Creating an art exhibition

Would you like to present an art exhibition at Brandeis? Here are some suggestions for a successful show.

Show Me … Why and When?

Six to eight weeks before you open the exhibit, take the following first steps.

  • ExhibitionDevelop your purpose. Why you are interested in presenting this exhibition to the Brandeis community? Create a title for the exhibit and write a brief statement of purpose, including the topic and any related curriculum or community interests you want to explore. The title should be short, memorable and illuminating. The statement does not need to be scholarly, but it should reflect your intent and seriousness in bringing your exhibition to the community.
  • Invite a faculty member to support your proposed exhibit and serve as an advisor on the project. If you don’t know of anyone, the Office of the Arts can help you locate faculty with relevant expertise.
  • Pick your dates. Exhibitions usually stay up for seven to 10 days – you want to include one weekend. Remember to allow one day for preparing the exhibit and one day for removing it. Consider the academic calendar as well as other events taking place on campus. Try to avoid competing with similar events. Three-day weekends, religious holidays, vacations, reading days and final exam periods are not usually the best times for an exhibition, but you could plan yours as a “welcome back” event.
  • Consult the Brandeis Events Calendar to see what spaces might be available and to make sure your event does not conflict with any similar events.
  • Throughout your planning process, look for partnership opportunities. You may want to invite a department, program or club to co-sponsor the exhibition and add programming such as a related talk or symposium. The extra time it takes to collaborate pays off in a broader audience and valuable new relationships.

See Creating an Audience for many more suggestions on publicity and communications.

Finding Your Space

There are some wonderful exhibition spaces on the Brandeis campus, but they are not plentiful. Consider whether you need a secure site – one that is monitored or locked to ensure the safety of the art. Also consider whether you would like the exhibition to be in an actual gallery space or a general public venue. Following is a list of possible sites. If you know of others, please let us know.

Complete the Space Request Form (PDF) and send it to the contact person for the space for which you are applying. This will provide them with all the information they need to make sure you have chosen the best site for your exhibition.

  • The Dreitzer Gallery in the Spingold Theater Center is used several times a year by the Department of Fine Arts for student exhibitions, particularly during the spring semester. It may be available at other times. Consult the Brandeis Events Calendar to see what dates are available, then contact Tory Fair in the Fine Arts Department to ask about using the space.
  • The Shapiro Campus Center Gallery on the third floor is private and secure, but can be hard for the general public to find. The first-floor lounge can also be used for exhibitions, but is not secure. Contact the Department of Student Activities to reserve either space.
  • Slosberg Music Center Lobby. Existing artwork must be moved and reinstalled, and walls need to be repaired and repainted. Contact Mark Kagan, academic adminstrator.
  • Goldfarb Library does not have a formal gallery space, but it does have places where art can be exhibited and made available to the public. Contact Patricia Flanagan at LTS. For the display cases in the Creative Arts section, contact librarian Lisa Zeidenberg.
  • Chum’s. Contact the Department of Student Activities.
  • Intercultural Center Lounge (Swig Center). Contact Monique Gnanaratnam, director.
  • Sachar International Center, Brandeis International Business School. There is a small space available in the World Court area; unguarded, 24-hour access. Contact Karen Muise, program administrator for student services.
  • Schneider Building, Heller School. Contact the Heller events team at hellerevents@brandeis.edu.
  • Brown. The Anthropology Department’s Material Culture Study Center Committee oversees the display cases on the second floor. Contact Laurel Carpenter, academic administrator.
  • The Women’s Studies Research Center houses the Kniznick Gallery, devoted to artwork by or about women. Professional exhibitions related to the center’s scholarly research are planned six to 18 months in advance by scholars and the curator, and the space is generally not available for student exhibitions. If you have a suggestion for an exhibition, email wsrc-arts@brandeis.edu
  • The Rose Art Museum presents professional artists and works from the museum's permanent collection. Its programming is developed by the museum’s director and curator 12 to 24 months in advance. The Rose does not exhibit work by students.

Creating an Audience

See Creating an Audience for ideas.

Preparing Your Exhibition

Curators spend a lot of time preparing and hanging exhibits to make them look clean, professional and inviting. This is about more than just hammers and nails – it is a creative opportunity to help communicate the meaning of the work. For technical advice on hanging work, contact Jon Koppel, studio technician in the Fine Arts Department.

