We receive many inquiries from people wanting to host a Twitter Art Exhibit in their area. It can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but not without its challenges.
So you can make an informed decision as to whether or not you can commit to organizing a #TwitterArtExhibit in your city, here’s an idea of what’s involved:
THE THREE COMPONENTS OF A SUCCESSFUL TWITTER ART EXHIBIT
- First, of course, there’s the TAE organization, which offers support at a distance with press releases, general logistics, PR, etc. The TAE organization is supported by a group of Board members, who help spread the word on social media and various blogs.
- Second, you need a local organizer (or team of organizers) where the exhibition will take place. This person is preferably an artist or a curator who has participated in a previous TAE (or is familiar with the concept), someone who is connected within the arts community and has the resources (and the free time) to put a major exhibition together and promote it.
- Third, you need a charity/nonprofit at your local level, which could benefit from our fundraising. We are open to many different types of charities, but you have to keep the TAE community in mind, and what they might be interested in supporting. It’s usually preferable to choose a smaller organization that doesn’t already do a lot of fundraising on its own, as opposed to a large one with a lot of overhead.
If you are a charity without an organizer (or an organizer without a charity), please keep in mind that TAE does not have the capacity to connect you with resources at your local level. An organizer and a charity must come together locally, then bring us a “packaged” proposal, outlining how they will host their #TwitterArtExhibit.
BENEFITS OF HOSTING
It takes a very organized individual to run this, and it’s a big commitment. It’s very rewarding though; you meet a lot of new people – other artists, collectors, fans, gallerists, nonprofits – and it does come with a level of recognition and respect from the community. It’s also a very positive entry on a resume, especially if you are a curator, or an artist interested in curating and/or supporting artist-led curatorial initiatives.
LOCAL ORGANIZER’S RESPONSIBILITIES
Since the TAE board can only assist at a distance, the local organizer is crucial and must be extremely diligent:
- It’s the organizer’s job to find a suitable charity and verify that they are a legal nonprofit entity in their country (must have financial records available online, proper website, etc.)
- The organizer also has to find a gallery or suitable exhibition space willing to host the show without taking a percentage of artwork sales.
- The organizer needs to set out agreements with the nonprofit and the exhibition space to define the terms of participation, and to make sure everyone knows what they are expected to do.
- We encourage the organizers to work as closely as possible with both the nonprofit and the gallery and get everyone on board with the social media aspect of #TwitterArtExhibit. Everyone should benefit from increased exposure, and cross-pollination of audiences.
- Time involved
Planning and hosting a Twitter Art Exhibit might take the better part of 6 months from start to finish, so the local organizer has to be someone who is self-employed, or has a flexible schedule. For example, the Call for Artists in Los Angeles was issued at the beginning of October, and the show was held in March. Incoming submissions started arriving within a few weeks of the Call for Artists, and kept coming in until a few weeks after the opening.
- Putting on a good show
As an organizer, keep in mind that artists are donating their work freely, and it all goes to a good cause. You therefore have a responsibility to host a professional exhibition for them that will be well-attended, in a space suited to that purpose.
Twitter Art Exhibit is 100% volunteer-based (nobody gets paid except the charity). The charity is responsible for handling the funds from the sale. The best way to do this is for the charity itself to process sales on opening night and beyond. Any costs of running the exhibition (food and beverage, installation materials, printed invitations, etc.) must be covered by sponsors or donations specifically for that purpose (must not come from art sales).
Some galleries may not want to host the show, because it can be expensive for them to let you have the space without getting a cut of artwork sales. However for some, the PR potential alone is incentive enough to get involved. If you cannot secure a gallery, a suitable alternative space is fine, as long as the location is accessible, and that it has wall space and lighting appropriate for an exhibition. For example, a public library, a community center, an event location, an empty storefront, or an underground warehouse might work, however you may have to build exhibition stands or temporary walls, and bring your own lighting. Finding a space where this is already provided will make your life much easier.
It goes without saying that participating artists may have different reasons to get involved: some just like the concept of TAE and want to help the charity, some are doing it for the exhibition opportunities, or to meet new collectors and have a chance to exhibit in previously untapped markets. Whatever the reason (and they are all valid), artist participation is likely to be stronger if the show is held in a good, suitable location or known gallery (as opposed to, let’s say… Bob’s apartment).
Building your team and workflow
You can’t possibly do this alone. You will need a lead organizer (or organizing team), assisted by volunteers. The size of your team is up to you, however the to-do list is long: receiving and opening submissions, scanning each piece, inputting artist information into a database (for gallery labels), posting each image on Tumblr/Twitter/Facebook with the artists’ Twitter handles, devising a system for exhibiting a large number of cards in a small space, and keeping track of the location of each artwork, etc. Then there is the promotion, PR, responding to hundreds of incoming e-mails and tweets, talking to the press, meeting with the gallery and the charity, designing promotional materials, prep, installation, lighting, managing staff and sales on opening night, designing the website to allow people to purchase cards after the opening (this is optional), shipping the sold artwork, etc., etc. We can’t possibly list everything here, but… you get the drift.
It’s up to the organizer to devise a system that works for them, however the TAE board can offer coaching and share information on what has worked in the past.
There is of course flexibility to accommodate modifications to the exhibition at your local level and adjust things as you go. But there is also a certain level of “branding” to maintain, meaning you have to stay within the philosophy of Twitter Art Exhibit; the process has to have continuity and consistency from previous exhibitions, and has to follow the same rules.
#TwitterArtExhibit is such hard work, and involves so many people and so many moving parts that hosting it more than once per year would be completely unrealistic. For this reason, we may have several years booked in advance, so if you’re thinking of hosting, please contact us as soon as possible. Our artists donate of their work generously, and we have no intention of asking for more than one postcard-sized artwork donation per artist per year. Also, oversaturation doesn’t benefit anyone involved. We’d rather you love us and keep participating, than get tired of the concept and as a result, the charities suffer.
Our goal is to have the exhibition travel to a new country each year. We are however flexible; those who can successfully host a TAE are few and far between, and we will evaluate the rotation of locations based on the proposals we receive. Keep in mind, our #1 goal is to raise funds for a charity. For this reason, it’s best to hold Twitter Art Exhibits in cities that have a demonstrated art scene, and significant art-going audiences.
ARE YOU READY TO REACH OUT TO US?
Here’s what we’ll need in your proposal:
1) Who the organizer (or organizing team) is, and what his/her/their qualifications are
2) What the charity is all about, as well as proof of its nonprofit status, and links to publicly available financial records
3) What gallery and/or space will host the show, and details on how the organizer proposes to install the exhibition, the plan for opening night, how long the show will run, how sales will be conducted, how the charity will collect the funds, who pays for refreshments (do you have any sponsors?), etc.
4) How the exhibition will be promoted locally (we provide social media and PR support, press releases, etc.)
5) Anything else you feel is relevant, such as the benefits of bringing TAE to your particular location
6) Do you foresee any problems in your country with infrastructure, such as the reliability of the postal service, or the ability to process and collect payments, unstable currency, restricted access to technology, etc? We have to ask, as we sometimes receive inquiries from parts of the world where these issues make this kind of exhibition untenable.
The TAE board will review your proposal, ask questions, research all parties involved, and discuss the feasibility of your project before making its decision. Please see the TAE Hosting Timeline for detailed information.
Should you want to contact us about your proposal, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Twitter Art Exhibit board:
David Sandum, Cat Salter-Smith, Isha Setia and Martin Sebek.