How to Decide if a Call for Entry is Worth Sweating Over

Guest blogger: Debby L. Williams

Are you responding to Calls for Entry? If you’re having success with them, then good for you! If you would like to know what might be going wrong, read on.

Call for Entry is used here to include any request for artists to submit information to compete for art exhibitions, contests, or commissions (e.g. Request for Qualifications or Request for Proposals). There are differences among those types of competitions, but let’s start at the very basics: how to evaluate a Call and decide if you should respond.

Artist Calls for Entry

A pile of artist responses to an RFQ needs attention from the guest blogger.

You’ll find an overwhelming number of Calls for artists on the Internet. You can’t possibly respond to all the ones you come across – nor would you want to. So how do you decide?

Remember that as an artist your assets are your creativity and investment in time and money. This is always your first consideration. Ask yourself: “Is responding to this Call and ultimately this project worth my creative capital, time, and resources? Does it help me get to where I want to go professionally?”

To help you decide, consider these additional questions.

  • Is the work produced for the exhibition/competition relevant to your present body of work? Curators, gallery representative and buyers will most likely remember your name and associate it with a medium, subject and/or style. The work you create in response to a Call should be reasonably within those parameters so it will make sense to the public and the work will fit into your portfolio.
  • If you were chosen to participate, does being in that exhibition/creating that work of art fit with your career plan (you know, that plan that is there to keep you on track to get you where you want to go)? You must have those art and business plans in place as your map for your art career journey and the project you are considering needs to keep you on that road. Don’t be distracted by shiny things in the distance.
  • Is the scale (physical size) of the requested work appropriate for the work you are creating at this time? If you typically create miniatures, this may not be the best time to respond to a project for designing enhancements for a bridge over six lanes of traffic! It is harder to estimate your expenses and time for a project of such a different scale and the jurors may quickly dismiss your submission because of your lack of experience with such projects.
  • Does the timeline fit reasonably within the time parameters you have to work in and allow you to maintain the quality of your work? Sometimes it is easy to convince yourself that a project is doable even while knowing the delivery date is during a month that you have five other deadlines and several important personal commitments. It is important to view the time element realistically.
  • Does the amount of the commission or prize/award make it financially feasible? Have you considered all of your expenses? This is imperative! It can be very seductive to see a large prize or commission and want to immediately respond to the Call, but you have to stop and really consider the cost of the project. Think twice before being willing to sacrifice a proper artist’s fee for the art you create.

These tips for evaluating Calls for Entry are based on my experiences working with artists and writing Calls for Entries for many years. And while there are always exceptions, these are important considerations that can help you make good choices about how to use your talents, time and resources.

After you have decided to respond to that Call for Entries, then what?  Stay tuned. My next post will address that question!

About the Guest Blogger
Debby L. Williams is the Director of Oklahoma Art in Public Places. She’s been a curator, museum director, and arts administrator and loves a good (or bad) martini. Debby is my partner for new live workshops for beginning artists.

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25 comments to How to Decide if a Call for Entry is Worth Sweating Over

  • Great post! Very good points all of them. The second point is the hardest for me to adhere to – I definitely get distracted by the shiny things!

    PS: Being in Arkansas, I am following a lot of what Oklahoma is doing in the Arts, and I have to say, they are doing a great job up there. Thanks for the guest post Debby!

  • Very timely post for me as the 1st thing on my calendar today (after going to your blog of course) was to go through all the “Call for Entry” emails I got in the last few weeks. They seem to accumulate in a folder because I’m never sure what to do so I just save them. When I go back to them I usually miss the “due date” for some of them. I usually just respond to the ones close to home. Looking forward to the “Then what”?

    Thank you for this Alyson & Debbie!

    • Debby Williams

      Dora, the trick is that we don’t want you to be overwhelmed or to miss the deadlines for Calls that you want to respond to.

  • Thank you for this, I’m going to bookmark it.

    My impression has been that the rules are somehow different for artists who make jewelry, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve recently decided to head in the direction of gallery exhibitions, and this checklist will help.

  • Many calls for entry and contests include fine print that the venue owns everything submitted. Most contests are a way for companies to shop for ideas and data mine creative people at no expense, and they may legally own everything submitted. They look for great ideas, make a few changes, hire someone else to adapt the artwork. All for a prize or two.

  • At the moment I am only reading a few calls for entry because, at the moment, they don’t fit with what what’s going on in my life. Mostly, I want to see how these read – what they look like. Like Kristine above, however, I am interested in gallery exhibitions of my work though I want, for the moment, to stay as local as possible (unless the venue has insurance that will cover my work when I’m not there to stand guard over it).

