The Jury is In

[singlepic id=115 w=460 h=320 float=] It's that time of year when those of us who prefer art fairs as our sales venue must begin applying for our jobs. Most art fairs out there are juried. All the fairs I do are. This means that in order to participate, artists must typically submit 4-5 images of their work, plus a photo of their display (tent, walls, etc. set up with a sampling of their work). Most shows require that artists submit separate entries for each medium--pastels, oils, etc. And, each entry typically costs from $10 to $50. I can't think of too many other professions where business owners have to pay repeatedly to apply for their job. Well, I actually can't think of any, but I'm sure they are out there. But there are advantages to this system for artists. The better-juried a show is, the better its reputation becomes, and ultimately the more art buyers it attracts. This is essential to those of us who cannot price our work in the impulse-buy range. Also, the jury process not only guarantees (usually) a certain quality level, it also (generally) ensures a balanced show. So if you are a jeweler, you won't have to compete with fifty other jewelers but only one or two painters. Obviously none of this helps if you do not get in to a show, but for those who make the cut, there are benefits. So, I try to think of jury fees as a form of union dues.

Jurying is always nerve-wracking, if a little exciting. Did I pick the killer set of images? Will I get to go to this show or that show? This leads to a lot of second-guessing and obsessive mail checking on notification days. While nothing will probably ever change that aspect of jurying, there have been improvements in the jury system in the last few years. Depending who you ask, anyway. When I started jurying into shows there was one method of entry: slides. I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork, label slides according to the shows' instructions (every show was different), hope I didn't forget anything, stuff it all into an envelope and send it off. Then in a few months I would check the mailbox every fifteen minutes until all my results were back. 2-D artists had the additional bonus of having to tape off their slides. This means getting your slide film back from your photographer in strips and taping up to the edge of the art image with light-blocking mylar tape. All without scratching the film or taping any cat hairs to the slide, which is way easier said than done. If you could get the tape applied nice and straight, then you put the slide into a slide frame, again keeping it straight, and scratch- and hair-free. Then repeat: one set of 4 or 5 images for every show application. I cannot stress how much of a pain this is. There simply aren't words.

Now much of the jurying is done online through various services. Artists create a profile where they fill out all their personal information, artist statement, etc. ONCE. Then they upload images of their artwork and add descriptions, and that's it. It's a bit of work at the outset, but then an artist can apply to any show that uses that online system with minimal effort. I love it--no tape, no cat hairs, nothing to forget to put into the envelope (you can't submit an incomplete application online). It takes about five minutes. The service is free to artists, although its cost to the shows is probably covered by jury fees. There are drawbacks to this system too. Many artists feel that the ease of finding and applying to shows creates extremely high competition. Shows complain that artists apply to shows too quickly without considering their feasibility, then the shows end up with a high number of cancellations. But overall, I am thrilled with the new system. I think a lot of this over-applying will subside after the system becomes the norm. People will get over their initial excitement and get real about where they apply. And meanwhile, no more taping, no more ordering one slide for each image for each show. Although I still check my email every fifteen minutes on results day. 

To my artist friends out there, good luck!