Last Sunday, I went to the Garner Performing Arts Center to hang some of my pieces. I found out through Facebook from an artist friend that the center was seeking African-American artists to display their work for black history month.
I hadn’t done anything like this before where a) I hung art on gallery or lobby walls and b) that my art remained in the same area longer than two days. Most of my displays were at church or fairs where the art sat on table easels for a few hours or at best an entire weekend. This time my work was going to be up for at least a month and in a completely different city.
Garner Performing Arts Center is located outside of the Raleigh-Durham area in Garner, NC, and is about a three-hour drive from Charlotte. The center used to be a high school. In fact the words “Old Garner High School” are still chiseled on the building facade. This would explain why I blew past the building initially. When I came back around I saw the sign out front with the reader board advertising the play, “Driving Miss Daisy,” so I knew it was the right place. I later found out from a staff person, that in addition to being a performing arts center, that parts of the building were renovated into apartments.
I didn’t do my homework and scope out the site beforehand, so when I went up there, it was for the first time. Prior to my arrival, however, I did speak with the center’s director and other staff people about the layout of the room and how much wall space there was available.
It pays to get there early.
The center opened at Noon and I arrived around 12:30 PM, met the staff and took a small tour of the area. I found out that the other artists were not going to arrive until later in the week which meant that I had first choice of wall space.
The lobby is far from grandiose, but it is a nice, small, simple space with cream colored walls. I selected the back wall which sits in between the two points of entry of the auditorium. To me it was one of the first areas that my eye naturally gravitated to when I came into the building.
I spent the Saturday before preparing myself for Sunday. It was my only day and I still had no clue as to how I was supposed to hang my work. I was bringing 2 – 11” x 14”s (Secret Place and Palm Sunday), a 16” x 20” (Nine Ladies Dancing) and a 22” x 30”(Seasons).
I wrote down a list of tools that I was going to bring with me. I was pretty impressed that I kept most of them all in one location.
- Picture hooks and nails
- Small step ladder
- Windex and paper towel to clean the picture glass
- Painter’s tape
- Tracing paper
- Instructions on how to hang art
- Tape measure
- Screwdrivers (flat-head and phillips head)
- Labels to describe your work
The Internet is your friend.
Boy, is it ever! You can find just about anything on the Internet. I was able to research how to properly hang my art in a gallery and how to create museum style labels to describe my work.
Many articles that I printed talked about using simple mathematical formulas to hang work correctly. The writers implied that once the formula was established that it was easy. That’s probably true except that I left the instructions behind at home and never had the opportunity to try it (Is there no end to my genius?). Here are the links that I checked out that were pretty helpful: Dimensions Thru Art, and Artist, Emerging.
One of the few things that I could remember after skimming through the articles was that the art should be hung at eye-level which was somewhere between 58” and 60” up from the floor.
The most helpful suggestion though was that I could create a paper template for each piece of art allowing me to play with the layout prior to putting nails in the wall. This worked beautifully for me since I didn’t have my instructions. Even the center’s director was impressed when she saw it.
Here’s the photo on my template layout:
And this is the final product…This is embarrassing to admit but it probably took me almost two hours to hang four pieces. First, it would have been so much easier if every piece were the same size and were either all portrait or all landscape orientation. Again, I’m sure the formulaic process for hanging work would have been a great time-saver too. Third, I was very tentative about placement because I didn’t want to make any mistakes and then have to create more nail holes.
Overall, it wasn’t the perfect layout but when all was said and done I thought the art looked pretty good up there. It made me smile and a little sad too because I was leaving my pieces behind and going home to bare walls.
Still, art is gift that’s meant to be shared and should not be holed up somewhere in a studio. With that in mind, I waved good-bye to my babies, told them to be good, and then I drove back home. I am sure they will make Mama proud.