Solo - The Word
with Heather René Dunaway

Written by: Heather Dunaway
April 2024
Hand dyed, cyanotype photographic reprints as works in progress for Heather Dunaway's solo exhibition "Fix Yourself A Plate"

There are lots of types of solos. Singers get them, riders at Six-Flags get them, Star Wars gets them, heck, even visual artists get them.


Right now, I am in the throws of creating my own solo exhibition “Fix Yourself A Plate” that will be going up in the Creel-Harrison Gallery at the Gertrude Herbert Institute of Art. It will go up in June, and be up through my Birthday in August, which I am pretty excited about. I like to gift myself a solo exhibition every couple of years. It keeps me fresh and on a good art path.


I recently had someone reach out to me and ask, “how do you do a solo show?”


The answer is simple, but also complicated. Its pretty different from a group exhibition. For starters, its just you. You won’t have anyone to lean on to help fill out the show or collaborate with. It’s all you, boo.


The basics? Yeah, make some art, put it up somewhere and invite people. You also have to think on the cohesiveness of your body of work, central themes, gather up your materials, and form a budget. That’s just the start. Depending on the space and size of your work – you can be anywhere from 10 – 20 pieces. Not sure about you, but that’s a lot of time just working on the art part. Some people take years of working getting a show together. I’m a maniac, so I gave myself a few months. Send good vibes and caffeine.


Then, when your artwork is done, or while you are still working on it (lol me), you have to start promoting the show, inviting your friends, family and fans, paying for ads, doing interviews and sharing press releases. This isn’t even including the gallery protocols – if they need paperwork and contracts from you. Then you have the Framing, wiring and the actual hanging of the show. Hopefully you work in a milkshake order on the extra stressful days. 

Having your own exhibition is like juggling a bunch of plates while also, painting. So, “how do you put on a solo show?” Well, with a lot of effort. In addition to you creating a body of work, it takes a lot of organizing, schedule mapping and planning to execute a successful show. You could hire someone to do the heavy lifting, but most artists I know take on the blunt of the work. Are artists actually super humans? That’s another word I think.


Some pro tips:

1. Timing: After you contemplate your exhibition’s theme you will have to figure out how long it will take you to create your vision. If you are paying someone to frame the work, add on a month (or more, if you have a ton). Then add on two months to give you time to promote it and plan your reception. You gotta have a reception. People are gonna want to celebrate your achievement. 


2. Budget: Figure out how much it is going to cost. Consider your materials needed, cost of framing, if the gallery has a fee, ad fees, promo materials, if you are transporting the work somewhere or mailing, etc. Sometimes budgeting helps me look realistically at my show’s central themes and I scale back, look at ways to save or raise funds. Sometimes I just REALLY want it a certain way, and that’s okay. There are grants you can apply for (check out our resource scrolladex to find resources on granting). This is an investment into your work. You can also consider recouping your money through the sale of your work. You can look at my pricing word for tips on that.


3. Work: Well, you can’t have an art exhibition without the art part. Make yourself a deadline to complete work. Set aside time each day to work on everything. Attainable goals are a godsend. 


4. Marketing: You can always pay someone to manage this for you. I don’t. Free social media sites like Instagram, are great ways to get the word out there without spending a dime. Or you can pay meta to run an ad. I also like to design and print tangible flyers and mail them off to friends, family and my mailing list. People LOVE a personalized touch. Even texting/direct messaging your contacts with a “I would love it if you could come to my show. Thanks for always supporting me.” does wonders. Don’t forget about your other friends, local media! News folks are always looking for good story! Send your Press Release off to places like WRDW, WJBF, Augusta Good News, The Augusta Chronicle, the Augusta Press and anyone else you can think of.


Well, that’s enough to get you started and then some. Now, go get yourself a planner.


That’s many words,