Wrestling Jacob's Angel
This work was entered into a show and declined.
I entered this piece in the same show the next year and it received an award.
Recently I posted an article titled "Beyond Comfort: Declined". When I named the article I couldn't resist using the title of the show as a double entendre...beyond comfort as in the quilt being an art object not an object to sleep under and beyond comfort meaning disappointed at having my work declined.
While both of these meanings are correct, I was not exactly distraught, just disappointed as I found the concept for this show to be excellent. I have entered juried shows for many years and of many varieties... art, craft, fabric, textile, and quilt competitions. I have been accepted and rejected and the one thing that has remained constant is that the outcome of this adventure is never "a sure thing".
As far as I can see, juried competitions are one of the major avenues for artists to get their work shown and in front of an audience beyond their immediate area. I myself found them to be the best avenue to present my work as I began to show work a few years ago. As I thought about the concept of juried shows, I began to consider how I go about selecting which shows to enter. So here is a little outline of some of the things you might consider when selecting where to send your next juried show entry.
- Who is sponsoring the show? Is it a museum, gallery or art organization? Can I go online and read about other shows they have presented and see the location of the work and how it was installed?
- What is the reputation of the sponsor? Is this a group I know about or have heard about?
- What is the criteria for the show? Is the show a theme show or general topic? Is the criteria presented in a thorough statement? Does my work "fit" the criteria or would it require I make something different?
- What are the size limitations?
- Who are the jurors? I'll write more about this later.
- What is the time frame that my work will be committed for the show? Is there a long lead time before the opening of the show? How long is the actual show? Does the show travel? Will the work be returned promptly on closing of the exhibition?
- Where is the show to be installed? Will it be in a professional museum, a gallery or unknown "temporary" location? Will the work be presented in a professional manner with proper walls and lighting?
- Will the work be insured while on display? Will there be attendants to oversee the installation?
- What is the entry fee? Do you also have to join an organization to participate?
- How many pieces can you enter? Do they allow the acceptance of more than one work per person? You may or may not want to commit more than one piece to a specific show.
- What type of awards are offered? (Cash prizes, merchandise, ribbons, A SHOW!!!)
- What percentage of the sales price does the sponsor take if you make a sale? Most often this figure is 30 % but just today I read a prospectus for a show that takes 50% of the sales price. You need to be aware of what you are agreeing to.
- Is there a catalog? As a participant in the show do you receive a "free" copy of the catalog? (I feel that after you have paid an entry fee, often a membership fee and shipping to and from the show that you are entitled to a copy of any publication as you are a sponsor as well as participant.) Is the catalog printed or digital?
- Is there evidence that the organization promotes the show via newspapers, magazines, TV, the internet etc.? You can always ask if this isn't mentioned in the prospectus.
- Will I be proud to list the show on my resume? Have you attended this show in previous years or do you know anyone who has seen shows from previous years?
I'm sure I have left some things out but as you can see, selecting where to show is more complex than you might think.
The order of the considerations as listed are not carved in stone and you will find that you may have to be flexible as you make your decisions. It may be like comparing apples and oranges. Example: Great sponsor and facility but not much in the way of awards. Or ... costly to enter but the show is a prestigious show.
One factor I always review is the list of jurors. I always try to look them up on-line and get a little background information. This does not mean that I enter because this information informs me about their taste or what their preferences might be but it does give me some idea of their background and education, life experience etc. I have found that trying to pre-judge the preferences of jurors that you do not know personally is very tricky. Actually, pre-judging the preferences of jurors you know is tricky.
I suspect some sponsors present the jurors with an outline of the type of show they would like to have and others do not. One sponsor may say they want a show that represents a sampling of the best of what is being made in the "quilt-world". Another may say they want the most forward thinking work which shows innovations. Another may say something else. This is where a well written statement about the show can help you know what the jurors will be looking for. Some venues want a certain number of pieces for the show so jurors may end up making choices that reflect that need rather than the highest quality of work.
There is also the issue of single jurors or panels of several jurors. Now you may get into who has the strongest voice when the decisions are made. Once again, if you don't know the jurors you have no idea how this will go. I mentioned in one of my comments for the Beyond Comfort article about Open Juries and one reader sent me some wonderful information about an open jury. These are juries that allow an audience to be present when the final decisions are made and able to hear what is being said about the work. This can be very informative for the artist but this type situation is usually employed for large grants, often public money and requires a considerable "set-up" to operate.
Despite all the considerations, I believe it is one of the best ways to get your work to an audience on a national scale or international scale. It can sometimes be difficult to secure solo or small group shows but having your work presented in reputable competitions with known jurors can add to your credability and assist you in obtaining shows in the places you dream about.
So what is your most important criteria for selecting a juried show?
I have to end this with a big THANK YOU to all the organizations that sponsor these type of competitions and provide an opportunity to show our art. The sponsors and the artists need one another and benefit from the efforts of one another and that's something we all need to remember.
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