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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 .................................. ?

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Comment by Joseph Murray on March 15, 2018 at 8:36pm

     Well said Ron !    No need for me to elaborate at all .   You are expressing what a lot of artists think but many are afraid to express . Sad to say but true . They do not want to be blackballed by shows .   Democracy is supposed to work in America--sadly, it does not with the present jurist systems at many art shows .   

Comment by Judy Christian on March 15, 2018 at 6:19pm

All good points.

I believe that as long as artists are being juried for shows by those in academics, then the art selected will be what the academics wish to base their reputation. Repeating myself. 

I attended school in the 70's in Washington State, which is where Chuck Close is from. We studied art theory, along with conceptual art. My professor for this class was big on art that was huge in size, such as the large sculptures at the time, and Chuck Close. He told us that Close took a year and went to New York City to live, went to the bars and drank, mixed with the other artists, searching for the next "big" thing. This teacher like to see limits pushed, anything completely unusual and rule breaking. Just art, nothing to do with the public or sales. I only use this as an example, because we don't know what the jurors like/want.  But they probably think more like my ex professor, than us!

If a show wishes to work with the artists who need to make sales, then we need different types of jurors.  Someone who has run a successful gallery that represents several artists would be a good start.  Stores do it, they have buyers, that know their customers and what their customers are looking for. 

I think many of the current jurors are on the lookout for something new, something they have not seen and hoping it may be the next Chuck Close. Someone out of school with about 2-3 years of producing their art, with big new ideas and a minimum amount of skill would probably trump another long standing artist.   Just thoughts.

Comment by Ron Mellott on March 15, 2018 at 3:15pm

My belief is none that matters.  If we are judged by those who come to events to purchase art and don't succeed in a variety of venues, near but many far from home, good shows and not-so-good shows, then we can accept a realization that maybe we are not as good as we think and either need to improve, or move on.  With the current jury process, I think it is difficult to come to that conclusion.  Yes, as Barry pointed out, small venues if they are OUR clientele base, can be very rewarding as he says: low cost of involvement and high returns on sales.  Problem is many will not be and that is the big gamble.  And how long before we saturate our market?  

In the concept of a "fair and level playing field" - IMO it just isn't with the jury process as is.  If art shows care that their patrons find art not that is judged good by others, but deemed good by THEM, to spend their money on, I think many shows are failing to various degrees at that.  And if promoters care about artists then they cannot turn a blind eye to this.  Dogma and tradition are rarely good traits.

I would pose this too as a possible example.  If you took ll the work out of any art museum or art gallery and put it in tents on the streets, would it all sell to the public in that community?  Any community?  Since some level of judgement has been passed on it by "art experts" has it not been judged - whatever wording you choose - "worthy", "good", "excellent", "compelling" etc. etc. etc.?  But if it does not sell ........ ?  It is simply a visual experience.

There are places like art museum where I believe salability should not be an issue.  It is about seeing, discovering, exploring artistic creations in all different media by different people with different sensibilities.  But not for sale.  Not that much of it ever would.  Not everything we create will ever sell, will it?

That is not what art shows are about for the most part - if any part.  It is about us, as the creators of the works, connecting with the public in a given community, hoping what inspired us to create will inspire them to purchase and enjoy in their homes and lives. The show is tasked, IMO, with bringing us together.  Jurors do not facilitate that for the most part because I know so many good creators of work that are denied access to shows because of jurors and their biases, others that get in regularly because of jurors and their biases.  Others that are become adept at 'cheating the system' by catering to what they believe jurors want to see but often selling something different.  All that is just 100% flat out wrong.  Why is their such a reluctance to the public decide?  Let the public jury?  Let a lottery decide?  

Most shows have no idea how artists do, no idea what the public is thinking when they leave without artwork, no idea how well their jurors chose on behalf of the public.  Thus, on what basis can a conclusion be made the show worked?  Or art buyers were satisfied with the event and will return?  Or speak well of it to friends, families and associates?  What drives the scacredness of a group of jurors so deciding the fate of an event, art patrons and artists? d

A show has every right to do things however they so please.  It is their show.  Yet they at least on the surface, verbally, say they care - about patrons and artists and art.  They call their event some verbiage with the word "art" or something akin to it.  They claim they attract "art buyers".  So if nothing else, please, tell us why you think your system is good and does not need to consider change?  We're listening ..........................

Comment by Judy Christian on March 15, 2018 at 9:36am


I apologize for posting on your thread and not being very articulate. 

You are saying it so much better than me----yes, I believe that these shows are art EXHIBITIONS.

 These shows are a very expensive way for the artist to build credibility- how else are we judged as artists but by which shows we do? 

Comment by Ron Mellott on March 14, 2018 at 10:38pm

Joseph & Cheryl:  Dead on.  

The show and the jury need to serve the public for there is no "art show" without the public.  There is only 'art exhibition'.  Not what we signed up for.  If shows think their jurors are doing so well, just ONE YEAR, one year, collect data from the artists, every single one.  Go around in person, say it is confidential, to be used only for the show to assess their jury process.  Compare sales to jury scores.  Have a statistician look at the relationship.  100 to 1 there is none.  Which means - juror scores are not indicative of how an artist will do with the public.  So what DOES the jury accomplish that is positive relative to what is negative?  Promoter, directors - please - wade in here. 

If promoters think about it, that connection potentially opens so many doors.  People walking around with art?  They are happy!  They were touched, moved, and bought.  Are they not likely to return in future years?  Tell friends and work associates?  Word-of-mouth advertising.  Is that not the best?

