Art Show - Set Art Show Hours and Schedule

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What hours should the show be open? You'd like it to be open a long time - the longer the show is open, the more people can see it and the more art you can sell. But many convention art shows operate on a compressed schedule - set up on Friday, tear down on Sunday. This doesn't leave much time to be open. If you are a five day convention, you can afford hours like 9am to 5pm (though you want to be open before and/or after the dealer's room. Dealers might be buyers if they can get to the art show). Three day conventions keeping bankers' hours won't have the show open long.


Your basic schedule constraints are:

  • When do you get the room? When do you have to be out of it? You'd like to have it early, to do setup and hang art, but that will probably cost the convention extra money. Is it worth it? This may be a negotiable item in the convention budget, or it may be decided by the hotel already having another function booked for that time.
  • When will artists be able to hang work? When do they need to leave? This is a question of their travel and work schedules, when the con really gets underway, and when most people leave. Don't assume artists can show up earlier and stay later than most attendees.
  • When does the audience arrive? When do they leave? There's no sense opening the show before the audience arrives, and you need to do auction and art pick-up before many of them leave.
  • When can you hold your auction? The two common times are Saturday evening and Sunday just after noon. Which is better depends on when you open and the structure of your convention. You want a time slot where the auction is the main event, not one where many people skip the auction in favor of something else (e.g., you don't want to be opposite the masquerade). And you'll want the function space where the auction is held to be near the art show if possible. You may have to negotiate with Programming for a time when this will be available.
  • When can you get staff? It's nice to do setup, teardown, and bid recording during off hours, to avoid cutting into the hours you can stay open. But 3am is an off hour because few people want to be in the art show then, and your staff is no exception. You might be able to get staff to show up a bit earlier or stay a bit later than the average attendee, but there are limits.

Another possible constraint is logistics. You may only be able to access storage or vehicles at certain times. This is best addressed by removing the constraint, but you may not be able to.

States of art show

The art show only has its room for a certain period of time. During this time, it can be:

  • Open - You are open for people to look at and buy art. This is why the show exists. You want to be open as long as possible. Whether after-auction sales count as "open" depends on how many pieces are still available. Being open when there is no audience does not count.
  • Closed - There isn't a lot of point to being open at 5:00 in the morning. You may as well be closed. Closed is easy, but accomplishes nothing.
  • Semi-open - You are open for some purpose, but people can't wander around the show and buy art. This includes artists setting up their work and checking out at the end of the show. It may also include the art auction and people picking up what they bought. All require you to fit the schedules of others - you can't do them before or after the convention or at four in the morning. It's necessary, but you aren't really open. Overlapping these functions when possible cuts down the time the show isn't open.
  • Staff only - This is time that only your staff uses the room: putting up panels and lighting and taking them down again, setting up the art show office and tearing it down, preparing for auction, etc. It's necessary, but you're effectively closed. You'd prefer to do these activities during hours when the audience isn't there. Unfortunately, it's hard to find staff from 1:00 to 6:00 in the morning.

You want to spend a long time open. But you are limited in how far you can push setup, teardown, check-in, and art pick-up. You'll have to compromise. To maximize open time, you want to keep your setup, teardown, and semi-open times short. But if anything goes wrong, that allows you no slack time in the schedule and the next activity will start late. It's a trade-off. For short conventions I keep times short because we're an experienced crew and things seldom go wrong; I'd rather risk running late than certainly lose open hours. For longer conventions I allow more slack time, because I can afford it without reducing open hours too much.


Following are four examples of convention art show schedules. They are all for three day conventions. There is a summary table at the end for ease of comparisons (and for those who prefer military time).

==Schedule A== This is a good compressed schedule with a Sunday auction. It's a typical MileHiCon schedule. The show is open to the public for 20 hours, which is what I usually aim for.

A Times hours
set up Fri. 8am - 2pm 6
artist hanging and checkin Fri. 2pm - 7pm 5
open to public Fri. 7pm - 11pm 4
Sat. 9am - 11pm 14
Sun. 8:30am - 10:30 2
Auction prep & record sales Sun 10:30am - 12:30pm 2
Auction Sun. 1pm - 3pm 2
Art pick up Sun. 1pm - 5pm 4
Artist checkout Sun. 2:30pm - 5pm 2.5
Tear down Sun. 5pm - 8pm 3

Setup doesn't use the room on Thursday, partly because we didn't have it until 8am Friday, and partly because there was no point opening Friday morning; programming started at 6 pm.

