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Welcome to ConRunner, a Why and How-To reference for Convention organizers.

ConRunner was started in July 2005, and we are currently working on 275 articles. You are invited to join us, and to help make them better.

We hope to document all aspects of running a successful, enjoyable, memorable convention. Please browse our pages, and if you have something to add, please do so. Registration is required to edit or to add pages, however anyone may browse the articles. We hope you find something of use!

Featured Article - Art_Show_-_Who_Should_Run

Who should run the show

It's best if the Art Show is run by someone who's had experience with that type of Art Show. This might be someone from outside the area or con-com, unless the convention has staff with expertise. But what's the convention committee to do when the outside "contractor" is no longer available? That is a when, not an if, so continuing conventions are often best served doing it themselves while one-shot conventions (or continuing conventions which change locations and committees each year) would probably be better off "sub-contracting". Continuing art show groups (e.g., Pegasus Management, the Incredible Floating East Coast Art Show Crew, ABCs, the A Team) are external groups that fall somewhere in the middle. They often run shows for multiple conventions and can have long lives. They too will disband at some point, but it can take much longer.

Different groups and regions often have different styles (for example, the East Coast Crew uses a steel-pipe-and-pegboard "tinkertoy" set-up and generally does not allow Quick Sale. Pegasus, in the Midwest US, allows Quick Sale, uses Dorsai Irregulars for security, and tends to Saturday night auctions. Denver and LA tend to Quick Sale and Sunday auctions). It's easier to recruit a crew if you've worked for them on their home convention's art show, and it helps you meet artists and encourage them to exhibit art at your convention. The better your crew, the less experience you need.

If you plan to do it yourself, learn how. Find someone whose shows you like and ask them for advice and help. Work with them as an apprentice or ask them to help run your show for a year or two to get you started. If you have (or are) an expert art show director, train back-ups.

Key jobs of an art show director:

  • Pre-con
    • Recruit people to work the art show
    • Recruit and select artists to exhibit
    • Manage paperwork and records
  • Oversee running of the show itself
    • Setup, teardown, logistics, Artist check-in & check-out, art pick-up, recording sales, auction, security, etc.
    • You don't do this all yourself; you have to ensure you have someone doing it, and that they do it right.
  • Post-con
    • Ensure art is returned promptly and artists paid on time

The art show director or your core art show staff should be able to:

  • Technical skills:
    • Read blueprints and/or floor plans and understand them
    • Know how your panels can be configured
    • Draw floor plans
  • Organizational skills:
    • Recruit, retain, and coordinate volunteers
    • Design solid procedures, write them up, and train people in them
    • Logistics skills - scheduling and arranging suitable people and equipment (maybe including teamsters)
  • People skills:
    • Play well with others.
    • Communicate directly - Explain Art Show positions, rules, views, etc., to ConCom, artists, and viewers.
    • Maintain credibility with ConCom and artists
    • Public Relations and advertising
    • Know art terminology, expectations, and attitudes
  • Other:
    • Detail oriented and conscientious
    • Willing and able to spend inordinate amounts of time on an art show

Needed somewhere in the staff, but not necessarily at the top:

  • Carry heavy objects and use tools
  • Set up panels (both know how to, and be able to)
  • Hang art
  • Know lighting and wiring.
  • Know how to pack artwork
  • Auctioneer, art show judges
  • Computer skills (at least for larger shows)

Being an artist or having a great knowledge of art are not vital, except as they contribute to understanding terminology, expectations, and attitudes. But if you don't like art, you're unlikely to put this much time into an art show.


There is no One True Way to organize your committee into departments. Often times a convention will run for a few years one way, and then combine departments that share a lot of the same resources or purpose into a single department. Or a department may split, as the needs of the convention grow. Do what works for you, and recruit reliable department heads. Create, publish, and maintain a clear set of objectives and methods to document continuity of what works, what doesn't, and why. Check on the senior staff regularly to make sure they're getting whatever support they need from you and the rest of the committee, pre-con and at-con. Department heads then recruit what staff and at-con volunteers they need to accomplish the goals of the department.

Have your department heads document the procedures of running their department, and train people under them so that you have a pool of people ready to be future department heads, and you are capturing knowledge from one year to the next.

A common way to split a science fiction convention into departments is like so:

  • Contests:
    • Young writers contest
    • Anime Music Video
    • Original Animation
    • Fan Art
    • Student Art

You can easily see how Volunteers might also go under Operations, Masquerade and Dance under Programming, etc. A small enough convention may not have a person dedicated to publicity separate from their publications head, or an information desk, or whatever. And of course, some conventions don't have Art Shows, or Charity Auctions, or whatever. Try to pick a structure that best supports what you do and how you want to do it.

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