Okay y’all I just finished
cleaning up my first elementary art show! And y’all I’m tired! After completing this enormous feat with many student helpers, a couple of parent volunteers, and some awesome staff members. I feel like I’m an expert on what to do and what not to do when it comes to these amazing events!
We all know that art show time is the best and last part of our year (for some of us) and it brings so much joy, excitement, and STRESS! Here are five things I found that made my general art show experience better!
1. Plan! Plan! Plan!
I don’t actually think I can stress this enough! Here’s a list of things that you should do before you start getting the materials and art ready. Note the timeline on these things y’all! You should be PLANNING for this event as you walk in the doors on the first day of school! It doesn’t need to take up a huge amount of your brain space, especially at the beginning of the year, but it needs to be something of which you are cognizant.
*Disclaimer: We only have one art show a year and I was adamant about having at least one art work PER STUDENT in the show. That meant at least 750 pieces of art work in this show.
2. Become a PR Expert for Your Program
I know we all hold art shows to show off our student’s amazing work throughout the year, but its also an opportunity to promote our programs! Sometimes the community isn’t really sure what you do in your classroom throughout the year, and if they don’t you have to spread the word! There are so many ways to do this, that I wont get into them all, but here are a few ideas:
- Classroom Social Media Pages (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat)- These are great ways to get parents involved in what their students are doing in the art room! Share your Social Media handle at Open House and get parent’s watching what you’re doing! Also posting to these networks is getting so easy to do that it won’t take up much of your valuable time!
- Monthly Newsletters- There a variety of sites out there that make this email based newsletters so easy with free formats that you can send these out to parents each month quickly to let your parents know what’s going in your room. It’s not free, but I’m a big fan of Smore they have an Educator’s special and it’s SO easy to use for us not-so-technologically-savvy individuals. (P.S. I’m totally not sponsored by them ha!)
- Printed Newsletters: Need I say more? Unlimited copies? Do it!
- Presentations at PTA meetings! Show a few slides and put up some art work!
- Other school programs? Plays? Concerts? Put up some art for more visitors to admire!
- Keep your displays up and new all year! It’s great PR for visitors and admin!
- Enter art shows!
- Brag about your program to everyone!
If you establish a community with your parents, students, and faculty, when the art show comes around you will have an active audience that will be anticipating the show!
2. Make it Pretty!
Okay so making it pretty. I know there is a big difference between elementary and high school art shows. When I taught high school it was a very dignified affair with black pedestals, black and white mats, classical music, and grape juice, but when I did my elementary art show this year it was more along the lines of cupcakes, rainbow colors, and balloons….and not to mention a walkthrough Van Gogh Sunflower Garden. Big differences here!
No matter what kind of theme you’re going for here I think you should at least decide on A theme. If it’s high school maybe you are going for high end art gallery, but if you’re elementary school it could be whatever you’re little creative mind can conjure. Also, gauge the mood of your school would they be more excited about a serious show or an obnoxiously cutesy one? It’s up to you! I went with rainbows this year because it was our first ever art show and it took place in the BEIGE gym…So All I could think was”COLOR!”
This past year I also focused on creating large scale collaborative projects, so I tried to display those in the gym as well! I guess that was part of my “theme!” But I found that having a theme made delegating and getting materials so much easier! I could tell the volunteers “make the tables look colorful and spread out the table cloths,” “wrap pedestal boxes in rainbow colors,” and “make the walls a rainbow pattern!” And they totally got it! It’s also important with volunteers to make sure that they feel like they have a say in what goes on! Let them decided where some art work goes!
If you are looking for some other elementary PROS who are amazing at art shows I’d definitely check out the amazing Cassie Stephens or Laura from Painted Paper Art! These two ladies have been my spirit animals this year y’all!
- FOOD!- Not going to lie here, I got so many more kids to come to the art show because I said there would be FREE CUPCAKES! I asked teachers to volunteer to bring me 1-2 dozen cupcakes and then I iced them the day of the art show! We also had our lovely cafeteria staff prepare us some water and lemonade for the event as well!
