Create Successful Art Events


The ideas in this article are excerpts from “How to Create Successful Art Events,” an e-document by Renée Phillips. Learn more about it here.

Now that spring has arrived it’s a wonderful time to plan an open studio event or art party.

Although anyone can hang art on the wall, pour some wine, fill a few bowls with snacks, and call it an event. If you want to organize one that your guests will enjoy and never forget, it requires imagination and careful planning.

When I was creating multi-media art events at some of the top venues in NYC it felt like I had reached nirvana. I was promoting artists, hosting celebrities, and appearing on TV and radio. Guests often formed lines around the block before opening time. However, to be successful at it, I had to learn to apply innovation, attention to detail, and a lot of networking.

Whether you plan an intimate soiree or a major gala, here are a few ideas that have worked for me.

Create a buzz.

Invite local “celebrities” to be your special guests. If you’re not in L.A. or NYC you can invite local art patrons, community leaders or government officials. When they agree to attend, add their names to the invitation. (Read my column, How to Create an Honorary Committee, in the April-May issue of Professional Artist magazine).

Give the event a theme.

Choose a theme that relates your art and a current major celebration. For example, April is the month we celebrate Earth Day and Keep America Beautiful Month. So, that’s a great time for nature-inspired and eco- artists. It’s also Pets Are Wonderful Month, National Poetry Month and Humor Month. An event with a theme inspires imagination and draws attention.

Design outstanding invitations for print, online and e-mail.

Strive to exude a dynamic, upbeat, festive style on your invitations and promotional announcements. Tie everything together to reflect your unique “brand”. Don’t forget to also include all essential details, such as contact information, to avoid confusion.

Edit your art.

Display only your best works for this occasion. Create one or two dramatic feature walls or focal points. Also, repair any damaged frames, clean up the space, use superb lighting, create a mood, and set the tone for a positive and lasting impression. Don’t neglect the entrance: Create a red carpet atmosphere where you can display your most recent “masterpiece” that will generate excitement and anticipation.

Add an element of surprise at every turn.

At one of our group exhibitions on the theme of Art Inspired by Music we played a recording of Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” while images of the artists’ work were projected on a large screen in synchronicity. At an artist’s one-person show, I asked a creative baker to design a large cake that replicated one of the artist’s paintings. For one of our Art and Healing events, we invited Tai Chi experts to perform. One artist I know, who paints western landscapes, wears cowboy attire at his parties, as if he walked right out of his painting.

Find creative ways to expand your budget.

Most of my major events were created on a small budget. The public relations departments of corporations often release “out of pocket” expenses in exchange for receiving publicity, such as adding their names to your invitations and programs. They also send representatives to the party. You’ll also find many new food and beverage distributors and restaurant owners will donate their goods in exchange for product visibility.

So, for your next event, let your imagination soar, collaborate with others, don’t forget the details, and place me on your mailing list!

Renée Phillips, The Artrepreneur Coach, helps artists attain their highest potential through personalized consultations and articles on She is founder of Manhattan Arts International that rewards artistic excellence through curated art programs. Her website The Healing Power of ART & ARTISTS presents articles about the healing benefits derived from art and artists.