Your Art Installation and You! Step-by-Step
Guest Blog by Made Here Artist Greg Lecker
Step 1 - My Made Here Proposal was Selected! Now What?
After I processed the excitement of being accepted to Made Here, I felt like “the dog that caught the car,” wondering what to do next. If you, like me, didn’t do this during the proposal process, it’s time to sit down and make a work schedule. Take a hard look at your installation date. There’s no time to waste. Answer the questions: Where will I work? What will my work and installation processes be? How will I source my materials? In my case, I had to create a lot of installation components from scratch. I had to designate design and production time.
Step 2 - Seeing Your New Home
Your project site visit will most likely be your only opportunity to get inside your site before install, so collect as much information as you can. If possible, bring your team of installation assistants—they’ll notice things you might not. Ask questions, snap photos, take notes, measure the space. By the end of the site visit, you should be able to answer these key questions:
- From what angles will your installation be viewed?
- How will you incorporate the floor as part of your installation? Many installation sites may be viewed by people in skyways or on buses. You don’t want to be left with a concrete floor that detracts from your art.
I employed some stage design techniques in my installation. I treated the floor like it was part of a theatrical set, covering it with a painted floor drape. In a theater, floors and corners of the set are painted for the benefit of audience members in the balconies, boxes, or the sides of the theater. In your Made Here exhibition, do the same for the commuter whizzing by your window on Route 6.
Think about how you will attach your work to the installation site. Heads up: there are specially designed clips made for attaching suspended components from acoustic tile ceiling T-grids. These were super helpful to me. As you think about where to place your backdrop, note the placement of electrical outlets and the depth of your space.
Lighting can be a beast. Hennepin Theatre Trust provides some light fixtures, but plan to bring additional fixtures and extension cords. If there is a lot of daylight and if there are high ambient night lighting levels, your installation will need a lot of accent lighting, floodlighting or back lighting to minimize outside reflections. You don’t want outside light to obscure your work to passersby.
Step 3- Make a Plan
Now that you’ve seen your site, go home and draw your installation in section, elevation, and plan views to visualize the size and placement of your installation components. If you need help, find a friend in the theatre, architectural, engineering or construction trades. A sketch is all you need, but that sketch does need to be accurate, to scale and dimensioned. This will help ensure that your work will fit in the space.
Step 4 - Let’s Go Shopping!
Remember all of those bits and pieces you discovered you’d need? It’s time to go get them. Order long-lead items with plenty of time to spare. On top of that, calculate in processing time. Paint dries slowly, ordering vinyl lettering requires back-and forth, video projection needs to be produced, and the large format photography you ordered might need to be proofed more than once.
Ok. One more time for the people in the back. Will you need special components to install your work? Now is the time to track those down.
Step 5 - Get to Work
Producing an art installation is a big job. You’ll find that it’s best to work steadily rather than in a rush at the last minute. Day jobs, family commitments, and everything else in life can make staying on schedule hard. Budget more time than you think you’ll need. Even if everything goes as scheduled (which it won’t!), a brilliant idea might come to you when you least expect it, so you’ll want to have time to implement it!
Step 6 - Ready for My Close-up!
Photograph your process: sketches, installation, meetings with collaborators, artwork. Fans of your work will love the “behind the scenes” look that these photos give. Share these photos on social media, and save them for reference during your next installation.
Step 7 - Time to Pack
No one likes packing; but don’t put it off. I don’t recommend packing the night before or the morning of your installation. This will minimize the “where’s my Allen wrench? Did I charge the camera?” types of questions. Don’t forget about arranging for assistants. Though Hennepin Theatre Trust provides able installers, you should bring your own too. I can't overstate the importance of having helpers to run for coffee, grab forgotten items, take process photographs, and cheer you on.
As always, allow for two to three times the installation time you anticipate. I thought my installation would take three to four hours max. I had everything packed and labeled ahead of time, but things came up that I didn’t anticipate. Setting up lighting was a big time-suck. Start to finish, I needed eight hours.
Step 8 - Making the Most Out of Made Here
Leverage your Made Here opportunity to your full advantage. Market your installation throughout the four month period, and use social media to your best advantage. Your followers want to learn more about you. Include the #MadeHereMN hashtag and MadeHereMN Twitter and Facebook handles. Hennepin Theatre Trust may retweet and share your posts! This will broaden your reach and reinforce the link between you and these cool brands.
Beyond your web presence, get creative. As a Plein Air painter, I hyped my installation by doing street performances for passersby on 8th Street and Hennepin Avenue. I handed out business cards and postcards of my installation. This was in December, January, February and March! Cold, but worth it.
Remember that there will be professional photographs taken of your installation. You are free to use the photos for promotional purposes. Be sure to credit the photographer, Steven Lang. He’s an artist, just like you. I can’t overstate how valuable these photos are. The market rate of photo rights is often $200 per image. Hennepin Theatre Trust will showcase these photos on their site. Hyperlink to their site and share them on social media for some awesome press.
Step 9 - Celebrate!
Enjoy the launch party! You’ll get to meet Made Here artists and the rest of the Hennepin Theatre Trust team. I had a lot of fun talking with special folks like Joan Vorderbruggen, Director of Public Art and Placemaking.
Step 10 - Treasure this Opportunity – Make the Most of It!
In the theatre world, the phrase “Striking the Set” means taking down and packing the scenery, costumes and props. The good news is that de-installation goes much faster than the installation. The bad news is that you leave the site with a bit of melancholy. Lift your spirits by knowing that you did your best work, and “left it all on that stage,” as they say. At this point, you’ll have fully documented your installation and done everything you could to promote it.
Like theater, art installations are ephemeral. However, there can be life after de-installation. You’ll use your Made Here exhibition records and work examples if you are pursuing public art installations, exhibits and commissions in the future. Be sure to include this project on your résumé. You might even be able to use your work in another exhibition. Following Made Here, I moved my work to my gallery space at #183 Northrup King Building.
About Greg Lecker
Greg Lecker, Spirit Showcase #128, “Looking Out (and Inside).” Photo by Steven Lang.
When he is not making public art, Greg paints landscapes en plein air (in the open air) and in the studio. Having applied the medium of light as an architectural lighting designer for thirty years, Greg interprets the changing atmosphere of man-made and natural settings in art filled with color, motion, and emotion. Greg communicates his experiences in “real-time” with passersby and shares oil paintings – sometimes still wet – with collectors and gallery visitors to Gallery Immaginé, located in the Northrup King Building. Look for his writing, photography, and illustrations in the University of Minnesota “Arboretum” magazine and Nature Notes blog. As artist-in-residence at Banfill-Locke Center for the Arts, Greg looks forward to sharing his love of nature and art over the next eighteen months.Triggering memories; making introductions.
Made Here, a project of Hennepin Theatre Trust, is a walkable urban art experience that connects people to local art and artists in the West Downtown Minneapolis Cultural District.