Why should one enter shows?
And, which shows (given the increasing number and cost) should one enter? Despite the cost and the time involved I do think there are a number of very good reasons to enter and I always encourage people to do so.
1. Shows are a great way for the public to see the art that is being made by ordinary people every day. It’s very sad but common that people think that you have to be special or uniquely gifted in order to make art or understand art. And most people are really delighted with really original art, not the slick tasteless mush that they see on tv or in motels, restaurants and the like.
2. Shows are very helpful for you to evaluate your work. It often isn’t till you see your piece across a gallery, nicely lit and in conversation with other art works that you can really judge it. Frequently a piece really surprises me by looking a lot better than I thought, sometimes the opposite and I make a note to give it a swift and merciful end when it arrives back home!
3. Entering shows encourages you to make better work. You know it’s going to compete against others in the jurying process and that pushes you to do the best you can. When you’re tired and frustrated it’s all too easy to say, “oh no one will notice that awkward bit”, or “I’ve messed around enough with this corner, I’m going to call it done”. Never talk yourself out of
4. Entering shows forces you to finish work too! All artists start a great many more pieces than they finish! Life just gets in the way, or we hit a bit of solid granite when trying to dig down to the core of what we want a piece to say, the old horse baulks and the evidence is consigned to the “finish it later” bin under the cutting table ( my love of mixed metaphors is really brimming bright today!). But knowing there’s a show coming up, and you need 3 pieces (while I have heard apocryphal tales of getting into a show with just one piece, all the jurors say they can get a better sense of the work when there’s more than one example), can get you mining that FIL bin and work out the problems.
5. It’s better buzz than either champagne or pot if you get in!
Brighter at the Top
But, which shows to enter?
1. Are they looking for work like yours? Read the description of the show carefully so that you know what kind of work they want. Do they want recent work? What is the cut off date for making it? Do they request a particular size? Is there a specific theme? If you have your quilts listed on an Excel spread sheet you can easily do a data-sort on any variable. Look at past catalogues – if you can, always enter shows where the quality seems to be slightly better than where you think you are.
2. What are the costs? I no longer enter Visions because of their $75 entry fee. Show entries used to be about $25, but have been creeping up every year, I just was asked if I wanted to enter one whose fee was $40 and I’m guessing that soon all the others will be creeping upto that figure. The problem with increasing the fees is that you exclude people. Soon the only people entering will be well off, middle aged, probably of a similar cultural background, and thus the homogeneity of entries will be increased. Which is not good. Also if the entry fee includes a “membership” this is of no value if one lives too far away to reasonably participate in what the venue has to offer. This again decreases the variety of people (and thus quilts) that will enter. To the entry fee you need to add two lots of shipping: there and back, and probably some kind of insurance (whether you buy it by the piece, or for the whole year) to be able to calculate whether the entry is worth it for you.
What will you get in return for your entry fee? A worthwhile show should be able to tell you how many visitors they expect, how long the show will be up, what hours the venue will be open, what sales they generally make, whether there will be a catalogue, what prizes there will be, and how much publicity the organizers plan to get.
How I would improve shows
- if I were King – or Queen – actually I wouldn’t care what sex or no sex as long as I had the Power!
Battersea Power Station
1. I would make sure that there was always a catalogue; if a print version was too expensive, or even a CD, then I’d put the show up online – after all they have all those digital images. I would pay the person who uploaded them with a free inclusion of their work in the show.
2. I would have a scholarship fund for art school students so that they could enter inexpensively – I’d love to see just what some of those young folk would come up with. And it would encourage young people to think about fiber. If you subtracted one $500 Second or Third place prize you would have enough money for scholarship entries for a lot of students.
3. I would find ways to get more visitors – I know masses go to the Big Shows, especially on Opening Night, but after that, in most venues it gets very quiet. Get the buzz going…every community has organized groups of this that or the other, encourage a group to visit. Offer them a Special Talk. How will you pay for a special talk? with the one thing that you have available – free inclusion of one piece by that person into the show.
4. I would tell the jurors to pick the 50 or 60 (or whatever number is required) Best Quilts regardless of who made them. This rule of one per person does not speak to excellence in art but rather to everybody getting a prize in nursery school. I’m so fed up with shows/catalogues where half the pieces simply do not deserve to be in there. And I would give the jurors ample time to decide which pieces they wanted to include – this tachistoscopic flashing of images that jurors describe make no sense to me. I would also not feel that the jurors needed to agree.
Okay that’s enough of me wittering on….how would you improve shows if the Power came to you? Let us dream together! And, if you have been, thanks for reading!! Elizabeth
PS. you might want to consider entering Art Quilt Elements: online registration begins June 1st and I’m honoured to be one of the jurors!