/ Submitting Art Installations At Music Festivals

Creating Art Installations For Festivals

Photo Credit: Soodyod Photos

One of the best ways to get a free festival ticket is to create an awesome art installation and bring it to a festival. If you do it on a large enough scale, you can even get paid. My friend John Davidson has done this even though he is still in college.

By John Davidson

Art installations serve many roles in the festival community. At first glance they serve as aesthetic eye candy, or a place to meet new and old friends—but upon deeper observation, these optical indulgences conjure states of pure wonder; inviting new perspectives and inducing states of philosophical reflection.

Photo Credit: Joffrey Photo

At some point you have been inspired to contribute, or maybe you’re feeling the urge to create and bring life into this world. It all starts with an idea, so keep a sketchbook or journal handy at festivals as well as in the default world; visions and concepts will present themselves without notice. Listen to your imagination and be open-minded to your own ideas. By keeping track of your musings, you might identify common elements in your sketches that you would like to manifest in your creations.

Once you have your heart set on a concept, begin to prepare for more practical endeavors. Before you proceed, sit down with yourself and be realistic about finances.

Be mindful of your budget, and educate yourself on opportunities to receive funding, grants or other financial support from festival producers and art coordinators. This is a good time to think about the places you want to take your installation…sometimes festivals require proposals and pitches far in advance; it’s okay that your creation might not be real yet, but proposing your idea to festival organizers early gives you a better chance at selection and/or funding. Crowdfunding is another great way to realize your vision—if this route interests you, check out HatchFund, a non-profit crowdfunding platform exclusively for artists. Once you have set a budget you can begin material selection and sourcing, designing and engineering, and producing the art! Moving from the conceptual stages can be daunting because at this point in the process, critical decisions must be made. In the same way you embrace creativity during your imagination phase, you will need just as much creativity to make the upcoming choices. There may be other materials that can achieve a similar effect to what you desire, or a design change that might vary from the original idea but will withstand the elements of outdoor festivals. As with many other crafts and skills, it can be helpful to find an experienced friend or mentor to guide you through any arenas with which you are not familiar. It’s okay to ask for help; you will find immense joy when you have the opportunity to help someone else accomplish their dream in the future.

Photo Credit: Joffrey Photo

Wahoo! Now you’re ready to build away! This is a difficult but very rewarding step of the journey. Blood, sweat and tears will be shed in abundance; but it’s a labor of love and the harvest is oh-so-sweet. Reach out to your networks—friends often love to get involved and help out, even if it’s just adding finishing touches. Shout out to my late night Obelus Nostra paint squad.

At this point, production and creation is in motion or almost done, and it’s time to start thinking about what’s next. Festivals are always looking for new and exciting installations at their gatherings, but unless you are an established artist or collective, you will need to reach out to art coordinators and festival producers on your own to share your project. Artist/contributor applications are a common way festivals connect with artists and serve as a great opportunity to introduce yourself and the installation. These applications often include practical matters such as requirements for electricity, footprint of the piece, type of installation (interactive, projection, fire, etc.), financial support (gas reimbursement, tickets for your crew) and any other needs. If you can’t find an artist application, don’t be shy to reach out with an email to the festival—they will direct you to the right person from the appropriate team. This is your first point of contact with the festival, so maintain a positive, professional, and enthusiastic attitude. If you are still in the conceptual phase, be sure to include renders and sketches. If you are already building, send them photos. And if you have displayed your piece before, be sure to include photos of the installation from previous events, and any feedback you received from art coordinators or admirers.

Photo Credit: Miles Najera

And now…the installation lives, and you have a place to display it! The first time you set up in the wild will be a learning experience; be sure to take notes on how to improve for the next set up. Finally, after days/months of hard work and a burning desire to share its glory, you may now observe how others interact with the installation, gazing with pure wonder at something that was once just an idea! Savor these moments, for they come and go in a heartbeat; but take comfort knowing you may have inspired someone, just as you were inspired by someone else.

Learn how to become a contributing member of the festival community by reading The FestivalGoers's Guide and have your best festival every time you go.