Planning the opening reception
Galleries customarily host openings, usually in the evening of the first day the exhibit is open to the public. It is often a very crowded party where viewing the art is secondary to eating, drinking and either schmoozing with the artist, networking or being seen, depending on the venue.
At Hope Chapel we host receptions for most of the events at the biennial HopeArts Festival, but we usually don't have openings for the several smaller exhibits that rotate through the year. I think, as volunteers, we run out of energy. We do believe that openings honor the the artist, the art, and the audience and are a way to be hospitable. The Arts Festival openings are also an opportunity for the viewers and artists to connect and learn from each other. Like reading the artist statements, listening to artists talk about their work begins a relationship.
The Arts Festival exhibit openings usually run from 7:00 to 10:00. We begin by asking one of our talented musicians to play for about an hour. Paul Finley has obliged us several times with beautiful instrumental guitar music. At about 8:00 we stop everything and introduce the two guest artists. They each take about a half hour to present their work and answer questions. Go here for more about the artist talks. After they are finished, the reception resumes for another hour.
Refreshments are, of course, a wonderful part of the opening. In fact I’ve never been part of any group who love to eat together more than the folks at Hope Chapel. We have been blessed with people who love to cater and others who love to transform the foyer and food tables into their own works of artistic hospitality. These forms of creativity add greatly to the, ahem, flavor of an opening.
Volunteer greeters welcome our guests at the door, and docents hang out in each area where art is displayed. The volunteers wear name tags so that guests can easily spot them to ask about the art, artists or church, or just to find the restrooms.
Most guests enter the church through the front foyer, which leads directly into the sanctuary. Because the exhibit extends into other rooms, we have found it helpful to post signs indicating where to find the rest of the art. Placing the food and drinks in the room farthest from the sanctuary helps get everyone all the way through the exhibit.
We also post the all-important “Do Not Touch the Art” signs. Regular museum- or gallery-goers know about this taboo, but many people don’t think about it. During one of our first exhibits, a child running down the aisle knocked one of the guest artists’ pieces off the wall and broke the custom wood frame. The artist was extremely gracious about it. He repaired the frame without charge to us and returned the work for the rest of the exhibit. Over the years this has not happened again as people became more accustomed to the sanctuary-as-gallery.
Hope and the Visual Arts by Kate Van Dyke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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