The annual graduate show season is a very exciting time for us at It’s Nice That. Each summer we try to visit as many graduates shows as possible to check out the bright young things who keep the industry churning.
But, we know it’s also an extremely stressful time for the students, not only making the work but building and curating the show too. However this is the time for students to shine, to be proud of the work you’ve completed over the past three years, the projects that define who you are and prove to the industry that they should hire you!
To give you all a helping hand, the recent graduates who now work at It’s Nice That have compiled a list of top tips and advice to help you plan your exhibition to be the best it can be. And don’t forget to celebrate – you’ve earned this!
First things first, sort out your budget
It’s no news that grad shows cost money, but once you’ve got that money you need to work out where it’s going to go to make best use of it efficiently.
To start, we suggest it may be a good idea to sit together and listen to what others are planning to make it cost effective. For instance, say you need some work printed on vinyl to exhibit in the space, chances are someone else does too. Group together and visit a printers at once, explain that you’re graduating and haggle for a group deal. The majority of people are nice and love helping students, don’t forget that and strike up a deal.
Call in the favours!
Who knows what your peers mum, dad, aunty or cousin do, could they help to lend you items and keep costs down? Work out what you need and ask around, you’ll be surprised how much you can get for free.
Rent items from your university. This is dependent on the institution you’re studying at but the majority of universities will have equipment you can borrow or rent. You never know, that projector you need could be just sitting in the tech department waiting to be used.
Have you thought about sponsorship? Local and independent businesses in your area usually like to involve themselves with creative endeavours, especially by students. We suggest local breweries (could save you some money on show beers too), food companies or stationary shops. Have a look at recent art exhibitions in your area and see if they had sponsorship that would be suitable for you too.
If a number of students on your course have made films, have you thought about creating a designated cinema area that run the films on a loop? That way you only have to hire or buy one television, rather than spending a chunk of money on multiples.
The set up
Make sure you come together as a team. Finishing university can fill you with stress and can be quite isolating when you’re swimming in a sea of deadlines – don’t underestimate a shoulder to lean on. Try to remember that your grad show isn’t just about the individual but an opportunity to group together, to celebrate the hard work and friendships that have formed over the past three years. It’s a chance to represent your year, the personality of the 2017 graduates. So, don’t be selfish or precious. Of course you want your work to look good but try to help those who are struggling, you might need their help right back at some point.
When planning the build of the show try to leave one or two days at the end where you don’t have anything else to concentrate on but making the show what you want it to be. You definitely don’t want to be running to the printers to pick up that last minute project when none of your work is hung up either. Top tip: make sure the interior of the exhibition space is painted before this – we’re taking from personal experience of white paint on a final screen print.
If lots of people have created publications for the show, it’s a smart idea to make sure they are attached to a table. Allow room for them to be still picked up and read but don’t underestimate that guests may think they’re for free. Additionally – if you’ve created a publication, make sure you get a couple of extra ones printed to swap over at points. Wine can spill at private views and they will get grubby over time.
Don’t forget business cards
Create your own business cards. Show off your skills with a personal touch in creating your own. Also don’t order too many, it may seem like a good deal to bulk buy 200 or so, but chances are they’ll be sitting on your desk gathering dust.
This is your grad show, it’s not Frieze. Make sure that good ideas shine through rather than polished and expensive materials with no backbone.
Advertise your show
Leave enough time to advertise the show. Whether it be by e-mail or post, make sure people know your exhibition is happening. There’s no point going to all this effort for no one to come to the show. Build a google doc of a database of studios, galleries and companies you’d like to come to the show and make it open so that everyone can add to it.
Finally, if your university is quite remote think about creating a pop up exhibition in the nearest city, you’ve created all the work, show it off!
Best of luck, we can’t wait!
If you’re after more advice and insight into the creative industries, sign up to Lecture in Progress – It’s Nice That’s new sister company, which was launched to inspire, inform and empower emerging talent with information on the workings of the creative world.