Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Juried Exhibitions: The Organizational Perspective (2 of 3)

If you are entering a juried exhibition, do you ever grumble a bit at the seemingly random requirements? Label your CD this way, title your images this way, fill out the original entry form with a black pen, mail a self-addressed stamped envelope, deliver to gallery between 5 and 6 am, etc.

Anticipating your grumblings (although I’m sure not about OVAC shows, ha), I wanted to write a bit about the practical and philosophical reasoning behind some of these rules. Usually, juried show rules have their basis in some administrative need or effort toward fairness. I can only speak to the process of OVAC exhibitions, but imagine many organizers have similar reasoning.

Assumption #2: Make process as fair as possible
Philosophical: We know that any competition has criteria. In the case of an art exhibition, these criteria have to be subjective based on the juror’s opinion about what makes good work within the context of the exhibition theme and submission pool. There is always more artwork than there is space. So, we recruit opinionated, arts-educated people to select what they consider the best work. No committee members or OVAC staff members are involved in the decision making so that the curators can look at the artwork without historical influence.

Practical: The curators always spend time with the work – looking at it and trying to understand it. We try to make the process as fair as possible, giving each artist an equal opportunity to be seen. This is why we set a limit to number of artworks entered and images of each piece. If one artist had five images of a sculpture, while another artist only two, we know one artist would be seen more by the curator than the other. Likewise, if one artist’s proposal is 700 words and another 200, the first artist gets more space to explain the project to the curator. We also spell out exactly what artists can submit. For instance, if sketches are welcome, we say so. We set maximum limits of images, words or page count and are explicit about allowable elements to even equalize what the curator sees.

The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition will offer the workshop “
Jury Duty: Entering Juried Shows & Competitions”on Thursday, December 10, 2009, 5:30-7:30pm at the Price Tower Arts Center in Bartlesville.

Caption: Momentum OKC 2009 curators Heather Ahtone & Romy Owens carefully reviewing digital submissions.

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