Art Show - Check your Space

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You need to know a lot about the room where you’re holding an art show

  • dimensions, layout, height, fire exits, and obstacles
  • access, traffic, and locking
  • lighting and power


Dimensions, Layout, Height, Fire Exits, and Obstacles

Hotel room diagrams are inadequate even when accurate - which they often aren’t. You really need to see for yourself, or have it inspected by someone knowledgable you trust. If I haven’t measured the room myself, I’ll leave a couple feet of extra space at each point in the floor plans where it might matter.

The first thing you're looking for is gross room layout. How big is the room? How tall is it? Where are the doors, fire exits, and obstacles? Types of obstacles include:

  • Pillars can render a lot of space unusable. You might try to place office space or panel islands around them.
  • Folding room dividers ("air walls"), if they stick out from the wall when folded up (it's obvious when they're folded but easy to overlook when they're extended).
  • If you plan to put panels or tables along the walls, check for railings, moldings, built in paintings and wall sconces which might interfere.
  • Note the location of electrical outlets, light switches, or thermostats, so you don't block them with panels.

The size of the space will determine how big a show you can run (height is seldom directly important, but low ceilings can make for bad lighting). You'll want at least 20 square feet per 4'x4' panel and possibly as much as 30 sq. ft. or more, depending on room layout (see Art Show - Room Layout ). You may also need space for an office, boxes, Print Shop, and security.

Access, Traffic, and Locking

Is the room easy to see and find? Given the rest of the convention layout, will it get good traffic? Putting the art show in a backwater will cripple it. Other access to check for:

  • How can you get art show supplies into the room? Do you need or have access to a loading dock? Freight elevator? What kind of carts or trucks can be used on the floor? How wide are the doors along the way? Panels are usually the most difficult to move, followed by mail-in art.
  • Is there easy access from the art show room to wherever the art auction will be held?
  • Is the room handicap accessible?

Security is simplest if you can lock all but one entrance when the show is open, but fire regulations may not allow this. Any door that doesn’t lock will need to be guarded (many supposedly non-locking doors can be locked - see door locking). Can all of the doors be locked when the show is closed (hotels often seem to think that a room is securely locked when it's open to their back corridors)? When checking the doors, note their exact location, which way they open, how far they open, what you need to make them stay open, and which side they lock from.

Lighting and Power

The lighting in most hotel function space is inadequate for art shows. With all the lights on, check which parts of the room are lit well or badly. The lighting is not adequate just because the floor looks well lit.

  • You can safely assume that any fluorescent lights have low CRI and will need to be supplemented (see Art Show - Lighting ).
  • Overhead incandescent lights have a perfect CRI (though color temperature varies) but are often set in recessed cannisters. These aren't very useful - they light the floor nicely, but the light is nearly vertical - little of it will strike art hanging on panels. Cannisters work fine to light tables well, though.
  • Light from wall sconces can create glare for panels along the wall. They're usually too low to be very useful on other panels, either - people cast shadows.
  • Especially with low ceilings, the panels themselves will create shadows and dark spots - this is not immediately apparent when the room is empty. You may be able to guess where this will occur, or you may have to wait until the panels are up. Pegboard stops more light than gridwall, but with incandescent or compact fluorescent lights, gridwall creates ugly shadow grids.

Note the location of power outlets in the room, and find out how much power is available on how many circuits. Some artwork requires electricity, but seldom very much, so location is more important than capacity. Lighting uses a lot of current – capacity is important. Find out how many distinct circuits are in the room, which outlets are on each, and what amperage each is.