How to Throw an Amazing Art Party (At Your House)

Photo: Douglas G Gordon and Marilyn Mork were the artists who showed their work in my home. As much as the event was my birthday party, I also wanted them to feel like it was a party celebrating their work.

Friends, this is a response to a depressing article the New York Times published called The Death of the PartyThe article basically says that millennials are not throwing parties in their twenties–that after house parties in college, festivities in our twenties drop off. I personally don’t believe this, because I have been to some pretty killer parties this past year. There are even quite a few that I couldn’t make it, and missing them was a major bummer.

If you’re still reading, I believe you’re the type of person who wants to throw an art party. Spectacular! I’m going to share with you the story of the best party I have thrown to date.

For my last birthday, I decided I wanted to be Home CuratorI picked two of my friends who are artists, and told them I wanted to have an art show and reception for them at my house. It turned out amazing.

Let’s keep things simple. Baby steps to throwing a party–not just an awesome party though, an awesome art party.

  1. Find an artist
  2. Pick a date
  3. Invite lots of people
  4. Plan a menu
  5. Clean your house
  6. Hang artwork
  7. Party, party, party

Find an Artist
This step was very easy for me, because I’m lucky to have some amazing friends who are awesome artists. I picked two artists, Douglas G Gordon, and a friend from my restaurant job, Marilyn Mork. Since Marilyn had just moved to Oklahoma, I described the show as the “Oklahoma Debut of Marilyn Mork.”

The important thing about approaching an artist with this kind of request, is to treat them with the respect their profession deserves. Tell them your idea, and see if they like it. There is an important conversation you need to have with your artist before your party. What will you two do if someone damages the artwork while it’s at your house? Do you have to pay for damages? Does the artist let it go? It’s an important conversation to have.

If you’re an artist yourself, don’t be shy about throwing your own reception in your home. Your guests will love it! (Invite me!)

Pick A Date
When picking a date, I usually choose a Saturday. I had the whole day off. This is important, because I needed time to get my house clean, and ready to hang artwork. This was going to be my birthday party, and my birthday fell on Saturday. Obviously, I wanted to go all out with a big party.

It’s important to pick a date early. I started inviting people a month ahead of time, so that they could plan on being at my party that day.

I like to start my parties at 8pm. It gives my guests a chance to take care of their errands that day. My parties don’t have a closing time. When you have parties that last late into the night, it strengthens your friendships in a way like no other. Seriously, time together after midnight is like friendship gold.

Invite Lots of People
My philosophy with parties is to invite as many people as I can. I invite friends I’ve known for years; friends I just met; friends from work; family. I’m friends with my neighbors, so I invite them too. I don’t worry about too many people coming. In my experience, I’ll have maybe a quarter to half of invitees show up. I encouraged my artists to invite as many guests as they wanted. I don’t send invitations in the mail. I use phone calls, text messages, social media, and in-person conversations. Mail invitations are a nice touch, just not my style.

Don’t worry about inviting guests who might not like each other. Part of the fun is seeing my conservative friends and my liberal friends figure each other out. So much fun!

Plan a Menu (and go grocery shopping)
So making party food is actually pretty easy. I made sandwiches, and cut them along the diagonals. I sliced carrots, cucumber, and broccoli. I set them out with a bowl of dip. I also sliced up some cheeses, and left some baby dill pickles out.

Here are my top tips for party food.

  • Keep it simple. You’re going to have to do all the preparation before your party.
  • Make finger foods that people can eat while standing and holding a plate.
  • Don’t worry about impressing anyone with fancy food. If they’re at your party, and they’re hungry, they’ll love whatever you make. “Pimiento cheese on white toast? Awesome!”
  • If you have vegetarian or vegan friends, have something for them (My go-to is fresh veggies and hummus).
  • If you have one very nice item, it will raise the quality of your whole menu (brie, dates, etc)
  • It’s okay if you run out of food.
  • Chips are cool party food, but class it up: pour the whole bag into a large bowl.
  • Have a choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. A case of domestic lagers, a bottle of whiskey, and a couple of two liters of soda will go a long way.
  • Use sturdy paper plates.

Some of my guests offer to bring something. When they ask, I always have an answer ready. “Can you bring a bottle of wine?” “I’m making sandwiches. Can you bring some chips?” “Anything for dessert would be awesome.” When your friends ask this, it’s a way of expressing friendship. So having an answer for them actually strengthens your friendship.

Clean Your House
The thing about art receptions, is that most people are standing. So, I took out most of the furniture, and stuffed it into my bedroom for the party. Always try to have fewer chairs than people. When people are standing, they mingle more, and it creates a lively environment at your party. When I cleaned my house, I also took all my regular artwork off the wall. (I left the nails in the wall, so I could put them all back later.)

Artist Douglas G Gordon brought his artworked framed and ready to go.
Artist Douglas G Gordon brought his artwork framed and ready to hang.

Hang Artwork
The day of the party invited the artists over early. Marilyn was busy that day, so she dropped off her artwork in the morning, and didn’t help with the layout. Douglas showed up around noon. We laid out the artwork really quickly and impulsively (read: trust your intuition and don’t double-guess yourself). I let my artists pick which pieces they wanted to show. I used nails to hang the artwork. If I wasn’t going to use nails, I would have used 3M Command Strips (for lightweight artwork). There was still a lot to do before the party, so I didn’t overthink any decision. We also put out little handwritten tags that had the artwork’s name and the artist’s name.

My guests were cool enough to let me take an epic selfie with them.
My guests were cool enough to let me take an epic selfie with them.

Party Party Party
The party turned out awesome! Lots of mingling in the kitchen (where the food and drinks were). There were so many people I love there that night. My only regret is that I couldn’t spend more time talking with each of them. I had left a deck of Cards Against Humanity on the dining room table, and my friends knew exactly what to do with it. (Suspend is another amazing party game.) Marilyn and Douglas, my two artists, traded artworks with each other.

A few days later, the artists came and picked up their work.

That’s what works for me. Share your best party story in the comments.

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