I appreciate you cheering me on and am glad it may provide some inspiration; that is a central hope when I write a post about this kind of project.