I had hoped to write this post during the week, but putting an exhibition up is unsurprisingly rather tiring! Today was the grand opening and reception, and I won’t give too much away as I’ll be writing another post about it but… it was worth the effort.
First, I’d like to go through the process of actually getting into the exhibition space and setting it all up. It really is at this point where it’s make or break. You think it’s going to work and you’ve put the effort in, but until you see everything up on the walls you can’t be completely sure.
As the Art Gallery is a busy space, we had to wait until Tuesday for the previous exhibition to be derigged. It was a stressful first day, as it wasn’t until the afternoon that we picked up all the pictures and object cards from the printers. We had no idea how they had turned out, but upon getting them back to the Artlink and opening them we were ecstatic to find them of great quality.
Why was it so last minute? It turns out that you can’t just send pictures to a printers and expect them to come out how you want. They need to be converted into a special format that will ensure a good printed image. As this required Photoshop to do, one of the Art Gallery staff kindly volunteered do this in her spare time.
The rest of Tuesday was spent tackling the Secret St Mary’s church drawing. Nick, another member of the Art Gallery team thought that we could project an image on to the walls and then sketch around it. After many different angles tried, we gave this up as a good in theory/hard in practice technique.
Happily, Nick is a talented artist and after the minor setback with the projector, he promptly got to work with a piece of charcoal and drew the church from an A4 image. It turned out brilliantly, much better than we anticipated!
Not wanting to be thought of as a spare wheel, I was put to work cutting up a few hundred pieces of velcro for attaching everything to the walls. Not the most glamorous of jobs but it saved a lot of time further on.
Wednesday morning came around quickly, and in a bid to steal a march on the rigging I came in early on to get started. Back in February, I’d started to draw some examples of what I wanted each panel to look like. We decided on six pictures for each panel, but when it came to layout I was undecided.
Susan, another member of the Art Gallery team who was in early too, suggested that I lay them out on a table to figure out the order of the images and the final design. After doing this and then fixing them to the panels with white tack, I quickly realised that a traditional 2×3 layout worked best. Someone once told me that plans usually change when rigging up, how right they were!
Putting the images and object cards on the walls was probably the most time-consuming task, and it took until Thursday evening to get everything up. I had to decide the order, tack the images up so I could see what it would look like and then velcro for final attachment. Everything had to be meticulously spaced, and a spirit level was used liberally.
Speaking of spirit levels, I quickly resolved to invest in one myself due to how useful it was. The Artlink is on a slope, which easily threw me off when I tried to make things level by eye.
By Friday, all we needed to do was set up the object cabinets and put up the A0 boards and header cards. This required another excursion to the printers (leaving it VERY late I know), but again everything turned out fine.
Well, mostly fine. The introduction board contained two errors but with no time left to reprint we gritted our teeth and hung it up. I actually felt quite sanguine about it, as everything up until this point had gone smoothly and the board still looked fantastic when in place.
After that, Phil from Stockport Museums (the chap who gave us the exhibition back in the dim and distant days of October!) gave me a hand with filling the cabinets, along with a few handy tips about using props to make the display better. All that was left to do was attach the incredible replica Shuttleworth painting, which was quick and painless.
Despite only finishing the rigging yesterday, it already feels an age ago. It was hot, sweaty and exhausting work but I loved every minute of it. Just like every other step along the way to this point, I learned a lot about what it means to curate an exhibition.
Today we had the open day, but that’s a tale for another day. Perhaps tomorrow?