Art Fair Insiders

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

Acting on a tip that I got from Larry Berman, which was posted on my last blog (, I attended the first day, elimination round of jurying for the Cherry Creek Arts Show. I know that there is antagonism among artists about the jury process in general but let-me-tell-you, attending an actual jury process is a very humbling experience.

First, they are bringing together a group of people that most likely don't know each other as they may not have met before. These individuals come from diverse backgrounds and experience. In the case of this years Cherry Creek jury there were two (of twelve) artists from last years show who had been award recipients and were therefore exempt from the jury process and were asked to be jurors. Two other jurors represented the artist/teacher category and the fifth juror is an arts collector/patron and the son of artists. It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, they come with a different mind/tool set. This was not a group comprised of "professional jurors" as has sometimes been intimated on this blog site. They were pretty "ordinary", so-to-speak, people that had been given a mission to accomplish within 20 hours. 

Next, and this was the part that made me feel humble and gave me a lot more respect for the process in general. In the case of Cherry Creek they had to view the work of almost 2000 artists; that's 4 images of work and one booth shot projected all at once for each artist. Not all of the art was projected at once but was divided into categories. The first group was graphics and print making. There were about 41 entries in this category. First, the jurors were given a quick preview of the entire group, about 3 seconds per artist. They were  instructed to score each artist from 1-7 on their computers, using the Zapp system software. One of the artists asked if a 4 was acceptable, as some shows force the jury into a high or low score, in this case for this round a 4 was okay to use. They were then shown each artist's images again for about 10 seconds each (I counted!) and scored them for the first "silent" elimination round. Terry Adams, Director Cherry Creek Arts Festival had previously instructed them that they were not looking for any particular ratio in each category only the art that demonstrated excellence as-well-as diversity in each category.

The pace was fairly brisk and Terry checked to make sure things weren't moving too fast for the jurors. With only 20 hours and that many applicants they had a long way to go! Terry instructed the jurors that they were to refer to the projected image for scoring as the monitors had low-resolution images intended for reference only, to make sure they were on the right group.

If I had to score that group it would have been a very difficult task as I thought the majority of the work demonstrated that "excellence" that Terry referred to. That's the part that earned my respect for the process! Also these were the most consistent in terms of image quality.

The next group up was glass. This group was comprised of about 65 artists and it was where the greatest diversity in the quality of images was apparent. Referring back to my experience in the mock jury (see the blog referenced above) I could see how some artists might be eliminated at this point. Take note glass artists, you might want to project those images of yours to see how they measure up! I know personally what a struggle it is to make decisions about ones own art so it might be helpful to get an objective viewpoint about the quality of the images that you choose here.

The things that stood out for me in this group of images were: The glass that was shown on a plain white background tended to get washed out even if the work was very good. Also, after sitting in the dark for a long period of time when that glaring white shows up it really hurts the eyes! Glass artists that had been professionally shot (or did so themselves) with a graduated grey or black background tended to show up better (check out sites that show the artists work to see what I mean here). As for those graduated backgrounds, personally I would make sure the images you provide all have the same color temperature! What do I mean? Not all blacks showed up as black! Some of the graduated blacks looked more on the grey side then black and when viewed as a group you have this inconsistency from image to image. Also, what about the white that shows up at the bottom, color temperature again was a factor in my viewing, some were warmer (yellow looking) and others cooler and more neutral lending an inconsistent look from image to image for the same artist. I know I'm being nit picky here but its your application, don't you think you should put your best foot forward!

Remember the discussion of booth shots? There was a lot of diversity here as well. Some were well staged whereas others made it difficult to separate the figure from the ground. At least one artist didn't have a booth shot but referenced some show they were doing with type over some random picture, oh, by-the-way, having yourself in the photo or a poster referencing your name/company is probably not a good choice for a booth shot, better to have a grouping of art then that.

They were about to move on to one of the bigger groups, over a hundred artists, but after only an hour and a half of this I was fried. Besides which I wasn't there to see the entire show juried I just wanted an experience of it.

I came back today thinking that they would have the entries narrowed down quite a bit and I'd be able to see the final elimination round but apparently things moved quicker than I expected and by the time I arrived they had already made the final cuts and were ready to show "the show" to the jurors. As can be expected I was respectfully asked to leave so that I wouldn't have what they considered confidential advance information about the show. No problem!

Based on what I saw the first day this had to be a daunting task and I have a better understanding and respect for the process then I did prior to this. Is it a perfect process? Maybe not but given the numbers they had to deal with and the time limitations inherent in the process what else can be done? Like I said, I didn't see the entire jury process and I imagine, based on what I did see, that some elimination may have been easier than others based on comparisons of image quality and of course the quality of the work itself. Again, based on the quality of the sample I saw it would have to be a difficult and challenging task for anyone. Cheers!

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Comment by Joan Pinkus on January 2, 2013 at 11:53am

A good post & thank you for sharing.

Comment by Larry Berman on December 28, 2012 at 12:06pm

Most shows that project the images have multiple rounds. The first round is usually a yes or no, or a yes no or maybe, eliminating approximately half the applications. That's why the images are so important, They have to speak for you when there is no time for words.

Larry Berman

Comment by Stephen and Bonnie Harmston on December 28, 2012 at 11:45am


With them going so quickly , do they even spend any time discussing anything? So if they are unfamiliar with a process it's just too bad I guess?

Comment by Michelle Davis Petelinz on December 27, 2012 at 11:06am

Having served on a jury for a show about 1/4 of that size, I can tell you that visual overload is a real problem.  I can't imagine having to sit and view that many images, and I applaud those who do.  I agree with Larry's comments about consistency of backgrounds, attention to detail, and staging your booth shot.  As you can see, when you're up against so many other images in the jurying process, any flaw in your presentation can be disastrous.

Comment by Larry Berman on December 24, 2012 at 6:15pm

Here's my article on the 2010 Cherry Creek open jury:

I was there for a portion of the first round.

I also took pictures during the jury.

Larry Berman

Comment by S Brian Berkun on December 24, 2012 at 6:13pm

The jury process began on Tuesday at around noon and finished around noon on Friday, we even had a snow storm in there as well!

Comment by margaret luttrell on December 24, 2012 at 6:08pm

great post- very telling-thank you

Comment by Virginia Dauth on December 24, 2012 at 6:08pm

Heavens, after I juried a small show of about 100 images and went through them 3 times to be thorough in my choices, I can't even imagine the jurors looking at all those images and giving each artist their do. I would think that this should have been done over 2 days. Eliminating the poor images and bad booth shots, It still appears that it is a crap shoot whether you get or not. Just my opinion.

Comment by S Brian Berkun on December 24, 2012 at 12:12pm

I wasn't there for the entire jury process but I know they did take breaks for stretching, snacks and such after a couple of rounds. Terry Adams would ask periodically if the pace was okay which suggests that he would have accommodated a different pace if needed. It has to be grueling!

Comment by Greg Little on December 24, 2012 at 11:24am

2000 artists work to view in 20 hours time could most certainly lead to burnout of the process.

I respect what they have to do because I have a difficult time sitting still in front of a monitor or TV for more than 20-30 minutes...much less hours on end.

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