Setup includes panels, lighting, office, and Print Shop; starting to hang mail-in art, putting up signs, and removing spare panel parts. We're generally done with the panels by noon, but we don't want to start hanging art until we're done with lighting, signs, or anything else which might be a hazard to pieces on panels or tables. The setup time is sufficient for a 120 panel show with about 900 pieces and about 40% mail-in.

Hours open 20
Hours semi-open 9
Hours staff only 11
Total hours using room 40
Hours open as % of time in room 50

Artist hanging and checkin takes longer than theoretically necessary. If all the artists showed up at once, they could all be done within two hours. Of course, they don't all show up at once. Particularly, many local artists won't show up until after they get off work on Friday. The art show could otherwise open around 5pm, but we don't want to be open while lots of artists are still hanging work. Many artists set their work on the floor while they're working on their panels, and it's too easy for it to be stepped on. Many local artists show up late at this show; if that's not the case for your show, you could open earlier.

You'll notice this show kept late hours. More recent MileHiCons are only scheduled to stay open until 10pm on Saturday, but we stay open later as long as we have a decent number of people coming in.

In this compressed schedule, a Sunday auction conflicts with recording bids before auction. Without recording bids, auction prep would only be an hour - we could stay open an extra 1.5 hours on Sunday. Bids don't generally need to be recorded until the auction is over, but here the auction ends so close to the end of the convention that we open for buyers to pick up their art while the auction is still running.

We left lots of time for art pick-up (for ~ 400 pieces and 130 buyers). We've sorted the sold pieces by buyer, which makes pick-up fast - most buyers actually pick up their pieces from 1pm-1:30 or 3pm-3:30pm. Our staff could probably handle all the buyers in just one hour, but as with artists checking in, not all buyers could get there during a shorter period.

Time for artist checkout is adequate for ~38 artists attending and 28 mail-in. We check out individual artists earlier as needed, but most artists wait until 3:00pm (after the auction, so we can pay them as they check out). We're also using this time to start packing up mail-in artists.

Tear down time is a bit short, but we've already started on teardown before 5pm. It includes taking down the lighting and panels, finishing packing all the mail-in art, packing up all the records and office, and putting everything either on the truck or in our hotel room.

This is an aggressive schedule on Sunday. The non-open times are short. They require good staff and don't leave much time to recover in case of problems. This schedule manages to be open 20 hours without setting up on Thursday. Overlapping auction and art pick-up decreases semi-open times but requires good organization. Overlapping art pick up and artist check out also decreases semi-open times, but requires us to consider abandoned art as sold. This schedule requires art show staff to put in long hours each day; in exchange, total staff time is low and half the time we are in the room is open time.

Schedule B

This schedule is for a longer convention than A or D. It has a Sunday auction but is more relaxed than A. It's from World Horror 2000.

B Times hours
set up Thu. 8am - 3pm 7
artist hanging and check in Thu. 3pm - 7pm 4
Fri 9am - noon 2.5
open to public Fri. noon - 9pm 9
Sat. 9am - 9pm 12
Sun. 8:30am - 10:30 2
Auction prep & record sales Sun 10:30am - noon 1.5
Auction Sun. noon - 1:30 2
Art pick up Sun. 2pm - 5pm 3.5
Artist checkout Sun. 2pm - 5pm 3
Tear down Sun. 5pm - 9pm 4

The setup time was sufficient (we had less staff than A, offset by a smaller show.). It uses the room on Thursday, since we could get it for no extra cost. It is open to the public for 23 hours. It provides lots of time for artists to check in. That's all good.

Hours open 23
Hours semi-open 13
Hours staff only 12.5
Total hours using room 49
Hours open as % of time in room 47

We had time for artists to hang work on both Thursday evening or Friday morning, the idea being that local artists could make it after work on Thursday, while out-of-town artists might arrive Thursday evening or early Friday morning and could hang their work Friday before noon. It didn't work out that way - major storms over Chicago and other midwest cities caused flight delays of up to five hours for artists flying in from the east. We delayed opening for two hours, until most of them had finished setting up.

