Last week I took part in my first opening with Artspace and really my first opening at a gallery period. As a person attempting to help the event run smoothly I found that there is a lot more work put into the full experience then just showing up. Honestly, event planning deserves so much more credit then it receives and the reality is that a lot of these events could not happen unless people show up; show up for their jobs, show up to gain media attraction, or show up to actually see the art.
So my week began with returning to my regular “hours” as Artspace and walking into a completely blank gallery as Omar Badrin’s exhibition had just closed a week before. This was sort of surreal to me because I had never been in an uninhabited gallery before and to go to a space that was just filled with brightly coloured crochet masks to blank white walls was almost shocking. But this is where my day began; as I continued in I saw a giant white bucket of paint, one squeaky roller and a paint tray, a sure sign of my next few hours. This was one component I think is often overlooked when entering the gallery setting. More often then not, I think people (myself included) expect galleries to be this peaceful place that is always clean and always ready to have works displayed, however, the reality is much different. Opening a show is hard work especially if the previous one included hanging heavy pieces from the walls. With Olivia’s show it was clear that the walls had to be almost spotless for the audience’s view, having smaller scaled pieces it was important to make sure that the walls would not draw attention and rather the artist’s works were what kept the audience’s eye.
After about three hours of listening to Dallas Green, staring at white walls, benches and trims the gallery was complete and on it’s way to being ready for install. Although another thing often looked over at art galleries is the cleaning of the space, this led to my next task of mopping the floors, a task that had very clear instructions from Jon. At this point the gallery was ready for install, as Olivia was coming in the next day. After a day of putting up the pieces and watching the last few it was clear that this was a meticulous task. As I stood there watching Jon and Olivia work it became clear to me that an exhibition is not just throwing pieces on a wall, its far more important, it’s a conversation between the curator and the artist to make sure that expectations on both ends are being met, it is levels and pencils and pins putting pieces up in a straight line and of course it is a final product that is complete that gives a sense of pride, nervousness and excitement.
Then Friday rolled around, the big night of the public opening of Olivia’s work took place. A public experience for all that involved social documentation, drinks, and a variety of cheeses. This was probably the most exciting moment of the week for me because it gave me an opportunity to speak one on one with the artist, something I do not get to do everyday. Olivia was a really interesting person to interact with because she was so real, she was just a young artist showcasing what was important to her and this story of returning back to her community in Curve Lake. Olivia and I talked about a variety of topics, from education, to Peterborough and her work as a practicing artist. What I thought was most interesting was the minimalist way the way she spoke about herself and her work that made you wanting more - wanting to know more about what the water meant to her and her community, wanting to know more about her inspiration and wanting to know more about who she was a person, not just as an artist.
The opening was full of excitement, and I was able to speak with a lot of interesting people in the Peterborough community, it was also great to have some of my invitees come and enjoy work by a local contemporary artist. This was a really positive experience for me, and really gave me insight to the realities of running an art gallery. Prior to this experience I felt as though pieces and artist sort of showed up and everything just ran smoothly, but obviously this week of work did not pan out in this fashion. From painting walls, to mopping, to ensuring there were enough snacks out for the guests and serving drinks, having an art opening is rewarding but time consuming. I have great respect for those who part take in making these events happen and I am thankful I could help in ironing out some of the details.