We tried somethings out this year at the Stirring that really worked and somethings that didnt work as well. I thought'd share the insights with you.
1.) Which works better having an art opening on a weekend that is guaranteed to have a very large crowd (Easter and Christmas) or have just create a special night for the opening?
My expectation was that the larger the crowd the more likely we'd have a good number in the gallery viewing and purchasing the work. The reality.... nope. If anything, the huge crowd works against you. Here's how i see it.
On Easter and Christmas this year, I planned special art shows that tied into the theme of the service - a cross exhibit for Easter and an exhibit about Mary for Christmas. We had about 1200 in attendance for Easter and nearly 2000 for Christmas. That's 3-4 times the number of people we normally have, but the number of viewers in the gallery was no greater than the typical Sunday. This can be very frustrating for your artists. They've worked very hard to create paintings, hang a show, promote it, etc and all you see are people streaming in and then streaming back out.
This is not to say that i think the art show should be as important than the holiday service experience. It was my intension that the art add to the worship and reflection of the evening. It seemed logical that if there was a higher percentage of people in attendance than an equally higher percentage would view the art. but as it turns out, people are more concerned about getting in and out of the service than stopping to check out the art that we made to go with the service. Which is understandable, Easter and Christmas are full of holiday traditions (Christmas MORE so) and families are probably off to the next thing - a special dinner, a family gathering, etc.
Also, during a holiday service, there is a LARGE need for volunteers doing many things to help with the production and smooth running of the evening. If you're trying to do an art show at the same time, you are taking needed volunteers away from some other important job or you have to bring in new volunteers for just the art. Either you have enough support and feel like you should be lending the art volunteers to some short staffed area, or you're under supported and you feel bad about taking volunteers from some other job.
Last, it is our goal at the Stirring to do something very impactful at the close of a special service - some awe inspiring moment, a lasting impression or thought. This prevents our pastor from breaking the feel of the moment by making another announcement to encourage people to view the art. But without that reminder at the end of the service, most folks just go straight out the doors. There are probably a number of other factors that contribute to the lack of interest in the shows on a holiday night.
Now, on the 2 occasions that we did an art focused service followed by a reception, we had a much better turnout in the gallery. At those 2 events, the attendance was only 340 and 460 but there was 2-3 times as many people that checked out the gallery. We also had ample volunteer support for greeting, mingling, set-up and take down, and folks doing refreshments. We even had live music in the foyer. It had a much more professional art opening feel. I think next year I'm going to stick to more of this format and not try to add to the clutter and craziness of holiday services.
*Side note: Joey at LifeLink commented to me that he had a different results at his gallery. So I should probably point out that the location of your gallery space is probably a big factor. At the Stirring, the gallery space is upstairs on the second floor balcony over looking the foyer of the sanctuary. It's not really a part of the natural flow of traffic. LifeLink's gallery space on the other hand is located right next to the sanctuary and their info/coffee tables. As a result, they have more people check it out when the attendance is high.