Overcoming Wild Card Event Fails

by guest blogger Terri Lloyd

Running a non-profit arts collective for the past five years, I have pretty much done it all and seen it all.


Crowd at Belinda Knetge Opening


When you found a non-profit collective, you wind up being the go-to person for pretty much everything and anything. For instance, here’s my short list: all the business and banking activities, the proposal writing, the grant writing, the marketing and branding, overseeing the website development, writing of our newsletters, and program development. I also cultivate membership, sponsorship and donor relations. I’m actively involved in the installation and striking of all our exhibits. When there is no curatorial team, I’m the curatorial team. I manage all social media and am our number one brand ambassador.

In addition to that, I am the customer service relations specialist for the good, the bad and the ugly. Meaning that if there’s a problem, it’s mine to manage. If someone is pitching a proposal, they’re pitching it to me. If there is an act of mother nature or some other wild card variable, it’s up to me to get things sorted out and back on track. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t work solo and have some dedicated team members. But at the end of the day, if a head is going to roll, it’s probably mine.

Because of this vantage point, I’ve also seen it all. I have been witness to some unbelievable variables that continue to astound and amaze.

There are the usual variables such as:
• Wet paint on canvases
• Refusing to follow submission directions
• Art not meeting exhibition specifications
• Drop off and pick up schedules ignored

There are the somewhat perplexing variables like:
• Featured artist “forgetting” to show up for their own opening
• The diva who treats the volunteer staff as her personal servants instead of allowing them to do their jobs
• The artist who wants you to write their proposal for them to exhibit with you
• Homeless guy posing as a photographer for some magazine only to gain access to food and drink offered at event

And finally the bizarre variables:
• Insulting and berating event organizers for using alternative art spaces instead of owning a proper gallery with white walls
• The gallerist who leaves you and your installation team and art in front of locked doors for hours
• Locusts, the code name for a local bike tour group that pillages the hospitality offered at galleries
• Paid caterers getting drunk and picking up attendees

Variables always keep the experience of producing arts events and exhibits “interesting.” All too familiar with variables, I have learned to spot one coming miles away. It seems that no matter how one tries to avoid them, they never fail to show up. Which, paradoxically, would make them more of a constant that a variable.

The problem with variables is not that they happen, but when they do, they disrupt and slow down productivity. Which creates more work and more headaches for you.

So what do you do to keep your sanity when the variables come to visit?

First off, expect them. Always have a plan B, C, D, etc. When plotting out your events, have your contingency plan(s) in place. During the planning phase of anything, ask yourself about the variables. What do we do if …? WHO could could be a potential variable and how do we manage her/him? Get outrageous with this. Be absurd, because the absurd can and will happen.

Pick your battles. You don’t have to address every variable as a violation. Drama is a time suck and an energy suck. Use your energy where it serves you best. Boundaries are your friend. Believe it or not, most people will respect you more for having boundaries. Sometimes a boundary is as simple as saying, “No.”

Have a structure of policies and procedures in place. Make sure everyone understands your policies and procedures before planning your next event or project. This doesn’t have to be a huge corporate package with a whole bunch of mumbo jumbo, just some guidelines to keep everyone on the same page and working harmoniously.

Finally, don’t forget to laugh when the variables do show up. After all, you’re prepared for them.


Terri Lloyd is an artist living in Los Angeles, CA working to engage organizations, groups and projects that focus upon women’s issues, aging, and art as part of a transformative process.


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  1. Ah, yes…this list is oh so familiar! May I add: The artist who wasn’t curated into the show, arrives on installation day with art to hang anyway; the venue that drops your show a week before opening night OR the artist who does the same; and I can’t leave out the artist who argues that scotch tape will work fine to hang his/her work. Thank you for sharing Terri!

    • Samantha, those are great examples too! Some of which I’ve experienced too. Thanks for sharing your experiences, I hope you’ve learned to plan for variables. 😉

  2. Thanks Terri!
    So true and familiar to me too!

  3. Yes to all of this. Especially the Boundaries. (And I love Samantha’s additions above too).

    I have been organizing Open Studio events (with Preview Exhibits for all artists involved) on Kauai for several years and my basic policy at this point is:
    It’s a *Privilege* to participate in these events, not a Right.
    So, people who behave disrespectfully (not to mention unprofessionally) through their actions to the organizers, volunteers, and other artists involved will not be allowed to participate.

    Goodness knows we have no dearth of people calling themselves “artists,” so rewarding people who can behave in a respectful and professional manner will only help prune the event into a more manageable venture in my opinion!

  4. That’s a great policy to have, Donia. And I agree with your rewarding good behavior. The Haggus Society has a document we call “The Riot Act” that lays out what the artist can expect from us and what we expect from them. It also explains that both parties have the right to quit if either one fails to live up to the agreed upon terms. These things really do help to cover the, um, bases. 😉

  5. I deal with a large number of international Calls at artandartdeadlines.com (mostly Europe & Asia), and I am embarrassed to report how many complaints I receive from galleries & jurors about American artists being unwilling (sometimes unable) to convert inches and/or dollars to the appropriate int’l equivalent. It is frustrating when artists aren’t willing to be a part of the team.


  1. […] event, you’ll appreciate my topic of “Wild Card Event Fails.” Read more about it HERE. And one of my works was selected for the Manhattan Arts International exhibition “Hot Topics […]

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