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Peer Session: Exhibition Presenters, Museums, and Galleries

June 2, 2006

Moderator: David Cohen


Issue: Recontexturalizing craft?


This is not a new focus, just new ways of looking at craft. CCMG’s permanent collection of midcentury ceramics, for example, could be looked at/ presented in new way that would interest future generations.


Craft/art artists must still try to find space for hybridized work.  The value they bring is a potential new audience and new craft form.  But there is an issue with the mentality of the collector set.  Often these artists are asked to “dumb down” their work.  There needs to be a new form of understanding, a new culture in craft and art.


There is lots of diversity, so how do we :

·         Build an audience?

·         Support artists?

·         Educate?

·         Develop and audience, educate them


How we present ourselves educates our audience, We are an opportunity to educate, and need to put out information such as videos, handouts, writing on walls. We can build awareness through exhibition strategy.  Historical and sociological text and discussions about artwork establishes personal connections.  Knowing your audience and knowing how your audience learns is very important.  How to do this?


What is in a name?  What should this new work be called?  Modernist/postmodernist: when they added context/content their sales doubled, changed price points-change labels-online. 


What do artists need?  Local support, personal connection with collectors, opportunity to tell story about the work, information about he work sells the work


Selling work:  artists’ info is crucial to selling work.  Many people in his gallery ask for artists statements and won’t buy work if there is not one.  It’s important to educate, break down barriers, and challenge assumptions.  One session member’s husband used to  help buy the artwork for sale in their space, but was distracted by the artists’.  Now he is not the art buyer.  Artwork should be judged on artistic quality, not on how pretty the artist is. 


However, viewing art only as a commodity is problematic.  Selling is not the mission of museums or educational institutions.  Innovation, the aesthetic value of object in this space, creating aesthetic, educate taste and provocationvalue are very important.  But, economic value needs to be there too.  Exhibiting artwork can be about pushing the envelope or about selling.


So why would an artist work with a museum or other non-sales institution?  “Fame building.”  

June 3, 2006 

David Cohen Intro:

  • All of the attendees from this conference you will find on a list.  Keep referring to the list, you will find that most people will want to help you with advice.
  • Keep this in mind: You don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver.  This will lose you patrons and contributors.

Successes with Exhibitions:

  • Montana Art Association (MAGDA) – to bring traveling exhibition into the state, galleries from across the state shared costs to bring the show into state, then paid for shipping from place to place.
  • Art “Training” – exhibition installed on a train, it travels from place to place, artists from each place demonstrate in each location.  Kinda like a bookmobile. (Janet Moore)
  • Trashformations show was a huge success for the Fuller Craft Museum.  The Media Kit was the home run for the show. (Andrew Maydoney)


  • Publicity/listings: It would be good to get all the deadlines and contact information for all of the magazines in one place.  Susan Snover is putting together a list for the NW.
  • Bacon’s publishes a list, but you have to pay for it.
  • Difficult to keep an updated list since the deadlines and contacts are always changing, and needs are usually regional, rather than national.

Operational Funding challenges:

  • When asking for money, always build operational funds into your request.  If the exhibition costs 5K, and overhead is 10K, then say exhibition cost is 15K.
  • Banks have to reinvest in low income areas to get to the next level of excellence – look at your budget creatively and repackage as project requests or something that’s easier to sell.
  • Your endowment rule of thumb should be enough to carry the organization for 2 years’ operational expenses.  A general rule – 5.5% of endowment is allowed to be spent each year.
  • There are foundations available to help operational expenses – i.e. to hire a marketing professional to take your organization to the next level.  Capacity Building Grants. (D. Cohen)
  • Non-profit is a LEGAL term, not a philosophy.  Be clear that we’re looking for investment to keep us going – not a donation or hand out.
  • Government relations program is paying off, i.e. City offering to take care of 23 acres of Grounds – huge savings.  Don’t overlook it.
  • Big business and non-profits are somewhat switching tactics now – each are trying to be like the other, taking cues from the other side.  “non-profit entrepreneurship.”
  • Earned income – we depend too much on unearned income/donations – we need to find ways to get $ through diverse methods. The funding community want to see the diversity of the ways that you earn money, to make sure you will be okay. Instead of using word “earned income”, we use “generated income”.  And “unearned income” is philanthropy.  Everything’s been earned!
  • “Non-profit” – looking to change this term to “Public Benefit”
  • Be careful that the fundraising events that you do still tie to your brand and mission.  Every event that you do ties it to your identity.


  • When you’re exhibiting items that are vastly divergent, you need to have a throughline, a connective tissue that threads it all together.  Be thoughtful about how you organize it and separate it.  Exhibition needs to tell a story.  Perhaps find a museum person (not just jury/advisory committee) to bounce ideas off of.
  • Guest curators have been hugely successful for Fuller Craft Museum.  Bring a guest curator from a larger museum – they bring new memberships, more foot traffic, and all of their ties and connections.
  • Guest jurors another big success.
  • By developing key strategic relationships and alliances will exponentially increase your spread and reach.           
  • Selling items from the exhibition gallery is possible to do, but don’t overtly sell items in the gallery – no price tags.  If someone inquires about it, it’s for sale, but they don’t advertise.  Commission structure depends on how it’s set up.  Educate the collectors about the system.
  • It is confusing when galleries and museums combine resources and share exhibitions – can contribute to many problems and legal issues as well as competition.

Sponsors, Alliances, Partnerships:

  • Approach sponsors that have a related theme to exhibition.  Used to be able to count on corporate headquarters, but now can't since they are often changing so much.
  • Approach competing companies, banks, etc. Turn on the TV and see who is competing and approach one of them, offering them something unique and exclusive no them and not their competition.
  • Be clear about what you can offer and don’t overpromise – so they won’t be disappointed and not work with you again.
  • Waste management and sustainable/green companies were approached for the Trashformations exhibition, but they weren’t interested.  When the show started doing well, they changed their minds but it was too late.  So they’ll be kept in mind for future exhibitions that have a relevant theme.
  • Our hunger for money makes us go places we don’t want to go.  Don’t fit the organization into something that doesn’t fit your needs – Stay MISSION relevant!!  Don’t create something you don’t want to do just to get money.  You’ll often exhaust your resources and might be off-brand.
  • Explore site partnerships – bringing your exhibit and name to a specific site, share resources
  • In Portland, there’s a lack of inexpensive, quick experiences – CCMG partnered with the community college to offer some classes.  PCC does all the publicity for it.
  • Space-share: offer up a small section of your gallery to a council, in exchange for services.  The council got publicity and the gallery got extra sales.
  • Asset assessment – build on each other – trade mutually symbiotic assets.
  • Integrating performing arts into the exhibits – merging of art forms, easier to fundraise, get support, and reach new communities.
  • Explore community participation – Trashformations exhibit had community clean up events where everybody was encouraged to pick up trash and keep items that they think they can make something with.
  • It’s okay if other museums are doing more and more crafts.  The rising tide lifts all boats – if other museums are doing well, and doing more crafts, you will all lift up together when you get a lot of energy together, and it’s infectious.



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