We started planning this exhibition in Unit 2, with the idea that the start of Unit 3 would be an ideal time for a group show before the pressures of the final degree show. I took on the overall planning, timetabling and publicity through social media; Janine Hall and her other half again took on the design of all printed and publicity material. Nic Clarke, Ali Christie and Ruth Richmond make up the rest of the team, bringing a lot of experience in art direction and installation. They also bring a calming influence on me!
The venue was a gallery/workshop space above the Cass Arts store in Kingston. A good space, with great light, good run of wall length and it’s free.
Our pitch was that Same Difference would show how MA Drawing and MFA students at Wimbledon are using the language of drawing in the 21st century. There were 14 of us showing, 11 MA Drawing and 3 MFA. The installation went smoothly. Once we had agreed on a few ‘anchor’ works, especially large or high contrast pieces, the rest more or less fell into place.
We held the Private View on the first Saturday in the late afternoon, an unusual choice dictated by other events in the space, but it was very well attended especially by local families. The store management seemed pleased, as obviously the idea of the space is to attract more customers.
The show looked good and provided an opportunity to display work and get public feedback. But there were some important learning points arising from the other uses of the space. It had been advertised as an exhibition space which also housed occasional workshops but in fact it is a very busy workshop space – events once or twice a day – where you can also show work. In addition, there was no dedicated manager for the space and it was difficult to get responses from staff who had other more pressing retail responsibilities.
Our planned installation day had to be changed because head office management commandeered the space; and because of human error, we only found out the day before. Fortunately, I had allowed two days and we only needed one. The number of workshops for adults but also children down to the age of 6 meant that unframed work was at more risk of damage than in a regular gallery. However, we didn’t know all this until we got the final workshop schedule after installation was complete. I for one would have chosen to show a different less vulnerable piece if I had known.
So the main learning is to ask more questions – even ones that you might think fall under the heading of ‘too obvious to need stating – and get the answers pinned down early on, though this is of course also dependent on the staff of the space.