This show opens much earlier on Friday than A did. That allows it to pick up five more hours of open time on Friday even though it closes two hours sooner. It also allowed us to close earlier on Saturday.

Nothing overlaps with auction - this longer convention didn't have the time pressure to require the extra work. We did overlap art pick up and artist check out, which required us to consider abandoned art as sold - but that was going to be our policy anyway.

Auction prep and the auction are shorter than for A - it was a smaller show. Tear down is the same as A or C - again, less staff cancels out smaller show.

This is a less aggressive schedule than A. It's still a three day convention, but it started around noon on Friday, rather than Friday evening. Since it was a longer convention, we didn't need to stay open as long on any one day. It does manage to stay open three more hours than A, but you're in the room an extra nine hours, so the percentage of open time drops a bit, from 50% to 47%.

Schedule C

This is a (potentially) good schedule with a Saturday auction. It's not from an actual show - I made it up (all the shows I've run with Saturday auctions have been either longer or shorter than the usual three day schedule).

Times hours
set up Thu. 10am - 5pm 7
artist hanging and check in Thu. 5pm - 8pm 3
Fri. 9am - noon 2.5
open to public Fri. noon - 9pm 9
Sat. 9am - 8pm 11
Auction prep Sat 8pm - 9pm 1
Auction and record sales Sat. 9pm - 11pm 2
Art pick up Sun. 10pm - 2pm 4
After auction sales Sun. 10pm - 2pm 4
Artist checkout Sun. 2pm - 5pm 3
Tear down Sun. 5pm - 9pm 4

Like B, this is for a longer convention than A or D. It, too, uses the room on Thursday, which allows it generous setup and art checkin time. The setup and artist checkin times are quite similar to schedule B. So are the open times, until Saturday evening. It assumes that your audience is there by noon on Friday and that artists will be there by 11am on Friday. It's a good schedule if both are true (which it wasn't for B, thanks to weather delays).

Like A, this show is open to the public for 20 hours. It also has four additional hours of after auction sales - I counted them as two hours of open time.

Hours open 22
Hours semi-open 12.5
Hours staff only 15
Total hours using room 47.5
Hours open as % of time in room 47

The schedule shows sales being recorded during the auction, which is one option. Alternatively, after the auction you have the whole night to do paperwork, or you can do it on Sunday morning before art pickup (or you can just not record sales until after the show is over - see records).

Art pick-up and artist checkout each have enough time and do not overlap. This allows the show the option of treating abandoned art as unsold, should they want to.

This schedule uses after auction sales. This usually precludes pulling sold pieces off the panels and sorting them, though you could also shut for half an hour before art pick up to sort the sold pieces, then use less time for art pick-up. It won't save you any staff time - it about breaks even there - but it will cut the time buyers have to wait. (see buyer pick up).

Teardown time is much like A or B. Overall, this schedule is mostly similar to B. It has one less hour of open time, and your staff spends two less hours in the room, so you're still open about 47% of the time you're in the room.

Schedule D

This is a bad compressed schedule with a Saturday auction. It's made up because I didn't want to pick on anyone, but I didn't make any of this stuff up.

It's a lazy art show schedule. It requires fewer staff hours than the other three. That's good, in and of itself. But it's lazy in the wrong ways. Compared to schedule A the staff of D spent more non-open time at the convention. All the reduction in staff hours came out of open time. This show is only open for 10 hours.

Times hours
set up Fri. 8am - 3pm 7
artist hanging and check in Fri. 3pm - 7pm 4
open to public Fri. 7pm - 9pm 2
Sat. 10am - 6pm 8
Auction prep & record sales Sat 6pm - 8pm 2
Auction Sat. 8pm - 10pm 2
Art pick up Sun. 8am - 10:30am 2.5
Artist checkout Sun. 10:30am - 1pm 2.5
Tear down Sun. 1pm - 5pm 4

This schedule has perfectly reasonable times for set-up and art checkin. It looks a lot like A until Friday evening, when it closes after only two hours. Then it opens an hour later on Saturday. By 11am on Saturday, A was open six hours; this one has only been open three.

