A Retrospective from Hidden Imaginarium
It’s amazing how quickly an exhibition you planned one and a half years ago, disappears once it’s finally up looking all pretty and chuffed with itself in the gallery; the opening blinks its way past your eyes and then it takes a mere 10 minutes or less to de-install your work.
In this feature, I wanted to discuss my reflection of what went into planning and developing our exhibition. In November 2016 Corrina McLaughlin and myself got together after exhibiting work in a group exhibition at Aspire Gallery. We brainstormed what we had in common in the way of themes and concepts. We discovered we both loved the idea of expressing dream states, lucid dreaming, the contrast between our waking life and our subconscious and so Hidden Imaginarium was born; although in the beginning it was to be called Monochrome Imaginarium – but the beast organically grew and changed.
During its inception, I read books on lucid dreaming, Jim Morrison’s poetry, Alice in Wonderland and researched the subconscious mind online as well as automatic drawing. I really loved the concept that was brewing in my mind and took to paper, collage, ink and papercutting as mediums and technique.
My work was about layers of the human waking condition, the layers of our dream states and "that" otherworld that takes place while we sleep. Absurd, intriguing, whimsical, deep, deliberate, unconscious and wonderland were all words describing my direction.
We booked a space at Aspire Gallery in Paddington. I felt we were precarious in our marketing strategy and plan. A media release was developed, a list of online event calendars created, an email exhibition list and we thought about target markets and our demographic. We started promoting our exhibition just shy of 2 months before the opening date. This was the first time I didn’t print hard copies of the invitation and only promoted the exhibition via electronic means, (besides a handful of posters going up around my workplace) including Facebook and Instagram. I felt it didn’t hinder the success of the exhibition. Also, I didn’t spend any money on advertising besides one Facebook boost (which cost $6).
To keep other costs down, we catered the event ourselves and I love to cook and make platters (plus I have my food safety certificate) so it wasn’t an issue, catering included drinks and cost just under $300.
We were lucky a photographer friend of mine Rochelle Blakelock was available to document the exhibition; she had taken photos for me in a previous group exhibition and didn't mind lending us a hand. A staff member from QCA Griffith University (and Award Winner!) Dr Renata Buziak said YES to being our opening speaker – which was so exciting for me and her speech was fabulous! (There's nothing quite like surrounding yourself with reliable people when planning an exhibition!).
If you do have people doing favours for your opening – you MUST remember to buy them a thank you gift! In this instance, I wrapped up some hand-picked wine with a card. This has to be the most selfless act (giving their time to your exhibition) and it was very much appreciated!
Through the exhibition planning process communication was key and I found that checking in with my arty counterpart was of utmost importance so that we weren’t drifting away from each other in different directions and it’s also super important to note that developing a positive rapport with the gallery staff also helps. In my case, I have been a regular exhibitor with Aspire Gallery and so over this time, I really have become part of the furniture and I just love that I can always be myself around the family run business team.
The opening itself was a success in my eyes. We had about 40 attendees, made up of family and friend supports (which I can’t do without), the media, interior designers, graphic designers, photographers, curators, a Senator, artists, artists who exhibit through Aspire Gallery and some guests walking past by chance. A fabulous mix of interesting people. I nearly got around to meeting and talking with everyone, but in a two hour time slot, I did miss some people. I definitely made a handful of positive and exciting connections with other artists from this experience.
Through inviting Queensland Magazines to attend, we ended up with a representative writing a review about the exhibition. Read More.
We had a lucky door prize (I love to include this simple and fun way of keeping people around until it’s drawn and it’s always fun drawing the winner too!) and impulse buys including hand stitched journals, greeting cards, miniature works and handmade postcards. I like the idea of catering for a variety of budgets, our show included work ranging from $5 - $450.
As the exhibition came to a close I reflected on what I could have done better and for this particular show it would be the following:
· More props! And ways to make the work tell an even deeper story
· Include an interactive activity for guests
· Have a clip board with a form to collect email addresses
· Invite MORE people
· Think about a raffle to raise money for a chosen charity (instead of a lucky door prize) or a percentage of sold works to be donated to a charity
· Include more unframed works on paper – as this didn’t seem to be a problem with investors
Planning, developing, marketing, installing and delivering an exhibition to the public is a lot of work, it can be exhausting, frustrating, expensive and stress can creep in! But having an exhibition where you carefully plan and organise what needs to happen and when you put all of your love into making your work, it is received brilliantly well and the opportunity to meet people you may not have been able to without having the event can open up new doors for you! I’d do it again! :)