The Challenges and Lessons from Coordinating the Submissions for
a Group Show
- A Process of Evolution
By Cindy Walter
I am generally not a joiner. As a kid my parents made us join certain
activities that were "good for us" or good for them by
getting us out of their hair for a while. I was a Brownie, a Girl
Scout, a Boy Scout (yes, it's true), a Rainbow Girl, in the Church
choir (even though I can barely carry a tune in a bucket) etc
Once I escaped from home and went off to college at 17 I stopped
joining everything. I didn't even join my dorm mates for a night
out. In general, I avoided other people and especially if it was
going to be for a group activity.
When my son reached school age I realized I had to start joining
again. My life came full circle - cub scouts, church, soccer etc
The connections were different and important to both of us. We built
a network of likeminded people who shared ideas on raising children,
traded off watching each others kids and created a village to raise
When he went off to college the joining stopped again. My son was
grown and off at college, I had a job that kept me busy and life
assumed a new pace and focus. Once I realized that I was looking
at the rest of my life filled with work and getting ready for work,
I started to ask myself what I wanted to do to find my joy. As it
happened I wandered into art - at first I didn't realize it was
art, I thought it was a way to pass my time while looking for the
"rest of my life".
Little did I know that a sleeping giant lay within and art would
be "the rest of my life" or at least the next great adventure
in my journey. Then I started to meet other people who were already
living in that world. They suggested groups I could join who would
support my new "habit". Here I was, the great nonjoiner,
joining again of my own free will.
I joined a quilting guild and spent the first 3 years sitting in
the back of the room, not speaking to anyone, not showing my work
and not volunteering to help with anything. Early in the fourth
year I was trying to decide if I should stay or go and I was leaning
toward go - someone reached out to me and made a connection. Now
I was stuck, how could I leave when someone was being so "nice"
I believe in the saying that there are no coincidences. She worked
pretty hard at building the connection in spite of my reluctance.
Thanks to her I have found a niche in the group and now have started
meeting with a number of like minded women who are willing to share
their success, joy, techniques and laughter. Oh and we all get to
make mistakes too!
I had a similar experience with the Women's Art Caucus. A good
friend suggested I join. Initially I was a barely there attendee.
Slowly I have been coaxed into active membership. I get so much
more than I can ever give to the group. I have been able to gain
confidence in my art and have opportunities to show my work in public
settings. I am learning to listen to the comments and reactions
of others to understand how my art does or does not connect to them.
Even though not everyone enjoys my art - I do and that is what is
That brings me to signing up to share the work of a successful
art show. Last fall I worked closely with CM Judge to coordinate
the submission process for the FATV show. What an eye opening experience.
This year I am coordinating the submissions solo - hoping I learned
what it takes to do it "right". I am also helping to coordinate
the overall activities for the show. I say coordinate because I
cannot do it all - nor should any one person have too much influence
or responsibility for a group show.
Here is what I have learned from the two experiences so far:
- In a group show, there is enough work for everyone who is in
the organization or the show to pitch in and help - the result
will be a better show, and less stress for any one individual.
- I tend to crave organization and adherence to deadlines (between
the lines is the word control, I am sure you hear its echo). This
is especially true when there is concrete work that needs to be
done and a limited amount of time to get it done - which is true
for most things in life.
- I always think my instructions are clear - (until I read back
what I have sent out to others. Then I really wonder what I am
asking for.) It is good to have a couple of different ways to
ask the same question.
- Repetition is a key to success. If you ask for volunteers once
or twice and no one responds - ask again, and again, and again
- Some tasks are suited for a limited number of volunteers - hanging
a show - others are suited for everyone to join in - making food
for the opening reception.
- You cannot over communicate.
- Not everyone can or will choose to follow instructions. When
they don't you have to let them deal with the results.
- Sometimes I make mistakes - misspellings, typos, forgetting
a special request
I hope I can give grace in these situations
and hope to get some back.
- Some of us are just beginning to gain confidence in showing
our work publicly, others overcame that hurdle long ago or never
had to face it. Wherever I am it is all right and other members
of the group will help me to move forward. I can do the same for
- We all want to know that our art is appreciated.
As I am working on coordinating the show sending emails back and
forth asking questions and trying to clarify information my patience
is sometimes tested. I am grateful that you are all willing to hang
in and help me to learn. At the end of the day, here are all the
things I am grateful for:
- That someone was kind enough to invite me into the group.
- That I get to spend time with gifted women whose goal is to
support each other.
- That I know there is enough support, admiration, respect, and
joy for all of our work and for each of us to be successful in
our own way.
- That there are so many individuals who give of their time so
that the group will continue.
- That I have the opportunity to show my work.
- That my contributions make a difference.
- That I can learn about what makes a successful show.
- That I can learn about what it takes to put a show together
- and take it apart.
- That art is joy and there is joy in art for me.
- That there are venues out there for all of our work and that
we change the world in our own small way through our art.
My thanks to all of you - my teachers.