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Juries, Jurors and Scores of "1" - an option to consider

The jury system is bad - fundamentally flawed.  Each year it is the primary influence on our show year and our careers. Here it is again subject of a blog post.

Posts here and elsewhere bring up the same points.  Our fates are determined by jurors. Bad scenario. Art experts?  I think not.  They may have art backgrounds, they may work in musueums, the may be gallery owners.  They may teach "art".  So what?  Does their background make them qualified to choose?  Are they really "art experts"?  What defines art?  What relevance to defining art (undefinable IMO) have to what people wish to buy?  Does the alleged "art expert" background really serve the purpose of setting a palette of artwork the public wishes to purchase?  To compare: are movie critics correct? Do you care more about what a critic says, or the public says?  Same with books, do you only read a book that a critic gives their blessing to?  Do you only eat at restaurants given two thumbs up by a food critic?  And in the case brought before us here in the blog posts on the Krasl jurors, how can they be "art experts" and one give you a 7, one give you a 1?  Or one a "6" and one a "2"? How does that make any sense whatsoever?  It simply does not. 

And .... in this screwed up system, the voice of the public isn't listened to. You could be the top seller in your medium at a show and short of it being a commission-based show, no one knows that.  No one cares except you and your buyers but that does't mean squat, because the show doesn't care nor do the jurors.  Next year your fate will be determined by what?  Jurors, their biases and the process rather than the art-buying public that came and purchased art.  The "different set of eyes" line is meaningless for the most part ... the concept is flawed. The Krasl Scenario can and likely will happen again next year, and the year after.

So here's a suggestion.  Simplify.  Make the process "Juror Free" (ah, what a concept!  To be used in show advertising!), less biased, less expensive. Heck, maybe jury fees will go down accordingly (yes, and the earth will stop spinning on its axis and war will end ...... right).

Have the show management go through and elimate from each medium those submissions that do not meet the show rules as written in the prospectus.  Remove work that is buy-sell, work that is not creative, copies that of others, displays that are poor and not up to your standards - whatever your rules dictate. But no rating of the artwork.

Then everyone that passes that threshold and is deemed "eligible" is put into a lottery.  Their names in essence put into a "hat" and names drawn until the show spots are filled.  A few more to create a wait-list.  No judging, no rating.  Why would that be bad? Think how that might open doors for artists to be in shows that have never been in?  For the public to see work they have never seen BECAUSE OF jurors, juror biases and the jury process?  No need to "cheat" the system with Photoshop, no need to try and figure out what jurors will look at, mixing black-and-white with color, different subject matter, different color palettes, horizontals and vertical, the concept of "consistent body of work" versus "breadth of the work".  All gone.  You submit what you perceeive to be your best work representing you. Resulting in the scenario that the public that comes may have an opportunity to see and purchase your work that previously jurors and juror biases kept out.  Randomness let you in.  

Option #2 if you don't like that - choose jurors from the art-buying public in the community.  Worst case scenario is they will choose art they want to come purchase.  And that would be bad because .................................. ?

Views: 1939

Comment by R. C. Fulwiler on March 5, 2018 at 9:27am

I like your ideas. 

Think of it this way; every show you applied to (assuming you were qualified), you would actually have a chance to get into.  Under today's system, I know, with some shows, I will not get in but I submit anyway hoping for a miracle....

I would much rather live under your rules than what I live under now.  I hope some other artists and promoters chime in.

Comment by Weldon Lee on March 5, 2018 at 10:15am

Let's us not forget, in addition the the jury process, we're also at the mercy of the weather. Every show is a crap shoot!

Comment by Joseph Murray on March 5, 2018 at 11:12am

       I have been a member of this site for quite a few years .  This is probably the best idea I have seen yet .  Artists are at the mercy of some so-called experts ( jurists)  in art that we have to pay to even look at our art . That is crazy in itself . Then we have to pay exhorbitent fees in some cases to park our stuff on cement or grass in the HOPE that we sell something . Seems to me that this is a rather fair approach that should allow the promoters to recruit good art by following their policies and give artists a fair chance to at least be admitted to art shows they are routinely dismissed from for sometimes confusing reasons.  

Comment by Heike Strobel on March 5, 2018 at 11:19am

Hello Ron,

I also like your ideas, simple but good and I bet they would work for everybody and no one can complain, it's the lottery!

I stopped doing shows were you need to go though zapplication because of that, I only do the little local shows here in Santa Fe now, and guess what I am still alive, no travel expenses, no over priced booth fees and no jury fees anymore and I make still enough money to pay my cost of living, ah did I mention, NO headaches anymore....

