Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Entering shows: to do or not to do? Looking for power!

electricfieldsElectric Fields 

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!


Sandy said...

How would I improve shows if I had the Power?
Put you at the head of organising them.

:) Sandy in the UK

Nina Marie said...

I know this sounds silly - because I do understand the costs of putting on a show - buttttt - I really hate that you still have to pay an entry fee even if you are rejected. I mean, I think that at least some of the fee should be refunded. Most jurors are looking at a digital presentation and sometimes for just a few seconds. How much could that costs? Why should I help fund the show if you are just going to say my work isn't worthy to be in it. You know I don't mind the rejection notices barely at all (notice the word barely LOL) - its knowing that I just blew some house money on something that isn't beneficial to me that fries me.

Deb Lacativa said...

Not silly at all, Nina-Marie. I'm sure a lot of artists agree with you on this point. Everyone's income is down and every penny gambled has to be hard considered. How the money is spent needs rethinking.

I'm always surprised about the amount of cash awards for the winners. I would rather win just enough to recoup my expenses including shipping and maybe room & board if I choose to attend the show, a vigorous PR effort on the part of the organizers including a solo show someplace, a nice print catalog, and an equally well PR'ed website featuring ALL the quilts that were accepted.

Mary Beth Frezon said...

Usually jurors are paid (and we should want them to be paid) so there are up front costs involved. I understand the desire to get back fees if not selected but I also know the costs of printing, web hosting, jurors etc.

I do think that entry plus 2xshipping is getting prohibitive. I had a moment with myself the other day where I realized I'd be shipping 4 quilts in a month. I think the budget won't allow more than that lol.

Paying for shipping at least one way would be helpful.

Kristin L said...

I've resigned myself to the expense of entering: entry fee, shipping there, often shipping back -- it all adds up to hundreds of dollars for me -- exponentially as the work gets larger or on stretchers. So...... I focus on shows that are either local, or have catalogs and a wide audience. I'm doubtful that I'll recoup any of the money I've spent entering shows via prize money, so I want *exposure*. I want the venue to bring in the kinds of people who will share my work via their publications, or who will actually purchase my work. If I could change anything, that's it.

Patty Ashworth said...

Not every show has sent back a catalog and judges comments, which are very important to me. I have slowed down entries because of costs that you have expressed, but also what judges have said in their comments. I have decided to enter the quilts I had fun making and enjoy rather than worry about "winning". So I enter 2 or 3 shows a year now instead of 6 to 10. It got too confusing on the coming and going of hte quilts and all the paper work involved. Now that entries want cd's and digital pictures.... I'm really stepping back. You need a secretary and photographer to keep up. That's not why I'm in this!

nandas said...

i don't have enough experience to know what to do or what not to do... i learned a lot just by reading this. but... what i would really like to know is what you think about how a show should be entered. i tend to think that professional appearance is important. and i have seen quite a bit of non professional presentations to shows. so what are your thoughts on how to approach presenting your work to be judged... realizing that there are the digital entries and the physical entries.

Anonymous said...

I made myself a rule- only enter shows that produce a catalog, pay for the invitations and opening night, pamper me...

If I'm not getting paid for my time
(making the quilts, bringing them to the exhibit)
I shouldn't be paying for exhibiting....

After all- without our quilts- there would no exhibit...
so let them support us artists and earn less...

Anonymous said...

I would like to see exhibitons that are just that, exhibitions. Skip the jurors, catalogues, and prizes, make the entry fee low, and allow entries to be for sale. Shipping is outrageous these days.