Deep Thought Thursday: Do We Need Juried Exhibits?

(Oops–forgot to post this earlier)

Many people are complaining about fees for juried exhibitions and the politics involved in some juried exhibits. But is there an alternative?

For decades, artists have been using the juried exhibit as a stepping stone at the beginning of their careers.

Do we need them anymore?

Is there an alternative to juried exhibits?

I don't think we're talking about art festivals here, but exhibits in bricks-and-mortar venues.

What do you think?

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19 thoughts on “Deep Thought Thursday: Do We Need Juried Exhibits?”

  1. I have participated in both juried and non-juried exhibitions, but have yet to have a solo show. I like that there are exhibitions use juries to keep the theme or level of craftsmanship consistant. It’s a shame that personal and business politics have to disrupt everything, but I like having the opportunity to have my work shown alongside my peers and those artists whom I admire. I’ve received press and greater exposure through these opportunites and I think they are essential to building your reputation, at least in the craft world. I would love to hear about alternatives though.

  2. ..a very deep Thursday thought… I’m conflicted about it myself, even as I send off a print to a gallery that selected me in a “call for entries.” This is sort of prestigious, maybe, and makes me feel good, but I’ll be very surprised if it turns into a “stepping stone.” The judge, a university perfesser, was fairly paid for his time with the jury fees, I suppose, but the casino will win in the end. It seems like people who are disposed to recognize and buy contemporary fine art need a seal of approval when it comes to so-called emerging artists. Galleries pass this buck to jurors without taking any risk themselves. Meanwhile, the established and reliable get hung and sold with no questions asked. But it’s probably been that way for the last 400 years or so, too.

  3. I’m not an expert on the subject, but the question is going to be raised by people who flunk out of the process, not by the ones who are juried into things. So either they were discriminated against or their work wasn’t a good fit. I think the second issue is valid. Not sure what you can do with the 1st issue, but I’d hate to see the baby tossed out with the bath water!

  4. I don’t like them. That said, even if a show is unjuried, there’s going to be some personal judgement involved by the folks putting it on. I’ve done it both ways – my favorite of all shows to do is ArtOMatic which happens sporadically, is totally unjuried and this year was 8 floors in a new building (unfinished)…everytime I went through (and I went through a lot) I saw something different – finally figured it was based on my mood. Which is what juried shows are based on: the mood of the curator. Once went to a poetry talk where the poet, a state poet, could still receite 2 poems he did *not* jury into a chapbook, and couldn’t even tell you one word from the ones he did. Art is the same way. And yes – I bought something at ArtOMatic and sold like crazy. So hurrah for unjuried.

  5. Juried exhibitions have led to all sorts of openings I wouldn’t have had access to otherwise: a positive review in the newspaper has brought new visitors to my website and blog and awards have added credibility to my resume when applying for scholarships and mentoring programs. They definitely are subjective, no process is without bias. However, I think they can be an effective way for artists starting out to build their resume and find new business opportunities. Artists do need to be very careful, though, in choosing reputable exhibitions.

  6. I agree with much that has been said here: juried exhibitions have their place and can be of benefit to emerging (or other) artists. As long as they are not considered the final word on art quality. It’s so dependent on the juror and the type of show they envision putting together. I much prefer to use the term curator instead of juror. They are basically putting together an exhibit. Maybe if awards are given, that could be the juror. I also have a qualm about the fees. Shouldn’t the fees be paind by those accepted in and not by all those submitting? Otherwise sends me the message that the organization putting it on is just looking for $. (Well, yes they are!)

  7. I do think juried exhibits have their place. That being said, it’s never easy to BE JURIED OUT. It’s obviously much nicer when you are juried IN! As has been stated before, different shows with different jurors will have different pieces juried in for different reasons. I once had a piece juried IN to a National Show but juried out of a small local show. If you enter or otherwise participate in juried shows you learn this. HOWEVER… for a person who wants to show their work to others and who wants (relatively) unbiased reaction to their work… it seems that juried shows are the best way to go. Also… regarding money… my experience with the behind the scenes part of most shows is that the jury fees rarely help most shows cover the costs of the venues, programs and prizes.

