Sunday, June 4, 2017

a look behind the scenes

When we first brainstormed the idea of the Threads of Resistance exhibition we thought we'd maybe get a couple hundred submissions and that we'd have to struggle to find venues to display it.  We had no idea how popular it would be.  We also had no idea how much work it would be!  It's truly been a labor of love for the Artist Circle members to pull this exhibit together and we thought you'd appreciate a look at the work that we're all doing behind the scenes to get this exhibit up and running...

Sending out the Call:  We had to work out the specifics for the call: minimum and maximum sizes, entry fee and how to process them, deadlines, copyrights etc.  Once we had that all worked out, we had to write it up and work with the ArtCall system so we could accept submissions online. 

Coordination of exhibit venues: Once the call for entries went out several venues reached out to us wanting to get on the schedule to host the exhibit. Sounds simple enough right? Well, it's a little more complicated than just writing the venue address onto the schedule.  Contracts had to be drawn up and signed that got into details about insurance, shipping costs to and from, how long the venue would display the exhibit, when they have to ship it to the next venue. Venues had to agree to display the exhibit in total -- no jurying pieces out that they may find offensive. The Artist Circle Alliance is not receiving any money from the venues in exchange for the exhibit and the cost of shipping and insurance from and to each location is being paid for by the venues.

Jurying: Once the deadline had passed, the jurors had the very difficult task of reviewing each

Women’s March 2017: By the Numbers
by Kathy York
artwork and reading every artist statement. 

Based on the opening venue's square footage, I determined that we had enough room for 60 - 65 pieces, depending on the sizes of the pieces. I was the only one with access to the names associated with the more than 550 pieces of artwork submitted, because I needed to manage the submission and payment processes. Everyone else in The Artist Circle had no knowledge of the artists’ names until all the jurying was complete. Jurors went through all the pieces and cast a ballot, rating the pieces from 1-5 based on how well the quilt communicated its message relative to the artist statement, the quality of the execution of the techniques used, overall design, photo quality, etc.   Photo quality plays a critical role in jurying, because the jurors have to be able to view the work without any distracting elements such as hands, pins, contrasting backgrounds, blurry close ups, etc. (More on that in another post.) After the first round of voting was done, ballots were tallied and a second round began. This one was done via teleconference so that the jurors could easily talk about why they felt a piece should or should not be part of the traveling exhibit. A third round of voting was done and we had what we thought was our final selections but we had to take it one step further and make sure that the pieces we chose weren’t in violation of any copyright because it would leave the Artist Circle Alliance as well as the artist open to potential lawsuits.  This meant reaching out to the artists to make sure that appropriate permission was received and documented.

While jurying was happening I was working on creating the website so that it would be ready to go live once the jurors had made their decisions.

The Thread of Resistance website

PayPal management: I had to monitor and coordinate the submissions and the PayPal payments to make sure that everyone who submitted paid. This task was complicated by the fact that some people used a PayPal account with a name (sometimes a company name) that was different than the name on their submission. That and PayPal's transaction numbers didn't always coordinate with the number on the email notification. So I had a few missteps of asking people to provide me with info on their payments (sometimes more than once!) but it all worked out in the end. 

Notifications are sent: Another step that sounds easier than it is! We had more than 550 e-mails to coordinate and send to notify the artists about their artwork. I had to set up a Constant Contact account for The Artist Circle to try to make this task easier using a mail merge so we could insert the names of the quilts into the e-mails. This didn't always work the way it should have, so follow up e-mails had to be sent.

Fill 1,000 Seats by Julie Weinstein
and Fran Sharp
Before e-mails could be sent, documents detailing the specifics of where quilts had to be shipped and by when had to be written. We decided to use guide by cell for the exhibit so details and instructions on how to make recordings had to be written so they could be included. Once the e-mails went out, I had to set up a tracking document to verify that each artist received her or his e-mail.

Catalog: Putting together an exhibition catalog sounds a lot easier than it is. Judy Coates Perez and Indigo Perez took on the task of designing the catalog. Some of the images that were used for submitting the work weren't suitable for print, so they had to chase down new photos that would work. Every photo had to be edited to strip out the backgrounds (no easy task!). Statements had to be edited, photo credits inserted, etc. After three rounds of proofing, just as we were ready to upload the files to order a printed proof, we found an error and had to start again!

Unplugged by Kelli Perkins
A few of the other tasks we had to take care of along the way: Stand-up banners for the exhibit had to be designed and ordered. These will be positioned at each venue as a welcome/description of the exhibit and also have the audio tour directions details. Marketing and promo materials -- postcards, buttons, etc. were designed and ordered. Press releases were written and sent out.

Due to the volume of submissions and on the advice of a lawyer, The Artist Circle had to file paperwork with the government to set up as an LLC. Bank accounts, PayPal accounts, etc., had to be set up. It all sounds like small tasks but trust me when I say that all of these little tasks pile up and start to fill the days, leaving little time for anything else. We were happy to do it, though, because we want to make sure we're doing everything the way we should.

Getting ready for the opening: The exhibit opens at the New England Quilt Museum on July 15, 2017, and we still have a lot of work left to do: labels for the quilts have to be formatted, printed and laminated, shipping containers have to be sourced and purchased, audio tour recordings need to be verified, packing and shipping directions to be included in the shipping crates need to be written, a hanging system for labels at the quilt shows where there are no walls has to be determined and then once the exhibit begins to travel, it needs to be monitored and tracked to make sure it gets where it needs to be by the time it needs to get there!

Putting together this exhibit has truly been and taken a team effort! All of the members of The Artist Circle have given their time and skills to put this together, and none are receiving any compensation. We're doing this because we feel passionately about the importance of this exhibit and providing a platform for the artists involved to make their voices heard.

To see the artwork that will in the traveling exhibit click here.  To see the exhibit schedule click here.


  1. This is fascinating and a great resource for people who would like to put together an exhibit of this scope. Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

  2. Thank you all for doing this!

  3. It really was a labour of love. But so important for this art to be shown both online and in person. You should be proud of yourselves.

  4. After my daughter's wedding on June 17th, I'll be free to help in whatever way you need. This is going to be a powerful show and I am grateful for all the efforts in putting this together.

  5. Presenting any exhibition is a signficant logistical undertaking, let alone one that attracts hundreds of entries and is touring so widely. Congratulations to all concerned.By the way, removing backgrounds on large batches of images, I have found it helpful for my sanity to outsource to but it helps to have reasonable images to work with :-)

  6. Thank you to all of you for your efforts. It is very exciting to see the "reach" of this exhibit, and it hasn't even opened yet!


Comments may not appear immediately, because they will be moderated before being posted. We will not post any rude, insulting or uncivil comments, or any anonymous comments.