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Quick Queer Program - Community Art Show

·1016 words·5 mins

Quick Queer Program is a series aimed at helping you create programs aimed at the LGBTQ+ community. In this series, I’ll post program ideas that are fully formed and ready to apply in your library. There will be options available and decisions to make, but I’ll try to note those to make it as easy as possible.

Today’s program is a community art show! The idea is to give LGBTQ+ artists in your community the chance to show their art for free. Depending on how your library pays for event setup and advertising, this could be a program where the only cost is your time.

Options for the Show

The first consideration is what type of show you have the means, time, and space to create.

  • The first type is a market-style show where artists will have booths displaying their art for the day. This is much cheaper as you’ll just need space for the show and tables and chairs for the artists. This also would allow for the artists to sell their work, however if you want to do this, check with your finance department to make sure that everything is above board.
  • The second is a long-term show, which would require art display spaces reserved in the library (display cases, wall space). This gives the community more time to see the art and learn about the artists without requiring time from the artists themselves. If the art is displayed in the open, you must inform the artists that there could be a risk to the art from patron interference, protest, or accidental damage.

You’ll also want to put some thought into the time, especially if you do a market-style show. Art shows tend to be held in the evening or on the weekends. If you’re in a smaller library system or branch, you might have limited evening and weekend hours. Daytime programs can be very successful, but it’s important to plan around community schedules (school breaks, when people tend to go on vacation, holidays, etc.) to try to get the most people you can.

How to Find Artists

You’ll likely want between 10-30 artists, depending on the size of the venue and type of show you decided on in the first section. Any more and it becomes overwhelming, any fewer and it isn’t much of a show. The easiest way to find queer and trans artists is to connect with your local LGBTQ+ organizations. Most will already have connections to artists - they might be members, artists the organization has worked with in the past, or former exhibitors at their events. These groups should be able to give you a solid list of people to work with.

Another good avenue is to browse social media, particularly Instagram. Many artists geotag their art pages, which makes it easy to tell if an artist is local to you. LGBTQ+ artists also tend to self-identify as such on their pages, removing a level of awkwardness.

If you know local artists already, ask them if they have any artist friends who are LGBTQ+ who might want to participate. Artists are typically happy to share opportunities with people they know!

Contact Artists

Now that you have a list of people and their contact information, it’s time to reach out.

  • Let them know you want to show their art at your library for free! Tell them what format of show you’re planning to do, and the date(s) of the show. I recommend you ask the artists to dress in business casual (essentially no jeans) if possible, since that’ll distinguish them from attendees.
  • Let them know if they can sell, and if yes, what paperwork is needed for that to happen.
  • Tell them the deadline for when you need a response (I recommend 30 days before the show at least, or whatever your library marketing department requires if you have one and are using their services) so their name can be on the advertising.


Signage is the main form of marketing for this event. I recommend making it yourself if your district allows and you are comfortable with art programs like Canva or Publisher. You’ll want signage all over the host location, as well as at least one sign at any other branches in your system. You can also take signs to local coffee shops, performance venues, pop-up shops, and vintage stores, which all are usually supportive of arts programs.

Community calendars are the next most important thing. Ensure that the event is on your library system calendar. After that, you’ll also want to send the event details to other local event calendars - ideas include parks departments, radio stations, newspapers, news stations, and community organizations. You should absolutely share the event with any local LGBTQ+ groups, especially if they helped you find artists!

Make nametags for artists in attendance! Ask them in your communications for what name they want listed, pronouns (and whether they want them displayed), and social media names.

Day of Show

For this part, I’m assuming a short-time show of a day or two over the weekend. Other options are possible, but they require more interdepartmental support and therefore are harder to predict.

Set up tables 2 hours before the show. Make sure all artists have a chair available (preferably armless for accessibility). If you have the bandwidth, try to organize where artists will be set up - options include alternating bright colors with linework, or grouping art by style (eg. painting, computer graphics, pottery). Have artists arrive an hour before the show. Make sure you greet all artists and thank them for showing up! Give them their nametag. Make sure all desks know the nature of the event and to be on alert for dangerous behavior or phone complaints. If you have security on site, make sure they’re aware of the event and the fact that artists are LGBTQ+ so they can be on the lookout. During the event, circulate around the floor to be available for artists.

Have fun!

Photo credit and description: Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash