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.
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?