Exhibition Organization

By Kevan Rupp Lunney, Fiber Revolution member

Recently I curated one of the Fiber Revolution exhibitions at the Zimmerli Art Museum in New Brunswick, NJ. From this experience, I have the following tips to offer to help you foresee and avoid time consuming future problems. The tips for curators are marked with a C, the tips for artists shipping their artwork are marked A.

C) I arrived equipped with my folder containing a master inventory sheet. The columns were headed Artist, Title, Dimensions, Retail Price, Received, Sold, and Returned. I also had my copy of each consignment agreement and a list of the artists’ names, addresses and phone numbers, and email addresses.

After meeting with my museum contact, one of their volunteers was sent to find the boxes that were shipped by each individual artist. A) Mark all your boxes with big red letters to indicate your group
(i.e. FR for Fiber Revolution.)

We began to open boxes, unpack and inventory the quilts. Some quilts did not have their title on them. Some titles and artist information is on the sleeve, which is very dangerous because sleeves can be removed so easily. A) Put the label on the quilt itself and quilt through it. Include your name, address, and phone.

Some quilts had no hanging slats. I had a choice to make: not show it, nail through the sleeve and hope it hung well, lay it on a table where it might be touched, or go out and buy a wood slat.

A) Remember to include slats. If you need to make a long slat shorter to fit in the box, use two smaller slats that can be packing taped to a center shorter slat. Mark the pieces where they overlap so the curator doesn’t have to play with it.

A) Label your slats with your name and the title of the quilt. Affix screw eyes in the ends of wood rods and drill holes in the ends of wood slats or aluminum bars. Check that the sleeve is made correctly, so that when hung the sleeve doesn’t roll up over the top of the quilt.

C) Bring cheap retractable curtain rods for those artists who forgot to send slats.

A) Label all your packing materials, with permanent marker or staple on a business card or tape on a paper with your name. Packing materials can get separated from boxes during unpacking.

C) Place the packing materials back in the box immediately after unpacking each piece. Since most people will not include packing instructions, keep a notebook with name, title and packing instructions.

A) Mark the outside of the box, OPEN THIS END. Taped to the inside flap of the box, in a zip bag, place your inventory list and packing instructions, return labels, photos of assembled work, signs or labels for the wall, or other correspondence. You may want to pin the info bag to the back of your hanging sleeve.

A) Produce a prepaid Electronic Return Label online that you can email to the curator. Open a personal or business account at, and your shipping will be billed to your credit card. Call 1-800-PICK-UPS for more info. For very polite handholding during the online registration process, call 1-877-289-6418.
Alternately, you can include a prepaid return shipping label in the box, that you request at Fed-Ex or UPS or USPS when you drop-off your package.

C) If you can, have all the artwork shipped to you before the event and then personally deliver it all at once. You can see for yourself how each piece is packed and know how to repack. You can check the condition of the work and provide a hanging mechanism for the works that arrive without, and the wrinkles and folds can relax from shipping.

To plan the placement of the quilts on the walls, we laid them on the large tables around the room. However, at many venues the floor is the only space. C) Bring a large roll of paper, bed sheets, or plastic tablecloths.

C) Bring your tool kit: scissors, wire cutters, wire, fishing line, straight pins with flat heads, twist ties, permanent marker, safety pins, a level, small nails, claw hammer, tape measurer, step stool or small ladder, extra labels, fun tack for signs, retractable blade for opening boxes, clear packing tape, digital camera. Label your tools or they will ‘walk’.

C) Pack a lunch, because everything takes longer than you think. Take something to share, make friends with cookies or chocolate. When it comes time to take down the show, you will want to bring the same items.