When Do You Stop Entering Juried Shows?

In response to  Don’t Fall For It, a post I wrote in November, an anonymous commenter wrote this:

"I don't need to enter every little

juried show to build my resumé."

Touché, Anon. You have reached a new level in your career.

Juried shows are resumé builders, a good way for emerging artists to become part of a defacto art community, whether that community be physical and regional, or geographically diverse but bound by concept or medium. But at a certain point—a tipping point, let’s think of it—you want to see your exhibition experience evolve into opportunities in which you are invited to participate. These invitations may come from the directors of non-profit or academic galleries, or from peers who organize thematic shows in those venues. They might even come from opportunities you have created for yourself. Eventually you will be invited to show in a commercial gallery; summer shows, for instance, are a good way for galleries to try out new artists and ideas. As your resumé grows with these invitational opportunities, you may become more fully involved with a commercial gallery, eventually represented by it, and then become part of the exhibition rotation.

No more juried shows.

Indeed, most dealers looking at an artist's resumé want to see that evolution. "When I see a string of juried shows on a mid-career artists's resume, I have to ask, 'Where's the progression?" says a dealer I know.

There still may be times when you decide to enter one anyway.
But there has to be a good reason. Be choosy.
.  Is it for a volume of contemporary art? A publication like New American Paintings is a good reason for even experienced artists to submit to the rigors of jurying
. Is it because there’s a juror (a museum curator or dealer) you really, really want to see your work and then meet at the opening? This is often the inducement for the summer co-op shows in New York City and other large cities. The downside: They're not likely to remember the work if they don't select it
. Will there be a full catalog? That's a plus if you're looking to build your bibliography. If it's a show with a history of producing good catalogs, even a mid-career artist who doesn't normally enter shows anymore might consider it
. Is it part of a larger event, such as a conference? Participating in a juried show gives you an opportunity to have your work viewed by your peers and to experience an event more fully. Go for it! 
. Does it support an organization you're involved with? This is often the case for art centers, co-op galleries or other non-profits, which benefit from the entry fee. But be selective. Just as you're supporting the art center, you want that support to be reciprocal.
Over to You
If you're still entering and exhibiting in juried shows:
. What do you get out of them?
. Has acceptance into a juried show been a conduit for anything beyond the show?
. Have you sold work, been reviewed, or been invited to another opportunity as a result of a particular juried show?
. Did having a well-known juror result in anything beyond the specific show, such as an ongoing conversation or invitaton or other "next step" advances?

If you no longer enter juried shows:
. What made you decide to stop?
. Did the increasingly steep entry fees affect your decision?
. What are the circumstances under which you would still enter a juried show?
. Would you enter a relevant juried show if there were no entry fee?

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beebe said...

I stopped entering juried showed because of the cost--the fee, and if accepted, the artist usually has to eat framing and shipping to and from the venue. It gets pretty expensive to add a single line to your resume.

Susan Roux said...

I stopped entering local juried shows a long time ago. Cost was certainly a factor. It seemed ridiculous to me to pay to possibly have my art on the wall when there were other opportunities to have my art up for free. Lots of local businesses will hang art, or be easily convinced to do so. Plus your art will be up for much longer than most juried exhibitions. As for my resume, I was already in galleries so trying to build it was not my goal at the time.

Anonymous said...

I agree that juried shows are a good resume builder. But if you find that you are getting pulled from your chosen path of creation in order to fulfill a "theme" or to stop your studio momentum to repurpose your work, well, it's time then to stop.
And I"m happy to say that I'm there. I will be very selective if and when I do find myself tempted, it will likely be because I'm interested in the juror seeing my work.

Nancy Natale said...

I'm happy to say that I have moved on from entering these things. Many juried shows are cattle calls where too many artists each show one work. If you don't need the line on your resume, what's the point? Your work gets lost in the crowd and the fee you pay just goes to support the venue. The only kind that I think are worth it are those that offer the prize of a solo show to the juror's selection of "best" or that say they will select several works each from a smaller number of artists.

Unknown said...

I probably need to enter juried shows, but I don't, because of the expense. How can I make exhibition opportunities for myself?

b. gardner said...

This is a great discussion! Thanks.

I have an additional question; how does one build a resume without a certain amount of juried exhibitions?
I agree with your sentiment that there should be a progression into more selective juried exhibitions (in my own studio practice this has transpired into being more selective with jurors, venues, catalogues, etc) and that eventually you should work towards commercial galleries.

I may be in a particular subset of artists as I am in academia in a small, private, liberal arts university in the midwest. It is strongly encouraged for me to have 5 - 6 juried exhibitions every year because it is seen by my colleagues as the equivalent of peer-reviewed articles. While at first I was a bit dismayed (not just because of the work load, but also because I didn't believe this to align with my professional goals of being represented by a commercial gallery), but I understand where they are coming from and have worked hard to establish this exhibition record while still pursuing commercial galleries and developing my studio work.

I really enjoy your blog, Joanne--thanks again and cheers.

Joanne Mattera said...

Nyela and b.gardner: Marketing Mondays is full of information about creating opportunities for yourself. There are three years' worth of posts. Check out the sidebar of this blog for 2009, 2010, and 2011 posts, each live linked.

David A. Clark said...

Joanne, I'm going to have to start wrapping my head in tinfoil because it appears that you have been reading my thoughts. I was in quite few juried shows last year. I chose them for the venue or the juror or the catalog. I'm glad I did them. It was great experience and a good validation, but it was a lot of work and very expensive to frame and pack and ship work all over the country. That money might have served me better being put back into my business with supplies and flat files. I agree with Lynette that when you start getting pulled from your chosen path it's time to stop. This year I plan not to enter very many shows.I'm putting that money into my business and my work. I'm already booked into a number of venues, and none of those opportunities came from juried shows. They all came from networking, showing my work at the International Encaustic Conference and dumb luck.

Bernard Klevickas said...

Good question Joanne.
I've been wrestling with that one a bit lately. I thought I was done with applying to juried shows but some recent ones were at museums I was interested in. For me it is a case by case basis and certain details lean it towards either the "go for it" or the "nope" category and in most cases I don't.

if the show happens at a museum then I lean more towards yes. Big museums in big cities tend not to do juried shows, but smaller rural museums or museums focused on certain types of work sometimes do. It also does not necessarily have to be an art museum, in some cases a Natural History or Science museum can put on interesting contemporary shows.

If it is an interesting concept for the show, or in a locale I have not exhibited previously, or if a stipend is offered for shipping work; those factor into the decision. With some of my recent work I use recycled plastic to make wall-reliefs, these do not need framing and they are very lightweight so shipping is not expensive, and though I would regret losing the piece in shipping it is an object I could remake without enormous effort.

If the juror is an artist perhaps this artist is represented by a gallery I am interested in showing my work to? It's a longshot, but it weighs into my decision.

I find that reviews of big juried shows are rare, and when they do happen the reviews may be very general about the mood of the show and not name any specific artists, though the chance of the local press choosing specific pieces for photos in an article can happen.

There are times when a juror does not show up at the reception, if your art is in the show and the juror does show up I recommend introducing yourself to her/him. I regret that I did not recently.

Sometime ago on something of an inspirational whim I mailed a piece to an artmail show. It was included in three exhibitions in Italy including an Art Center in Venice and inspired my series of Mail Art editions. It opened up a new path for my art to go through. said...

This is a very timely discussion for me too because this is the year that I have decided to not apply for juried shows. Just because I am thinking "enough already" .Do I need these? Do I need another award? I am coming to the conclusion that I will apply only if there is a particular juror that I would like to get my work in front of....and it's not about being picked. At this point it's only about having the work seen.

Donna Dodson said...

This is a great question that I've heard many artist debate. I no longer enter pay-to-play juried shows and I have taken that one step further in that I will not pay-to-play in an application process. I think professional memberships in art associations are a different thing, and I've been lucky enough to work with commercial galleries. I think spending money on advertising, postcards, photography is better than trolling for the random opportunity in the form of juried shows. I used to enter juried shows and at the time it helped me gain a national reputation by being able to exhibit my work across the country. But I really think it's all about networking...

Anonymous said...

The one thing I have learned over the last few years in entering juried shows the Judges favor paintings over sculpture and all the winners have a MFA. The Museum juried shows localy were I live all had winners from the Main university in town. good ole boy system.

Ann Knickerbocker said...

I feel that I have been very lucky this year -- my work was accepted at two juried shows. I liked the other work (prints in one case and mixed media in the other) in the show, very much, and felt I was in good company. I think I would like to encourage good artists out there to keep entering juried shows -- keep the quality of the work high and the opportunity and the joy out there for all of us.

Mary Vaneecke said...

I recently started showing in galleries in solo and small group exhibitions. Most of my work in 2011 was committed to those venues, and I necessarily submitted to far fewer juried shows. I do look at who juries a show and submit to those who I want to see my work...BTW, Joanne, I have seen your work at Conrad Wilde here in Tucson. Beautiful!

Anonymous said...

What invites?

In 1998, I stopped entering juried shows because, although I was getting into every show I entered, the shows didn't seem to be advancing my art career. I started applying for solo shows at those venues that offered them, joined a co-op gallery and a fewq other artist organizations. This kept my work exhibited until 2007, when through a contact, I landed a gallery.

With this gallery, I have had 4 solo shows and been included in at least 8 group shows, The gallery has published 3 books on my work (with a 4th on the way in 2012) and has promoted my work through it's mailing/e-mail list of over 2,000 curators and museums. I have been on televisin about 8 times and every solo show is reviewed/covered in the local press.

I have to date never been invited to participate in anything ouside of my gallery. I am satisfied with the results of my gallery, but being recognized enough to be asked to participate in something would be a sign that someone is paying attention.

Michelle Arnold Paine said...

I think what you posted is great -- there are some juried show opportunities which might make sense because of the juror, organization, catalog, etc. On the other hand, there are some national commercial juried shows that have 10,000 entries... in which case I can't consider the juror to be making particularly observant or thoughtful decisions (through no fault of their own)...

Wen said...

These are all excellent points. Shows can be like springs. You need more when your work is new but just a necessary as your work matures and changes. That is if your work matures and changes. As you reach your signature style, work may be sought after and invited. But some shows are really good and spring your work ahead. Not bad for an entry fee.

Anonymous said...

I have stopped entering juried shows for now . I have been painting for a long time and always though that such venues were an excellent way to build up a resume.
I do list past juried shows on my resume under group shows.
I stopped because of the costs -entrance fee & shipping. There is one show in the Mid West that I thought of entering. Unfortunately the entry fee is steep. I assume the shipping would also be expensive especially for a large painting. I also need to learn digital photography. When slides were the dominate calling card I had a photo lab that would shoot slides at a reasonable rate but that day has long passed.
The local art clubs have shows which are OK but
participation does not do all that much for an artist seeking gallery representation. The big name shows such as the AWS are the ones to try . It seems that a gallery would consider acceptance into those venues as having more weight. I am going to concentrate on taking my art to the next level & master digital photography of my work. Then I will budget for at least one of those big name shows every now & then.
I would venture a guess that everything
considered it is the quality of the art & the fact if it fits into the gallery that matters in the end. If an artist has a list of juried shows especially the big names and the art does not hit the gallery owner it will probably not make much of a difference.


Meltemi. said...

Put simply my art sells. My buyers like it. I like their comments...QED.

So why would I need to pay for a committee to cast doubts on my art & me?

I am an artist what more could I wish for? Those boring 'Artists' resumes with all those trivial dates and trivial results...does any art buyer ever read them?

Virginia Giordano said...

Appreciate all the comments, I have run the gamut here. I applied to juried shows to build a resume and also at times enjoyed that the themes prompted new thinking and art. I'm now moving away from juried shows - in part the expense and also finding more interesting ways to show. Groups shows with friends in galleries, and I joined a Museum which offers members 3 non-juried shows a year and a couple of juried opportunities. Either way more prestigious for exposure and resume building.

Anonymous said...

some feedback on these comments: some seem like they are very full of themselves and their work, or, like they are dog shit and their work is the stuff you smell repulsively from a distance. Neither of these self-assessments are probably completely true, but for some of these folks, they need a thorough reality check! seriously, if the top 200 dealers or curators in the world are not actively pursuing the work, you can probably, safely enter any show that looks cool, for whatever reason you want to invent. after all, doing some little regional show won't stop anyone from seeing the work for what it is, not what the maker might think it could be. SNARKY, THE CURATOR FROM PODUNK, ART DEALER EXTRAORDINAIRE

Joanne Mattera said...

So, Snarky, couldn't you have delivered your message either a) less snarkily, or snarkily but under your own name?

I don't care that artists are full of themselves. We often have to be to make it through the long haul. If they have found a way to make a career with or without juried shows, fine. If a resume is not important to them, so be it.

What interests me is the discussion here: who's still entering juried shows and why; who's not and why; how they're selecting shows to enter. Bernard, for instance, has raised a number of interesting points and contributed to the discussion.

The top 200 art world professional--and that roster changes daily--are looking at a tiny number of the artists in the world. I agree with you on that. But tone makes all the difference.

Victoria Webb said...

Great post! I've entered quite a few juried shows in the past and some were curated/juried by top people in the field. I was as you say, building my resumé.

Some were juried by writers whom I either knew or whose work I respected.
Other shows just seem to have no real theme or flow and I end up being disappointed not only by the juror's choices, but by the show as a whole.

I think that some of the best are curated by other artists at the top of their game. I participated in a gem of a show a few years ago, curated by Sam Gilliam at the lovely Woodmere Museum in Philly. The turnout was huge, the opening a lot of fun and I got a chance to chat with one of the elder venerable painters in the area, Edward Loper, who was 93 at the time. If I hadn't entered the show, that serendipitous moment would have been lost.

