How to Start an Art Show with No Money – Part 3: Get Some Booze

Let’s be real. Art shows are so fun to go to because of the art, AND because there are usually free drinks, how great is that. So of course, drinks aren’t actually free at the store, so I decided to see if someone were willing to sponsor the show! There were two memorable stories. I first called Pretty Things, which I knew to be a local brewery (in fact the previous hacker space I was a member of was in the same building as where they started), so I looked up the people involved on their website and cold emailed/called them.  They were somewhat lukewarm about the idea and told me that it was too short notice (I called them two weeks before the show) and that their beer was actually stored in Florida (go figure).  

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How to Start an Art Show with No Money – Part 2: Find a Venue

Here’s another fairly easy one.  What you need is a relatively clean space (or just clean walls) somewhere you can hold a publicly-assessible event and invite people.  The first Curious Sound Objects show (video here) was held in the event space of my co-working building (Industry Lab - Cambridge, MA).  I think I got lucky with this one, the space is sizable, and the people friendly, and because I’m a paying member (it’s where I work), it was also free.  Also, you’ll want to decide wether a one day show or a 


Here were some of the challenges in that particular space:

Since it is a space accessible to the members during the day, people have lunch, and meetings, and sometimes smaller events, so the “gallery” was hard to maintain as a perfect gallery space for very long.  In order to be professional about an art show, there were “gallery hours” during the two weeks following the opening where people could come by and see the pieces. The arrangement of the show was multiple pedestals spread out to fill the space.

Understandably, in order to accommodate the daily activities, sometimes the pedestals with the artwork would get moved to the sides and I would move them back during “gallery hours.”  Considering the space was free, and the opening night turn out was fantastic, this was a small inconvenience, but something you should keep in mind if you set up your show in such a space.  I think co-working spaces are a great first time venue because there is a built-in audience and it builds community. In fact, Industry Lab has an artist in residence program


If your art show consists of wall mounted pieces (paintings, photographs, etc.) then your options are greater, coffee shops, office lobbies, anywhere with clean walls will do.  Make sure with the people in charge before making holes in the walls etc.


The subsequent two shows were at a local brewery, and the fourth was the first extended gallery show. Separate posts about the positives and challenges with those venues to come.  Sign up for the mailing list and get them delivered straight to your inbox! You can also ask any questions you may have about the topic.



Check out:

How to start an Art Show with No Money Part 1 - Pick a Theme

How to Start an Art Show on a Budget – Part 1: Pick a Theme

The idea for Curious Sound Objects came while I was taking a class called Make Almost Anything  (my documentation here) where I was learning 3d printing, laser cutting, PCB design, and general electronics and I made a piece that was a wedge shaped box with one knob and a screen and it was something between a sculpture and an instrument, but it mostly just made wobbly sounds and jiggly geometric shapes.  It was pretty fun.  Then I thought about how my city (Cambridge / Somerville, both in the greater Boston area) is full of people that are hacking and making stuff and these things often make sounds, so why not have an art show and present these things to the world?  And Curious Sound Objects was born.


Why was it exciting for me?

I love jamming with friends (even though I’m not a particularly good instrumentalist), making music with people is a blast.  Playing with electronics is really fun. I knew there were other people, some of them already friends, that did the same thing.  Often times we share these things with each other in a cluttered workshop / science fair setting. I have some design experience and felt like I could present these objects in a careful way and create an environment where people could have the time to appreciate them fully.


Looking back at the last two years, there have been four shows and I have no intentions of stopping.  The plan is to do ten of them, so there will be two coffee table books, Vol 1-5 and 6-10 :)

I think the reason I have maintained enthusiasm for the project, with all of the hard work and challenges, is simply because it’s fun.  There hasn’t been any financial incentive to do it (although I’m working on figuring that out, to come in later posts).

The primary thing I can say is find something you love to do, find other people that love to do it, and organize an event.  If you know four people, that’s already enough for a show.  Group shows are a lot of fun, and usually have stronger turnouts because each artist has their own social sphere (I didn’t think about this, just something I realized in retrospect)

Don’t do an event around a topic that doesn’t move you, it’s a lot easier to maintain momentum for something you personally find worthwhile.


Also use your strengths to make it great, if you’re good at design, make some fun graphics, if not, ask a friend. If you’re good at cooking, add some delicious food to the show! My mom always commented how there is often little food at American parties and everyone gets drunk and hungry fast :)