Assessing juried exhibition opportunities, Part 1

How do you know when a juried exhibition opportunity is too good to pass up or is something that you should let pass you by?

You have to ask a lot of questions without allowing yourself to be intimidated by the person presenting the opportunity. Empower yourself by finding answers.

Hanna Phelps, Digging to Australia. Oil on board, 6 x 8 inches. ©The Artist

Hanna Phelps, Digging to Australia. Oil on board, 6 x 8 inches. ©The Artist

Ask yourself

  • What do I expect to gain from being accepted into this exhibition? Note that your answer isn’t necessarily monetary. It might be as simple as “experience.” Or it could be that you want to be noticed by a particular juror.
  • What is the best possible outcome? What is acceptable? And what is the worst possible outcome? Which one is easiest to live with and will it get me closer to my goals?
  • Is there a “hole” in my résumé that might be filled by this exhibituib? A “hole” might be a venue, an organization, or a geographical area—such as showing in another city, state or region?
  • Do I have the work needed to enter this exhibition or will it be tied up with other commitments? If you need to create work especially for this exhibit, is that what you should be doing right now? Or should your efforts be focused elsewhere?
  • Does my work fit in with the curator’s or juror’s aesthetic or guidelines for the show? Most curators and jurors have far-reaching aesthetics when it comes to juried shows. They are more inclusive than they would be if they selected an exhibit from scratch. You can’t always tell what they’ll choose for a juried exhibit, but you can ask yourself if this is someone you’d like to put your art in front of. In other words: Do you respect their opinions?
  • How much of my time will it take to enter? How much of my time will it take if my work is accepted?
  • What are the fees? Can I afford the entry fee as well as the framing, crating, shipping, and travel? Is it within my budget?
  • Have I outgrown this exhibition? Am I better established than most of the others who will enter?
  • Would my time and money be better spent if devoted to another opportunity, even if I have to make up such an opportunity?

In Part 2 I give you some questions to ask others when contemplating your participation in a juried exhibition.

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13 comments to Assessing juried exhibition opportunities, Part 1

  • Juried shows are great for artists who want to demonstrate their commitment and professionalism after they’re out of school. I recommend them to everyone to fill out one’s resume. After you’ve been accepted into a half dozen of them though, one starts to get diminishing returns for getting still more acceptances. It may be time to start putting more energy into getting into commercial art galleries, or getting non-profit art spaces to hold solo exhibitions of your work.

    There is another way to look at this question- I’ve juried a number of regional art museum shows and confess the best of the work that is submitted can be very good indeed- the equal of what one sees in NYC, LA or Chicago galleries. If the venue is respectable, hanging alongside really good work by others can boost one’s morale. Sometimes that alone is a reason to enter a show. Your art work sitting isolated in the back of your studio for years doesn’t do anybody much good.

  • Great article! Having been juried into some of the biggest in my local area and nationally, I have to say that I look at shows now as a way to build my client list (even when they don’t buy), my class lists and expand my network. It’s hardly ever financial anymore. That said, I’ve cut down to two shows a year, carefully selected (unless a show presents itself somewhere I want a good reason to go visit! =])

