I have shown work in a few shows (not many) and hope to show in more as time goes on. Up until now I had no idea how to get even get in a show and once I did, how to prepare for one. As a quick reference guide I want to share some ideas with you about how to get your work seen and once you do, how to follow up.
The first step is to think about what kind of work you want to show. Typically the art that you want to show should match the theme of the show. (this is pretty basic logical stuff). For example, you do not want to submit a landscape piece into a show that has to do with abstract art. Chances are that it will be rejected. Try to make sure that the art that you want to show fits the theme. The best thing to do is to do your research, go to different shows that have art similar to yours. Then when there find out who the curator is and get their contact information (also make sure that you bring business cards or other samples of your work).
After that make sure to follow up with an e-mail or contact note. You can ask to be added to any mailing lists or announcements for upcoming submissions. After a while you will find out about any show submissions that you might be interested in showing in.
Next, prepare your work for submission. The best way to do that is to get as much information about the show as you can. Try and find out about any necessary guidelines for submissions. Do you submit online? Do you need to bring a book to show your work? Find out what the best way to submit work is, and make sure you follow the guidelines. (Note: That most people now a days ask for links to your portfolio and.jpgs to be e-mailed).
Also, try to find a lot of local shows, network with other artists at smaller galleries, and then work your way up from there.
Once you are accepted into a show (which will happen a lot faster than you realize). Then you can next turn to preparing your work for the show. If you can, take a look at the space where you will be showing your work. See if there is enough room to hang work and how much wall space you have to play with. You do not want to print and frame up a piece that is too big that you can not use. If this is not possible then contact the curator and ask for details about the space if you can not do a walk through.
Most places have deadlines for when the art work needs to be hung up. Try and make sure that you find out that that date is and stick to it.
Then on the night of the event, hang your work and enjoy. Make sure to bring plenty of business cards to display and also make sure to get other people's contact information as well. That way you can be kept in the loop for when the next show is going to happen.