Comment by Peggy Crago on March 5, 2018 at 12:57pm

Re your estimation of jurors: I have long said that I would not be a good juror because I like what I like and often have a hard time seeing how good something is when I don't care for it.  Could the professional jurors, the experts, have the same problem?  I don't think all do, but one thing I've noticed from researching shows I routinely don't get into, is the sameness of the work from year to year, at least in ceramics.  It's as if there is a fear of stepping outside the mold.

Comment by Barrie Lynn Bryant on March 5, 2018 at 1:32pm

I don't play the lottery. I think this is ridiculous, and I get rejected from shows, too. If you think you don't like the way it is now, just wait until you never get picked. Just wait until your name never comes out of the hat. You'll close up art fair shop and you'll find some other market to sell in. You'll ditch art fairs altogether.

DO BETTER ART. Present it better. That's what it takes to get picked more often. Try to consider things from the juror's perspective, that's if shows will divulge who the jurors are. I think shows should tell us up front who's jurying. That's one thing I will agree to see happen. It used to be that way for the most part. I'd get a prospectus in the mail and there'd be a section about the juror (s).

And shows should work to pick jurors who can provide better judgement. My guess is that one of the jurors at the Krasl show is completely biased and a bad choice to be a judge. The person can't see the value in more normal things. It has to be all weirded out or something.

Artists with some kind of formal art education will do better and stand a better chance. You'll understand how jurors are picked since it is based upon their knowledge of art and probably NOT because they know anything about selling art. They probably don't know about selling art, anyway, unless they are gallery and art dealers. Curators certainly don't know. They know curatorial premise mostly. Teachers don't know. But they probably know about the principles of art, and so do curators.

Shows shouldn't be stacked with artists based upon sales figures, either. That leaves out the possibility of more engaging art, or art that might be more for a niche market. That will hurt a lot of opportunity for artists. Better art that explores more advanced principles can actually be just as meaningful if not more meaningful to more people and thus be more beneficial to the show than typical run-of-the-mill well-done and artfully-done other work.

There is no way for a show to regulate what art will get pulled from a hat. And my guess is the better art that we already see at shows will eventually disappear since the better artists deserve better than random chance. They'll also give up on the market.

Become an investment banker and then submit your resume to get a job. Get laid off from your corporate job and then go find another one. You think artists in art fairs have it bad? We can sell our wares elsewhere, and in short order. In our front yards (Love ya, Moe Phoe!). At the mall. At the farmer's market. At the fair. Wholesale to a store. Online. Direct mail marketing campaign. Etc.

Comment by Ron Mellott on March 5, 2018 at 2:15pm

"Better art" .. ???!!!?!?!??  OMG!!!!  Art, a non-definable concept, can be used as a measuring stick to create ...... better art? To meet whose expectation?  A juror's?  Come on!  If you don't get into a show because juror scores don't let you in, does't mean squat about how good your work is or what the public will say.  And truthfully, I became an artist not giving one iota of care about what jurors would say about it.  My target is the public, my market.

"Art experts"?  At the risk of being redundant to what I originally wrote, In the example of these Krasl jury scores (typical of experiences we as an artist communit have at so many other shows ) how can you have jurors that are in ANY WAY considered "art experts" give scores of 7-6-5-2-1?  It is obvious they are not.  A few years ago, with Des Moines, one "art expert" juror gave out a "1" for 54% of the scores, in total 83% of their scores were a 3 or less.  While we might agree this person should not have been a juror, the point is this is potentially true of EVERY SINGLE JUROR chosen.  Their is no viable standard for what makes a juror "good" when chosen and after the fact, the damage is already done by so many good artists being juried out because of that single juror.  WHo may see your work again and other shows during the year producing the same result.  In which case the public is not the determinant of your fate - that juror or small group of jurors potentially are.  And that is fundamentally WRONG.

Sales figures matter.  On this point we will eternally disagree.  Sales figures are the voice of the public.  That matters tremenduously.  It does not eliminate artists from being in the show.  There will always be spots available that have to be juried, depending on how that is set up.  But it IS SAYING we care what our buying public likes, buys and may wish to buy more of next year, so those artists are reinvited.  Who as an artist doesn't care what the public says?  How can art show management of ANY show not care what their public likes and buys?  Art shows are only to a small extent, IMO, about viewability as in a museum.  My belief, and others tell me if you feel it is wrong, is people come to an art show to find art to enrich their life, beautify the landscape of their life at home or work.  Be moved - and touched - and enriched - by what they find and buy.  So shows setting a palette of work people will buy, want to buy, can afford to buy - absolutely imperative.  