It's worth researching the juror before making a decision about entering a group show.
Having judged my share of broadcast design work, I suspect that jurors for these shows can show preference to a particular style of work, just as gallerists do, or sometimes they may simply get tired of seeing the same thing.

But I'd have to disagree that anyone juries their pals in or accepts a work simply because the artist has an MFA. Most jurors never see a bio or cv, they only view jpegs on a disk.

As for ending participation, I'm with Bernard. Some of the shows are really worth doing, like the smaller museum regional exhibits. Some are fun, if they're local and fellow artists will be there.
I did one invitational not too long ago in NYC that was crammed to the hilt with work, but I had a chance to reunite with artists I'd spent time with on a residency.
And like him, if the show is curated/juried by an artist whose gallery I'm interested in, then it makes good sense to enter.

Lastly, reviews are often difficult, but there is always the chance that one's work gets singled out. That can a big positive for an artist building their career. And after all, aren't we always building?

Ted Larsen said...

I recently decided to apply to a curated, juried exhibition at a non-profit art center in Albuquerque, 516 Arts ( Peter Frank was the juror and curator for this event. He has an interesting eye and I was curious if he would include the work. He did! 516 Arts is producing a full color catalogue of the exhibition along with artist biographies and an essay by Mr. Frank. Moreover, the administrative staff at 516 are using my piece on the cover!

Joanne Mattera said...

Thank you all for commenting.

I think as many of you said, you have pretty much stopped entering juried shows *except* for a situation that works for you. It's always the exceptions that can make a difference. So select carefully.

. As Lynette, Nancy and David note, they may enter, but they will choose carefully

. Bernard Klevickas and Victoria Webb have laid out the options and possibilities quite nicely.

. And as Ted Larsen notes, sometimes entering a show can have wonderful ramifications. Ted didn't tell you this, but I will: He's a widely exhibited artist whose work is regularly seen at the international art fairs. So if he still enters a well-chosen venue occasionally,that's a good message for all of us to hear.

. One of the Anonymi asks, "What invites?" Anon: You have created such good opportunities for yourself that you are now represented by a gallery. Let your gallery work with critics and curators to get to those invitations. But even if they're not forthcoming, you are in a position that many artists would envy. Enjoy your achievement!

Thanks again, everyone, for your great comments.

Anonymous said...

Artists should never pay to enter juried shows or competitions. Patrons should give money to artists (with no string or questions attached) and give artists the red carpet treatment. Artists should not have to lift a finger or invest their own time, energy, or money in their career.
- Alice R. Travesty

Anonymous said...

It all depends on where you are at any given time in your journey. For me, I am just starting out and haven't won a prize yet in any recognized pastel show that I have entered. I have also never been published on the cover of an art magazine or book. Until I do, I will keep submitting. After I reach these goals (and I wll) I will bark up another tree.
The point of all of this is---nobody else can tell you if it is worth it or not. At the end of the day, only you can know what's best for you.

Al Denyer said...

Being more selective as your career progresses is great advice, also to go for International juried shows adds a nice resume line. If a juried show is asking for an entry fee, it's good to do your 'homework' and check out what they are providing for that fee, i.e if a show is charging $40 entry fee, yet does not provide insurance for works while in the gallery, or will not be handing out awards, or creating any publicity materials, the red flags go up. If the fee is being used to help fundraise for a non profit, that is different and of course your choice if you decide to add your support.

Bill & Connie said...

I have been painting for many years. Sadly, I have done zero self-promotion due to insecurity? Friends are thrilled to get my work and I have donated some to charities and done a few commissioned works. I guess I just love to paint, but I am not a salesman or comfortable self-promoting. I am thinking of entering my first juried show at a national's an uncomfortable thing for me, but helpful to see the responses here. My daughter created a small Web site I have gotten some good feedback from it. But I notice that the images all look the same size. It's hard to get a feel for the actual piece. Lol..I guess I need to post pictures of each piece in a setting.

Unknown said...

I've never ever enjoyed the idea of artists competing. I've come to the conclusion I don't need that stamp of approval, asking permission and even paying others for me to enter an art competition/juried show. It's all bull crap in my opinion.

I believe Ann Rea from Artists Who Thrive has the right idea. You can be part of the art establishment or the new creative class. Have and 'art career' or an art business.

I've opted out of the idea of having a art career and opted in to having an art business. If my art sells that makes me 'good enough'.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... 1000 entries, times $35.00 for three photos is 35k, three shows a year is 105k... makes me think some are scams

Joanne Mattera said...

Anonymous: While it can certainly be expensive to enter juried shows, no one enters 1000 of them! The whole point of this kind of show is for the reasons I noted. Ideally, you move on as soon as you can.