  • Visit the exhibition site in advance. Draw a diagram of the exhibit space with approximate dimensions of each wall area. Will horizontals fit, or will a vertical format work better? What groupings might be interesting? What are the walls made of: wood, plaster, concrete? Are there permanent hooks installed or must you provide your own?
  • Before you transport work to the exhibition site:
    • Make sure the space is unlocked and that the people who manage the space know you are coming.
    • Make a list of all the pieces you plan to show so that you can make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.
    • Gather all the supplies you need: hammer, pliers, tape measure, pencil, masking tape, hooks, wire, cutters, ladder, etc. (Some of these materials might be available to you at the site. Just ask!)
    • Find out about any restrictions on hanging work: can you use tape, nails, tacks, T-pins?
  • When you install the show, take along extra pieces of art. You need to have alternatives on hand in case the ones you thought would look best may not work. And bring friends who are handy!
  • Remember that less is more. Give each piece the space it needs to "breathe" – about three feet between pieces is a good idea.

I’m Hung Up on You

  • Avoid damaging fragile edges and corners by padding the work during installation or hanging.
  • Always place artwork on padding – a blanket, bubble wrap or foam – when resting it on hard surfaces. Don’t lay it flat on the floor. Someone will step on it.
  • Never handle, move or hang large works of art alone. You can easily damage the art, or yourself.
  • Hanging a show always takes longer than you expect. Leave plenty of time for adjustments, and don’t think you can hang a show between classes.

The Art of Content and Presentation

At Brandeis, we like to think art is more than just room decoration. Take some time to help deepen the experience of the people who will view the exhibition. This doesn’t mean telling them what to think. There are creative ways to provide a context and point of view that invite the viewer to experience his or her own thoughts and feelings.

  • ExhibitionCreate wall text or a handout with a statement about the show. This can be based on your earlier statement of purpose, but directed to the viewing public. Why this exhibit? Why now? What does it communicate? Who made the art? When and why did they make it?
  • The statement does not need to be a manifesto. If someone took photos on a road trip, and just wants everyone to see them, maybe that’s all you need to say. On the other hand, wall text can be poetic and powerful – creative writing is an art, too.
  • Visit the Rose Art Museum or the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston (free with your Brandeis ID!) for examples of wall text and curatorial statements.
  • Consider an audio tour that viewers can listen to on an MP3 player. You can even include music that illuminates or helps set the tone of the exhibition.
  • Provide a clear and proud statement of authorship and sponsorship. For example: "The Brandeis Photographic Society presents “Winterscapes,” new work by its 2011-12 members. Sponsored by the Department of Student Activities with assistance from the Department of Fine Arts. Curators: Joe College ’12 and Fannie FirstYear ’13."
  • If you are presenting an exhibition of work created elsewhere (not by members of the Brandeis community), your statement should include a notice saying so. For example: “This exhibition is sponsored by the Martian Pirates Society of Waltham. Brandeis University does not necessarily endorse its content.”
  • Make labels for individual pieces or compile a list of all the pieces to distribute to viewers. Include the name of piece and the artist’s name and affiliation. Media (watercolor, acrylic, ceramic, etc.) and dimensions are optional.
  • Put out a guest book for people to record their comments and addresses.

Arts and Cheese: The Opening Reception

Your opening reception serves several purposes. It welcomes the public and your friends, deepens the viewer’s experience of the work and makes connections between the artists and the community.

  • ExhibitionSpecify the community connections for your exhibition. Invite key people from academic departments, research centers and other organizations on campus to attend the reception. Ask one or two of them to contribute a quote to your exhibition statement (be sure to give them plenty of time to do so). How about the off-campus community? Consider inviting key people from local organizations who share an interest in art or the topic of the exhibition. Visit www.discoverwaltham.com for lists of such organizations.
  • Design an eye-catching e-vite or postcard invitation. Develop a mailing list of your friends, members of your organization, board members, alumni and so forth. Post an image from the exhibition as your Facebook profile.
  • It won’t be an opening without a cheese platter! Contact the people who manage the space to discuss any restrictions on serving refreshments at your reception.
  • Skip the cheese and crackers for something that is more unusual and perhaps even related to the exhibition. Ask a local restaurant or grocery store to donate food. They will often do so, in return for your posting a sign that thanks them for their donation. And if you do decide to go with clean, classy cubes of cheese, you might enjoy this optional reading: www.murrayscheese.com and www.cheese.com.
  • Is there a table available for refreshments, or will you need to bring one? What is required of you in terms of cleanup? Ask some friends in advance to help.

Show Over: After the Exhibition Closes

Take down your show on the day assigned and remove all hooks and nails. Return any tools you’ve borrowed. If you are required to spackle or repaint the walls, do so – and leave the space clean. You should anticipate the time and cost of this process. For advice about how to repair walls after you remove hooks and nails, contact Jon Koppel, studio technician in the Fine Arts Department.

  • Let the location managers know that you are done and have restored the space to its original condition. Send them a note or e-mail thanking them for "hosting" your event.
  • Read your guest book! It’s a great way to get honest audience feedback. Be sure to enter the names and addresses into your mailing list.
  • Document the process. Keep a binder with copies of your budget, receipts for expenses, copies of promotional materials, e-mails and letters. You or your organization may want to do it again.