  8. Alyson B. Stanfield

    All: Yes, everything is subjective. That’s why it’s important to know who is doing the jurying. I attended a watermedia exhibit last weekend and I thought much of the work looked alike and had a bias. It didn’t bother me because that’s what a juror does–select works he or she likes! Mike: I guess I mean “stepping stone” in the sense that it’s a résumé builder and filler. Tammy: I admit that the thought of 8 floors of unjuried art scares the youknowwhat out of me. But it’s kind of like a row of artist co-op galleries, I suppose. Peggi: Thanks for sharing your positive experience. Tracy: “Curator” and “Juror” shouldn’t be interchangeable. A curator comes up with a theme and puts together an exhibit from scratch based on the best representatives (in his or her opinion) of that theme. A juror is hired to implement the stated goals of a particular organization and work within their parameters. Interesting thought about fees being paid by only those who get in. Then, does it become a vanity exhibition?

  9. I am presently at one of the biggest of juried (and a few non-juried invitationals) in my (sort of) field — the International Quilt Festival –and I am active in my local fiber arts group that does a juried exhibit each year. This show even has prizes — up to $10,000 for the best of show. (Of course most of those that win took the artist more than a year to create, given the compulsive nature of quilts and the current fashion for thread work). When done well, politics or no, the quality of the shows can be inspiring. And the option for small local groups is really only an open call show and that scares me, too. Some people really aren’t ready for prime time. If I’d never seen what does get juried into shows like the SAQA art quilt exhibits, I probably would never have clearly seen the quality of voice, content and technique that my work needs to aspire for.

  10. Juried shows were a great way for me to start out. But some years back juried show fees at many shows rose in a short time to amounts I considered excessive. I do think of the event and the organization – and some non-profits have kept their fees within reasonable limits – but, basically, paying too much goes against my principles. It feels too much like a vanity type of situation, even when it is presented otherwise, and I avoid that.

  11. Alyson, re your comment ‘Interesting thought about fees being paid by only those who get in. Then, does it become a vanity exhibition?’, I would have to say no. To me, a vanity exhibition is when you pay to be shown. If a juried show refunds fees paid by artists whose work was not accepted, that does not make the ones who got accepted any less ‘juried in’.

  12. My only objection to juried shows is that the fees are so high and that many organizations have figured out that charging fees is good for their bottom line. I don’t object to the fee itself, just the amount some places charge. Artists then have to pay to deliver/ship the work, etc. so for the artist, it can be very expensive, especially if they are just starting out. As for the jurying process itself? I shudder to think of all the unjuried work that could and would show up out there without jurying….why….. it would look like ebay! Jurying helps weed out those not quite ready for professional showing, snobby as that sounds. Professional artists deserve the chance to have their work shown with people who are equally professional. It benefits everyone. Most communities have local associations that have open shows for those starting out. And juried shows offer opportunities for artists to aspire to better themselves! It’s not perfect but it works on a lot of levels, I think….

