Aisling Kelly

 Reflective story of my projectMOODBOARD

For my project I decided to curate an exhibition. To get the ball rolling with this idea I wanted to do some research into what exhibitions already existed in Bath to see what I would need to do. I have always been an arty and creative person and have always loved the idea of creating my own exhibition.

I visited a range of exhibitions and galleries around town, and I actually spoke to a couple of the curators to get an idea of what I needed to do and to get any tips on how to get started. Talking to these experienced people was very helpful as they made me realise how much work actually goes into curating an exhibition.

I decided to make a list of all the different things I would need to source and organise to make my project work. I would need staffing, to work out how I was going to hang the work, find an appropriate venue (just to name a few). I also started a journal to keep track of what needed to be done and document how the whole project would move along and develop.

First on my list I needed to think about a theme. One thing I found in my research into exhibitions was that they always had an overall theme, whether it was work all by one artist or by a collaboration of artists. The themes were always simple but somehow the artists always made their work so interesting and exciting from such a simple start point as ‘red’ or ‘fragments’.

One of the most helpful things I did in the scheduled sessions we had for this module was to create a vision statement. It really helped me condense my project into one easy to understand statement:

I’m creating an exciting exhibition of art and photography, open to people of all skill levels, based in central Bath.

I spent a lot of time thinking about my theme, and researching venues, and after a couple of weeks of not getting anywhere I got a bit overwhelmed with all the organisation involved in this project. I spoke to my tutor and after some consideration we decided it would be beneficial for me to work with the Bath Literature Festival, namely the Voices in the City branch of the event. This got me back on track and I started talking to Emma Green who was organising the whole event, and I started to think about how my project could work in line with Voices in the City. The theme for their event was ‘Parties’ so I decided to make my theme the same, and gave my whole exhibition the name of ‘The Salon’ (definition of a Salon can be found here). I started to feel inspired again and continued my search for a venue and started to think about other smaller aspects of the event also. One good idea was to get high quality photographs of the work and get photo prints made up (most sites offer a discount if you’re a first time customer, cha ching!) but the issue now was funding. I needed to find a sponsor.

I still needed a venue so I emailed all the possible venues in Bath, to find that quite a few were already booked out for February, which was the time the Voices in the City project was due to happen. I eventually found a venue with the 44AD gallery, but for the week after the Voices in the City project was due to take place, so it seemed like I was going to have to rethink my project and my affiliation with the Bath Literature Festival. Soon enough Christmas rolled around, and things started to happen a bit slower than I would have liked.

After the break, with a lack of response from the Voices in the City group, and then another meeting with my tutor and others to discuss the event happening in February, we came to the decision to have my event take place in a few months time. So at the end of February I was still venue-less, theme-less, and was feeling really disenchanted with my project. I sat down and re-worked all of my ideas, and after changing the theme to Memories and getting in contact with other venues in Bath I was feeling positive again.

I re-worked my time line, and after talking to a few venues I found a spot available in the Bath Artist Studios for the beginning of May. I found that the majority of available venue spaces were pre-booked by Bath spa and other collages for art courses so the students could exhibit their exams pieces, so I really struggle to find a space to rent that wasn’t available early April or not available again until August. So with a new theme and a venue booked, I started to work on the website. I used wordpress to create a website with a clear and clean design, which would house all the information about my project and make it accessible to everyone.

I also created an eye catching poster which I swiftly sent out to my contacts at Sion Hill campus and got my project featured on their website. I also printed off copies and handed them out to local business’ in town, anywhere that would take some, in an attempt to reach the wider audience I wanted.

Call For Entries Flyer

It was also at this time that I decided to change the angle of my project and make it more of an experiment. I wanted to see what made an artist an Artist. I wanted to see what sorts of people would enter for a spot in my exhibition to hopefully make a little sense out of this. Would it be the mom at the end of the road? Or would it be the girl who works in that coffee shop? I ended up writing down a short statement on this change in my project. To do this I asked in the requirements for entry that entrants only give me their name, a point of contact and photos of the work. I would then get in contact with the successful artists and get more information about them, create info plaques and display them alongside their work.

In preparation for the event I was asked if I wanted to have an opening night which would be a closed event on the first evening of the exhibitions opening reserved for the artists and their close friends only. I thought this would be a great idea and looked into hiring wine glasses and considered a range of beverages and nibbles and the glass hire to my budget.

I ended up setting the deadline for submissions for the 10th April. Unfortunately I only got three submissions before the deadline and two a week afterwards, which was really upsetting. This meant that I didn’t have enough work to display for my venue, and not enough time to find a smaller venue and re-organise the majority of my project. I did think about extending the deadline, but I struggled to find a time the venue had free that worked with my project, so I started to ask around for other space, but couldn’t find anything appropriate.

Additionally, after spending ages setting up a paypal system for payment of entry, none of the three entrants actually paid for the entry. Ideally, if I had got at least 10 or so entrants, I would have been able to support some of my budget, but this wasn’t looking likely. I was willing to let the payment slide if I could get enough entrants, but after spamming my friends and putting my poster out in town and getting it advertised on the uni website, it was to no avail.

I didn’t feel like it would be worth me paying for the venue and wasting their time with my project as I had no entrants and not enough time to extend the deadline, so I cancelled my booking. In hindsight I realise now where my project fell apart and where I should have put more effort in in the earlier stages to perhaps prevent this happening. I should have found a venue sooner, and not have been too scared to talk to new people and network and put my idea out there. I should have been ruthless and relentless and found a sponsor instead of taking ‘no’ as an answer. I should have widened my search and given entrants more time to create and submit work. All this I know now, and I know it’s not much use looking back and saying ‘what if’ but I find comfort in the knowledge I have now. I feel confident now that if I attempted this again, I could do it a lot better.

For what it’s worth, I’m considering curating an exhibition for next summer, with all my own work, as this project has sparked my inspiration and got me being creative again.   


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