Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
I am posting three separate discussions on the issue of jurors and jurying at shows. Please, do not write or respond on this particular discussion – it is intended only as the intro to the other three discussions. This came about – besides the years of being an artist and previous good discussion on this site as recently as a few years ago – as a result of two comments made by artists responding to a post by a great friend of mine, Rich Fulwiler, in his blog “Total Disconnect”. Most recently by Mark Turner’s post bringing attention to this subject.
In Rich Fulwiler’s original post, one comment from Thomas Felsted was “… jurors are soooo overly qualified elitist a who curate art to a level of snobbishness that is disconnected with the buying public.” The second comment was from Barrie Lynn Bryant who wrote “I think that judges are usually quite qualified and only sometimes a little less than qualified.” Defines a breadth of opinions about jurors.
The issues being raised by these postings are related to jurors and the jury process. Each aspect has qualities that need to be thought about and discussed separately – hence the separate discussions, even though they interrelate at some point. Because far too often each aspect goes awry – it is through their unholy union that we as artists, and art patrons suffer as the failing parts combine to make a failing system.
In my opinion:
There is no single point at which our fate as artists, and those of art patrons, are more consequentially affected than through this single point of the jury process.
These topics would be somewhere in the realm of ludicrous-stupid-insane-ridiculous-hideous-mildly entertaining from an outsiders perspective versed in business as in “.. so THAT’s how they do BUSINESS???? Art shows are a business after all. Since we are intimately involved in the landscape of art shows, the impact “jurors” have on our lives as artists is staggering and no, not funny or amusing. Definitely stupid, ludicrous, insane and ridiculous. An absent from the entire process in most all cases is the voice of the public that comes to shows and buy art – patrons. Even more stupid, ludicrous, insane and ridiculous.
There also is the frustrating aspect that we as artists, shows, and jurors throw concepts around without ever stopping to define them as if we believed everyone defines something as we do – critical error. We do not. Defining what you are speaking about and relating to is crucial to understanding what you are talking or thinking about. For example, what is a “good juror”? What is a “consistent body of work”? What is a “good jury slide”? Why does a set of slides get you juried into 3 shows and not accepted into 8 others? Or in your first year of applying and out the next four years? Or four jurors think your work is stunning (i.e., highest scores possible) and one juror thinks it sucks (i.e., lowest score possible). If jurors were so “knowledgable” and “expert” and “experienced” – should they not be more consistent?
The four major points about the jury process that I take serious issue with – and wish fervently that all artists did– are the following. I will ask PLEASE do not ramble on about your personal experiences (e.g., “oh I get into this show all the time and thus the jurors are good and I never get into these shows and thus those jurors are bad”). As the TV character Perry Mason used to say: “Irrelevant, incompetent and immaterial”. Think about things like when you get into a show and do poorly, did the jurors choose unwisely? When you are one of the best sellers in your category at a show and next year get juried out does that make sense? When you see a fellow artist win an award from a “judge” (aka: another iteration of a “juror”) and not sell a piece of art at the event – and you know THEY are back in the show next year because of winning the award while the person across from them who sold out may NOT because of ….. juror response, reaction, scoring next year?
The major points I wish to bring up for thought and discussion, one-by-one, are the following:
What relevance or correlation exists between juror scores and sales? It is not a moot point. Sales is the voice of the public speaking from the very people the show asked to get off their butts and put the event into their schedule, to drive to the event, to walk the event and – purchase artwork. Also the very people we, as artists, rely on for our success. If listening to those that actually BUY art isn’t critical then we are all deluding ourselves about what we do. And what business in America does not listen to what people in their ‘store’ buy? How do they expect to succeed if they don’t listen, don’t care? Art patrons are the essence of this whole exercise. If they don’t exist or come support the arts at such “art events” then we don’t survive as artists. Shows can ALWAYS find SOMEONE to give them money for that piece of pavement or grass on which to set up a tent and sell or promote something, even if buy-sell or totally unrelated to art. The “art show” component however will go away. As will we.
So, following is the first part - The Jury Process: Part 1 - What Makes a "Good Juror". Remember, it is an exercise about expressing your thoughts, ideas, perspectives on these points and listening to what others have to say - seems the essence of the learning process. Understanding viewpoints on how the system works - or doesn't - and what positive things can be done to improve our artist environment.