Over the course of the semester I have been in collaboration with fellow classmate Ke Cawley, a visual artist who focuses in surrealism. Her work is full of color and interesting detail as she weaves different elements together to bring her paintings to life. As a visual artist, Ke created a body of work that exemplifies her thesis and focus of surrealism in a series of portraits, exhibited in the kiosk to the right of Centre Lodge. Through our collaboration, I helped Ke to market her applied capstone installation of her curated work. The objective of our partnership was to allow Ke to focus on being an artist while my focus was on developing an opening night to begin her installation in originally what was supposed to be Lamson Library.
Developing a reception to an opening night requires areas of advertising, communications, marketing, and event planning. Combining these fields and putting them into motion seemed like an excellent way to help me gain hands on experience to better develop skills in the world of creative marketing. To earn credit for the project, I was trying to optimize Ke’s potential to allow her to have a wonderful opening night reception that would begin her exhibition. I also planned to graphic design, print, and distribute all advertising for Ke’s show which would include twenty 12 x 16 posters, an artist statement, and two giant 18 x 24 posters.
Naturally, it seemed that if something could go wrong with our projects, it did. To pay for framing and for materials for the opening night and for a print budget, Ke and I both applied for funding through a Student Research grant from Plymouth State. Together we collaborated on the messaging and made sure that each application was unique to our specific funding needs. We sent out our applications in the beginning of October, thinking that we would have a quick turnaround for an approval or disapproval on the grant money. While we waited to hear back, Ke continued to work on her pieces and I began to graphic design the print materials to send out for shipping. I started to fill an online shopping cart with the goods needed to host the opening night so that if funding was granted I could make the purchase all at once.
We waited, and waited, and then continued to wait some more, on hearing back from the SRAC committee.
Early November had approached when Ke and I finally decided to reach out and check on the status of our submissions. The email we received let us know that grant decisions would not be made until later in the month. As I peeked into my online shopping cart, the shipping date was becoming further and further out of reach. Deadlines for printing were fast approaching and I didn’t have any money of my own to pay for these expenses. I did not have a plan B.
Thankfully, the SRAC grant was approved and our funding came in full. Immediately Ke put in an order for her frames, and I sent my prints out to a printer. Later that week Ke and I went to the space in Lamson Library where her show was going to be installed. We looked around the area and realized that there wasn’t a great place to have a reception, especially with the uncertainty of shipping and the deadlines to complete the deliverables for applied project were coming to a close. We made the tough choice not to have the reception this semester, but to instead have one at the Student Showcase of Excellence next semester where we would be presenting our project.
To gain as much exposure for her installation in Lamson Library as possible, I followed up with printer to see when I could pick up the prints so that I could start advertising around the community.
“Hi Kayleigh, This is a very busy time of year everything is 7 to 10 days.”
I began to panic once again. 7 to 10 days would be early December, and Ke’s installation was due to go up on December 4.
My anxiety over this project was coming to an unsurpassed high when Ke had messaged me letting me know that all the frames got broken in the shipping process.
“Of course, the frames would break.
Of course everything would go wrong.” I thought to myself.
In an effort to think more positively I understood that these kind of things happen and it’s just a part of the process.
“What else could possibly go wrong?” I joked to the universe, as if I was being pranked.
Then the venue in which Ke was originally supposed to install her work, changed. Thankfully for Ke, this meant that her work was in a new area that received a ton of foot traffic, had high viewing potential, and wouldn’t have to be uninstalled until May of 2018. Unfortunately for me, the prints I had sent out had the old location and installation dates printed in big text across the bottom.
Upon picking up the twenty 12 x 16 prints, I used a paper cutter to carefully cut each print, removing the bottom of
the poster so that it no longer included the original exhibition location. I imagined that this must be what if feels like to be a parent watching their child get a haircut for the first time; a sadness that you were losing a part of something you loved, but you did it for the best interest of the child.
Ke had bought new frames and her exhibition was installed.
The 12 x 12 doctored prints were distributed around the community.
There was still money in the budget to afford a reception in the spring.
Partnering with Ke was supposed to be a hands-on creative marketing experience that would help me to earn real lessons that I could carry over into my career. And it did, because I learned that I still have a lot to learn. Most times during this project, I felt as though I was one step behind and that my strategies were only reactive to the challenges that came my way instead of proactive. I faced the very real issues of late funding, broken materials, delays in production, and a change of artistic direction from the client. I ultimately learned more from my failures than I did my successes.
Everyone tells you, when life gives you lemons make lemonade, but no one tells you where to get the sugar to make it sweet, the pitcher to serve it from, or the glasses to consume it with. Self-directed but supported, Ke and I paved the jungle ourselves to make way for this project and ultimately, had achieved her goal of installing her exhibition.