Solo Museum Exhibitions

Kiss Me in the Morning by Michelle Jung
36″ x 58″

Refine Your Motives

If the career path of plein air painting shows, art fairs, or gallery representation does not appeal to you, consider a museum exhibition. The dream of a solo museum show may seem unattainable, but with planning and determination, it can be done.

During the final semester of my MFA, I was asked to prepare a one-year, five-year and ten-year career plan for my journey to becoming a professional artist. In hindsight, the planning process helped me to minimize wasted time floundering around the artworld. A clear path from A to B gives you results.

My first-year goal was to organize my image (or brand) as an artist so I would be taken seriously. Having a portfolio of work, resume, biography and social media presence was essential. At the beginning it was not a strong presentation, but it was an important start.

Sea Cave by Michelle Jung
30″ x 30″

Build Your Audience

During the next five years, I focused on building my resume by joining national art organizations (like OPA) that had tiers of membership and competition. The experience of applying, preparing and attending the shows began awkwardly. This is expected. The more you apply, the more experience you gain, raising the bar of your work and presentation.

Social media is a must! Yes, it is always changing. Yes, there is politics. But it is important to learn how to adapt, to be consistent, and to keep informed of what your peers are doing. It has also been my number one source of new clients and sales. The more you engage in it, the better you get at communicating with your audience. Social media is in fact how I caught the eye of the museum staff. I noticed they were liking my posts, so I prepared an inquiry for a potential exhibition, which eventually led to an in-person meeting with the director.

Breakers by Michelle Jung
36″ x 60″

Believe In Your Professionalism

Silent Watchers by Michelle Jung
36″ x 48″

The preliminary meeting with a museum director is easy if you have done your work in advance. I recommend a body of work (20-30 pieces), a resume, biography, letters of recommendations and published articles. The time you spend with the director and viewing the space is more of a moment to discuss timing. All museums have agendas that precede exhibitions by at least three years. Whether you fit in their agenda is their call. A rejection is not about your work necessarily. It may be timing. Rejection and reapplying are norms in this pursuit. Once you understand that concept you will be more open to museum opportunities.

Preparing For The Big Show

Rocks and Surf by Michelle Jung
36″ x 36″

The time from acceptance to the exhibit is typically 3 years. Developing the body of work and not selling it in the meantime has its challenges, including storage. In my case, the majority of the work was already finished and framed in museum-quality framing. I hung the work in a lower-level gallery in my studio. This way I could see the entire show as it developed over the years. If a client came to buy a piece, I told them it was reserved for a show. Some pieces I entered into group exhibitions or contests to see how they were received. 

Every year I contacted the director to check in. Six months before the opening, the director sent a floorplan and a list of dates when things needed to be submitted, such as the name of the exhibition, an updated biography, artist statement and images. I created a list of dates and checked them off as I completed them. At the same time, I began advertising, social media posts, and connecting with collectors to let them know about the show dates and purchases.

Sea Spray by Michelle Jung
36″ x 36″

In Conclusion

In conclusion, my pursuit from the beginning was to exhibit my art in museum settings. It may not be your path, but you can use the same steps for your own career. Create goals, do the work and keep focused. After seven years, I was offered my first solo museum exhibition. Three years later, it opens this June through September. What’s next? Finishing up a new body of work and laying out a new goal plan.

To see more of Michelle’s work and to learn about her upcoming exhibition Making Waves: A Solo Exhibition at the Santa Paula Art Museum, visit

Seascape by Michelle Jung
18″ x 24″

Upcoming OPA Events

OPA Summer 2021 Online Showcase OPA Summer 2021 Online Showcase
The Summer 2021 Online Showcase is from June 1 - August 15, 2021 and will be open to Associate members only. Learn More!
2021 National Convention & Wet Paint Competition 2021 National Convention & Wet Paint Competition
The 2021 National Convention & Wet Paint Competition will take place in Santa Fe, New Mexico, from August 24 - 29, 2021. Learn More!
Eastern Regional Exhibition 2021 Eastern Regional Exhibition
The Eastern Regional Exhibition will be hosted by the ArtCenter Manatee, located in Bradenton, Florida, September 28 through October 22, 2021. Learn More!
OPA Fall 2021 Online Showcase OPA Fall 2021 Online Showcase
The Fall 2021 Online Showcase is from October 1 - December 15, 2021 and will be open to Signature and Associate members only. Learn More!
Western Regional Exhibition 2021 Western Regional Exhibition
The Western Regional Exhibition will be held October 15 through November 27, 2021 at the Mary R. Koch Arts Center (Mark Arts), located in Wichita, Kansas. More details to be announced as they become available. Learn More!