I don’t mean to alarm you, but art show season is nearly upon us. I know, I know, it always sneaks up on me too. Most likely, you have your art show prep routine down pat, but for the sake of this post, let’s pretend you’re more like me. I always find myself, a week or two before the show, scrambling to not only prep work, but to find enough work to put in the show. This year is going to be different. This year I devised a plan to make life easier for me when it is inevitably brought to my attention that the art show is only one week away.
I understand art shows come in all different shapes and sizes. I worked at schools that had me prepping one or two pieces for each of my elementary students. I worked at a school that had me prepping multiple pieces for each of my K-12 students. I currently work at a school that has me prepping about 20 pieces of elementary work. Regardless of your art show arrangement, I think these tricks will work for you too.
You would think this would be a no-brainer. You would think. If you plan your own art show, then most likely you’ve done this already. But if you have to wait around for someone in the high school art department to tell you when the show will be, then maybe you still haven’t done this. Regardless, whenever you get that date, write it down. Write it down immediately. Then, flip to the month before the show and write, in big bold letters, ART SHOW IS ONE MONTH AWAY!! This should solve the problem of having the art show sneak up on you. Unless you lose your calendar. Don’t lose your calendar.
There is no reason you can’t start collecting art work early. Start in September, or October. It is okay to have fall themed paintings in your spring show. The earlier you start, the more work you will have to choose from once the show comes around. Worried about students complaining they didn’t get their work back? Tell them you lost it. Sure, they’ll initially be disappointed, but just think about how excited they’ll be in the spring when you exclaim, “psych! I didn’t lose your work, it’s going to be in the art show!” Okay, so maybe you shouldn’t tell students you lost their work. I always tell them they might not get their work back if I choose to keep it for display or the art show. This approach is gentler on their feelings. Be prepared to explain this to parents too. Parents like to see art work go home. They get weird if that doesn’t happen.
Label it “Work for the Art Show.” This way you’ll be less likely to throw it away or return it to students by mistake. Nothing sucks more then realizing you accidentally sent home all the work you were saving for the show. I use a big plastic bin, and when I’m sorting through class work, I just toss all the good stuff into the bin. The mediocre stuff goes home. Easy peasy.
I have learned over the years to trim paper before students add their art to it. It is such a struggle to try and find paper large enough to mount 12×18″ and 18″x24″ work on. Trimming finished work to fit those sizes was no good either. I usually ended up cutting off someone’s perfectly drawn corner sun or the tops of their blue clouds. Dang you corner suns and blue clouds! Now, I trim the work down before students even get their hands on it. With the exception of paintings. For paintings, I save the trimming until after the work is complete in order to eliminate curled and unpainted edges. Make sure you double check the paintings for names though. You know how much Madison likes to write her name as small as feasibly possible on the edge of the paper. Darn you, Madison! I said make it big! MAKE IT BIG!
The big pieces anyways. I save my trimmings and immediately cut them down to size for name labels. Then I toss them into my “Name Labels” bin. It only takes a couple of extra minutes, and you will always have label paper ready when you need it.
I start teaching how to mount and label work in second grade. No, most of the time it isn’t done as beautifully as I might do it, and many times the students do it incorrectly, but it is one less thing I have to do, and I am okay with that. Plus, I think seeing all the student made labels is endearing.
I haven’t tried this one yet, but a colleague swears by it, and it is genius. This is especially great if you have to hang work at a location other than your school. I like this approach because you can attach the artwork to a large roll of paper while in the comfort of your own classroom. You can slowly work on this in your free time (ha ha), then, roll it up, shove it in the trunk of your car, and you are good to go. Now you don’t have to worry about hanging all that work when you get to the show. Recruit
some poor sap your spouse to help you hang the roll of art work, I use (affiliate) Command Poster Strips, and revel in your ingenuity as you head out to dinner. Offer to bring back food to the art teachers who are still hanging their work the old fashioned way. They’re going to be there all night and could use the sustenance.
Students love working with clay. What’s more, they love taking their clay pieces home. Nothing disappoints a kid more than telling them they can’t take their work home yet, but 3-D work is always a crowd pleaser when displayed. What’s an art teacher to do? I ask students to volunteer their 3-D work for the show. I really talk it up, explaining how great it would be to display the clay pieces at the show, how much their parents would love it, how cool it would be to have other schools see their work, how grateful I would be to them, but hey, it’s totally their choice, no pressure.
Have any great tips for making art show prep easier? Share them in the comments.
Wondering what my name label station looks like? Download my How To Set Up A Name Label Station pdf.