THE INS AND OUTS OF WRITING EXHIBIT PROPOSALS
In many cases, galleries conduct open calls for their upcoming exhibit seasons months prior and allot a certain amount of time, funds, and space for selected artists/exhibits. If you have an exhibit idea in mind, lets make sure you have the essentials in your proposal! You’ll need an online portfolio, artist bio, artist resume, artist statement, exhibit description, funding allocation, examples of your work, and an artist talk. Here's some information about each below:
See our Artist Bios: The Need To Knows post for more information. This section should 1-2 paragraphs about you and your background as an artist written in third-person.
This is your professional website that includes a portfolio of your work that can be accessed by the general public. This site should include a section where your artist bio is located along with any notable highlights, any past commissions, photos of your past exhibits, and examples of your past work or available work to purchase. Feel free to have creative freedom on your online portfolio in terms of styles and aesthetics but be sure that when someone comes to your website, all of your information is not only available, but cohesively organized, as well.
This is a separate resume document that includes your artist bio, contact information, and notable highlights, such as events and exhibits you've previously participated in, grants and awards you have received, and institutions that have published or showcased your work. Essentially, this is the art version of your resume that's specifically catered for artistic purposes, as opposed to other fields. Many galleries and curators like to see your previous work and experience to gain a sense of your capabilities and/or collaborators.
This should include the purpose of your exhibit in one paragraph (can be shorter or longer depending on the gallery's proposal requirements). This verbiage is sometimes used for marketing and promotions to give the audience information about your exhibit, similar to a 30 second elevator speech, so it's important to be concise yet captivating and avoid jargon. This statement should answer the following questions:
- Who are you and why are you creating this experience?
- What mediums will be used in this exhibit?
- What is the purpose of you exhibit?
- What will be gained from the experience?
This should be a well thought out description of your exhibit that includes all exhibits. You should think about the purpose, subject, space, time, and materials you will need/incorporate into your exhibit. Make sure your narrative fully addresses the intended theme (if applicable), audience, and use of space. You should also include any unusual requirements, potential safety hazards, a date range (if necessary), and the level of flexibility that may be involved. Your exhibit should fit within the mission of the gallery, as well. Some galleries want more community engagement while others want more use their space for educational purposes. Keep these in mind when determining the direction of your exhibit and/or the particular gallery you want to host your exhibit.
Some galleries have an artist budget or stipend for each exhibit in their exhibit season. When thinking about this section, make sure you cover how you’re going to accomplish your exhibit, what kind of space and/or material will be needed, and how the funds will be used. You should be clear as possible so that potential galleries can ensure your exhibit can be accomplished within their budget.
Examples of Your Work
Galleries will understand that you won't exactly of examples of your exhibit during this process because it's just that, a proposal. However, you want to give them an idea of your style of work or if you have any pieces that closely relate to the pieces that would be submitted in the exhibit. Choose these pieces wisely. The point is not to 'wow' them with your best work, but to align them with your exhibit description, intended theme, and how they would fit in with the overarching mission of the gallery.
In many instances, galleries want there to be an associated activity that involves the community. This is becoming a popular overarching theme in the arts. If it's not requested, it's a good idea to include an artist talk. This can be in the form of a workshop, discussion, or class that continues the conversation and engagement beyond the exhibit and into the surrounding neighborhood or community.
*Please note, every exhibit proposal open call may not require all of these factors but it's good to have them just in case for your own clarity and organizational purposes. They may be requested on a later date once you move further into the open call process or upon selection!