- Music- It fill’s the silence y’all. In high school I used a boom box (yep, the good old fashioned CD player boom box with good old fashioned CDs!) but here at our elementary school we had a lovely teacher with some serious sound equipment! GO for funky tunes or classical! It really does make for a more festive environment! OR…if you have the hook up… get some live musicians!!
- SLIDE SHOW- Our UHMAZING media specialist suggested pulling in our huge interactive panel (but you could use a projector) to display pictures I had taken of the kiddos all year and the parents and students LOVED IT! Because they got to get a sense of what the art room looked like while we were busy making stuff!
- Activities- In my grand scheme of things I had planned on finding some face painters to come help out and face paint, but y’all I totally dropped the ball on that one…next year! I also bough these HUGE 4’x 5′ poster coloring sheets from Five Below and hung them up at the entrance with a huge bucket of crayons to color! Next year I think we should bring out some of our booths from Fall Festival for giggles!
- Raffles- Raffle stuff! Door prizes! Make it a big deal!
- Awards- If you want to add some awards you could find a guest judge and some cute ribbons! The kids will love it!
- School Wide Visits!- I ALWAYS leave the art show up the day after the event for teachers to bring their students around to the show. This way, the students that couldn’t attend the previous night still get to enjoy it! You could make a schedule or sign up teachers at specific times if you need to! Then I usually have little pieces of construction paper out for student visitors to leave notes to their favorite artists that congratulate them on a successful art show! (Can you say cross-curricular writing assignment?! whoop whoop!)
- Display by class? or random?-Okay in high school I was ALL about random. I did a random display this year. I have conflicting feelings about this. I feel like sorting into classes would have made takedown much easier, however I could have gotten into a bit of trouble! I, despite my very best efforts, had some students who did not have art work at the show…and then of course I got cornered at the show and was angrily asked where a respective parent’s student’s art work was…..and I said “It’s all mixed up! It’s out there somewhere!”
WHEW!And in my defense that student did have art work…in the collaborative pieces. But do you see how mixing it up has it’s benefits?…and drawbacks…
5. Clean Up!
Okay, you’ve had the best art show ever! Now what? You have to take it down! I think this is a CRAZY important part of an art show because it can go so smooth or so wrong real quick!
Alright folks, lets talk about my cleanup CATASTROPHE this year. On the day of the art show I got taken out by a vicious, vicious stomach bug that made getting the art show together ROUGH! So, unfortunately, I had to take three days off after the art show. What happened to the art show you ask?….well….someone…I actually don’t know who…I heard conflicting stories….came into the gym and piled up EVERYTHING! One BIG pile of 3000 works of art…and paper….and trash…and wrapped boxes.
My soul was crushed….okay enough drama…so I had to sort, send home, and detangle this pile.
I could not have done it without my army of student helpers! LOVE THEM!
So I’m going to give you the perfect scenario here!
- Get some boxes. Write the home room teacher’s names on the boxes. Have students go around the art show with the boxes and collect all the art works from each teacher’s home room. (High school: I used to sort by project and by class period!…but used the same box method) Boom! Everything is sorted by home room teacher. (High school: get your students to find their own art and TAKE IT HOME!)
- Return everything back to normal: Take down paper, throw away trash, move technology, fold table cloths, return tables!
- Go back to the art room. Have student army sort each homeroom class into piles of student names. Make a paper folder (using recycled bulletin board paper, or whatever you can find) for each student, insert art work, send student to deliver to homeroom teacher, and SEND HOME!
- Go home, relax, take a deep breath, then return to your regularly scheduled art world!
Now in my situation this took two weeks…not joking…BUT if you can take it down yourself with your handy dandy student helpers I think it would take around 3-4 days to get it all sent home and taken down the right way!
***BONUS**** (After you’ve rested your brain) Write thank you notes to parent and teacher volunteers!
Are there any other big tips you would give your fellow art teachers about art show time? I know it’s a stressful world out there and we all make these events amazing in different ways! Comment below!