Try this:  a show collects themselves sales data from all artisans in their event for one year.  Compare the jury scores to the sales figures. See if the jury scores match the sales, in which cases that jury process validates its existence.  $100 says they don't, not even close.  Stories abound in the art show world - someone gets called off the wait-list (put their by jurors) and win Best of Show (decision by judges - same thing, different name).  Or win Best of Category with no re-invite and get juried out the next year.  Or have their artwork used in advertising, but are juried out of the show.  All real happenings to real artists.  Total and complete travesties, all such examples. 

This isn't about commission-based shows.  It is about listening to the voice of the public which to me, the jury process absolutely positively 100% does not do.  A jury system that makes it hard for artists to survive becasue jurors determine their fate to such a great extent - being in or out of a show that can make a huge difference to them as an artist.  And these are true stories too:  an artist that finally gets into the Plaza, Main Street Fort Worth, Cherry Creek, Des Moines, St. Louis - to mention just a few, and do $20,00-$50,000 in sales - from one show.  Which means among other things - the public LOVES their work and that jurors kept them out for years or decades is just a bastardization of the art world.  Surely we can do better.  A

A lottery is, IMO, the only thing that will level the playing field - which is something most all of us want.  A fair chance to get in and let the public decide our fate.  If we do poorly, most of us will walk away of our own accord.  But to never have the chance?  Or find ourselves going down the path to "how do I cheat the system successfull to get into the show based on jurors likes, dislikes, whims etc. etc. etc.?"  

It has nothing to do with "making better art".  It is about Marketplace.  And the public.  

Comment by Barrie Lynn Bryant on March 5, 2018 at 4:20pm

If you've never been in Krasl, then you have no public there to be concerned with. You don't already have customers to be concerned with. All you have is a jury to pass. You have to pass the jury. You and I may never pass that jury, and it might not be that our art isn't as good as it can be, or even good enough to be there. There are other deciding factors at many shows. Price. Subject matter. You get the picture, I'm sure.

If we get into Krasl once every six times we apply to the jury, then that's about as good as getting our names drawn out of a hat once every six times we apply since that's what the odds might predict will happen with the lottery system.

We'll never be able to call the lottery a level playing field. We'll never be able to cultivate a growing customer base. We'll just be one of the lucky ones some of the time rather than one of the more skilled much of the time. Juries are necessary. They aren't there to judge whether the show's public will like the art or not. Their judgement should be based upon the aesthetics and artistic principles the artist is exporing and putting down in their medium.

Shows will probably not be able to grow with the lottery, either. They'll all be hit and miss. Quality will be all across the board. That probably won't bother me as much as having to participate in a lottery system will. I'm not one to hope I get something. I like to think I'm doing better work that exceeds the jurors expectations. That's what I strive to do. And that also translates into being that way for my buying collecting public. I do the best art I can for myself, first and foremost. The jury and the public are secondary. But I've gotta get through the jury first, and I like that system.

When I can't get into a show, I try a different approach or a different show or both. Soon after getting rejected enough, I quit sending to a show.

Most of my best shows have been smaller events in out of the way places. I still do some of the big shows since I keep hoping they'll prove to be better than the small shows.

Comment by Julia Gourley on March 5, 2018 at 7:46pm


A quick note to say that we appreciate the opportunity to see your dialogue, concerns and suggestions. 

-Julia Gourley

Krasl Art Center, Executive Director

Comment by Ron Mellott on March 6, 2018 at 7:22am

First, Julie:  thank you for commenting.  Hope you know this is nothing personal with Krasl.  Just that was associated with the initial post elsewhere.

Barry:  I just don't get your logic.  Specifically these comments, and this is nothing personal with you Barry - just the points you are trying to make.

"Shows will probably not be able to grow with the lottery, either.  They'll all be hit and miss." --- how do you not conclude it is hit-or-miss now?  And perhaps consistently hit-or-miss based on the types of jurors selected?  Your work, your art, is only being decided IMO at those shows where you get to exhibit your work.  At all the shows you do NOT get into, it isn't being decided by the public.  It is being decided by however many jurors they have - that is it - fact.  Within that small group of jurors (maybe 3-6? at most shows?) ..... probably by 1 or 2 that score you low determine your fate if you don't get in.  Though interesting side-point:  In the examples previously given where your juror scores are 7-6-5-2-1 .... which jurors were "accurate" if you believe in juror scores being at all relevant or accurate ......those scoring you a 7 or 6?  Or the ones giving your work a 2 or 1?  According to those kinds of juror scorings from "art experts" - your work is either outstanding, or it sucks.  How can it be both?  Which again, becomes the "eye of the beholder" - not an art expert.  And my point is the ONLY eye-of-the-beholder relevant to the world of "art" we dwell in is the eye of the public that wants to enrich their lives with art.  

