Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

Being told our position on a wait-list

So frustrating trying to comprehend why providing artists their jury score and position on the wait-list of an event is such a difficult task for shows to perform.  A few do, very much to their credit and thank you to each and every show that does so.  Most do not.  Some actually get a pissy if you ask for the position on the wait list.

First point, we paid a jury fee for the jury process and that jury score.  Did we not?  And for that $25 to $50 jury fee, are we out-of-line to expect to be provided our jury scores, cut-off scores, and thus where we stand on a wait-list?  I hope show Directors will wade in on this with their rationale.  Educate us why they do not think this is valuable to us, or why they do not have the money to do so.

If a show is truly and honestly juried, each artist has been scored by each juror, those scores totalled to determine who is in, who is out and - who is wait-listed. That score determines what their position is in their medium - and on the wait list, does it not?  

As for communicating that information it has bee provided historically by some shows, probably currently is being done by some, and absolutely positively in this age of computers and the internet - CAN BE DONE.  Broadripple used to put the scores by individual jurors online based on application ID - maybe they still do.  Des Moines used to send out a PDF of the individual jury scores - maybe they also still do so.  Uptown used to send out paper forms with individual juror scores.  Most show do not bother, some  say do not even bother asking as we will not tell you. 

As artists, we realize we will not get into all the shows we really hope to have on our schedule.  Duh.  So we typically apply to multiple shows on the same weekend so we have hope of getting juried into at least one of those events.  Increases our cost of doing business substantially but under the current business model of how most shows are runs, seems unavoidable.  Shows have different application dates, different jury dates and different pay-your-booth-fee-by dates. Some shows refund if you withdraw before the event, some depending on how far out from the event, and others just do not refund your booth fee once it is paid.

I say this last part because that, IMO, is the chief reason for shows to let you know where you are on a wait-list (besides the "we paid for it in the jury/application fee" argument). If we are wait-listed, and another show says "come on down!" and they have a non-refundable booth fee policy, it would be nice to know where we are on a wait-list for the show we most hope to do, would it not?  If we were #1 or #2 is it not a completely different question to wrestle with than if we are #8 or #20 on the wait list? (yes, shows do now have wait-lists that exceed the total number of artists in that medium in that event - sometimes by up to a factor of 2 or 3!).

So this is the communication/courtesy factor:  if we are so far down on the wait-list that given how far down a show has historically ever gone, why not let us know our position on the wait-list and how far down you have ever gone on the wait-list so we can make a meaningful decision to either commit elsewhere or hold out - or even drive to the show and see if a spot opens at the last minute if we are high on the wait-list?  If show Directors and Promoters truly care about the artist base and the success of artisans, is this an unrealistic expectation?  To provide us what we paid for and what we need to make our economic/business decisions?

I think that is a rhetorical question.  It is not an unreasonable request.  Though I open the door to be convinced otherwise.

Views: 1164

Comment by Nels Johnson on July 12, 2017 at 1:40pm
Echo your sentiments 100%.
Unfortunately, there is an arrogance out there, among many shows, who just feel they cannot be bothered.
As you so accurately pointed out, we need that info in order to make a decision about accepting a show and pay the fee rather than wait for a better show and hope we get the call.
Unfortunately, the arrogance will not change.
Bottom line, they care more about themselves than the welfare of artists.
We live in, which was once a very mellow business, and now is always about the bottom line, how much diner is can they make off the artists. There is a certain Chicago Art Show Promoter who personify so it so well.
Comment by Nels Johnson on July 12, 2017 at 1:40pm
Meant dinero
Comment by Ron Mellott on July 12, 2017 at 4:59pm

Thank you, Nels for adding your view and voice to this.  It may never change, though the only way it ever will is we make our point - politely but forcefully, unite as much as we can in our voice, and hope that show directors and promoters will revisit their policy and change it for those reason.

Thanks again, Nels.

Comment by Tammie T Everly on July 12, 2017 at 10:33pm
I love your idea. I have not yet achieved entry into a high end show, but in an effort to improve, I have emailed organizers after being rejected and asked for feedback. Some have offered guidance, most have not. It's a never ending puzzle to try to figure out what juries like.
Comment by Craig Roderick and Sara Beck on July 13, 2017 at 8:05am

I agree with everything you said.  It ought to be a routine practice to at least give your place on the wait list.  

Comment by Kathy Winterburn on July 14, 2017 at 8:40am
Somtimes I wonder if they tell you that you made a wait list to keep you applying for the next year thinking you were close.
Comment by Karen Holtkamp on July 14, 2017 at 10:42am

Ron, as a glass artist I share your wish that all shows would give us more information about wait lists.  Broad Ripple still does it, and St James Court gives info as well.

I also organize the art show portion of a fall art & wine festival.  The art show is small -- about 65 artists of good/high quality.  For us, however, management of the wait list is not as cut and dried as choosing the next highest score in each category.

Our jurors use a 1-5 scoring system and also give their overall judgment as to Yes, No, Maybe and Wait List.  It gets tricky choosing the final Yes group and also putting the WL people into descending order because the jurors are considering the overall curation of the show as well as the quality of each individual artist's work. 

There's a strict limit for acceptances in each media category.  Maxed out categories are usually jewelry, of course, and also painting, photography, pottery and wood.  Glass entries ebb and flow year-to-year.  So here's where it gets complicated.

Last year, for example, the jurors had accepted one outstanding photographer who shoots local iconic scenes.  Three more photographers had applied who also shoot local iconic scenes, and they were all good enough to be accepted.  However it would have been bad for the show to have a total of 8 photographers with 4 of them shooting the same city architecture.  So a second photographer was accepted whose style was unique and the other two were wait listed.

If and when a photographer drops out two months later, the artist called from the list depends upon the kind of photography being replaced.  If one of the "icon" photographers drops out, that gives a leg up to the similar folks on the list.  But if a nature-themes photographer dropped out, we would have resisted replacing that person with a third "icon" photographer.

The same thing happens all the time in the other maxed-out categories.  The scores are usually so similar, sometimes identical, on the wait lists that the deciding factor is which additions will keep the show interesting, well-rounded and full of variety both between categories and within each category. 

Now, try to explain that to an artist who's anxiously looking for answers to make their decision-making easier.  When I say, "well, you're either first, second or third on the list, depending" the response is understandably not so good.  Some artists get quite nasty and even abusive. 

I think this show-curation factor is far more important at small shows, where it's small enough that patrons remember everything they've seen from beginning to end.  Conversely, at shows with 400 artists an organizer can have lots of repetition in style and technique and get away with it.

As an aside, when I release notifications I always offer to give artists more information about their scores and judges' comments if they simply write and ask.  Usually only one or two ask, which continues to surprise me every year.  However I've also had artists ask and then use the feedback to vastly improve their application/display/work the following year.  They're the smart ones.

Comment by Jeri Vitello on July 14, 2017 at 11:49am

Karen, thanks so much for sharing your insight.

Comment by Steve Sawusch on July 14, 2017 at 12:28pm

FYI, people lie too. I was once told #1 on waitlist for photography only to find out that another photographer was pulled off waitlist before me.

Comment by Judy Christian on July 17, 2017 at 12:31pm


thank you for taking the time to post all of that.


It is no better on the other end, as the artist cancelling.

Five years of caring for 3 aging parent in my home- I had to cancel for a parent's heart attack, 

a stroke, cancer and hospital, and death.

Never got any  $$ refunds, even though I contacted the shows immediately.

So, if those aren't good enough reasons to cancel, what is?

Sorry for the vent, but this looked like a good place to put one .



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