How to host an art build

An art build is when a group of people get together to create art for a common project. Art builds are a great way to bring in new volunteers, share work that needs to get done, and get people motivated about an upcoming event!

4 people making a banner togetherMaking art is fun and provides an environment where people can casually get to know each other. Plus, with all this creative energy in the lead up, any event is bound to be more exciting. 

This how-to is designed to help you with the logistics of setting up and running an art build. If set up well, it’s amazing how much art can be produced quickly with a few volunteers.



Find a location

  • Art builds can be held just about anywhere, but your needs depend on what you are planning to make. Places that it’s okay get a little paint on the floor (such as garages, warehouses, basements, etc.) can make the build less stressful.
  • If the art build is part of a conference or in a rented space perhaps they have an outdoor space, a loading dock, or basement you can use (rented places often charge for stray paint).
  • Generally you want a location where you have easy access to running water, toilets and electrical outlets. 
  • Outdoor and public spaces are often great as they attract a crowd (just be conscious of electrical needs you might have, and access to water and toilets)
  • Having a flat floor to work on is useful for painting on fabric (especially big pieces).


Determine what type of art build you are hosting

There are 3 types of art builds:

  • Laissez- Faire: You provide materials and people do what they like
  • A build with a plan: The build has a clear goal. Often used for mass production of visuals, or specific things for an event.
  • The mixer: People can choose if they want to work on their own project or a group project. 


Volunteers and schedule 

  • If you are hosting a build with a plan make sure you have a clear plan ahead of time, and know what your priorities are (e.g., X should be made before Y!). Know how many of each thing you would like to make and have enough supplies.
  • You can make a schedule and let people know when you need volunteers (e.g., setup, cleanup), and then ask volunteers to sign up for specific time slots. You can also get people to volunteer beforehand to make snacks or collect supplies. 
  • If you are hosting a laissez-faire or mixer, you can also host it as a ‘drop in anytime’ art build so people can come whenever works for them. 


Samples and instructions

  • If you are running “a build with a plan” it is a good idea to make samples of what you want people to make, so have these ready beforehand. 
  • Depending on what you are making you might want instructions printed or written out for people to follow. It will help to let people know who to ask if they have questions or need support.
  • If you are doing a banner or something with a specific design, have the design ready and banner ‘maps’ for people to follow along as they paint.
  • If possible, make all stencils and woodcuts/cardboard cuts ahead of time (and have a copy available in case something happens to the original). 


Invite local press

  • If your planned action is legal and being publicized, invite local press to your art build. Art builds are generally very photogenic events, and can be a great way to get press before your event, which can be a great outreach tool to boost attendance at your event. 


Materials and supplies

The materials you will need depend on what you are doing, but here is an overview of materials that are useful for an art build. Make sure you have all your supplies ready before the art build, and write your own list with any additional supplies that you need.  

For a few more tips on how to get free materials see the ‘basic materials for extraordinary beauty’ notes following this list! 

paint brushes and supplies


  • Tables
  • Plastic for floor
  • Drop cloths
  • Broom/mop


  • Paint
  • Brushes (many)
  • Small containers such as yogurt containers 
    • lids are nice to store unused paint 
    • you can also cut the top off soda bottles
  • Rollers and trays
  • Smocks
  • Water bucket(s)
  • Rags

Drying linepaint supplies

  • Clothesline or string
  • Clothes pins, safety pins or clips
  • Plastic or drop cloth


  • Scissors
  • Utility knife/x-acto and extra blades
  • Drill and bits
  • Saw
  • Pencils and erasers
  • Scrap paper for sketching
  • Permanent markers 
  • Chalk 
  • Sewing machine
  • Thread and extra needles
  • Measuring tape and ruler or straight edge

Fastenersbroom and dropcloth

  • Staple gun/stapler
  • Staple pliers
  • Staples
  • String/twine
  • Hardware (nuts, bolts, etc.)
  • Tape — duct tape, masking tape 
  • Wire (wire clothes hangers)
  • Glue/wheat paste 
  • Hot glue gun and glue 
  • Rubber ties (from bicycle inner tubes)

Materials for making 

  • Cardboard
  • Fabric/bed sheets
  • Sticks and poles
  • Paper/poster board
  • Plastic for stencils 

Other things

  • Laptop and projector
  • Speaker and music 
  • Snacks

Note: if you borrow materials or tools ask people to write their names on each loaned item, and keep a list of what they lend you.


