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Monday, May 14, 2018

Monday Morning Art School: How to throw a party for 200

The artist’s job is to give linear thinkers a respite from their own minds. That starts with your opening.
The artist dancing with her eldest child.
Great gallerists also know how to throw great parties. Regular openings and developing a circle of fans is part of their job. There’s no value in having all that work assembled in one place if nobody ever stops by to see it. Selling—whether it’s art or cars—requires a person to be likeable.

That’s true for the artist too. Art-making may be a solitary job, but the artist needs to be convivial to sell his or her own work. I’ve thrown more brawls for a hundred or more people than I can count. Actually, I’d far prefer to do that than to have you over for dinner, which terrifies me.

An opening done by gallerist Sue Leo at Davison Gallery, for my show God + Man. Photo courtesy 
Iván Ramos .
The invitation is the key
Whether you call it an ‘invitation’ or an ‘advertisement’, the way you announce your event is key. It tells your intended guests the tone of the event, and hints at what kind of good time they’ll have. Graphic design is ruthlessly trend-driven. Spend time on Pinterest and Etsy and pay particular attention to fonts. They’re as fashion-sensitive as shoes.

Hound your guests
You’ll find yourself repeating, “Are you coming to my party?” over and over for weeks. This is a good thing. They won’t be excited if you’re not excited. Scarcity marketing—as perfected by the old Studio 54 in New York—is a great way to pack the house, but it only works if you’ve already demonstrated that your parties are worth attending.

Sue Baines’ hors d'œuvres are not like those in any other gallery.
Play to your strengths
Sue Lewis Baines of the Kelpie Gallery is a wonderful cook, and the hors d'œuvre at her openings could make me rise from my deathbed. Howard Gallagher of Camden Falls Gallery knows how to assemble great bands for a dance party. I can bake. Know your strengths and capitalize on them.

Make a budget and stick to it
I saw the most wonderful fairyland floral arrangements at the Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel three weeks ago. I whipped out my phone and snapped several shots, and then set them aside. To change my decorating scheme at this late date would cost a small fortune. A budget set in stone is the only way to survive to throw another party.

A beer-themed opening of my students' work at VB Brewery in Fairport, NY.
Work way in advance
Procrastination is the worst possible habit for the host or hostess of a party. I have been working on this upcoming one for months.

Be surprising
Good taste is so highly overrated. What’s important is that people laugh and have a good time. If they can’t figure out how ceramic dogs, moose, and woodland animals go together, they might be overthinking this. The artist’s job, after all, is to give linear thinkers a respite from their own minds.

Ask for help
Nobody can throw a party for 200 without help, so when someone offers to help, smile and accept gracefully. Hire out what you can.

And on that note, I’m shuffling off to Buffalo for my third daughter’s wedding. It's about time for you to consider your summer workshop plans. Join me on the American Eagle, at Acadia National Park, or at Genesee Valley this summer.

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