Bellevue, and Us vs. The Jury

[singlepic id=505 w=460 h=320 float=] Bellevue Arts Museum artsfair: It's on!

First things first: I am more thrilled than ever to announce that I made it into the Bellevue Arts Museum artsfair once again this year. And I only got in with pastels. Why so thrilled? Let's just say it's been an interesting year in jurying. And it's barely begun.

Me vs. The Jury: The Paranoia

As you might know, I was rejected from Cherry Creek again this year. I also re-applied to Art on the Square in Belleville, Illinois. I did that show last year and loved it, but alas, no joy this time around. So by the time Bellevue, my go-to show, announced jury results, I was shaking in my boots. Of course, Cherry Creek and Belleville are longshot shows---small, top-rated, highly competitive. Getting in once is no guarantee of getting in again, ever.* I've consistently juried in to Bellevue, but even so, those rejections had me worried. Did I choose the right images? Would the jurors, who appeared to be experts in fine craft more than 2D art, appreciate my pastels?

Art Fairs vs. Artists: The Dilemma

So yeah, I got lucky and made it into Bellevue. But here's the thing: not every artist did. And by "not every artist," I mean amazing, talented people who have done the show for years and count on it for a good bit of their annual income. We (artists) all find shows that work for us---our style fits the show, our work is at a level that consistently juries in, our customers show up and buy. But we can never get too comfortable. Far more artists who apply to any given show don't make it in than do. For shows like Cherry Creek, the odds are less than one in ten. For Bellevue, it's maybe three in ten. We can't just "do the show" that provides our best income each year. We submit our four best pieces of artwork, cross our fingers and wait. And hope.

From the show's perspective, it's necessary. Look at it this way: have you visited a favorite show and seen the same artists year after year? I know I have. It makes me crazy, never seeing anything new. If nothing ever changes, customers get bored and the show dies a slow death. To keep things fresh, shows have to bring in new faces. But each show has a finite number of spots, so for every new artist, there's a veteran artist sitting at home. In the big picture, both the shows and the artists benefit from change. But this is our livelihood---what artist wants to be the one sacrificed?

The Economy vs. Artists: It's Not Helping

Just to add a little extra challenge to the art fair life, enter our awesome economy! Don't get me wrong, people are still buying art. I'm pleasantly surprised by how much. But there's definitely less to go around. One result is galleries failing in great numbers. So what happens to all those fantastic career artists who lose their galleries? Many turn to art fairs. We need our best shows more than ever, and the jury odds just got steeper.

Artists vs. Ourselves: Fix it!

On the other hand, what if we artists do get into our favorite shows year after year after year? If it ain't broke, why fix it, right? (If I find a specific style of work or set of jury images that gets me into shows, I'm afraid to do anything else.) If the unnatural selection of the jury process leaves us comfortably in place, where's our incentive to grow and change? Aside, I suppose, from the gradual decline in sales that might come from stagnation---and that is way too easy to blame on other factors. So with that in mind, I've decided to take this uncertainty as a challenge to keep things fresh, do my best work and stay in the game. Meanwhile, I've got about five more jury results coming down in the next several weeks. Fingers crossed!

 

*and let's face it, shooting off my mouth here and on various forums may not exactly be giving me that winning edge...