Stepping Stones is a monthly column that breaks down seemingly daunting tasks into simple, manageable “steps” that any art educator can take and apply directly to their classroom. Stepping Stones will explore a variety of topics and share advice for art-on-a-cart teachers and those with art rooms.
SETTING UP YOUR ART SHOW
by Heidi O’Hanley
One of the many responsibilities we have as the art teacher is promoting student work with the community. Even though the task can be challenging, once the artwork is up and the attendees come to view the work, we’re filled with overwhelming pride and joy in our students’ creative talents.
1. Why have an art show? An art show is a great way to share the amazing works created by your students. No matter what grade level you teach, parents and community members will flock to see your students’ creations. One of our national visual arts standards is “presenting,” which focuses on analyzing, interpreting, and selecting artistic works for presentation. Within the anchor standards, we should work with students in identifying and explaining the purpose of a portfolio or collection of work, as well as how exhibiting art inside and outside of school can benefit the community.
2. When is the best time for a show? The timing of your show depends on your schedule. Many schools offer art shows in the springtime to share the student artworks collected over the recent school year.
The elementary schools in my district hosts an art show in the late spring to showcase the winners of our annual art contest for third through 6th graders.
Some schools choose to work with themed shows, like a multicultural fair or holiday extravaganza. A few years back, my previous school held a multicultural fair for all teachers and students to participate in. Around the perimeter of the fair, I displayed students artworks inspired by different cultures for attendees to view. You can also host an art show in the fall! In our district, the Jr. High hosts a gallery night in the mid-fall to showcase student work current and past, as well as promote the artworks of the staff and local high school.
3. Who should I recruit to help? The students and their parents would be the best people to contact first. If you have a school newsletter or a website, I would recommend creating a “call for assistance” to help in setting up the show and prepping the projects. You can also try to ask the student council, art club, and even administration! In some schools, teachers are even required by contract to stay for one event of their choosing during the school year. You may even wish to ask teachers in your school (if you have that option) for their assistance to fulfill their requirements.
4. What should I prepare for the show? Depending on the theme of your show, you can hang anything your students have created! For two-dimensional pieces, try framing them with either paper or matt board. Use dots of glue, spray adhesive or tape to attach the frames. Most of my students’ 2-D projects are always framed with colored paper once completed. A frame helps make the artwork more presentable and gives you less work to prepare before a show.
Once the artwork is prepped, think about how you plan to share information about the projects. You could print out a description to matt, or you can create and print out a QR code that leads to the website connected to the artwork. For example, if your students’ work was inspired by the artist Keith Haring, consider linking the QR code to the Keith Haring website for parents and attendees to view a biography about the artist. You can do this for any artist, time period, or cultural reference.
Are you planning on adding student names to the artwork? Consider printing labels with students’ names and dates to place on the frame.
5. How should I advertise? If your district has a website, newsletter or any social-media outlet, make sure to send them a press release statement about the show! I would even utilize Artsonia’s digital newsletter to help remind parents and family members about the upcoming show. You can also create invitations to go home with students.
6. I don’t have time for an art show. What else can I do to promote my students’ work? If you do not have the time to set up your own art show but still want to host, there’s a fundraising company called “Artomé” (artome.com) that offers assistance in hosting art shows.
They provide the paper for each student, professionally frame the original artwork for each student, and their team delivers and arranges the gallery with their displays. The parents can choose to purchase the frame for their children’s artwork at the show. Artomé also disassemble the gallery, un-frame and return any remaining artwork. All you need to do is coordinate when the show will be set up and then advertise!
If you’re planning your art show for the spring, the best of luck to you and your students! Once the artworks are set up, enjoy the show with your young artists.
Arts & Activities Contributing Editor, Heidi O’Hanley (NBCT) teaches elementary art for Indian Springs School District #109, in the Greater Chicago Area. Visit her blog at www.talesfromthetravellingartteacher.blogspot.com.