  13. The problem I have with juried shows (and yeas I have been accepted more than once) is cheating. I have seen multiple shows (some I was accepted, some not) where the works did not meet the criteria listed (i.e. date painted in painting is too old, painting is really a print, etc.) And these are the supposedly reputable places. Some sort the works before the juror sees them, which defeats the purpose (sort as in they decide if they like it before they send it on to the actual juror). I even volunteered at an arts organization during the accepted works delivery and was apalled that some accepted works had no documents or fees on file (the person admitted they did not pay the fee but still was allowed in), multiple other volunteers became intoxicated (the organization provided alcohol but I did not partake), works were damaged frequently due to ineptness (such as allowing an elevator door to close on one multiple times), volunteers were eating oranges and pizza and then touching the works without washing hands, the organizations regularly fail to award all the prizes they have listed, etc. Not that I think I am the best ever, but on the artists side it is bad too; dirty art, dirty mats, dead bugs behind the glass/plexiglass/acrylic, etc. Do they get rejected for bad presentation? No. Juried shows can be great; the problem is that they are typically “juried” by the same people at the organization (not the juror), and the same people make sure that if their friends don’t follow the rules it doesn’t matter. I was even at a plein air event where the juror became irritated and left because the works the juror chose were somehow not the works that were accepted and won prizes. I guess the organizers didn’t like something the juror picked, so they just changed it. The problem is widespread, too. Part of the problem is that these organizations reward the artists and the volunteers/employees who do not follow the submission/exhibition guidelines. Also, many artists I have met do not see a problem with making fun of other artist’s works. I am continually aghast and appalled by the rudeness and nstiness of these artists to those who are supposed to be fellow artists. Luckily, I tend to be viewed as the one who doesn’t converse much so I am left alone. Sometimes these people are acting so viciously towards many new artists I wish I could eject them from the shows for bad attitude. But these are the people who are typically the favorite children of the arts organizations. At least only one of the organizations crushes my CD cases before sending them back (and no its not the case, the same cases are mailed in the same manner to other organizations and are fine). Only once did they go so far as to break the CD-R itself. Anyone who does not object to the way juried shows are typically run is probably one of the rule breakers or one of the vicious artists. As I mentioned before, I hav been accepted to multiple juried shows and still find the actions of many, if not most, objectionable. Good juried shows are an exception, not a rule.

  14. Wow! I have never encountered such an experience and it is frightening that adults are so unprofessional and show no respect for their colleagues. Hopefully, Joseph’s experience is an unusual one. I have been on both sides of the fence, so to speak. I have chaired a major shows and have been rejected by the juror. That is fine with me. I feel that the juror is only doing his/her job and not being influenced by who is in the show. Also, I have juried shows with other jurors and dislike this immensely! There is way too much compromising between judges. Some end up getting awards for nebulous reasons regardless of the art. Also, by having a juried show, I think gives artists an incentive to try harder and constantly improve their work, and that is good. It also elevates the quality of the show in general and I believe the public takes note. As for the fees, they are getting out of control. If the organization needs the money (which of course the do), then they should have a fundraising committee and not depend solely on the artist entry fees. After all, that is part of the committee’s job – to seek sponsorship for awards, expenses, etc. To rely solely on the artists creates an additional financial burden. Artists have enough expenses as it is. In short, I pay attention to the number of judges, who they are, and the awards given out, and the sponsors, and weigh that against the entry fee.

