a field guide to hosting art parties

it is late spring and the studio i work in is at it’s best; the garage door open, air fluxing in from breezes carried by the sea 100 miles away. it’s early evening and the sun casts a hazy orange glow and shadows are tinged with the teals and purples of the vintage glass windows.  i am on the brink of finishing a project for a friend and colleague’s awesome zine published in my very own orlando! i make a celebratory bowl of my favorite kale dish and plopp satisfactorily on the couch, enjoying this rare occasion of blissful fl weather.

wearhouse studio lounging

wearhouse studio lounging

i can’t say exactly what happens next, but i’m sure it is magic of sorts – there’s a really fantastic ted talk describing something like it by elizabeth gilbert and i think it has to do with the magic lighting and the steady determination i have been putting into this project and the projects previous to the point where i have literally used up all of the pages in my sketch book, deriving a feeling similar to the one you get when you check off every item on your to-do list for the day (which i have never experienced, but i bet it would be amazing!) or the incredible relief of cleaning out your entire email inbox. i close my eyes and appreciate the incredible beauty i have found in my friends and surroundings that have inspired me for so long, curious and excited for whatever comes next.

the answer is almost obvious now… i needed to host an art-show… or to be precise, an ART PARTY! some next-level shit! for nearly two years i had been working on personal paintings, sketches and mixed-media pieces inspired by my life growing up in central florida, a random mix of native flora, fauna, themes (heat, dreams of anything other than flatlands…) and childlike wonder and curiosity. the paintings and ideas had been stacking up for a while, as i participated in almost-daily miniature art parties of my own – working on projects with my neighbors, friends and studio-mates over a variety of teas, coffees and other stimulating goods. it was high-time to get organized, rally people together and host not only a gallery but an event in which people could choose to actively participate in artistic creation themselves.


while i had hidden behind the idea of hosting a show for a long time due, mostly due to fear and laziness, the show is now two months past and went incredibly well! with a few months to vaguely plan and get the event out in the open, a few weeks devoted to brainstorming with a team of friends and fellow creative individuals, and a few days to build the necessary display panels with said amazing individuals, we brought people together to explore art and creativity on a visual and tactile level! it was awesome!

i was thinking about the very tiny disposable income that many of us have as creatives with a day-job (or two), and i thought it may be of some use to share my super-cheap, pretty simple, home-made display board recipe to those who are looking to host an art party or gallery of their own, or for those who may want to display their work at a craft fair or farmers market, but don’t have a hundred bucks to throw on a professional display panel. i was fortunate enough to only need to make one panel per wall due to an odd series of plywood fixtures framing the space i was working with, allowing me to hang each panel without any added crutch. for those working in a space where panels could be rested against the wall, you can easily attach one wooden beam to either side of your panel, rather than my one beam in the center. if you are looking to make something that will stand alone, triple the recipe and attach each to the others’ corners. voila! i hope this proves helpful!

ingredients (makes 1 panel)

  • 1 long wooden beam, 6 – 7 feet seems like a pretty solid height ( i just found some scrap wood laying around the studio; you can probably hit up your local hardware store or any random business with pallets lying around – try and get this one for free though! you can recycle, save money, and you don’t support cutting down as many trees!)
  • 1 tool kit, more importantly hammers, drills, and nails that won’t slip through your mesh wiring once they’re attached to the wooden beams
  • thick, linen or canvas fabric, about 2.5 yards or enough to drape over and attach to your panel
first step

first step

first, you need to measure and lay out your fabric. i chose to use white, because that’s what was laying around. i really think the dirt that formed on the panel thereafter was a charming addition to my rustic mixed media pieces – but if you prefer a less grungy look, you can perform this step on a less dirty surface like a tarp or clean floor. you can also avoid this problem altogether by being classy and using a black fabric. fold your fabric over the top of your hardware fabric, making sure to leave enough room below to full cover the wooden beam.

step 2

step 2

next, you or an awesome friend will drill or nail the wooden beam to the hardware fabric. the two should be attached top to top, and continue to drill mesh to wood until the mesh comes to its end. flip onto the fabric, mesh-side down, and make a final attachment of fabric-to-hardware fabric-to wood beam by folding that excess fabric over top.

step 3

step 3

so close to completion! all that’s left are a few minor adjustments. brush a little of that dirt off the fabric, drape and pin corners, and make that cheap-ass display board all your own! there are tons of ways to make fixtures from that wire backing, and i encourage experimentation and playfulness to find what works for you! with a few pieces of scrap wire and a leveling app on your phone, you can get your pieces up in no time!

four panels later...

a couple panels later…

tada! your art is ready for display. for as little as $9 – $14 per panel, and spending about 20 minutes working on each, i think it came out pretty rad! i hope this tutorial proved handy, and i will certainly be sharing more diy tips and experiences concerning art parties to come. and if you guys have any ideas on how to improve the design, or gallery-hosting experiences of your own, sharing is caring yo. feel free to comment below!

here are a few pictures of the resulting art party. in our newly remodeled garage space the wine flowed, thanks to the graciousness of sheila at jimenez designs, and guests were welcome to pour themselves a glass and check out the miniature gallery. outside, the party was hopping with a double screening of daisies and some wild russian film my friend and associate had on his laptop at the time, as well as a table assigned for creative expression! a few days earlier, i had spray painted a few old and damaged canvases over with a white coating, almost good as new –  paired with an assortment of wine, paints, and a few other stimulants, what resulted were works of some incredibly fun, honest and free spirited art. i am constantly amazed by people!

to view the full album of my art party by my really fantastic friend and photographer kevin ohr, check out this link. once you’ve reached that link, forget about my art party pictures! check out the rest of his work, it’s freaking awesome! and as always, hope your day is going well. if it’s not, try and make someone smile! it will go 100% uphill from there.

– mae

3 thoughts on “a field guide to hosting art parties

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