The day had finally come. With the final touches in place and the paintings perfectly straight on the walls, my stomach filled with nervous excitement as I waited for the initial rush of guests. My exhibit, MINDFCUK, was opening as the McGill Fridge Door Gallery’s first-ever solo show and it wasn’t long before the room filled with familiar faces and intrigued onlookers. All of the work had been put in and it was now time to relax and enjoy. I felt like some kind of celebrity, being interviewed on camera about my own creations. It was my moment to share my art with the world.
When you’re creating your own show, you really have to visualize it in your head. I pictured my friends entering the AUS Lounge with the intention of “only staying for a bit” before they were confronted with an art piece right when they walked in. I wanted them to engage with the work and, for those moments of awe and intrigue, to forget about their studying and stress. I wanted them to read artist statements so they didn’t feel lost in a crowd; I wanted for them to experience artwork the way it should be experienced.
Once you’ve established an ideal concept for your show, you need to put a coating of acrylic realism on your idea’s canvas. I chose a student lounge for my exhibit and, along with the Fridge Door team, we transformed the space into an art gallery ourselves. Most of MINDFCUK’s promotional efforts were online or in person, without a huge marketing budget. You should, for sure, think ambitiously and put yourself out there, but understand that artists don’t have their first solo show opening at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts with the Prime Minister in attendance and six zeros beside the price of each piece. Yet those realities do not make your show any less special.
It’s absolutely crucial to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and give them a reason to come. MINDFCUK was a quick break from midterm stress where you could come say hi to your favourite local artist (that’s me), grab some brownies and maybe a glass of wine, and socialize in a beautiful art space.
Don’t hesitate to bring out the big guns when asking people to come. I did. “It would mean so much to me,” I told them. And when they went out of their way to support me, it did.
The number-one most effective tool you can use in your success is your personal influence. Inviting your friends personally is much more effective than blasting everyone with impersonal Facebook invites and hoping they show up. My messages simply acted as reminders to the oodles of people I had contacted personally. Make it genuine. Make it personal.
Remember that persistence pays off. Understand that everyone has their own life and their own commitments, and you need to create enough value for them to come. Realize that you have to start from zero and steadily build up your art career and reputation, one brick at a time. And most of all, remember that you’re an artist, and that by taking the initiative to plan your own show and follow through with its execution, it is sure to be an accomplishment you will never forget.