Any potential sponsor, seeing lots of people walking around with art in their hands - will they not think: "Wow!!!"  Look at those people spending their money on art!  They have money and they are spending it!  Perhaps we should be here with our company/product/services to talk with them".  Sponsorship doors begin to open for the show.  Revenue stream (hopefully meaning booth and jury fees need not go up).

As the word gets out in the artist community - and it will - does this not induce more artists to apply?  Jury revenue stream increases, booth costs can go up as their is a valid reason to do so (not that it should, just that there is a basis for it).  The show's reputation goes up.  A growth cycle - going in the right direction.

So again, promoters, what does a jury process do that is so compelling for your event?  And in contrast to the suggestion made at the start of filling the booth spots by a lottery system - what is envisioned as the downside to that?

You are right, Cheryl.  You ask so many of the right questions.  So agree that art patrons, in lieu of a lottery system, should jury the show.  THEY have a vested interested in how it works.

Comment by Judy Christian on March 12, 2018 at 8:07pm

Good discussions-on all of these threads on this general subject.

Good, Carrie, I get all of that.

If a show uses jurors from the academic world, the show will depict that. The jurors will be certainly searching for work that falls into what they would like to personally back.

Similar to juried art exhibits done in galleries- where artists submit a few pieces of work to have juried in hopes of landing a spot for a piece or two to be shown during the exhibit. The goal for the artist is not to sell the piece, but to be in the exhibit. That's it, a line for their resume, credibility.

So now instead of a gallery exhibit, the artist takes everything and gets to exhibit at a prestigious show. 

The prestigious art shows can be good for those artists who are not doing them. These shows should be educating the public- sorry- but often at the artist's expense.

Many of the patrons who go to art shows go to the top shows, then also go to all of the other shows. Much like shoppers everywhere- go to one store and look, go to three more, eventually purchase.

I have had customers show up at my booth and tell me that they purchased from me in the past, from another show, in another town, and also in another state.

Random thoughts.

Comment by Joseph Murray on March 12, 2018 at 6:18pm

   HI Connie !   You are correct I fear .  Not many will do anything about their systems as long as the show fills up with artists and they pay their hard earned money to them . When that slows down and they can not fill up the show then the changes might occur--not too much before then .  Sad to say .  Let's hope the conversations and dialogue that has been raised continues and that some wise promoters etc get the message and make the shows more fair for all artists .  

Comment by Connie Mettler on March 12, 2018 at 12:24pm

Excellent, Carrie. Yep, it happens that way. Many landscape photographers can't get in the big shows for similar reasons as yours and there may be similar examples in other media. Not sure. But, what do you do when there is a wall in front of you? Learn, watch, keep trying, look for alternatives streams of income that will support who you are. Find a market that loves you, but most importantly you love right back. The juries and show directors are listening, but not so much as you would hope. Some shows will adapt as the result of these conversations and revisit their methods, but not many I suspect. 

Comment by Joseph Murray on March 12, 2018 at 11:27am

  Well said Carrie !    Just imagine how many more artists face the same dilemma that you and I face across America . We paint our soul and put it on whatever medium we choose and it is not good enough because it is not edgy or academically challenging .  What a shame that the public is hidden from the work they are seeking and they do not even understand why they can not find it .  I wish you well in your pursuits--never give up ~

Comment by carrie jacobson on March 12, 2018 at 8:16am

What an interesting discussion! It touches on so many points I've pondered, so many complexities I've wondered about. 

I'm a self-taught painter, and I use a palette knife, and I believe that any academic can see both of those traits from 100 yards. And most academics, I believe, dismiss my paintings on both levels. But real people love them and buy them. So what a dilemma! I get into shows, sell very well at them, and then don't get in again, for years, or ever. One of these, Stockley Gardens, is - infuriatingly - a local show to me, AND difficult to do. The last time I did it, my booth was nearly empty by the end of the show. 

I strive to grow and develop and improve. I try new things, I paint daily and work hard to sharpen and deepen my skills. "This year," I think, "this is the year that they will love my stuff, and let me in." But no. Every year seems to start with rejections from Main Street Fort Worth, Artisphere, Des Moines. Argh. 

I look at the work that does get into these shows, and in painting, my category, what I see mostly is edgy and intellectually challenging. It is new, and has academic chops that even I can see. And no matter what I do, no matter how well I paint or how hard I work, I will never make art like this. It's not how I think, and while I admire it for its daring and technical qualities, it's not work I generally love or would want to live with. Sure, I wish I did! And I wish I could make work like this - but I love my paintings, and my style. Those paintings are me on canvas, for better or worse. They are my heart and soul.

So if making art like the accepted art is what it will take for me to get into those shows, I'm pretty much screwed. Yes, there are one or two more traditional painters in these shows, and I probably will keep applying and hoping that luck - or developing talent and skill - will usher me into one of these spots. 

Meantime, I'm contemplating new approaches to make money in the shows I do get into, and am developing sales opportunities that are not the gamble that shows are. I'm working on  lines of smaller, cheaper art on a variety of surfaces, art that is different from other work I see. I'm still going after the big, bright, multi-thousand-dollar paintings that I love to make, and still applying to the big shows - but I'm going to do farmers' markets this year, as well, and paint on the sidewalk, and lead workshops and hire out for parties - do things where I know I will come away with real money. 

I love hearing ideas about how to change the jury system - but in the end, the shows are going to do what they know how to do. I see no smart or equitable way to change them, so for me, I'm working on putting as much of my future in my own hands as I possibly can. I'll keep applying to the big shows - I DO get in sometimes, and when I do, I find success, and the delight of a well-run, well-organized event. But I know that even the B-grade shows can be lucrative, if I have the right combination of pieces. 

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