Sitting the Show

I’m sitting the fall SWA show.  That means I’m part security guard, part cashier, part museum docent and mostly bored. When art guilds like the Society of Washington Artists puts on a public art show, especially one open to the public during all business hours, someone has to pay attention so that the art doesn’t walk away under its own power (or through the power of art thieves, the most criminal kind of thief). In addition, the art is for sale, so someone must be on guard in the event of art purchasers (the most admired and sought-after kind of art lover). But most of the time, we sit. Hence the name.

As I sit, I am keeping my hands busy by typing away. That way the people who are using this public building for something other than art-gazing (which is most of them – there are a lot of business tenants in this building) do not feel obligated to acknowledge my odd existence here at a table set up at the entrance to a public building, as if I were about to ask them if they are happy with their cell carrier.

I face the walkway with my laptop screen in front of me. This way, it’s easy to tell those who wish to engage me in conversation about the art from those who just want to escape the building without an awkward encounter.

Other jobs I have had in the past 24 hours are: database coordinator, art work recorder, art panel mover, printer, printer loaner, secretary, art judge wrangler, and winner’s certificate creator.

Art shows like those put on by the SWA do a valuable service to a whole range of artists, from seasoned professionals to those who may be beginning to find where they fit in the art community. There is nothing like seeing your art displayed alongside art of a completely different caliber or style to make you aware of your strengths and your many, many weaknesses. Many. Many.

There are always moments of panic for those of us who put on art shows. (Listen to me: “those of us.” I’ve been doing this for [watch check] six months.) This time around, the hinge bits that allow the panels to stand upright disappeared when they we needed them and reappeared in front of us as soon as someone made a 12-mile round-trip to re-check the storage space. Nobody remembered to print out extra registration forms for the organizationally challenged who always come unprepared. (Luckily I found one extra with which I copied ten more.) We ended up with too many boxes of panels from storage and no dolly to help get them out of the hallway. (We managed to heave them out of the way with a minimum of hernias.) And we just looked at the prize ribbon box and found only half the ribbons we will need tomorrow. This one is a little more difficult to solve. Our prize ribbons are normally custom printed with the name of our organization, so whatever we end up doing will be half-assed. Ah well. Admittance is cheap. You get what you pay for.

What do I get out of it? Today isn’t the best day to ask me. I ate a granola bar for dinner last night and again for lunch today and I was up late last night creating show programs with the name of each artist, their works, and their purchase price. This morning I printed labels to hang next to each piece. Tonight I will add the names of the winners to the programs and print them. Then I will create fancy certificates with gold seals.

But next week I’ll have an answer for you. It will probably have to do with the benefits of friends with similar interests. Also, artists talk a lot about perspective as a quality of a painting that makes the 2-dimensional seem to have depth. There’s also the perspective gained from interacting with other artists working just as hard and gaining just as much from it (happiness: yes; wealth: no). But mostly what I get are the health benefits of pats on the back. That’s enough.