This weekend was our first significant art exhibition and reception in our new town in Oil City, Pennsylvania. The reception was a blast. We had so many people come out and support us that it almost made me want to break down into a pile of tears of appreciation. That being said, everything wasn’t bursts of sunshine and unicorn farts.
Any artist you speak to will tell you that putting together a show is both a logistical and emotional challenge. Add in the efforts to promote and prep for a show, and it can feel like a nightmare. Now, to be clear, our show was a wonderful experience, but I would be lying if I said that everything went according to plan. If you are doing ANYTHING like this, there is one guarantee… No matter what you do, it is inevitable that some things will not work out the way you wish.
So what went wrong?
- As incredible as we were received at the reception, the weather was hot outside, and that trickled into our very full gallery. This meant that it was hot in the gallery to the point that it was unbearable.
- People were there to meet us and check out the art. Ideally, at an art show, you have tags by your art describing the work and price. I left a stack of 30 tags on a table instead of on the wall. It was so hot that the 80 tags I did manage to put on the wall were curling and falling off.
- At an exhibition, you also want to put out a guest book to keep a record of the show. Ours was sitting at home and not being written in at all.
- Finally, I didn’t take any pictures at our reception, nor did I film much, so I didn’t document the incredible turnout. To add to the issues, we were missing a part needed for our cell booster and could not live stream the event as we promised.
So what do you do in those situations that don’t go quite the way you wanted them to?
You roll with the punches.
Klee and I have done over 600 shows in our decade-long career as artists, and the one thing that will always happen is something will go wrong. Conditions change in the blink of an eye, or you forget something. The key is not getting stuck there and changing your course of action quickly. Here’s what we keep in mind when things go wrong.
1. Focus on what you can control.
We couldn’t control the weather, but we could make the most of it. Yes, it was hot, but a cold drink and good conversation will always make it a little more interesting. There was no point in stressing about the heat or lack of internet. We were in the show. Our focus was to mingle and have a good time with the people who supported us. We set up fans as best we could and decided to cancel the live stream and fix the issue once we were done with reception weekend. It isn’t great, but you must carry on and make the most of it.
2. Don’t get stuck in what is going wrong.
Listen, things will go wrong. It’s just the nature of things, but that is ok. Things going wrong don’t define who you are, but how you deal with it does. You get to choose who you want to be in those challenging moments and that is what ultimately matters.
3. Make decisions and follow through.
In situations like these, time isn’t going to stop and allow you to figure it out. Could you make a choice and go with it? Whether it is right or wrong is a moot point. At the moment, all you can do is make a choice, and hemming and hawing will not get you closer to a good decision when it feels like things are falling apart. Consult someone you trust if you are stuck, but don’t blame them when it goes wrong because ultimately, it was your choice and the best choice at the time.
4. If something is complicated or overwhelming, admit it.
Sometimes, the only way to move forward is to admit defeat. If it is too much, instead of blowing up or falling apart, just admit it. Open your mouth and say, “I’m getting overwhelmed? What can I do to make this simple?” and go from there. What matters most in this situation is that you are not a ball of stress. Also, let people help if they ask. Our friend Jim and his mom made finger foods for us, which were wonderful. It was also very much needed since Klee, and I just didn’t have enough time to focus on food.
5. Trust your gut and don’t overthink it.
Pay attention to that feeling you get in your gut. We have it for a reason. When facing a challenge and you have a choice to make, evaluate how you feel about the situation. Is it a good feeling? Are you feeling wary? Don’t ignore how you feel.
6. When it all goes to crap, don’t shut down.
Don’t give up. Just keep going. Pivot, change directions, simplify, or salvage, but don’t stop moving.
7. Learn in hindsight.
Later on, when you are thinking about it, ask yourself, “how could I have done that better?” then make a plan for the future. The first event that Klee and I put together was trash compared to what it is now. Honestly, everything builds on prior experience, and we will never get it entirely right. That is ok. That is life. It is a waste of time feeling like you failed because it didn’t work out perfectly. Use your time and energy learning from experience and not berating yourself.
8. Stay positive.
It’s easy to get pessimistic when it is all falling apart. Every opportunity is a chance to prove to yourself (not others) how much of a badass you are. This is especially true when things go wrong. So, when it goes to crap, remember, “well, this will be a learning experience,” and then give yourself a good laugh and allow yourself to get out of your head and have fun.
Next time I’ll have some things on my list I may have overlooked, but this is the stuff of life, and I love it. Thank you so much to everyone that came out for the reception. The exhibition will run for the month of August and we have many things planned.
I may not have filmed much, but our friend over at The Raw Image did. Check out this awesomeness!