I used to think I wasn’t allowed to go to artists receptions without receiving a specific invitation in the mail.
I remember very clearly the first Artist’s reception I attended. It was for my Dad’s solo show at Springville Museum of Art in the mid-nineties. Since my Dad was quadriplegic, he had stopped attending art openings long before I could recall due to his health, so he had only one artist’s reception that I remember. Because it was one of his only events, and he was very ill, I think many people guessed correctly that it would be his last art show as well. Although it was announced in the newspaper, I really didn’t think about the logistics much. I just knew the upper floor of the museum held quite a crowd. I’m not sure how many people were there, but I know it was an unusually large crowd. I remember seeing family, classmates of his from high school, neighbors, friends. Even some people he hadn’t seen in years attended. Many people were dressed up very nicely. It felt more like a wedding than a gallery reception in many ways.
It was a lovely event, but somehow I concluded that art receptions were only for people who know the artist. I figured I wasn’t allowed to go to an artist’s reception if I wasn’t a personal friend. Now that I have attended many artists receptions (my own and others), I know that for most of the art receptions in Hawaii, my ideas were absolutely incorrect! I would like to encourage you to attend artists receptions, even if you don’t know any of the artists. If it looks interesting, you should go. They are truly meant to be parties for the public. We want to see our existing friends/family AND meet new people. We love it when people take to time to see the show we worked hard to put together.
The real deal with art shows:
Unless there are specific invitations with specific instructions, this is the way artists receptions run:
1. Everyone is welcome.
Artists receptions are like a big, open house type party and really, crowds are a gift. You can bring friends. You don’t have to know the artist.
2. Dress comfortably
You don’t have to dress nicely, but you can if you like.
3. Enjoy the refreshments
There are almost always light refreshments and drinks. Yes, you can eat and drink them even if you don’t know the artist. Go ahead – that’s why we have a refreshment table – for ALL our guests.
4. You are not obligated to buy art
You are not expected to buy something – you can certainly do so if you like, but it’s never an obligation.
5. Stay as long as you like
You can stay for part of the night, or the whole time. When you see people start to clean up, thatʻs a good sign that it is time to go so you donʻt delay the close of the venue.
6. Please don’t take it personally if your conversation with the artist is short or interrupted.
I am always trying to strike that perfect balance between visiting with everyone and swapping meaningful conversation for as long as possible. I never manage to talk to everyone, and inevitably, at least a couple of conversations are cut short. I always wish I had more time.
7. Basic human decency is great.
As long as you don’t destroy the art, act in a rude fashion (i.e. talking loudly about how much you hate some of the artworks), or drink all the wine and get wasted, you’re going to fit in just fine!
8. You don’t have to be an art expert to attend.
If you don’t know much about art, you are not alone. There are always plenty of people who come to support the artist in their life, and their attendance doesn’t center around the art. Likewise, some people know a lot about art, but don’t know anyone. There are lots of reasons to go to a reception. No one is expecting you to write an art review for the local paper in which you identify intriguing parallels to 15th century Italian art.
9. Just go.
If you see a show in the newspaper or on an online events calendar that you think would be fun to view, try to go on the artist’s reception night. It will be full of energy and people. Sometimes there is live music. It really is like a wonderful party you didn’t have to plan. Feel free to “crash” an art reception anytime. And if you like the work, find the artist and say something nice. Sign the guestbook, and enjoy the ambiance. If you loved the show and you want to go the extra mile, you can post some photos on social media and encourage other people to go to the show while it is on display. Please know you donʻt have to post about it to be polite. It is never expected, but always an appreciated gesture.
Bottom line: We just love having a good festive atmosphere with lots of guests, so please do come to the party!