Basic Materials for Extraordinary Beauty 

Literally anything can be used to create art. The materials listed here are some of the most versatile and easy to come by. So much can be made almost entirely out of garbage – a manifestation of the belief that creativity can turn even a pile of garbage (or an unsustainable society) into something beautiful and productive. cardboard


You can make just about anything out of cardboard. Large pieces can often be found in the dumpsters behind stores that sell large things (refrigerators, big chairs, or car windshields) or ask inside the store. 


Almost everything can be painted using regular latex water-based house paint. Ask around, it is very common for people to have left-over paint they are happy to give away. Or ask paint stores if they have mis-mixed paint. Fabric can be dyed using a mixture of lots of water and latex paint. If you buy paint get primary colors (red, yellow, blue) from which you can mix other colors. Strong colors are best — you can always add white.


Used bed sheets are great and are frequently thrown out by hotels. Call or stop by a few hotels to ask if you can have their stained or ripped sheets.

Rubber ties

A great material for attaching things together is strips of rubber (because elastic doesn’t slip). You can make rubber ties by cutting up bicycle inner tubes into strips of rubber. Go to any bike shop at the end of the day and they probably have burst inner tubes to throw out. 

rubber ties and wire


Wire can be useful for hanging and attaching. Just cut the top off wire clothes hangers for some good strong wire. 

Wooden poles

Wooden poles are useful for anything you want to get up high or anything big you want to make. Bamboo is great because it is lightweight, but any straight tree branch or broomstick works too. 

wooden poles



Putting a little time and thought into preparing the space will make an art build run much more efficiently. 


If you can, get or make some tables as it is often more comfortable to work on a table than on the floor. Tables can be made easily by putting pieces of plywood, wood, or an old door on top of saw horses, chairs, garbage cans, or sturdy cardboard boxes. 


Protecting what needs to be protected

Things can get messy when you have many people using paint in the same space. Cover or remove anything that needs to stay pristine. You can use a roll of thick plastic and tape it down onto the floor. This is a good investment as it makes drips and spills much easier to clean up and can be reused. You can put down cardboard, too, or drop cloths. 

Drying lines

If you are going to be painting on fabric or paper, setting up some drying lines will give you a space to hang things to dry. Put plastic, cardboard or drop cloth underneath in case things drip, or set up the drying line outside. 


  • Setting up clearly designated stations (i.e., areas for specific uses) will help to keep things organized, and will facilitate people working in teams. It will also give tools and materials a “home” so people know where to find things. 
  • You and a few organizers or volunteers should arrive early and set up the space before your official start time so that when people arrive ready to paint, you are ready for them! 

Paint station

  • Keep all your paint in one place. Provide small containers so people can bring some of whatever color they need with them, but ask people to leave large paint containers at the paint station. 
  • Provide water and encourage people to dilute their paint to help it run smoothly and go further, but not so much water that it is runny! 
  • Provide rags and perhaps smocks, or ask people to bring their own. 
  • Ask people to wash their brushes when done. You might want to make signs for all this so you don’t have to tell it to everyone. 
  • Before washing brushes with water and soap ask people to wipe excess paint off on scrap paper or cardboard. The less paint that goes down drains the better. 

Tool station 

  • This can be a place for many useful items such as tape, string, drills, scissors, utility knives, tools, etc. 

Garbage/ recycling station

  • Set up an area with clearly marked garbage cans and recycling cans

Any other station specific to your art build 

  • Maybe a sewing station, a cardboard station… or whatever other sort of station you need! 


Working area

  • Have spaces ready for people to work at, and maybe divide up the ’work’ areas into stations too, e.g., a stencil station, a paint station, etc. Do whatever makes sense for your art build.
  • It can be helpful to divide the working area into a painting (wet materials) area and a building (dry materials) area so there isn’t paint everywhere. 


Running an art build 

  • Create an energizing atmosphere and make sure people are comfortable. Play some music and let people know where they can find snacks and hang out for a break. 
  • Feel free to make loud announcements instead of saying something 50 times. Ask for help if you need it.
  • You also want to be on the lookout for two things: paint brushes that are drying out and paint spills (someone stepping in spilled paint, then walking around, can be a nightmare to clean) and get those cleaned up quickly!
  • Take lots of pictures and have fun!