My work deals with a definite theme - tornadoes. I've had dreams about tornadoes since I was little and we lived in Kansas. I've never been in one or seen one, but I guess living there during that time made a big impression on me.
When I had my MFA exhibition, one of my professors suggested that I document it and send out proposals to art centers and university galleries all over tornado alley. I think it was a great idea.
Here's what my packet looks like:
I bought some standard black pocket folders and cut a little slit in the right pocket for my CD. I tuck my little brochure into the business card slit on the left side. In the left pocket, I put copies of press clippings, my resume, and some postcards from shows (the cards that feature images of my work). In the right pocket, I put a sheet that has thumbnail images of what's on the CD (the equivalent of a slide list) and my artist's statement.
I print some nice labels to adhere to the CD and I also print out a little label to put on the front of the folder. I have a coordinating envelope (mine happens to be red) that everything goes into. I usually put the cover letter on top of the folder and put a piece of cardboard behind the folder.
I also include a large SASE for the return of my materials. I used to not include that - it's more expensive to mail it than to just make a new one and I figured they could throw it away if they weren't interested. But some people would send it back anyway at their expense and I felt bad about that. Some gallery submission guidelines indicate that they will throw away anything that they get without an SASE. So I started including one, just in case...
I also print my resume, artist's statement, and the cover letter on the same paper (I use French Speckletone in Kraft). I come from a graphic design background, so packaging is really important to me. I think having a professional, cohesive, well-designed packet will help you stand out in the crowd. I have been warned not to make it look "too designed." Whatever that means. I guess you don't want the packaging to overwhelm the work.
Tomorrow I'll talk more about the process of finding the places to send the proposals to.