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

I'm glad Connie thinks my two blogs about Jury Fees were notable last month.  But I'm still waiting for her answer to my direct question.

If you'll recall, Maureen Riley the Director of The Ann Arbor Original show chimed in on my blog "Jury Fee Revisited" with this statement:

"If the work is going to get into the's going to get into the show regardless of the medium it's juried under.  3D mixed media and sculpture are two other mediums where the line is very blurry.  Artists often call and ask where they should apply for better odds of getting in.  My answer is always the doesn't matter...if the work is going to be accepted, it's going to be accepted in either category."


"My intent was to assuage artist's concerns about the category designation, as I believe that it has little bearing on the outcome."

I asked Connie if she believed that, and I'm still waiting for an answer.

As yet, I haven't found anyone who believes the category you apply under has little to do with your chances of being accepted.  Several years ago some very "straight" photography circumnavigated the category rules for Cherry Creek and some other premium shows and sneaked in under "Digital".  Well I can tell you, the $--t hit the fan and they all rewrote the category definitions for the next year.

If it really doesn't matter, why the fuss?

UPDATE:  After paying him $25 and sending 4 emails, I still haven't gotten a reply from Mr. King, the director of The Des Moines Art Show.


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Comment by Mark Loeb on March 11, 2013 at 5:31pm

By indicating the correct medium, your work will be judged against similar work.  If you apply in the wrong medium you will probably still be reviewed. Some shows sort the images before the jurying and place you where they feel you fit regardless of what you said. 

If your booth shot shows that you have jewelery and you applied as anything else, that feel like a problem.   I know it's expensive to apply in two categories.  If you would consider bringing just the accepted work then two apps is appropriate.  If you would only come if both mediums are accepted, put yourself in the jewelry category and make sure your statement gives the accurate story.

Comment by Ron Mellott on January 11, 2013 at 11:29am

Ditto on that, Rich.

The success of any art show rest squarely, and albeit heavily, on the shoulders of the Directors and Promoters.  I do empathize with them on many points.  They are the Big Kahunas in this play we know as an art show.  We, the actors, have no say in almost anything, nor does those who attend and purchase art.  How many promoters know what the public is buying, which artists are selling well to their public?  So everything about the show rests with those in charge.  That is why so many shows are weakening if not failing.

What Rich is saying should not be confusing, shocking, puzzling or an "OMG" moment for a show director.  Yes, people strive to cheat the system because they want into the event to get their work in front of the public at the event. And they do so because there is case after case we learn about that artists do successfully cheat the rules and get in.  Not merely because they are creative, as all us artists tout ourselves to be - rather, they learn that the 'system' isn't paying attention and their are back doors, side doors, open windows into the event.  And even if one doesn't want to 'cheat' the system, it is simple statistical odds - you will fare better in a smaller group.  

On a side note, I remember about 8-9 years ago when I received my rejection letter from Brookside.  They said overall applications were up 8% EXCEPT in the category of photography where applications went up 59%.  So, Maureen and Connie and others who think category doesn't make a difference .... would you expect an applicant's odds of getting accepted int the photography category to have gone up or down in that scenario?  And had they applied in a category where applications only went up 8% .... do you really believe they would not have stood a better chance of getting into the show in that category?  And for the next year, would your odds not be substantially better getting into a category where applications went up mildly versus dramatically? 

The show writes rules to define what they want or expect or are willing to accept - good.  Those rules are often unclear - bad.  Directors/promoters typically do not enforce the rules they write - very bad.  And often their rules make no sense whatsoever - ugly nasty bad.  Nor do they seem to care to take the time to consult with their artist base to understand how the various mediums are constantly changing - always have, always will - and that is just unacceptable.  So as long as the system is dysfunctional why do you think artists will not do everything they can to tilt the odds in their favor?  This isn't a game - these art shows is how we make our living.

In this world we live in now, where the economy is weak, housing market stopped up, artists struggling and failing - yes - we as artists need to do all we can to strengthen and shore up what we do.  But in my opinion, that will take us only a small step in the direction we need to go.  What needs to be done to make art shows make more sense is almost completely in the lap of show promoters and directors.  NAIA is a silent and arguably an irrelevant voice as evidenced by poor attendance at their annual meetings by BOTH artists and show directors.  CAFE and PACA ... do they still exist and accomplish .... anything?  What percentage of the shows out their have anything akin to an 'artist advisory board' made up of practicing artists that make their living off of doing art shows?  Or even pick up the phone, or write an e-mail to a select group of artists they have come to know and respect and ask for their opinions on how to address issues, or learn how various art mediums are evolving?

If Directors/promoters do not pay attention, do not make their events sensible, and their palette of artwork they bring to the show palatable to their public (i.e., artwork their attendees would wish to purchase) then we have no hope as artists until those shows fail and/or others take their place.  Which is why it is easier to support new shows as they emerge in good markets amidst the cries of "too many shows" - MAYBE they will make more sense or provide opportunities otherwise denied many of us artists by existing shows and their nonsensical jury processes.  Or the directors are replaced by the communities in which the events are held as the community also has a vested interest in how these shows perform.

We should be working together to make the art show world stronger - it just isn't happening except in isolated cases.  Any why is this so?

Comment by R. C. Fulwiler on January 11, 2013 at 10:33am

I don't think you have a clue! 

Today is the deadline for Krasl.  Last year I read the prospectus and applied under "Photography".  Sara, the director. told me my score was 6.6 and the cut off was 6.8 and suggested I should have applied in "Digital", even though the prospectus clearly stated photo-montage was to apply in "Photography".  Des Moine's prospectus clearly read "all photography must apply in the photography category"  yet the director moved me to "Mixed Media". 

And you and Moreen tell me it makes no difference.  Well those are two shows I didn't get into.  I've done many of the best shows in the country, so I think I'm in the "cream rises to the top" category. If it makes no difference, why didn't I get into those two?



Comment by Lisa Foster on January 9, 2013 at 10:04pm

If this is the case, why do they even have catagories?


Comment by Connie Mettler on January 9, 2013 at 6:57pm

That is true, Geri. If all the best work is jewelry you could have a jewelry show. I know in my situation we balanced 3D and 2D and wanted a certain percentage in both.

Comment by geri a. wegner on January 9, 2013 at 3:27pm

I just don't see how this is totally possible.  Based on sheer talent alone, you could have a show that was so top heavy in one medium that others were left out completely.  

Or, your work could have a higher score than the top score in another medium but there were so many good artists in your category that you didn't make it in when a director wants a balanced show.

Comment by Connie Mettler on January 9, 2013 at 7:54am

R.C. I didn't choose your post as post of the month it was voted on by the members here, so I can't take that credit.

As to the direct question you asked my answer is from an artist's standpoint it seems hard to believe, but when I did the podcast about jurying and spoke with Mo Riley and Jerry Gilmore and we discussed this question that is what they both stated. Also, from relationships with show directors I have to say I believe that is also true, and from my own experience running juries, the good work rises to the top regardless of the category and if an application is in the wrong category it won't matter which category it is in.

In fact, a very similar question was sent in for that podcast by a member here and that was the answer received. Every show wants to have the best possible work, right?

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