Hello!

So much has gone on since I last posted here. There has been a whirlwind of minutiae getting ready for Invisible:visAble! It opens on October 30, 2015. The challenges have been many. I debated not writing about what has REALLY gone on during this pre-exhibition time period of well over a year -- we live in a time when everyone is always trying to "look good" and are often not forthcoming with anything but perfection -- but then I realized that my experiences might be an empathic gift to another newbie curator and maybe also a lesson to artists willing to listen and improve! In my personal life, I always say the one thing you can count on is change and in curating, it is no different. Change can be dealt with, a problem approached, a solution found. Move forward, right?

What CAN'T be dealt with is when you are responsible for several people and some of those people display a lack of professionalism, causing so much extra work and teeth-gritting, making a curator's life a nightmare!

This exhibition has been fraught with challenge since its inception. It has almost been "disabled".

The venue changed after the agreement with the previous gallery was not upheld due to some issues with the City of Atlanta during a move they made and then, once almost moved, I was left hanging even longer, pushing the show back several more months until I had to look for a new venue. The new venue had a space in November. This caused stress in my own exhibition schedule, as I have a collaboration exhibition opening September 18th, and juggling the two shows back-to-back, plus everything else, has been very stressful.

However, the gallery I AM having the exhibition in has no Director, having had only one in a year and a half, and she lasted just 3 months! Three artists have been dropped from the show for various problems of extreme unprofessionalism and diva attitude. I had a huge slip and fall in June with injuries and this past week, a major car accident and am nursing some big injuries from that. 

As this is really the first time I have fully curated an art exhibition, I certainly have learned and experienced a LOT. I assumed that since I was doing almost ALL of the work, the artists involved who had agreed to be in the exhibition would happily create the work for the show, get the few things I DID ask for to me in a timely manner, and help promote the exhibition. 

This is what I asked for:

1) Art

2) A resume

3) A head shot

4) An artist statement

5) An exhibition agreement

6) Send out on their social media, email lists, etc.

These are standard in the art biz. I always provide curators with these things immediately, and certainly, well before their deadline. I don't expect them to hold my hand nor chase me down for each and every thing. I am respectful and appreciative. 

These are talented people I have in the exhibition. A few of the artists have come through in a timely manner and provided everything on time, in full, and with integrity. I knew what they were making, so I could budget space and location of work that would best suit their piece. The information some provided in the way of a statement and resume assisted me in knowledgeably speaking about them, their challenge, and their work as I have been promoting the exhibition. The head shots helped me put faces to names and to use on the wall information I am hand making, so attendees can get to know them better. An exhibition agreement tells me they are serious, they understand what I need and when.

I worked solidly to win the Crafthaus micro grant. 

But, many of the artists have made me chase them down repeatedly for these things. As of this writing I still don't have some of this from a few of the artists, despite multiple and direct emails. Some have not replied to a single thing. One pulled out when the venue changed because it wasn't "good enough for my career moves in Atlanta".

This has been several lessons of....what artists should NOT do when they are in a curated exhibition!

I hope that those of you reading this who are artists will take a moment to give respect if you want to be respected. We all live crazy busy lives and curated shows you are invited into are a gift given you that should be cherished and appreciated. Hold up your end of the bargain. Many of us are serious and professional and looking to have good things occur in our careers and be asked over and over again. Go the distance...or get out of the business. 

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Replies to This Discussion

Thank you for letting people know what the realities are behind the scenes. This is helpful. I am sorry to hear of all these difficulties with the venues and the artists. No good deed goes unpunished.

On the plus side: you blog was very widely read, and it was an important topic to bring up! THANK YOU for all your relentless work. Hope you will recover from the accident soon!!

That's my husband's favorite line! Thank you very much for your support and good wishes. I will write a very positive post in a week or two....I might actually get to see some artwork from some of the artists by then....I am going into the hanging blind as I don't even know what some of them are making! 

Leisa,

you know I am in the same boat right now. An international show that hangs in 3 weeks and I still have no idea what some of my artists are sending. (I built in extra days for installation as a buffer. )

I have pushed, prodded, sent very personal emails and begged for a lot of the same information. Those wonderfully prepared and professional artists (like yourself) who have been on top of the game and forthcoming with everything I asked for are the ones getting promoted. Theirs are the images I use for press and social media.

While I want this show to be perfect, I am certain no one else is invested in this as much as I am. It's my pet and my obsession. Yes, I want everyone to be professional and timely but I only have control over my actions and preparations. Learning to let go of my idea of perfection has allowed me to sleep better at night.

To note for others: I am in Shana's exhibition of which she speaks. WHEN did I have MY stuff she required in, and my art delivered to her?! WAY before due! I may make the odd mistake, but I try to never infringe on hardworking art supporters' time. And, like Shana, I am learning to let go, which is why three of the artists are O-U-T. 

And YOU are my rock star because of your preparedness & consideration!

If artists only understood how much work goes in to these shows, especially when there is no gallery support or financial backing.

I agree with Alice Simpson.. EVERY artist should be required to curate a show.

Thanks! That IS a great idea about everyone having to curate a show, isn't it....and if anyone blasts about it being the young and "inexperienced" artists who shirk the duties that come along with promoting and exhibiting work, I would have to respectfully disagree. It is some artists...period. All ages! 

Leisa, I understand and appreciate your frustrations. I have been writing about professional standards  and success with the Professional Guidelines  and ASK Harriete for a number of years, yet it is evident that artists and makers do not seems to connect the dots between professionalism and success. Reality is that it takes more than just good to great work to succeed. 

A second invitation from a curators, museum or gallery will always be dependent on your professionalism in the first opportunity. And believe me....your career is dependent on 2nd, 3rd, 4th invitations.  

There is a really famous business maxim "the least expensive customer acquisition is keeping the one you have." The same goes in your relationship with curators.

Wishing you a speedy recovery.

Harriete  


You are so right. The words just don't seem to sink in with some. A curator should not need to email asking for the same info 6,7,8,9, or 10 times.

I wish everyone would read your words of wisdom all of the time! However- curators also need to issue an ultimatum....I have seen artists who are totally irresponsible get asked back time and again by curators because of their name recognition or their great work, and it is these situations that also keep artists knowing they can get away with bad professionalism. After all...aren't artists supposed to be turbulent and unpredictable beings? LOL

"The words just don't seem to sink in with some."

A deadline is a deadline. Incomplete entries are INCOMPLETE.  As long as "we as a group" are willing to accommodate everyone no matter what, as long as "we" don't keep up better standards, this annoying and inconsiderate behavior will continue. I do understand your particular situation though, Leisa. In your case, this being an invitational show with a handful of selected artists, not a public call, you really had no choice other than hunting these people down. Sorry.

I have in the past turned away applicants because they were late (sorry, folks) and I start my meetings on.the.dot. You are late? That happens, just slink in at the back of the room and catch up as fast as you can. We already started without you and this is YOUR problem now, not mine. Do this a few times and the message sinks in.

Yes, curated exhibitions ARE different beasts! And, I have a soft heart....

Hi Leisa,
Your frustration is familiar.
My own experiences curating book arts exhibitions have been similar; following up, over and over with artists, the way packages arrive, ignoring instructions, leaving out descriptive information and even contact information. It drives one wild! Every artist should be required to curate a show in order to understand how important it is to follow instructions.

Kudos to those who do read directions for submissions; they make it all worthwhile.

Sorry you are experiencing Murphy's Law and I hope you heal in body, mind and spirit, and that your exhibition will shine.

Thank you! 

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