    • Debby Williams

      Patricia, I think that reading a few Calls just to check what is going on, what commissions/awards are out there and what types of artwork are involved is a good idea even though it sounds like you are going in a different direction right now.

  • great points that I always consider. i have 3 competitions i am entering this year in april, that i truly believe will help boost my art career…all out of state, which i typically won’t do unless i really think it will be beneficial. if i can’t drive it there, i don’t think it’s worth the shipping and handling costs.

  • Caryl Hancock

    Great question and comments. Most of my entries involve local art fairs, not galleries or exhibitions, and those are horses of very different color! And perhaps off topic for this post. In any case, I look for indication that the shows are juried, how many vendors are they wanting, expected number of viewers, viewers charged admission, and if they say anything about buy/sell. I am finding that even juried shows often/usually include buy/sell despite their disclaimer. How do they want the submission – digital? Photos? That tells me about their level of sophistication. Entry fee worth the effort? Drive? Getting up at 4AM to set up? In my area, I could probably do a church sponsored “art/craft” fair nearly every weekend, but the kicker came from a large exposition center positioned 1/2 way between Indianapolis and Cinncinati (read rural!) that only wanted an application and not pictures. I will report on that on a later date after I walk that show!
    Thanks for a great blog!
    Caryl Hancock, Indianapolis

  • I do have a pet peeve about juried shows with fees in general. I do not like the idea of being charged a fee to have my work judged and then if rejected, I am subsidizing an event and other artists careers that have no bearing on mine. Plus often the juror will invite other artists that are not part of the jury pool to show as well. If the show is out of town and you are not able to see it is another negative. To me that is not money well spent. Plus shipping and insurance is expensive. So it ends up being quite a bit of $ spent for a line on your resume. Actors are not charged a fee to audition so why should artists be charged. It seems that many events are produced financially on the backs of artists and the audience gets to attend for free. That being said I have entered a few juried show here and there, and I know that there are some very high quality shows out there, but I think the whole system needs to change.

    • Debby Williams

      Christine, I think the key here is to read the Call carefully and if you have questions about the process, then contact the organization and ask them. They should have the information and be willing to share it with you. If they don’t know or aren’t willing to tell you, then that tells you a lot.

  • Thanks Debbie and Alyson. This is a great reminder.
    I find that when I receive a call for submissions, I feel a bit overwhelmed. I’m desperate to get my work out there and so I often end up bending over backwards to try and make my work fit – then feel like a failure when I finally decide that the exhibition/contests etc just don’t fit with my work.

  • Great Post – Thanks Debbie and Alyson! Like Dora, I tend to accumulate all those email calls for entry in a folder and on occasion, go back through them. I do also periodically go out to the sites where I tend to find the “best fit for my work” calls, and always check out the jurors. I’ll only enter juried shows in which the jurors are professional and ones that I really respect.

    I look for shows with due dates a few months ahead and then put the best ones on my calendar, that way, I have visual map of what I’d need to get done by when and ample time to get things done if I really do decide to enter. Looking forward to your next post!

  • […] appropriate for me right now, as I am listing some deadlines  for shows I would like to enter. From Alyson Stanfield’s Art Big Blog comes “Calls for Entries.” I have become very selective with the show deadlines I add to my calendar. Where possible, I […]

  • Thank you for this information. I am brand spankin new and have never entered these yet. It is overwhelming to know which would be best. What are other ways to determine how legit these exhibitions are?

  • Close to my dotage, I am considering more carefully, the urge to Show and Tell.

    The Entry Fees are getting higher, the expense of shipping sky-rocketing, and breakage and damage en route of sculptural work, increasing.

    By the time I build the usual 50% gallery commission into my price, no one would buy the work, and I certainly won’t sell my work at half price.

    It IS a dilemma. Understandably, galleries need to cover their costs, but for the artist, fees, packing, shipping, insurance, and 50% for one month of representation doesn’t seem like a Win-Win to me.

  • Caryl Hancock

    Hi, Alice,

    My dad’s favorite saying was “we get old too soon and too late smart.”
    You are hitting the nail on the head!
    Caryl

  • Hi Debby,

    Would it be possible to reprint your tips in the newsletter I put together for the local chapter of the Guild of Book Workers?

    Great post!

  • Pamela Viola

    Fantastic post! With so many opportunities out there it takes discipline to be selective. As a professional artist you must only choose what will advance your vision and career plan or risk having too little time for your creative work.

  • […] responded to Calls and want to understand how to respond more effectively. Please read the first post to understand the terminology I […]