"I like to think I'm doing better work that exceeds the jurors expectations" --- if you wish to spend your career as an artist striving towards an unidentifiable goal - have at it.  If you have applied to any show for multiple years and never made it past the jury - which I believe the vast majority of us have experienced - and have changed your worked each year to do "better" with the jurors (that may as stated by the show be DIFFERENT next year - and still not gotten in - you haven't figured it out. OR .... what makes my point .... is that the jurors as chosen by the show will have the same characteristics of how they look at art, define art, critique art, determine "consistent body of work" ... etc. etc. etc. that will produce a similar outcome.   I would say that (1) changing without an objective to shoot for is wasteful of your time and talent. Do you get comments back to in any way guide you in change?  Do shows even ASK jurors to make comments, or REQUIRE them to make comments?  So we (and the show) can learn from individual jurors what they did or did not like in the presentation or the actual art? Learn if there is any consistency among the jurors reviews?  (2) that same body of work, if it got into the show and sold marvelously, would make the point that the jurors that juried you out in a previous year didn't know squat about what the art-buying patrons want to purchase.  Again, the overall point and you are making it for me, is if you spend your time being an artist and creating art based on the objective of what will jurors like and get me into a show, and skip the part about what will the public respond to and purchase ....... what have you accomplished as an artist?  Is that really how you wish to be defined?  Expend your time, monies and energy chasing the elusive "what will get me past the jurors and that will somehow make me a "better artist"?  

"If you've never been in Krasl, then you have no public there to be concerned with" ---- that is moot and irrelevant, Barry.  In terms of the jury process being discussed in this and the other thread, it is about how the jurors are scoring work and determining our fate as artists.  The ONLY way it becomes relevant is if you or I had been in it before, been wondrously successful in selling our artwork to the Krasl patrons, and THEN got juried out for the next several years.  Your being in and selling would demonstrate - I think - you create beautiful, compelling artwork that the public enjoyed buying!  Yeah!  The fact that you were subsequently denied that opportunity by .... jurors??? .... a small group of say 3-6 critics ...... makes no sense to me, and doubt it does to the public that came and bought from you, others that would do similarly.  So you'd rather go change your work to meet what jurors wanted in upcoming years?  Really?  But this point too is somewhat off-point.  The point is:  not being in that first time to let the PUBLIC decide how much they like your work as opposed to a small group of critics (=jurors).

"We'll never be able to call the lottery a level playing field. We'll never be able to cultivate a growing customer base. We'll just be one of the lucky ones some of the time rather than one of the more skilled much of the time." --- don't get this at all, Barry.  The lottery IS a level playing field.  Within each medium, the selection of work presented to the public, after review by the show management, has an equal opportunity of getting in.  Yes, that is the ONLY way we will be able to cultivate a customer base is to get into the show at least ONCE.  Otherwise it is a dead zone to us. And the patrons never get to see our work - even once.  And how do you conclude that we'd be "lucky ones" rather than "more skilled ones"? Where does making that qualitative judgement come from?  Saying the art is "good" or "bad', "skilled" or "unskilled" is merely an opinion of an individual, devoid of what the public says.  Was it justifiable that the Impressionist Painters were reviled as "non-art" or non-conformist art in the 1800's and denied access with their artwork to the art world of France?  And the world?  Gee, sound at all like aspects of what the jury process is doing here, now?  There is no relevance of defining things as good, bad, skilled, unskilled because the public will buy what they want, without those labels attached.  You may think someone's $4000 original painting sucks, but it takes one person to walk into the show and say "I LOVE that!" and buy it to make your observation totally wrong and irrelevant.  This isn't an esoteric exercise - it is about providing art to people that want it.  Period.  No judges, no jurors required.

"If we get into Krasl once every six times we apply to the jury, then that's about as good as getting our names drawn out of a hat once every six times we apply since that's what the odds might predict will happen with the lottery system." .... these statistics you come up with are purely made up, Barry.  And should that be true - many of us would LOVE, DEARLY LOVE to get into the top shows once every six year.  If you understood the artist community better, you'd know there are artists out there, damn good artists, that have been waiting 10-20 years to get juried into certain shows.  Never yet made it.  Why?  Not a lack of quality  Jurors.  Simply, jurors.


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