  • D M

    I have always been under the impression that entering juried shows was a good way to build up ones resume and indicate that as an artist you were serious about your work. Unfortunately the last juried show that I entered and was accepted into was a few years ago so this presents a gap in my resume .I have decided that the best way around that issue was to create the best work that I can create and let it speak for itself. If in presenting my work to a gallery for consideration I ask what is more important a long list of juried shows or the quality of the work? Then again being accepted into some of the bigger named shows is always good to show on a resume.
    I did enter a few shows over the past few years but mostly I ended up collecting the prospectus. One problem is that since most juried shows are now digital that adds for me another expense on top of the expenses that are present.I figure that within the next few years nearly every show will be digital and the those shows allowing a choice between slides or digital will be very very few . So now I am going to have to learn digital photography , how it ties into the computer and buy the equipment. It is all a part of creating art and being an artist There are so many artists and works being entered that the chances of being chosen are low . It really does not matter whether it a national or regional show . I have noticed that over the past few years the sheer volume of work being sent in for consideration is staggering. There are also so many factors that an artist has no control over. As an example one may submit a really fine painting but if 150 artists enter and the juror has to choose out of 700 slides and digital images a limited number of paintings because of the size of the exhibition space -well one can see where this will end up. I may be disappointed but I never take it personally if I am rejected. For next year there are at least 3 shows that I am considering entering. Thinking ahead does give me a goal and helps to get the creative juices flowing.
    When I started to paint so many years ago the fees and other expenses were less money. Today taking into consideration the fees , framing & shipping if needed it does add up. Even with all that taken into consideration and the number of participants involved I think that artists should not give up on entering juried shows. My advice is to choose those shows that will be a good fit for your work, budget if possible ahead of time for the costs and enter. Even if it ends up being only one show at least an artist is working on building up their resume & one action does lead to another.

  • I started entering local and regional juried shows 3 years ago, with 50% success. They’re good resume builders and at the beginning it was thrilling just to be accepted. In the last year or so I made a decision that my goal should be getting awards, not just participating. Happy to say I’ve just got my first best sculpture award at a local show. Will it translate into sales, better opportunities? Who knows. I’m hoping that with steadily taking part in these juried shows I get more exposure and name recognition.

  • [...] Part 1 on this topic, I went over the questions you should ask of yourself when considering a juried [...]

  • Alyson, your timing is great, as usual.

    I am currently working on a series of paintings intended for a my first solo gallery show in March. It is also national juried show season and there are a couple of show I would very much like to have my work in. Acceptance into one in particular, the OPA National, would get me one national show away from earning an OPA Artist designation. Since I am still an emerging artist in need of public awareness of my work and that designation could lend to the credibility of my work in certain, important circles.

    The problem is that painting works specifically for a juried show steals valuable time from producing work for my gallery show. And, of course, there is no guarantee of getting into the juried shows.

    So a choice must be made. Right now believe that the gallery show is the more important of the two opportunities. A successful show, especially in this weak economy, would probably open more doors than would acceptance, or even awards, in a juried show. Plus, this is my first solo show and I truly owe it the gallery and myself to show my best work.

    I, too, would love to hear more opinions of other artists.

  • D M

    This is my response to Michael Lynn Adams reply. I agree that the gallery show is very important BUT so is the OPA show. Heres why- The OPA designation is an important credential to add to your resume. The OPA exhibition is one of those juried shows that if you are accepted into it will add some heft to your resume. I am not knocking regional shows that extend across a geographical region. Looking at the OPA website there are several well known artists. Your acceptance into this group as a full member will put you in some good company. If you were not just one show away from potential acceptance I would suggest that you let it go this time . My suggestion would be to work on the smallest sized canvas allowed for the OPA show
    Remember the size isn’t important unless it is under or above the requirements. It is the quality of the work that counts . Another suggestion would be to keep on working for your gallery show and put one of the pieces aside for entering into the OPA. Do not throw away the potential. chance to be accepted into this prestigious and respected organization. If this painting is accepted into the OPA exhibition you could produce a full color photo frame it & put on display at your exhibition letting people know that this painting was the one that made you a member of a well known and prestigious art organization. It will help reinforce that your are a professional artist in every sense of the word. I doubt that the gallery will have any problems with this idea. In fact I would bet that if that painting were to be sent to your gallery after the OPA exhibition it would sell in a New York minute. I also think that the painting could sold based on the photograph alone.. Adding OPA after your name will be an added boost. You are to be congratulated on being this close to being a member. You were up against probably many many entries. Do not think that producing works for juried shows steals time because in this case it doesn’t steal time. To think that this steals time is looking at this opportunity as a negative not a positive. Your gallery exhibition and the OPA go hand in hand.
    This is just one painting-one painting thats all. Go for it and if you are accepted imagine how it will look at your opening to see after your signature the designation OPA. You made it 75% of the way home. Sure its a gamble but like the lottery you have to be in it to win it. Good luck and much success.

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