Alison Antelman, President of the San Francisco Metal Arts Guild and recent juror, has offered her insight as a juror at Sun Valley Museum of Art (Previously the Sun Valley Center for the Arts) in Sun Valley, Idaho. The previous post on ASK Harriete described her experience in a jury review process. In this second post by Alison, she suggests ways to improve your chances of being selected in a competitive juried environment "following obvious guidelines and structure will increase our chances of being selected."
Note: The opinions expressed by the author, Alison Antelman, in this post are hers and hers alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of ASKHarriete or Harriete Estel Berman. No endorsement or refutation is implied.
Here are a few observations from my experience that may improve your chances of being selected in a juried situation:
Booth shots matter. It surprised me how much booth shots matter. It turns out your booth gives a cohesive placement of your work. If you submit images of welded sculpture and your booth displays wood furniture, there will be questions about what you plan to show and this may cost you a spot in the show. Booth shots should match your current work--so no, you can’t reuse that old booth shot with artwork from an old collection. I recall one booth shot where the artist’s work was in question, but one look at the booth shot drew an ooooh!!!! The photographic image was gorgeous and that person got in.
Spell check your text including artist statements, descriptions, brand names of machinery, locations, and any other details that you submit. If it comes down to the wire with two award-winning artists who create similar work, the one with misspelled words gives the excuse the jury needs to make an otherwise difficult choice. Don’t simply trust your computer spell check, have a friend read your statement for errors.
On the subject of artist descriptions (in this case, it was 100 characters read aloud), some descriptions were too technical. While technical descriptions to a certain degree are important, make sure the average person with only some knowledge can understand it. For example, wheel thrown or slab built pottery, or hand-painted glaze with hand-carved details can be understood a little more easily than cone 10 or glaze numbers. Don’t bother with platitudes like, “my work is beautiful” or other flattery to one's work. Use your allotment of words to help clarify how the work was made. Descriptive sentences like, "Not manipulated in Photoshop,” or “hand-sewn from original designs/patterns,” helps indicate to the jury that the work is original, not an inkjet print or that the work is 100% your craftsmanship and not made from store-bought parts or kits.
Most of you know this already and you’ve read it again and again; pay a professional for the photographic images of your work. Professional photographers have the photo lights and set up that you don’t have. They’ve spent the money on the infrastructure to professionally light and shoot your work, and have the experience, the lenses, and the consistency. Pay them, don’t do it yourself…unless you are a professional photographer. Hire a photographer specializing in your kind of artwork and media. A sports photographer is not an art /craft photographer.
Of all the images I looked at, jewelry had the worst images on average. I saw at least 20 pairs of earrings (in one image) photographed on a towel that was possibly sitting on the hood of a car. I saw earrings where the ear hooks were hooked into a cable knit sweater. Never use textured backgrounds or wrinkly fabric. Use the entire piece in the shot, fill the frame, no partial art shots or close-ups that look cool, because the jury has no idea what they are looking at. These are not art shots, they are jury shots…keep it simple, close up, and in focus.
Applicants are always told that the image order is important. I did not feel that this played a big role in the jury process. I never heard from any juror a complaint about how image #1 should be #3 and so forth. We viewed them all at one time with 3 on top and two on the bottom. I did not feel that image order affected an entry one way or another.
For me as an artist, craft shows and their application processes are one big shoulder shrug of clicking the submit button and hoping for the best. Being on the other side of this process was insightful, educational and also made me realize that with all things being equal—don't take it personally if you are rejected, but do everything possible to be accepted.
Alison B. Antelman
FROM THE PEN OF ASK Harriete.
Thank you, Alison. BOTH of your posts have been very insightful. In addition, I want to recommend reading the TOP TEN TIPS for Getting Into a Juried Exhibition, Show, Book, or Magazine in the Professional Guidelines. The documents Exhibitions: Artist Checklist, Juried Exhibitions, and the Exhibition Contract may also help decide whether you apply to a show. Learn more about the impact of math in jury ranking with the Comparison of Jury Ranking System.
This post was updated on January 19, 2022.