Timing does matter - to both lower your stress level and prevent a last-minute "Ack! I'm not ready! I need more time to complete my works/do publicity/plan my reception...." freakout, AND to maximize traffic to both your show, and the all-important reception, where much of your sales is likely to occur. With some (prestigious/competitive) venues, you may not have a choice as to the month of your show, but you should be able to control the year at least. It is vitally important that you allow yourself time to get all your works complete before your show, so you'll want to research your venue's policies and deadlines to be sure you have enough time. Even if you think you have a body of work ready to go before you even get accepted for a solo show, you may find that you want fresher, and/or better, works, and you'll need planning time for the publicity and the reception (more on that in an upcoming post on "The How"). So, by all means, don't schedule your show 2 months after getting accepted!
Assuming you do have some control over what month to hold your solo show: taking a look at the calendar, there are some months that are better than others - both from a traffic standpoint, and a reception standpoint. Let's go month by month and look at the pros and cons:
January - Pros: no competition from other events; holidays are over so people are looking for things to do; NOT a time when people vacation. Cons: reception could probably NOT be at the beginning of the month (more on the reception timing, below) because of possible conflict with New Years; if you live in an area that gets a lot of snow, this could be a factor in people getting to your venue. Conclusion: Good
February - Pros: No competition from other events (Valentines Day is mid-month); a month when people are look for things to do; Cons: Possible weather issues if in snowy area. Conclusion: Good.
March - Pros: No competition from other events (St. Patricks Day is mid-month); a month when people are looking for things to do; threat of snowy weather has usually passed, Cons: None. Conclusion: Optimal.
April - Pros: No competition from other events; weather good; usually not too much going on. Cons: None. Conclusion: Optimal
May - Pros: weather good. Cons: Competition with graduations and weddings when people are out of town/already scheduled. Conclusion: Iffy
July - Pros: weather good; people not on vacation may be bored and looking for something to do. Cons: reception could probably NOT be at the beginning of the month because of possible conflict with July 4th; people are on vacation. Conclusion: Bad
August - Pros: weather good; no competition with holidays; people in town may be bored and looking for something to do, depending on where you live, it could be so hot that people want to be inside in air conditioning. Cons: Biggest vacation month of the year. Conclusion: Bad
September - Pros: weather good; people back from vacation and looking for things to attend. Cons: big wedding month; reception could probably NOT be at the beginning of the month because of possible conflict with Labor Day. Conclusion: Good
October - Pros: weather good, but starting to get chilly so people like to be inside; no competition with other events (Halloween at the end of the month); Cons: None. Conclusion: Optimal
November - Pros: weather getting chilly so people like to be inside, but not a huge snow threat (depending on where you live); sometimes people do holiday shopping in November. Cons: People usually take 4 days for Thanksgiving which would cut down on your traffic. Conclusion: Good
December - Pros: Possible holiday shopping; Cons: weather can be bad; lots of competition from holiday parties; people generally take a week off at the end of the month which would cut down on traffic. Conclusion: Bad.
One more note about the timing of your show/reception. Ideally, you want your show to run from the beginning of the month to the end. Psychologically, it is easier to for people to remember that they can see your show during the month of May than trying to remember "May 14 - June 9." or "April 28 - May 30." Even if you hang your show on April 28, you should put the dates of your show as May 1-31. It's cleaner and again, easier to remember. Your reception should be scheduled as close to your opening is possible, hence the word "opening" - it doesn't generate as much buzz and excitement to attend a reception when the show has been open for 2 weeks. And keep the reception short. If it goes on for 4 hours, no matter when people arrive, it may look as though there are only a few people attending when they are coming and going. 2 hours is a good amount of time - that way you will get a critical mass an hour into it - and a crowd is always a good thing - it creates the impression that people are at a "must see" event!
Next in the series: "The What" - developing your theme.
--Sandi Parker, Gallery Underground Co-Director