I am in the midst of a solo exhibit of my watercolors at the gallery at Yahara Bay Distilleries. This is my first one person show. Also, since this is not a gallery only business, the artist is much more involved in setting up the exhibit than at a typical gallery. (This took place in March and April 2015.)
So although I was quite excited, there was also a bit of trepidation, not knowing what to expect or how the show would be received. And it turned out to be a lot more work than I expected. There are no artwork gnomes who magically put the paintings on the wall and type up the title cards.
The Gallery and Its History
The Yahara Bay Distillery is in fact a production facility where they distill, bottle and package various alcohols. They have an entry room that has a bar area where you can order drinks made with their products. The rest pf that room is what makes up the gallery space. There are a few stools and table and also a couch in the gallery space.
Through a door is the distilling and bottling area along with tasting area. For a fee or free on Thursday evenings, you can sample their liquors and get a short tour of the facility. They produce a premium product – I recommend that you check it out.
Catherine Forde-Quint is one of the owners. It was her idea to fit in a gallery and she dreams that on day the gallery is as important as the distillery. She is an artist herself and a supporter of local artists and provides a rare space for emerging artists to have a solo show. Typically, they run for two months each. Yahara Bay takes no commission from the art which is sold.
It was a chance encounter whereby I got into the gallery. I was part of a group visiting the distillery for a potluck and tasting on a Thursday night. I noticed that gallery in the front room and asked one of the servers about how the gallery worked. She introduced me to Catherine who was there at the time. She was excited to find out I was an artist since she had an opening in the gallery calendar. After checking out my work, we talked on the phone and set the schedule.
Let’s Get It Started.
So my first job was to select the paintings which I would display among a vague worry in my mind that perhaps I did not have enough “quality” works to fill up the gallery. Catherine had a few suggestions about the type of art that sells well there but it was basically up to me.
I came back to the gallery and measured the walls and counted the pieces already up to get a sense of how many paintings the space would support.
I then inventoried that paintings that I had, emphasizing the more recent ones, accounting for paintings that were already entered into shows or being displayed. I felt it was important not the crowd the walls too much to give it more of a true gallery feel. Using their dimensions ,I determined how many and which ones I could actually fit. See, even artists need to do math. I also mapped the layout, arranged them by types of paintings (florals, landscapes, etc.).
I also had a couple of paintings in progress that I tried to finish. In the end, there was only one brand new artwork I added – there were too many other things to do and you never know how well a half-done painting will turn out.
Getting the paintings ready
Since the current show also had some prints, I also gathered the prints I had around to sell in a rack. I also selected a few smaller paintings and studies to go unframed into this cloth rack. These still needed to be matted and put into protective plastic.
Framing can be expensive and so not all of my completed works are already framed. So I needed to complete framing for all my selected artwork. I do my own matting and framing and this involves a number of steps. This task took perhaps the longest amount of time, scrambling to find frames or galls the correct size.
Finally, a title card was needed for each piece as well as a certificate of authenticity. I provide the certificates for all originals or prints I sell. These add a nice touch to purchases. I attached the COA to the back of each painting.
Title cards are often provided by galleries for conform to their style choices, but in a do it yourself gallery this was my responsibility. It gave me the chance to add a short description or story for some of the pieces.
A complete List of works was requested by Yahara Bay to they could keep track of what sold.
I also provided an artist bio and wanted to have a stack of my business cards present.
I came up with the idea of having a drawing for a print to add people to my newsletter list, so I needed the material, signs an sign-ups sheets ready to go.
Lastly, I added a portfolio of paper copies of some of my other work which was not going to fit on the walls.
Installation – hanging Day
OK, time to borrow a van from my son Gabe, pack up all of the art. It was my prerogative about how to hang the art and using the map I prepared in advance, I was able to proceed. Suddenly, it is very important that the spacing between paintings is even. And making sure the center of each was at the same height. Almost like designing a meta artwork containing all of the paintings.
Only had two paintings that did not fit so I was happy with my estimates. And that certainly is better than ending up with blank spaces on the walls. (One of the paintings made it back later as a replacement for a sold painting.)
I set up the rack, loaded it with the smaller works and set up the signup sheet area. The installation was a week before the reception but the gallery was open during that time so I needed to have everything ready.
Although Yahara Bay has their own email list and there created a flyer, I still had to drum up interest from my end. There were a lot of extras such as the YB “house: band playing and the introduction of a plum brandy, so there were plenty of draws.
I have a mailing list and also announced the event on Facebook. Due to the social nature and other activities possible during the reception, I also posted it as a Meet-up event.
I found the one of the local papers had an occasional column where they promote art displays and other types of events. Seemed like a long shot – there must be a lot of things to report on – but I sent an email to the writer detailing the reception and all of the other fun stuff happening then. I added a little gallery history and my story. To my surprise, an article featuring me did appear in the Capitol Times before the reception night!
Later the story was also picked up by the other local paper – the Wisconsin State Journal, probably from the efforts of the gallery.
Not done yet! The Reception
Although many galleries provide food and beverage for a reception because of the generous no commission policy at YB, I needed to provide the food. Want the food to portray a certain level of elegance and have enough so that it was not gone by 5:30, but still needed to stay within a budget. At least there was no need to provide alcohol since that is the distillery area of expertise!
I also needed to be able to accept credit cards in case someone wanted to make a purchase an did not have check book or a bunch of cash. I already had the device which can run cards off of my smart phone but had not used it yet do I needed to make sure I knew how.
Easy now, right? Except I need to pick up a friend from the airport just before the event. So I loaded up the food in a cooler, got dressed up and off to the airport I went, heart pounding. Luckily there were no delays and I showed up about 20 minutes early – and there were already people there! Yikes!
Need to set up the food on a table, while making a little conversation with those who were already there. Smile and relax, right? It turned out to be good that there were so many people attending since I had not time to get really nervous. Estimate that 150-200 people came through the building during the reception.
I have made three sales as a result of the show and have a possible commission project too. So I have to say it is a success. An the show still continues for another month at the time of this writing.
Thanks to all who made it out. Also big thanks to Yahara Bay distillery for this opportunity and their support.