How to Investigate an Artist Call for Entry [Infographic]

Guest blogger: Debby L. Williams

This is the second in a series for artists who are just starting to respond to Calls for Entry or who have unsuccessfully responded to Calls and want to understand how to respond more effectively. Please read the first post to understand the terminology I use.

Read!

Calls for Entry look promising at first. When you find one that piques your interest, read the details carefully. No, really. READ THEM CAREFULLY.

You need to understand the basic parameters of the contest, competition or commission. When you find one worth pursuing, use the following questions to find the answers for a successful submission.

Infographic: Artists Investigate a Call for Entry

1. Are you eligible?

Call guidelines might specify parameters from professional status to place of residency. Double-check. If necessary, contact the organization that put out the Call to verify your eligibility.

2. Is there a restriction on the number of works you can submit?

For competitions or exhibitions, you might be allowed a single entry or as many as ten or more. Think about how that works for you and the body of work that you have (or don’t have) on hand or can create.

3. Is there a fee to enter?

Is that a flat fee or a charge per number of works submitted? If there is a fee, be certain that it is a good investment for you – especially if there are other expenses, such as shipping, that you’re responsible for.

4. How does the calendar fit with your present commitments?

What are delivery and pick-up dates? What is the deadline to submit a response? Is that a postmark or received-by date? Do you respond electronically, by regular post, or by delivering your work?

If the entry is by mail, you have to build sufficient time into your schedule – preferably getting your submission there at least a few days in advance. If you are relying on the Internet or an electronic means of submission, allow for the possibility of technical difficulties. It happens!

5. Are there awards or commissions?

Obviously, awards are good whether they are monetary or honorary, but they aren’t the sole reason for entering. You can still benefit from participating in a contest or competition without receiving an award or commission by gaining exposure and experience. Whatever the case, know what to expect from the project.

6. If your accepted artwork would be included in an exhibition, is it required to be for sale?

Be certain you understand the details of any sales (e.g. commissions).

If you are submitting a response for a commission, there are many other considerations that must be weighed for such a long-term commitment. Time, budget and logistics are just the starting point.

7. If it is a juried show, does the Call or website tell you who the juror is?

Is a qualified art person judging your artwork? Not everyone on a committee needs to be an art professional, but hopefully at least one arts professional is included.

Sometimes organizations don’t know specifically who the jurors are, but they should tell you how they are selected. I’d rethink paying an entrance fee to any organization that can’t or won’t tell you who the juror is.

8. Are the insurance provisions acceptable?

It is common for you to be responsible for insuring your work covered while it is in your possession and being delivered. However, when you leave your artwork with an organization, generally it is they who would be responsible for keeping it safe, free from damage, and insured.

9. Are there any special terms and/or conditions?

Carefully read and make sure you understand the terms and can live with them. For example, does the organization have the right to use your artwork on posters, T-shirts, or note cards? It sure would be a shock to see images of your art mass-produced without your consent! Oh, right, you gave your consent by agreeing to the terms. Oops.

The above questions will help you sort through the fine print in a Call for Entry. Once you know the answers, you can get down to the nitty-gritty of preparing a response.

Coming Up

The most common Call for Entry asks for:

•    Cover letter
•    Résumé
•    Artist statement
•    Approximately 10 images of your work on a CD or uploaded to a submission site
•    Annotated list identifying the images

I’ll go over these items in future posts.

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 is a master cake decorator. Seriously. And she seriously likes the word seriously. Debby is my partner for the Art Biz Lift Off workshop in Lewes, Delaware on April 28-29, 2012.

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9 comments to How to Investigate an Artist Call for Entry [Infographic]

  • 1)don’t be redundant when applying- check out other artist’s statements to see what gets repeated over & over again…Then don’t do it…Tell them you are a master cake decorator, that is enough to get them going…Short, sweet, unique & to the point…
    2)Let them buy the work up front with a 50 per cent discount…If they want it on consignment then tell them they only get a 1/3 off discount on the work…That’ll make them think twice & maybe they will buy something up front instead of stalling…
    3)Are you a better artist than the jurors? If so, then why are you submitting? You need a bigger pond…Aim higher…
    4)If the venue is unsafe you will get robbed…Don’t rely on insurance…Use your spidey senses- if it feels unsafe it probably is…Fire hazards are worth a look at too if people there smoke…Make sure your work is somehow locked to the pedestal or wall if you think a walk by steal could happen…Better safe than sorry…Insurance won’t cover unsafe venues anyway…
    5)Sometimes you get turned down but they still use your images…Sad but true, happens all the time…After getting turned down, you might still want to watch the people you submitted to-in case greeting cards of your submission images turn up in a store…(true story, happened to a friend of mine)…
    6)Question for Debby: Can you use a baggie to squeeze out icing to put on a cake or must you buy the special icing squeezer? (people want to know)…

    • Debby Williams

      Sari, I appreciate your observations and just know that I haven’t ever tried to use a baggie for a pastry bag. I love my cake decorating tools (they are actually cake decorating toys to me!).

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  • susannpc

    These are all important points to consider, but most important is the jury process and the juror. I want my work to be juried by owners or curators of galleries, collections and museums. I stay away from any exhibits juried by educators. Besides the show becoming a vehicle for the educator’s previous students, it is also a source for new slide show photos for the classroom.
    Who will view the show? Your peers, students and people seeking free wine and cheese? Or serious collectors?

  • I’m thinking cash bars are more honest…One venue sold beer too! That was neat! No plastic glasses, instead you could buy a beer at the venue with cash & just drink out of the bottle! So much more sanitary…(file under:reasons to show with a gallery that does a cash bar)…Also, the quality of the alcohol was better because it wasn’t free…So tired of cheap lukewarm wine…I got an important politician at a educator type venue though…Not a money blessing, but I needed some power to get change where my models (The Trumpeter swans) live…

  • Just to say, here in the UK I don’t know of a single juried competition that insures the work – it’s the artist’s responsibility to have exhibition insurance (through organisations like SAA who offer it very reasonably).

    Otherwise, great list! I work for an open competition here in London (in fact, two now fall under the umbrella company organisers) and it always surprises me how unaware artists are of the information printed in the agreement they sign and return.

    • Debby Williams

      Tina,
      I know some organizations or venues that provide insurance but the real issue is that artists need to ask the proper questions and be educated, know what to expect in any project that they participate in.

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  • [...] you respond to a call for entries or apply for a residency or grant, do you quickly jot off a few words for a cover letter or just [...]