Communication (with galleries and other professional relationships)
When running your own business, or teaching, or use email for any reason, it is vital that you respond in a timely manner. Unfortunately, timely often means within 24 hours. It is best practice to acknowledge emails as soon as you receive them, or at least within one business day. If you cannot respond in the depth that the email needs, write a brief note acknowledging the receipt of the email and explain that you will get to it as soon as you can: “Hi John, I got your email regarding xxx this morning. Your question deserves some time and I will get back to you this evening, (or tomorrow or by the end of the week) with a response.”
If you do not check you emails that often, or find that you struggle with writing emails, here are couple thing you can do to make people emailing you feel better. First, set up a vacation responder on your email which automatically responds to every email. You can write something like “Thank you for your email, I devote Tuesdays and Fridays to correspondence. I will respond to your email as soon as I can.” If you do go out of town and have limited access to email, set your vacation responder to indicate that you will be “out of the office until…”
Or, you can list your “business hours” in the signature section of your email.
Thank you notes
Whether you have had an interview, been a visiting artist, had a show or received a grant, it is best practice to send a thank you note. This is particularly important with interviews. You can send physical cards or you can send an email card (here are a couple of services for this: Greenvelope, American Greetings, smile box) . These notes build a lot of capital. Acknowledging that someone spent time with you goes a long way.
*As a personal aside, I just received a thank you note from a former student who had asked me for a letter of recommendation. She gave me an update that she was awarded the internship that she applied for. This news was so great to receive. These notes keep lines of communication open between you and your references and they go far. If someone has gone out on a limb for you in this way, it is a great idea to keep that relationship alive and keep those people posted!
who does what and how; ethics of installation
Once you have been invited to have an exhibition, it is vital that you stay in careful contact with the gallery. Pay attention to their deadlines! You show respect for the gallery when you get requested information to them when they ask for it. Make a calendar and keep it. I have a separate google calendar just for exhibitions on which I set reminders so that I do not miss a deadline. Don’t make the gallery send you reminders. Most galleries that exhibit emerging artists’ work tend to be understaffed so the easier you make it for the gallery, the more time they will have to promote your exhibition!
When you receive the exhibition contract from the gallery, be sure you read through the whole thing. Find out who will pay for shipping, what they will do in terms of PR/ Marketing your exhibition, and who is responsible for installing your exhibition. Make sure you get your work to the gallery in the window of time that they ask for. It is equally difficult for galleries to receive work too early as it is to receive the work too late. Many galleries do not have that much room for storage, and many galleries do one show right on top of the next, with a very narrow window of time between exhibitions.
If you and the gallery have decided that you will install your own exhibition, be respectful of the gallery’s open hours. Many times, the gallery has security and cannot leave you alone in their space. If a staff member has to be present for you while you are installing, be respectful of their time.
Find out what types of tools the gallery has available for installation (drills, hardware, levels, tape measures, ladders etc.) If your work has unusual installation needs (hanging from the ceiling), be sure you communicate this with them and find out if it is possible with their space.
It is a great idea to get a floor plan from the gallery so that you can visualize the space before you arrive. Even if you are not installing the work, this will help you to make work that fits in the exhibition space. I recently had a drawing arrive to the gallery that barely fit on our longest wall.
If you make very large work, find out what type/size door the gallery has. Also find out if there are stairs you need to go up and down in order to get into the gallery.
If you are installing and taking your work down, make sure you leave the space better than you found it. If you painted the walls a different color, make arrangement to have it painted back. If you make holes in the wall, be sure you repair them etc.
Preparing and installing the exhibition: Preparing and installing an exhibitions takes practice. Set yourself up for success! There is an art to curating a space. My best advice is to take advantage of the numerous opportunities to learn while you are here: Sharon McConnell’s Exhibition Design class, an internship at Cohen Center Gallery (accepting applications now!), working at the Turner Gallery or in Fosdick-Nelson or work study in the Alfred Ceramic Art Museum will each provide you with very practical skills. There is even a minor in arts administration here at Alfred. Whether you want to work in a gallery or not in the future, you will learn a ton about how to install, handle, pack and ship, light exhibitions and more. These types of experiences are so valuable to your understanding of how work is displayed and viewed. Perhaps this is why SOAD provides to many opportunities for students here in Alfred.
Find out if the gallery has insurance. If anything happens to your work while at the gallery, whether during installation or the exhibition, and they do not have insurance, you could lose that piece and not be compensated for it. Read your contract carefully and make sure that your work is covered under their policy.