Splash® Exhibition 2013: 5 to 15 September

The lights were dimmed in the gloriously high ceiling of the Cathedral, the Steinway piano was tinkling, glasses were full, Guest Artist Roger Daniell was debonair, and the atmosphere was exciting. Outside a tempest blew and snow was falling in the hills but indoors 300 guests appreciated a beautiful watercolour exhibition where artistic layout and lighting enhanced the quality of the paintings.

Splash® is the result of many hours of endeavour by many volunteers. In 2013 sixty members are supporting us but we still need to share the load further next year. Helping with Splash lets you see at first hand the systems and methods we use to plan for and set up a major exhibition. Your voluntary assistance and support from Funders helps the Committee produce Splash within a budget of $13,500.

Planning for Splash started in February with major decisions on venue, guest artist and a range of other practical event considerations. Administrative details were steadily resolved and the annual review of the VIP invitation mailing list was undertaken. We know invitations are sought after but we need to stay focused on reaching potential buyers. A special consideration in 2013 was the need to work with Cathedral staff to gain their approval of exhibition activities as these needed to fit with the Cathedral’s daily public programme. Once the Invitation was designed the exhibition began to feel real and exciting. A bulk mail-out of invitations to 390 members and 550 VIP guests followed. Before we all had time to breathe 100 entry forms started to roll in.

While you were finishing paintings and sending them to framers the marketing plan for the exhibition was gathering momentum in Wellington. There were event listings on websites and the $2,000 marketing budget was being spent on booking advertisements in regional and local newspapers. These were backed up by a Media Release
and articles written on local artists. Members were distributing 3,000 flyers to cafés, libraries and households in local suburbs.

Four days before Opening 44 paintings arrived by courier to be unpacked and registered. On Receiving Day one team of helpers processed 205 paintings in 90 minutes through unpacking, scrutineering of frames and labels, etc, and cross checking titles and prices for the catalogue database. A second team – the ‘Muscle Team’ – handled the heavy lifting of display panels and lights from the Crypt up into the Cathedral. Then they juggled the layout of the panels around the walls of the Cathedral in order to maximise space for over 160 framed paintings. Wire hanging systems and lighting were added to the panels. After a formal selection process, the layout of the exhibition was decided. Hanging the paintings commenced and for heavy paintings it was a case of using old fashioned hammer and nails to take the weight. Meanwhile the Priest in Charge contemplated the paintings of two semi naked ladies that had been hung below the pulpit. She politely asked for them to be relocated as they could be a distraction for the congregation.

After the paintings had been numbered the catalogue could be finalised. A two person team was seen pushing a trolley around the exhibition loaded with plastic crates and a computer balanced on top. This was the last check of numbers, titles and prices. One thousand copies of the catalogue were then printed. Back at the exhibition 169 swing tags were tucked out of sight, velcro was added to the back of each painting to keep it straight, and finger prints were wiped off the glass.

On the Opening night the food, wine, and sales team were in high gear, the doorman was in place, the band tuned up, and everyone was all smiles as visitors began arriving 30 minutes early. Then the Eftpos crashed after the first sale so the Repair Man had to race to the venue before ‘Red dot runners’ could resume their task of red dotting 17 paintings.

Four days into the exhibition we have already sold 32 paintings on behalf of 27 artists. Our Exhibition Minders are very professional and the Cathedral staff are enjoying our success.

To see photos of Splash-2013, please visit Watercolour New Zealand on Flickr.

We hope you appreciate the photographs of some of the tasks that volunteers undertook in the 4 days leading up to the Opening.

Next year you could be on the exhibition team. We’d love to hear from you.

Claire Clark
Vice President Watercolour New Zealand

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