The Art of Gallery Openings

Whether you are looking for performance art in the Theater District or visual art in anywhere from your local coffee shop to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston is loaded like very few cities in the country when it comes to its artistic community.  The myth of these fantastic arts options is they are not easily accessible. Admittedly, I was one of those people until I made the decision to get out, and start exploring this visial arts scene that is literally everywhere around Houston.

My first foray into the world of Houston art galleries was actually spawned by an SPA board meeting at the  Bering & James gallery. I got there early with the rest of my co-workers to set up before our board members arrived. While we were waiting for the festivities to begin, I signed their guestbook, getting myself on their mailing list.

1. Get on the mailing list.
I’ll get to some gallery suggestions in another post, but if you have any galleries that you know of, but have never worked up the nerve to attend, simply click over to their website and get yourself on the mailing list. There is really no better way to be informed of future openings and special events.

After the board meeting, I got a chance to speak with one of the owners of the gallery, Blakely Bering. I asked her about the gallery. She is a wonderfully energetic and helpful gallery owner. She makes it easy for you to walk into her gallery, and make you feel welcome. Oh, and I own a piece of her work.

2. Meet at least one of the gallery owners.
There are a couple of good reasons why you should make yourself familiar with the gallery owners. If you are an aspiring collector, it’s always nice to build a foundation for future business you will be doing with the gallery. However, if you are just there for the art and the scene, it’s just plain good manners to thank your host or hostess for opening their gallery doors to you.

A few weeks later, I received an email about an upcoming opening at Bering & James. I checked my calendar, and had nothing to do that evening. I called up my friend Nikole to see if she would like to join me.

3. Take a friend.
While I have been known to make my own fun during a solo night on the town, I highly recommend you bring a wingman when you start charting your own course through the art scene in Houston. This is particularly true if this scene is not your typical environment. For instance, if you don’t get out much, an art gallery can be a bit daunting. I’m a regular social butterfly, and I didn’t feel comfortable going alone. Besides, people watching is a regular sport during events like this, and it’s always more fun when you have someone with you to comment on your fellow gallery-goers.

Speaking of people watching, you’re likely to be very surprised about the kind of people you’ll run into at a Houston gallery opening. It’s not the stuffy New York City crowd that pontificates on the art or vision, it’s pretty devoid of  pretension. People in Houston are friendly and open when it comes to artistic endeavors. Open up in the gallery. Before long, you’re sure to run into a new person who becomes a fast friend.

4. Nevertheless, dress to impress.
One thing that is always true about any Houston event, you get all kinds. Our cowboy roots tend to make us think that jeans are always appropriate regardless of the type of event. I am not saying that jeans aren’t okay at these events, just saying that you shouldn’t dress down for an opening. However, going over the top will make you look like a pretentious jerk; which is not the first impression you want to make with anyone in the gallery. You will see these people at other openings at the gallery you’re visiting, as well as, other galleries around town. Don’t let their first impression of you be that of a snooty idiot. What Houstonians lack in pretentiousness, they more than make up for in gossipping.

Guys, go with a button up (or a nice t-shirt)  with jeans and a blazer. Ladies, avoid the stringy tops, unless you have a jacket. Jeans are great, but if you have a cute dress to show off, this is THE NIGHT to bring it. The Golden Rule? Always remember that people are coming to the gallery to see the art on the walls, not on you. While it is generally nice for people to notice you, that is not the way to get noticed at a gallery. The artist and gallery owners are generally the only people who can and will break this rule.

Nikole and I have attended a couple openings now at Bering & James. There is one gentleman we have nicknamed Steve Perry for his Journey-esque hairstyle. This is one of the best parts of these openings; looking at the other people. Inevitably, there will always be a few people who either disregard the rule or flout it with admirable flair. Until you are a big time art collector, you need to keep a lower profile, and obey the rule.

5. The wine is free, but this isn’t Cheers, Norm.
Make sure you don’t come off as one of those people who is there for the free wine. NOT a good way to go. Have no more than two glasses at the opening. If you start hitting the free booze hard, people will notice and, even worse, you’ll start to get sloppy. This is a surefire way to get yourself OFF the mailing list. Generally speaking, you’ll probably not have the need to stay at the gallery much longer than it takes to drink one glass anyway.

6. Get in and get out.
Unless you are a collector or close personal friend of the gallery owner(s), I advise you get in, see the art, say hi to the people you know, drink some wine and get the hell out of there. Unless you get into some conversation with new and interesting people, I wouldn’t recommend spending more than 30-45 minutes at an opening. That said . . .

