Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Thinking of Entering that Juried Show? Do Your Research!

By Sandi Parker

If you're an artist, you probably spend a fair amount of time scrolling through listings of calls for entry for national juried shows. Getting accepted into a juried show is a great ego boost for an artist, and something to add to your resume. Especially at a nice gallery.

A reception at Gallery Underground

If you're lucky enough to have your work accepted, you may even be awarded by the juror - that Best in Show, 2nd or 3rd place or Honorable Mention looks great on your CV. And the receptions are always nice to attend, especially if it's local and you can invite your friends. 

Before ponying up the $35+ entry fee for that show that sounds just perfect for your work, however, you will want to find out several things about the show. Obviously you'll want to thoroughly read the prospectus be be sure this show is right for you, and also to be sure you're familiar with any and all rules and restrictions (artists sometimes fail to read the fine print on sizes, for instance, only to pay the non-refundable fee and have their work rejected because it's over the size limit). But in addition to carefully reading the prospectus, there are other things to consider and, in some cases, research before clicking the "enter" button.

Hmmm...at what kind of gallery will my art be?
Location, Location. Is it local? Legit? Brick and Mortar? Be sure to check out where the venue is located if you don't want to ship. Many artists are fine with shipping their work but others are a bit squeamish about it - the chance their work may be damaged in transit and/or the costs of shipping  - both ways - can be a deterrent.  While you're at it, don't just glance at the location and think "Oh yes, I can drive there." Put the address of the venue into google maps. That street view that pops up? It can be your friend in this instance. There are some - er - questionable calls for art where the venue is actually someone's house (I participated in a show like this - paintings were hanging in the bedrooms, kitchen...even the bathroom!) or in a downright scary area of the city where you might need a bodyguard to get your work in and out without being mugged. There are also art calls where the art is hung in the lobby of a building or in an office area not open to the public, and you may feel these are not worth your while. You may be fine participating in all of these types of shows - but if not, you won't want to have any upsetting surprises. 

Another mistake that is easy to make is not realizing that the location of the "gallery" is....actually online. There are a lot of online juried shows that are a wonderful financial windfall for the outfits organizing them, since there is no overhead and they are raking in the entry fees. There is also no reception, no actual gallery where people can see the art...again, you may be ok with it, but be mindful of what you are - and are not - going to get out of this after forking over the entry fee.

Make sure your shows don't overlap
How long will they have your art? It sounds obvious, but it is easy to overlook the actual length of the show. You may glance at the receiving date and assume it's for a month, which most shows are. Some, however, can go for months on end, and you'll need to be sure you're ok with having your art tied up for that long. And be sure, if you enter a lot of juried shows, that you are not overlapping. Gallery A won't be pleased if you inform them you need your art back before the show is over because you got into a show at Gallery B. And Gallery B won't be pleased if your piece sells at Gallery A and you have nothing to display at their show. It helps to keep a calendar of shows you have entered showing drop off, reception and pickup.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It sounds counter-intuitive, but be wary of a call to artists with no entry fee. Most legitimate galleries have to charge an entry fee to pay for all the expenses associated with mounting a show. If there is no entry fee, chances are there will be hidden fees, such as being hit up for the cost of publishing a booklet about the exhibition if you're accepted - and these costs can be higher than most average entry fees. There are sometimes shows mounted by non-profit galleries that are funded by corporations who foot the bill, so you'll want to research this - usually you can find out if the show is being underwritten. These can also have hidden fees, however.

How prestigious is the juror?
Who is the juror? As all artists know, you can never predict what any juror will choose, and if you try, you'll fail. However, researching the juror may be the deciding factor in whether you enter the show. The more well-known and prestigious the juror, the better and more prestigious the show is likely to be. If you are trying to build your resume and this is important to you, then doing your research on the juror is important. And on the other hand, if you're unable to pull up much info on the juror, you may feel this show won't give you much bang for your buck if you are accepted.

These are just a few of the things you should research when making a decision to enter a show. As with anything, "buyer beware."

Sandi Parker is an artist who works in both traditional oils and abstract acrylics. She is the Co-Director of Gallery Underground in Crystal City, VA.

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