Thursday, December 2, 2010

My Thoughts On Juried Exhibitions

Wrestling Jacob's Angel
Terry Jarrard-Dimond
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.

Thank you for spending time at
Studio 24-7!

I love hearing from you and remember....


  1. Great rundown on things to consider. Here's another: how long between entry and notification? One of the most prestigious fiber shows takes three months to get the jurying done, which is hard to understand unless they're sending the CDs by cargo ship to Hong Kong and back. Meanwhile, three of your presumably best pieces are in limbo as far as entering other shows.

    I wish you were right that shows tell entrants and jurors what they're looking for, but in my experience that doesn't happen. Or perhaps they issue a statement but the jury results aren't in the same ballpark. This does no favors to either entrants or jurors -- or show organizers, in my opinion.

  2. Terry,

    Thank you for this post. It is always good to see how other artists work through this process. I have a similar checklist for selecting shows for my work so i have nothing to add to your list. A make or break issue for me is insurance and who will be handling the work. Two years ago I had two awful experiences-- the first was my work was returned smelling like cigarette smoke and the second was a museum not wanting to return my work! Still, the vast majority of my experiences have been positive. I just wanted to reinforce that it pays to do your homework.

  3. Thank you Kathy. I concur with you about having to hold work for long periods while you wait to hear's one of the things to consider for sure.

    I feel the sponsors should be clear about what they want to promote in the show, share that in a statement in the prospectus and with the jurors but interpretation can cut a very wide road.

    I appreciate your commenting.

  4. Terry, you and I think alike. I concur with your analysis for selecting competitive exhibitions to enter. I have submitted to competitions since undergrad school and found it to be a good way to get work out to far-reaching areas, many I've never visited, and also the possibility of getting an award. Cash is always welcome and a solo show appreciated! Your example of the work above, "Wrestling Jacob's Angel" is clarification of how competitions are very subjective, based purely on the judge's point of view at that time and place. Artists need to see competitions in the overall landscape of the art process, looking at how they enhance your art experience but not the end-all, be-all of art. Winning an award will not make you successful and neither will rejection make you a failure. Good post!!

  5. Thank you Deborah and Jane for commenting.

    Deborah, Your experience in regards to the cigarette smoke is astounding. I hate to think how that happened and there is no escuse for this or for a show not returning work as advertised and in a timely manner. I also had that experience last year only to find out that the show had been "extended". That is not professional.

    Jane you are a wonderful example of an artists who has utilized the juried show system while developing many other avenues to showcase your work. It takes a lot of organization and work but with the right attitude, as you described, it can work.

  6. Terry,
    Your article hits the mark about considerations for entering juried shows. Have you ever thought to submit your writings to FiberArts Magazine or any other publications?
    As I read your outline, I found myself saying, yes, yes, yes. These are all the thoughts my close friends and I consider before entering shows.
    I hope more readers agree and/or add these considerations to their own arsenal knowledge when considering entering juried shows.
    One might stress the point you made about considering the time frame your work will be committed and add this point:
    Do not enter the same work in more than one juried show at a time where the show dates and times overlap.
    This might be obvious, however, some artists will enter a piece in multiple shows with the hope that it will be juried into one of them. If, by chance, the artwork is accepted into more than one show, the artist might think it simple enough to decline acceptance into one or the other.
    I remind anyone who thinks this is an acceptable practice to be mindful of the persons behind organizing a juried exhibition who take great pains and often dedicate countless (often unpaid) hours of time to find a venue, secure juror(s), create all the marketing materials, maintain interactions with applicants, and the hundreds of other logistical considerations & coordination it takes for the event components to work in tandem.

  7. Thank you Christine! I forgot to mention the overlapping of shows and committing your work to only one show at a time! That is a Big one. I know people who have done this and I have heard curators talk about this happening in the shows they present and it isn't a good thing on either end. For the artist, they must face telling one place they can't fulfil their obligation and the show is left with fewer pieces than they planned for. Meanwhile, there are artists who would have loved being in the show.

    As to submitting to magazines, no, I have never done that but thank you for your positive support. I'll give that some thought! ;-)

  8. I had so many random thoughts as a result of your outstanding post here, Terry, that I'm writing one because all my blah blah is too long (and disorganized) for a comment - LOL.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts; your blog is one of the best. Always something interesting and/or thought-provoking.

  9. Thank you Rayna! I appreciate your support and always happy to hear your thoughts. You always make me smile.

  10. That was an extremely well worded, well crafted, and excellent article for anyone wanting to enter shows. I am really glad I discovered your blog through Rayna's post about it from her own blog which I follow.

    I have worked a lot with physically challenged artists over the years (, and I always tried to help them to make the best use of what money they DO have to enter juried shows. As we all know, it seems to have nothing whatever to do with the quality of the work, etc. as many very excellent artists still get rejections.

    One of the things that I came up with in my mind is that sometimes people enter juried events because it is what they hear about on lists, or they know their peers are entering, but those venues might not really be right for them. They might get more bang for the buck so to speak entering totally different types of venues. For example, I had a couple of my physically challenged friends enter regular art exhibits where fiber art was accepted, venues that were good but where they were not juried. They won nice cash prizes and awards, so they achieved something with what money they did have to enter.

    I think entering juried shows is a very good thing for those artists who are able to afford to do it and not worry if they lose their entry fees. It is all part of becoming a professional on one path. At the same time, I am glad that there are options for those who don't have a lot to invest, but still want to get their work out there in a meaningful way. Just because an exhibit isn't juried doesn't mean that it is not a good one.

    So I think aside from the wonderful factors you have written about, this is an issue for many artists to really look into seriously. Many artists enter their careers by just following the same paths as others they know are following, but each artist needs to consider the best route for him/her and follow that one.

    Thank you again for this really great article. You made my day!!!