7. An opening does not make an evening.
Always have plans after the opening. Even if it is as simple as going somewhere to talk about the art, gallery and people, make sure you make the gallery opening your evening opening. This will also be helpful in keeping you from lingering too long.

In my next post: A short list of galleries you should get to know.

Gleeking for a Good Cause

For the second year in a row, I am on the Host Committee for DiverseWorks’ Luck of the Draw Summer Auction. This is one of DW’s biggest events of the year, and one of the quirkier and memorable events in Houston each year. The concept is simple. DW asks artists from around the country to donate small works of art that are sold throughout the evening. Numbers are then drawn to determine who gets first crack at the 200+ pieces. As this is a DiverseWorks event, you can expect a great crowd, food and libations. And, to get you properly Gleeful, they’ve invited the choir from  Houston School for the Performing and Visual Arts to perform at the event.

Art Change tickets start $100 (the price goes to $125 if you purchase after June 1.), but you can guarantee a Top 20 position for $250 (NOTE: Top 5 tickets costing $500 have sold out.) Regardless of what ticket you purchase, you’re getting a piece of art at a great price. Luck of the Draw is great because it introduces you to art collection in a fun and exciting way.  Not interested in owning a unique piece of art? No problem, you can still be part of the fun for $25.

To purchase tickets: Contact Tracey Morton at or call 713-223-8346.

Now, if you can’t wait to get your artsy Glee action on, DiverseWorks is hosting a Glee Season Finale Watch Party at Lucky’s Pub on Tuesday, May 25 at 7:30 PM.

Friday Fun: Just A Walk in the Art

It should come as no surprise that my first post for the Schipul Blog would be related to the arts. This weekend is the 13th Annual Bayou City Arts Festival Memorial Park (a Schipul client). The Bayou City Arts Festival is one of the premiere visual arts events to occur in Houston every year. The Festival features artwork from over 300 artists in 17 artistic media. Oh, and our CEO, Ed, was one of the jurors for this year’s festival!

We hope you can make it out this weekend. Note there is no parking available in Memorial Park for the event. You will need to catch the shuttle at the Northwest Mall or Downtown. Shuttles run from 9:30AM to 7:00PM Friday, March 27 through Sunday, March 28. I advise taking the Downtown shuttle, that way you can grab a bit to eat Downtown before heading home.

In any case, it’s not like you’re not going to be outside in the beautiful weather this weekend. Why don’t to take in a little art with all that fresh air?

Friday Fun: Art Box Show!

Ben Gillin Art Box

Who knew that boxes could be so artsy?  Step aside moving, Crayola and donut boxes – the Art Box Show is here!

Join Schipulite Ben Gillin and  his lovely bride Maria Navarro for this fundraising art event at Bering and James Gallery this Friday, December 4th (12 – 10pm) and Saturday, December 5th (12-6pm).  Each artist was given a wooden box to decorate and manipulate however they saw fit.

The Art Boxes will be for sale at a flat rate of $125, with proceeds going to the artists and DePelchin Children’s Center.  Fun, great art, super artists — all for a good cause.

Via Colori Houston – street painting for a great cause

ViaColori image

The Schipul gang are crazy fans of the Houston Via Colori street painting festival, an annual event that benefits The Center for Hearing and Speech.   Every year artists from all over the country descend upon the sidewalks of Houston to draw, sketch, color and amaze – all for a tremendous cause.

This isn’t anything like the summertime driveway scribbles you may have loved as a kid, this is fine art at its most pedestrian (well… at least NEAR the pedestrians <grin>) and temporary.     Be sure to swing by to view the over 200 artists and their work (including one of our Schipulites – Ben Gillin!), listen to music and watch dance performances, take a Houston Center for Photography   101 lesson and so much more!

What:   Houston Via Colori Street Painting Festival
When:   Saturday + Sunday, November 21 – 22, 2009
Where:   Sam Houston Park (Allen Parkway and Bagby)

Photo thanks to Flickr user I-SEEN-IT

Friday Fun: Celebrating 1 year of Caroline Collective!!

Houston's Caroline Collective Turns one!!
Houston's co-working space Caroline Collective Turns one!!

We love Houston’s Caroline Collective co-working space!!!

They are a great member of the Houston Community, providing office and desk space for hard working geniuses, meeting space for great arts and other organizations and one heck of a great venue for parties, fundraisers… you name it.

Hard to believe they’ve been around an entire year!   If you’re in the Houston area this weekend, be sure to drop by Caroline Collective (4820 Caroline) on Saturday (June 6th) from 6-10pm for food, booze, music and great people.   Congratulations Caroline crew!