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Jan/Feb 2005

10 Steps to a Successful Artwear Show
by Ellen Martin

Ed. -- In our January/February 2005 issue, we profile Gary and Carol Ann Hixon, two Colorado collectors who have been sharing their enthusiasm for wearable art by creating a juried runway show at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, Colorado. We also include highlights and photos from the 2004 show, which was held in September. Here Ellen Martin, visual arts administrator at the Lincoln Center, offers tips for those interested in starting a show in their communities.

Twelve years of juried wearable-art fashion shows featuring up to sixty artists, accompanied by champagne receptions--and now a week of additional activities, including workshops, lectures, demonstrations, and a sales gallery--add to a list of experiences in developing a fund-raiser for our city-owned cultural facility. The ArtWear event, now called ArtWear Fashion Week, is sponsored by Gary Hixon Interiors and the Lincoln Center and raises money for the center’s Visual Arts Program.

In the beginning, ArtWear featured a wearable-art fashion show and sales gallery. In 2004, it was reinvented to become a week of activities that incorporates more programming and community involvement. The following ten steps helped us get started on our new event. These key points may help you on your journey.

1. Outline your goals and vision for the event.

Develop your goals or vision for the event. Is it a fund-raiser, an event to create a new audience for your venue, a means to support and promote an artistic vision, educational outreach, or all of the above?

For us, it was all of the above. We are a facility with a strong visual-arts program and were looking for an exciting fund-raiser that would promote and raise money for the visual arts. In addition, we as a team wanted to support wearable art and its artists. After eleven years, we wanted to keep the event fresh and exciting and decided to expand ArtWear so it would accomplish greater outreach with week-long scheduled educational components.

ABOVE: In the dressing room before the show. Photo: bill foley

2. Create a great team.

Just as location is important in the purchase of a home, a great team is important to the success of any new endeavor. Compile a competent, enthusiastic team of individuals to work with, and the rest will be easier. We had the good fortune to find two such individuals in our community, Gary and Carol Ann Hixon, who have a passion for one-of-a-kind wearable art.

3.Research and attend other similar events.

We already had a vision for what we wanted to accomplish. We found a similar event (a wearable-art fashion show) in another part of the country. We attended their event and were able to ask questions of their show coordinator and learn of their achievements and mistakes. It was an inspiration! It was through their generosity in sharing information that we were able to begin our new event with insights that took them years to learn.

We were able to experience their fashion show firsthand and decide on the direction of ours, including lighting design, music, length of program, pace on the runway, program information, etc. We could also review how they worked with their artists, what commission they took on sales, how they handled sales, etc.

ABOVE: A volunteer helps one of the models try on some beautiful handmade garments.

4. After your research, outline a plan for your event.

Using the information that you’ve learned from your research, outline the elements for your plan. Learn from others’ lessons and design your event with emphasis on what will accomplish your goals and also be suitable for your community. Consider whether your vision is unique to your area.

For 2004, we planned a week-long event. A juried fashion show and reception kicked off the week’s events. After the show, the garments were beautifully displayed in the Sales Gallery (in the Lincoln Center’s actual gallery space) for a week. During the week, we offered a range of workshops, noontime demonstrations, and evening lectures on topics such as knitting with wire and embellishing cloth with bead embroidery.

5. Set a time line. (Then start earlier!)

Make the project a little less stressful by adding in extra time. There always seem to be little complications along the way that will take extra time and care to accomplish.

Although we start making plans a year ahead, we solicit entries approximately two to three months prior to the show. We have created our own artist mailing list, but we have also publicized our event in Fiberarts magazine. If you are advertising your event, you will need to meet the deadline of the publications you select. Another good resource is to connect with artist associations who can help you publicize your event.

ABOVE: "Knitting with Beads," a demonstration by Lorraine Goris

6. Involve your local community.

Our event is better and perhaps more exciting because of the large community involvement. We have used from 50 to 100 volunteers to help us. The volunteers assist with everything from unpacking the boxes of garments to modeling the clothes and helping in the Sales Gallery and at the reception. The list goes on. These volunteers also bring their families and friends, who, in turn, help support the event.

7. Designate responsibilities for the different components for your event.

Clearly define the responsibilities to the team. If you are sharing the responsibilities of the event, clearly define the lead individuals for the many different areas for coordination. Some of our areas of coordination were marketing, fashion-show event, workshops/lectures, reception, sales gallery, and volunteers. Set up an easy way to communicate with the committees throughout the process. As always, be flexible and be prepared with alternate plans.

The fashion show alone takes much coordination. This event was a perfect match for our venue because we are a performing arts, visual arts, and conference facility. That means we already have expertise and equipment available to us in lighting design, staging, and sound. We still had to work with a producer and director who would create the vision for the show, work with the models, and arrange the order of the clothes. Then finally we connected with a talented salon that styled hair and makeup.

ABOVE: Embellishing Cloth with Bead Embroidery Workshop, with Amy Clarke Moore

8. Make the experience positive and beneficial for all involved.

Strive to have a positive experience for all involved: event team, artists, volunteers, and patrons. You need the support of the many different groups for the event to succeed and grow.

9. Evaluate your event and make changes for the future.

Take time at the end of your event to re-evaluate and outline your changes for the future, or even to expand your event in new directions. Remember to get input from all your committees.

ABOVE: Embellishing Cloth with Bead Embroidery Workshop, with Amy Clarke Moore

10. Thank everyone involved.

Take time to recognize the support from the many people involved. This can be in the form of an appreciation reception, a letter, a tribute on your website, a paid advertisement, etc. Work at continuing these associations for the next time.

The experiences continue, and with them so do our continued dreams for new exciting directions and adventures for our event. I would like to thank Gary and Carol Ann Hixon, Sheri Jensen, Interweave, and the many artists, businesses, and individuals in the Fort Collins community who have helped make ArtWear a successful event.

I wish you much success on your new endeavor!

Lincoln Center:
ArtWear Fashion Week:

ABOVE: One of Gary Hixon's wedding gowns. Photo: bill foley

This article first appeared online in:

Jan/Feb 2005


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