Community art exhibits are a great way to get a range of artists from the local community to exhibit their work together. Not only does it provide established artists with an event to present their work, but it also gives up-and-coming amateur artists the opportunity to enter the art world.
Once you’ve found a great community space—whether it be a room at an established art gallery or a space in a community building such as a library, historic building or hall—you can begin to plan the theme for your exhibition.
Make sure to consider the wide range of mediums that local artists will be working in (for example, photography, sculpture, painting, drawing, print-making, etc) and then pick a theme which will encourage a variety of artists.
The following ten theme ideas can work very well for large groups of artists—feel free to adapt or use them as you need:
1. Tiny art
Tiny art is small work in two or three dimensions measuring no larger than 20cm by 20cms. One benefit of a theme like this is that many entries can be displayed within the studio space. It also challenges artists to focus their ideas by narrowing down the size and scope of the work.
2. Local inspiration
An exhibition inspired by a location, town, city or place. This theme brings out diverse artistic interpretations of a local space and is broad enough to produce a wide range of works.
Invite along local community members as part of a judging or evaluation panel, include them in an opening event to enhance the feeling of the local theme.
3. Inspired by great artists
Pick a famous artist as an inspiration—for example, Van Gogh, Degas, Rembrandt, Pollock, or Picasso—and encourage artists to create a work which displays a figurative, literal or thematic inspiration of that particular artist’s work on their own.
4. Famous landmarks
Choose a famous international landmark or building for inspiration. Try the Guggenheim Museum, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Eiffel Tower, or the Empire State Building as a starting point for artists to create an architectural impression of their own making,
You could also bring this theme back to a local level by focusing on a local landmark, historical event or building.
5. National identity
This theme incorporates artwork (in any medium) that is inspired by your country. National colours, icons and flag could be used as inspiration. Cultural identification could also be an excellent starting point.
This theme is able to be widely interpreted. Do not expect to simply receive artworks which are literal interpretations—self-portraiture is an excellent way to get artists to think about any kind of object or subject matter that expresses their own identity.
7. Interactive art
This is ideal for sculpture artists, but will work with two dimensional mediums too.
Get your participants to consider how the audience can interact with their work. Moving parts, wheels, tactile layers, film or live photography and installations are all fair game. Include instructions that artists should make the works touchable and interactive-friendly.
8. 3D art
This one’s mostly for the sculpture artists, but doesn’t have to rule out painters and other visual artists.
9. Unique medium
Choose a unique medium for artists to work with (newspaper, plastic, corrugated cardboard, metal, etc.) Everyone will use the medium differently incorporating it into their own style and you will receive a wide range of works which really showcase local creativity.
10. Things that move and live
Beyond traditional 2D or 3D art, think about building a theme around moving images, performance art, live demonstrations and interactive sculptures. Creativity abounds when you push outside-the-box thinking.
As always, be sure to advertise your exhibit well. Target local schools, art students, community groups, amateur organisations, evening art classes and any other group within the wider community.
Good luck planning and promoting your exhibition!
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