  15. I have been painting for many many years. I thought that being accepted into juried shows was a great way to build up your resume. I also thought that if I had a list of juried shows on my resume that when I went to present my work to a gallery it would show them that I am not doing this as a hobby. The problem is that my last one man show at a local museum will be seven years ago this fall and the last juried show that I was accepted into was five years ago. This leaves a big gap in my resume and I thinking of what I can tell as to why this is. I am trying to find a way to say artistic slow down so that is seen as an advantage not as a negative.
    I do not know if building up your resume with juried shows is still a valid pathway. I have come to the conclusion that unless it a major show show such as the American Watercolor Society it will may not matter all that much. I understand that if I am not accepted that is not personal. What I see happening is this- there are so many paintings to be considered that even if your work is quite good that because of the overwhelming volume presented for consideration ones chances of acceptance is low. It seems that there has been an explosion of artists entering -many more artists than in the 1980’s when I began to enter juried shows. Adding up the costs, fees, shipping, framing & handling fees it becomes quite expensive. It is a catch twenty-two since at this time my monetary situation is tight. What I have decided is to send out for resumes but try for really good one or two shows per year.
    Alyson you made a good point about other possibilities besides juried exhibitions. I would suggest that an artist be careful as to where they show. A friend of mine along with several other artists once exhibited in a local restaurant . Paintings were damaged and I think one
    vanished-out of sight.If I remember correctly the restaurant wasn’t all that helpful. One should not grab the first bus that comes along but research the place. I honestly do not know how much
    insurance costs but I would think that for many artists showing in a restaurant is an at risk proposition.
    I started out showing in local libraries and the usual publicity was the local throw away shopper. I learned in retrospect that the only time that a crowd will be present is at the opening. I think then that it a good idea to have not only a reception but to offer either a demonstration or a talk about your work on another day. One could do such an event in conjunction with a closing exhibition. It is always a good idea to have some refreshments at a demo or a lecture since having food draws people to the event . From my experiences art exhibitions in local libraries are usually not must see events for most people. I also have a feeling that galleries do not consider these types of exhibits to “professional”. It is a good idea to offer something that will generate publicity for you and offer something of value to the library. The typical library exhibit does cost money to do it right. Even though attendance after the opening is light it still matters to do the details such as framing right. Your presentation speaks volume about your attitude towards your art. Also the artist should arrange to have a sign in book where it will not get lost. That can happen especially if the exhibit is displayed in a multi-purpose room. Including business cards is also a good idea .
    Even if a sale is not made you will be adding to or building a mailing list. Looking back I realized that just sending an announcement to the local shopper or paper is not nearly enough publicity.I would suggest a main branch or one where there is a lot of activities scheduled . Banks may present a problem because being corporate this may make it difficult to arrange an exhibition. Banking has changed since I began to paint back in the 1970’s and unfortunately given all the strum & dang in the financial sector I do not know if banks are still a good outlet for artists and if they even want to arrange exhibitions.
    I am planning to have another exhibition in 2011 at the same local museum where I have shown before. I learned that working on the publicity and mailing lists takes a lot more effort than a few days. In the city where I live there will an art walk this year in which I am planning to show. Hopefully this year I will be accepted into at least one juried exhibition.I also pay attention to the number of judges, who they are and other factors and weigh that against the entry fee. I send for the prospectus and even if I do not decide to enter the show it does help to generate ideas. There were a few times, not that many, in which I would enter a painting even though it was not my best work just to push myself out of a creative dry spell. The act of doing something, taking action by sending in an entry would help me to begin coming out of an artistic slump. I would set a limit as to the fee. If the costs were above $ 20.00 or maybe $25.00 I would not do this. I have not done this recently and will not do so in the future.

  16. DM: Thank you for sharing your experience here. Juried shows are good for getting your feet wet, but you can’t control how your art is seen. Juried shows look like a mishmash of unrelated objects–especially in amateur settings.

    As for the venues themselves, each one will be different. The Boulder Public Library has a GORGEOUS exhibit space and curates wonderful exhibits. Some restaurants will be much better than others. You have to be choosy when the time comes.

  17. I find it interesting that many juried shows require juried show experience or they won’t even look at your work. What are you options other than to start out at smaller, less restrictive venues. The catch 22 becomes the fact that they were so small so they don’t get counted anyway?? How do you get what you need to be able to get what you need…so to speak?

  18. I’ve worked on both sides- as a juror and with a juror.
    The jurors that I’ve worked with have all said that they do this as a give back to the artists in the community (not to get paid) and to see artists that they might not ever get a chance to look at or overlook. They’ve also said it is their duty to be out looking at new artists.
    As a juror- it’s a very difficult and complicated process on whether YOUR art is chosen or not.
    A good juror goes back after the final process is said and done and looks again.
    I think you’d be surprised at how much work is put into the process.
    Choose a good venue with a good reputation. Is the venue being written about?
    Who is the juror? What would it mean for her/him to look at your work even if it’s not immediately chosen for an exhibition?

  19. From my experience, juried art shows are nothing more than a popularity contest. If a painter submits work and the jury panel is not a fan of that particular type of work, the painting does not get selected. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the painting is, if the jury panel does not like it, tough luck. I am an abstract drip painter. I don’t paint for commercial appeal. I have been painting for over three years. Last year was the first time my painting won a ribbon. I believe the “art experts” are as closed minded as a group of people can be. Furthermore, the “art experts” wouldn’t know a quality painting if it landed on their faces and started to wiggle!

    Penelope Paige
    Satchwell Contemporary Art Studio

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