I love traveling for exhibitions. And I’m grateful that since joining ArtShape Mammoth, I’ve been given a lot of opportunities to do so. Installing work puts a unique framework around your experience of a city. I’m not usually scoping out Home Depot locations when I’m on vacation, after all.
Out of town exhibitions pose their own challenges though, and take another level of organization to prepare for, as many artists know. I compiled some lessons learned from my experiences, and I hope you will weigh in with your suggestions too!
I found out the hard way how much FedEx and UPS *love* to ship large boxes when I needed to ship a mannequin out to LA for a show. A few panic attacks later, my partner remembered a shipping option that is much more affordable, especially for large and heavy boxes. It uses the luggage space in Greyhound buses that are normally under-used. Allow for a little more transit time, but their rates are significantly better, and you can even save money by dropping off/picking up at the bus station versus door-to-door delivery. Pack in sturdy boxes because it will go on and off a few buses.
Luggage is still cheapest:
I thought I was a genius when this first occurred to me, then found out everyone does it. Still, a very affordable option for moving work from A to B, if you are going to be flying out for the show anyway. Most airlines charge $25 for a checked bag, which is still cheaper than the cost to ship the same stuff. Fragile work may not fare as well, but for an installation I was doing on the West Coast using large cloth panels, pure cheapness got me to fit everything in one suitcase.
Lumber changes around the country:
For the same installation, I planned to build the supports on site and bring the cloth panels with me. I did a mock up in my studio with easy to find pre-cut lumber, so that I wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time cutting and could just assemble everything. It never occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to find the same lumber on the other side of the country. I went to 3-4 different stores before I found an alternative, but now, I check availability at the specific store location when planning the work.
Tools: bring or borrow?
I hate losing my tools, and so try to avoid bringing them with me for installs. It’s rarely a necessity to bring general use tools because the gallery stocks them. What I do bring are the component parts that I need for the work: specific size drill bits, exact paint for touch-ups, extra sewing supplies. I make an inventory list then use it later to make sure I don’t forget anything. That said, after so much careful planning, I neglected to bring a counter-sink with me for a recent trip. But, it gave me the chance to make some new friends at the nearby CreatorSpace!
What have you found that is a ‘must’ for Art + Travel?