In light of my recent rejection from Main Street, I would like to share my experience attending their open jury.
The jury was held on November 10th and 11th at the Norris Conference Center in downtown Fort Worth. Open Jury was on the 10th, from 9am to 5pm. Michele Beniak was at the door when I arrived at nine, greeting the artists. Jay (?), I could not understand or hear his last name, (I am partially deaf), introduced himself to everyone that came to observe, and explained the process. He really made it a point to talk about where the show came from and where it was headed, which I really liked. I think it may have been the director, Jay Downie, but again I just could not hear his last name.
So back to the setup. It was held in a fairly large room, "The Red Oak Ballroom", with five screens at the front of the room, with the five jurors sitting behind the tables that held the equipment and cords. The juror's each had a small laptop that they used to vote with. Behind the jurors and to the left were a few more tables that held a few people involved in the process. Our chairs were set behind, with at least eighty chairs. When I arrived, there were about five people in the room, I was surprised at how few people showed up. During the entire time I was there, which was until almost 3pm, there were never more than fifteen people at a time. They worked on the lighting for a bit, getting the jurors opinions on lighting,and settled on mostly dark room, with a few dim lights on the side. Lighting seemed optimal to me by the time they finished. Each juror got up and introduced themselves, and explained their medium to the artists.
Here is how the show proceeded. In the beginning, the setup was configured with the booth shoot in the middle screen, with the works on either side. Jay explained this was the first year that they were trying it that way, but the jurors did not like this configuration, so they switched it back to the first four picture of works, with the last being the booth shot. I am really glad for that, I think if the booth shot was in the middle, it really would have broken the flow, but that is my opinion. They asked us if we had any questions, and one of the artists asked about the importance of the booth shot to the jurors. The juror that spoke about this was Pam Summers, and she explained that she used it mostly for scale, and reference, and explained that when the works are projected, you really have no idea of their size, until you see the booth shot. Likewise, she said that it helped determine if the quality was present in the entire body of work. I got the impression that while it factored into her decision, it was not the ultimate dealbreaker for her unless there were discrepancies. I speculated though, on if everyone else felt that way, especially since they started with setup the booth shot in the middle.
On to the show. Each medium had an initial run-through, with about five seconds with no scoring at all. The exempted artist's slides went first. The second round began with reading the artist's statement, (100 words, supposed to describe medium, but some did not get the memo...) and then allowed five to seven seconds per artist veiwing, unless the computers froze. Unfortunately, they were plagued with issues the entire day. I am not sure what the problems were, I heard mention of intermittent internet connection, but it set them back about an hour and a half by the time lunch rolled around. Honestly, it was painful, and reminded me of how spoiled I am with lightning-fast technology. Anyway, scoring for this day was just for the K.O. punch,fifty-percent got a yes, and those people moved on to round two the next day. There was a maybe option, which Jay discouraged the jurors from using. Scoring was one to seven, with a four being knocked out.
My takeaway from this experience was this: you better have WOW factor in your work, and it better show up in your picture. Five to seven seconds is nothing! With 1,472 applications, standing out is crucial. I was surprised at the number of people with booth shots that had their name plastered in them, and people milling about. Jay said that they went through all of the pictures one by one, and actually called each and everyperson who had mistakes with the application. I guess a few got through, as indicated by some of the names in the boothshot. But, I want to ask Jay, why? Why do you call the people who don't comply and give them another shot? I think they should be thrown out for jurying altogether, it might be helpful to send an email to the person saying they were not being considered because they did not follow the rules for applying, but you still don't get back your jury fees. Bet that would only happen once to most people.
In conclusion, I was stunned at the sheer amount of quality I saw, and so was the potter next to me. I marveled at how I did not even see one example of crocheted-doll head toilet paper covers (like my great-granny had sitting on the back of her toilet at her house, I used to turn her around when I used the bathroom because I did not want her to see me go). I can also say honestly, that jury fee I spent, was on of the best thirty-five dollar investments I have ever made. This is running with the big boys, plain and simple. I do not envy those jurors one bit, and I knew the reasons why I would not make it in by the time I left.
Sorry about such a long post, I am now slinking off to the studio to make some better art. Congrats to the people that got in.