The auction time is reasonable, though an hour later would help keep the show open a bit more. But there's no need for two hours of auction prep here. If you need to record all the written bids, you can do it during or after the auction.

hours open 10
Hours semi-open 9
Hours staff only 13
Total hours using room 32
Hours open as % of time in room 31

This schedule doesn't stay open very long on Friday. It doesn't open as early as it could on Saturday, or stay open as late as it could. If they stayed open just one hour later on Friday, opened an hour earlier on Saturday and stayed open two hours later (pushing the auction back an hour), they'd have been open 14 hours. Four more hours may not sound like much, but it's 40% more than this schedule started with. I'd expect a 15-20% increase in sales as a result.

Schedule D continues bad. Art pick-up gets 2.5 hours. This may be enough time, but it's the wrong time. Most buyers won't show up at 8am. If most arrive around 9:30, will they finish by 10:30? This problem is entirely predictable. There is probably enough time scheduled for artist checkout, but it may run into unfinished art pick-up. Having artists check out after art pick-up is over allows the convention to treat abandoned art as being unsold.

The time allotted for teardown is fine. The apparent object was to get out of the room by 5pm so the hotel could use it for another function on Sunday evening. Unfortunately, that doesn't play well with treating abandoned art as unsold, making art pick-up too early. Rather than pushing art pick-up to 8am, it would be better to either treat abandoned art as sold, or pay to keep the room longer.

Treating abandoned art as sold and overlapping art pick-up with artist checkout could save them 2.5 staff hours on Sunday, so with a net increase of 1.5 hours of staff time at the convention they could have bought a 40% increase in the time they were open. Being open for only 31% of the time you are in the room time is wasting your staff's effort (reductio ad absurdum, you could run a really big show if it never opened at all).

If you want to reduce staff hours, run a smaller show and reduce non-open time. A good small show is better than a bad big one, plus a small show doesn't need to be open as long. Most people have other things to do than seeing the art show. If it only takes 20 minutes to see the whole show, almost everyone can find the time during your 10 open hours. But larger shows take hours to see all of; most people won't be able to spend hours seeing the show unless you're open longer. So if D were a small show, the hours open could be OK - but then the set-up, teardown, and auction prep times are all longer than necessary. Events outside the art show's control may reduce your open hours, but you want to do what you can to keep the art show open a reasonably long time.

Summary of schedules discussed

Items in red are bad, items in blue are good

set up Fri. 8:00-14:00 Thu. 8:00-15:00 Thu. 10:00-17:00 Fri. 8:00-15:00
artist hanging and check in Thu. 15:00-19:00 Thu. 17:00-20:00
Fri. 14:00-19:00 Fri. 9:00-12:00 Fri. 9:00-12:00 Fri. 15:00-19:00
open to public Fri. 19:00-23:00 Fri. 12:00-21:00 Fri. 12:00-21:00 Fri. 19:00-21:00
Sat. 9:00-23:00 Sat. 9:00-21:00 Sat. 9:00-20:00 Sat. 10:00-18:00
Sun. 8:30-10:30 Sun. 8:30-10:30
Auction prep Sun 10:30-12:30 Sun 10:30-12:00 Sat. 20:00-21:00 Sat. 18:00-20:00
Auction Sun. 13:00-15:00 Sun. 12:00-13:30 Sat. 21:00-23:00 Sat. 20:00-22:00
Art pick up Sun. 13:00-17:00 Sun. 14:00-17:00 Sun. 10:00-14:00 Sun. 8:00-10:30
Artist checkout Sun. 14:00-17:00 Sun. 14:00-17:00 Sun. 14:00-17:00 Sun. 10:30-13:00
Tear down Sun. 17:00-20:00 Sun. 17:00-21:00 Sun. 17:00-21:00 Sun. 13:00-17:00
Hours open to public 20 23 22 10
Hours semi-open 9 13.5 13 9
Hours staff only 11 12.5 14 13
Total hours in room 40 49 47 32
Hours open as % of time in room 50 47 47 31