Art Show 101 and Guidebook

It all starts with hundreds of pieces of art that are mounted onto colored paper by classroom teachers. The enthusiasm, energy and can-do attitude make the Annual Art Show a wonderful event for the school community to enjoy.

Yup. I’m a very lucky art teacher. Teachers, classroom aids and parents help mount all the artwork. The Principal is an amazing resource and there have been so many helpful parents. I love how our community rallies to make these events happen for our children.

Just take a look at the colorful years past in my Annual Art Show history.

Brandon School Art Show 2011

Brandon School Art Show 2012


Brandon School Art Show 2013

Every art teacher has a different approach to their particular art show. Some do it alone. They mount the artwork for weeks and weeks while others scramble last minute. There is no best way.

But if you want help, do you know how to get it?

I’ve been so very fortunate to have a slew of involved parents at many of the schools I have worked at. This is especially helpful during the art show season. There is no school today that has a surplus of anything, especially busy parents, but most schools can drum up volunteers if given the chance.

I come from a PTA background. I’m proud to say that I was a PTA President and a board member for years at my children’s school. Did I have surplus time on my hands? Yes. But there were many other dedicated parents who had very busy professional and home lives that found time to volunteer. Did we always have enough volunteers for back-to-school bar-b-ques, school auctions and jog-a-thons? Not really, but we always squeaked by.

Asking for volunteer help for your Art Show

The secret to asking for help is building up the reputation of the program that needs support. If the art show at your school has always been organized and managed by the art teacher, then finding volunteers to help that first year is going to be challenging (but not impossible). Try asking a parent with whom you have a strong rapport. Ask for a small amount of help and be super organized with her time. Her experience might be a positive one, and she will then ask someone else for help. Soon, you’ll have a reputation that you can build on.

On the same note, if you are fortunate to have one person donate her time for a few hours, stick to her agenda. In other words, don’t abuse the volunteer.

Reserve judgement

It’s so easy for the one volunteer in the group to be a bit grumpy as to why no one else is volunteering. Be happy for any time a person gives, no matter how little.

Give very specific volunteer instructions

I have a handout that I give to the classroom teachers on the suggested way to mount artwork. I like to stage a day when volunteers can come and go as they need to. I reserve the multi-purpose room for a day. This is not always easy, so check with the office manager for help in reserving time to mount artwork. Sometimes you need to be flexible.  If everything is set out and easy to understand, volunteers can pop in for an hour to contribute.

Organizing supplies and basic set-up directions

I measure the length of my papers and prepare an easy way to cut lengths of the paper in bulk. Place a piece of masking tape on the floor, measure the length of the paper and place another piece of masking tape at that measurement. Now all the volunteers have to do is roll the paper from one tape to the other and cut. No need to get out the measuring tape every time.

As for the display panels? The multipurpose room added to the campus had no ceiling wires in which to hang student art. Now, we just have three walls and we’ve created cool looking displays on wheels.

How to make art show display panels from supplies from Home Depot

These were pretty easy to make.

Each panel requires two 36″ x 80″ hollow, no-hole, pocket doors. Buy the primed ones so you don’t have to paint them. You can find them at your local Home Depot or Lowes (around $40). We used two metal hinges to allow for folding and four casters on the bottom of the panels so we could roll the panels around. The hinges allow for the panels to be folded and stored against a wall. Then we added a small chain at an angle (you decide) so that the panels would open up and fall.

We made 3 panels the first year and it cost me less than $200. Parents in subsequent years have made 3 more. The panels are great for small display areas as they hold a lot of art and are great for set design in stage performances. For the art display, I staple/tape art to a long sheets of paper (36″ wide) and attach the paper panels with two masking tape strips on the top. Surprising enough, this is all it takes!

No Volunteers? Try Community Service

Does your school have community service hours for sixth graders? If so, utilize it! Sixth graders are extremely capable and can staple artwork and cut paper. Perhaps they can do it on their lunch break.

Tearing down and removing artwork is the ideal job for sixth graders. They can pull the panels off the walls,then remove stapled artwork from the paper with a stapler remover and deliver to the classrooms. If anything, have students help with dismantling.

Need more help?

I’ve been waiting to put this puppy together for years now and something always got in the way. But with art show season upon us, I was eager to share my twelve years of art show experience with you all.

Creating this 38-page guidebook was pure joy because although art shows can be incredibly taxing, nothing is more well-received by children, parents and teachers. Think about it, is there anything more wonderful than a roomful of children’s art?

I think not.

It’s my hope that you will find simple solutions to your most frustrating art show problems, like scheduling, soliciting help and mounting all that art! I’ve created handouts for you to give to teachers and volunteers, forms to make mounting art easier and ideas for clever display alternatives.

Here is a peek inside: 



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What do you think?

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  • Mindy

    Hi there,
    I am just starting out(this is my first year) and from what i can tell this is the first art gallery show our school will have had. I want the projects to be varied and but honestly i haven’t been all that great in keeping pieces and/or helping students to as well. So i have about 2 months to create some awesome art with the kiddos. I usually study the same artist with all grades and we produce art that is in their style. How do you suggest that i get a variety of art from students when learning the same things across the board.

    • Patty Palmer

      Love this question! For me, pick one technique then select a different subject that is suitable for you grade levels.
      Take a look at my art techniques here:
      You can teach the same basic technique, use the same basic supplies but offer so much variety by switching up the subjects. Go a bit outside your comfort zone and see what works.


    hi patty,
    i bought the very useful guidebook above. there are still a few questions:
    1. do you trim down all your 12×18 artwork to mount on 12×18? or do you trim 18×24 to mount 12×18 artwork?
    2. what brand construciton paper do you get to mount your artwork?
    thanks so much. if you are in LA in june, you are welcome to attend!

    • Patty Palmer

      Hi Sharon,
      Great questions!
      If there is space on a 12 x 18 piece of art to trim down, I usually do. That way, the art can be mounted on a 12 x 18 colored paper. Less cutting. But if the 12 x 18 art isn’t able to be cropped, I use 18 x 24.
      I love Tru-Ray paper by Pacon.
      Good luck with your show!

  • Robyn

    Just wondering if is this quite secure – can it be pushed over easily?

  • Toni

    Love, Love this idea. I have some questions about these great movable walls. Are the casters simply screwed into the bottom of the doors, is there a frame in the back to help them stand? Do they have to be at that “V” to stand?

  • Christine

    Where can I purchase the Art show Guide from Deep Sparkle?
    Thank you

    • Bethany

      Hi Christine! Did you try clicking on the box to buy it? Click on the yellow box in the blog post above and it should add it to your cart! Enjoy

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