In a previous post we mapped out our idea for a Back to the Future-themed art show. Somehow, that show actually materialized and now currently graces the walls at Coalwork.
We had an opening reception for the show on Oct. 21, i.e. THE day Marty eludes Griff and his gang while introducing the world to the idea of a hoverboard. A lot of people showed up, it gained a fair amount of attention, and everyone had a great time. It was the first time we’ve hosted something of that scale so we fumbled through some things and likely forgot others entirely. But, all-in-all the event was a success so we got some stuff right.
While we reached out to nearly 30 artists, around 15 committed to submit a piece for the show—a respectable number and near the limit we can comfortably fit in our space without somehow adding wall space. The lineup of artists was a mix of locals and internet friends with varying styles, which was our goal.
We’re good on art then, right? Well…
The day before the opening, we had a total of 3 pieces in hand. Not much of an art show, huh? Cue panic attack. Amazingly, the possibility of people being late with their art pieces or simply not delivering hadn’t crossed my mind. While making the other preparations for the opening, I supremely undervalued the importance of actually having the art pieces. I suppose I just trusted that they would show up, but at this point things were looking bleak.
But, day of show, art started showing up. Thankfully, nearly everyone came through. I made a run to the printer to have a few things printed from some last-minute digital files that arrived and BOOM, we had 18 pieces from 13 separate artists ready to rock. Crisis averted.
Coalwork is a coworking space, so we typically have desks filing the room. For some events, we move the desks out of the way to create a little more room. For this opening, however, we wanted to clear everything completely out of the space since we were expecting a lot of people to attend. We got lucky and our landlord let us use the empty space next door for temporary storage.
Our walls are concrete, which makes hanging things on them difficult. We have gallery tracks in certain spots that give us the ability to hang artwork on cords that dangle below. These are actually pretty common. A problem we ran into is that they really only work with framed pieces that can attach to a hook in some way.
This is normally not an issue, but we ended up having some pieces that were unmounted, unframed posters, leaving no way to hang them using our track system. We could tape them or use that sticky putty that they use in classrooms to simply stick the paper to the wall, but didn’t want to risk damaging any of the artwork. Our solution was hangers and 3M command strip hooks. We grabbed a pack of pants hangers off Amazon which were perfect becasue they had a strip of felt on inside each half of the clasp which both held the artwork securely in place and protected it from being scratched or creased. We then hung the hangers on the temporary wall hooks. The command strip products are great because they install super-easily but are also completely removable so no cleanup afterwards. In the end, the hangers actually looked decent. We even got some compliments on them.
Being that we have pieces from different artists, different styles, and different mediums, choosing where to hang everything seemed pretty important. I think that the entire show would be stronger if we mixed it up a bit—putting all of the paintings next to each other in one corner and all of the computer illustrations in in another probably isn’t ideal. I made some quick sketches to figure out where things should go and began hanging. Being able to visualize how things would be laid out on the walls beforehand helped immensely.
We wanted the opening reception to be more of a party than a stuffy art show, which meant 80s music. We first considered a Huey Lewis cover band but space is tight and I’m fairly certain that a full live band would be just too darn loud. DJ it is. But who? I asked around about someone who could hit the feeling we wanted—chill, indie-ish, 80s dance tunes with some stuff from the movie tossed in. Everyone had the same suggestion, a guy named Conor McGuigan than ran a monthly dance party called Panked at a local pub. Turns out that Panked has a huge following and has been going strong for like 10 years. Obviously, we were down and enlisted Conor right away.
That was a good decision. He killed it at the opening. The music was perfect and we had a ton of people tell us how spot on his selections were. He also got a few extra points for his costume.
We usually do beer and pretzels because people like beer and pretzels so we stuck with beer and pretzels, but my wife Kristina also made a “Welcome Home Uncle Joey” cake. You may remember it from the scene at the beginning of the first movie where the McFly family sits around the dinner table when Lorraine tosses the down cake saying “Eat up kids, your uncle Joey didn’t make parole."
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, WE HAD A DELOREAN. That’s right, an actual Delorean was parked out front during the reception, gullwing doors open in all their glory. It drew quite the crowd, too, including a few of Scranton’s finest who stopped to take selfies with it. Colin’s brother-in-law happens to own one and was willing to bring it down for the event.
So, we pulled it off. Everyone enjoyed themselves. No one got hurt. I’m counting it as a “win.” We also learned a ton about hosting an event like this and there are a lot of things I would do differently, given the chance. We plan on taking a break for a while but are already considering themes for the next show becasue, despite being loads of work, the opening reception was a lot of fun.
What do you think we should do next?