19 Jan 2011

Call for Artists – How to Write Them Up

Posted by Moshe Mikanovsky

This article was published on FineArtViews blog on January 13, 2011

Call for Artists – How to Write Them Up

by Moshe Mikanovsky

This article  is by Moshe Mikanovsky, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  An emerging artist searching his way in the art world, he loves to share what he learns.  With over 20 years of technology experience, Moshe combines his technological background and his passion for the arts with the goal of “working his dream”.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.
Since emerging out there with my artwork, I have been on the lookout for as many art exhibition opportunities that I could find. I got quite consumed with searching for Call for Artists, understanding all their requirements, making sure I have suitable artwork for the shows’ themes, preparing all the information as requested by the organizers, and most importantly, remembering to send the application on time! I have missed many applications that I meant to submit, solely because of not organizing my time properly. I developed a small system that helps me with this now, but it’s a topic for a whole different post.

What I wanted to share with you today is how I found myself jumping over the fence, and instead of reading a Call for Artists, I actually made one – an experience that helped me understand better what is actually involved in organizing an art exhibition. This understanding, in turn, will help me get my future submissions in better order. Or at least, I hope it will.

The story goes like this. An artist from Israel contacted the Israeli Artists Group of Toronto, in which I’ve been a member for a bit more than a year now. She suggested that we will do a joint art show, with a group of Israeli Artists that she will jury and bring over to Toronto. So far so good. We saw the opportunity (remember I talked about opportunities from your local art groups? That’s a great example) and decided to try it out. Our job was to find a local venue for the show and to arrange for 15-20 local artists to participate in the show. Easy enough? Not really!

The main problem we faced was to find a suitable location. We wanted a central place, with good access to as many people as possible, not exuberantly expensive – so we will be able to cover the costs, and available in a reasonable time frame. Everything we found was either in the wrong location, booked out for a year or two, or overly expensive. In the end, we were able to secure a beautiful social hall of the oldest temple in Toronto (150 years!), in the heart of one of the finest Jewish neighborhoods. We felt lucky for this break.

But then, discussing the show’s costs, our counterparts in Israel decided to bail out of the project due to excessive traveling costs and underfunding. My partner and I didn’t want to lose our momentum, so we decided – let’s take the risk and try to get this exhibition on its feet anyway!

That is the background story. Now comes the part where I had to come up with a Call for Artists. I took all the examples of calls I had and my partner sent me many examples from shows she has been participating in. You can call it an information overload, but I had to get as many examples as I could, to make sure we were not missing anything.

I divided it into three parts:

Exhibition Background – This section included the show’s concept, information about us – the show’s organizers, a short bio of our juror, the venue, location and timing of the show, and lastly, the prize we were able to arrange for the winner of the Juror’s Choice Award (which we are very proud of and excited about!). This section of the call is laying the basics of the show and hopefully, entices prospective artists to be interested in participating.

Rules – There are many rules for submitting and participating in any show. This sometimes looks like a legal-lingo document, which most of us artists hate to read! But it is a legal document, therefore very important to read carefully, and on the other side of the coin, to write properly. There are always unclear statements, questions and issues. I tried to get my wording and structure as simple as possible, yet covering as much as possible, so there won’t be any issues later on.  This section includes:

1.  Important Dates of the entire process, from submission deadline to post show collection of the art.

2.  Conditions of entry – who can participate? Is it geographically limited? Which medium can be used? Any other limitations such as age, groups etc (in our case the niche is Israeli and Jewish artists).

3.  Artwork size – what can fit into our venue? Measuring all the walls and figuring out how many pieces can be installed properly and professionally was an important step in deciding upon the size.

4.  Fees – what fees are required from the submitting artists? Are there separate fees for submission to cover jury fees? How can we, the organizers, handle the fees, and therefore how should the artists submit them? Is there a fee for participating in the show to cover some of the expenses? Or are there any grants allotted to the show so no additional fees required?

5.  Images – what format do we accept the images in? File format, size, resolution and delivery method are all important, as well as clarity of the image and identifying what is what. Can the artists submit multiple images? Do we need an image only for the jury process or also for publications?

6.  Display – what display requirements are needed from the artists? Do they impact acceptance to the show or not?

7.  Insurance – is the venue insured for temporary artwork? Can we absorb the insurance cost or do we ask the artists to insure their artwork if they wish? I have seen all of the above options in other art exhibits and couldn’t ascertain any one rule for that.

8.  Shipping – making sure the artists are aware of any shipping costs. Usually this is a cost that the artists will pay.

9.  Sales – how are sales handled? Are there any commissions taken? What happens to artwork that is not sold?

10.  Selected work – making the jury decision final, as well as conditional to proper submission of the artwork represented by the images. Here we have to make sure the artists represent their original art properly through the application, and if not, it will not be used. The norm here is that fees are not returned, as it is the responsibility of the artist to represent the artwork properly and professionally during the entire process.

11.  Exhibition Agreement – some verbiage of commitment from the artist to participate in the show. Quite standard.

Entry Form – the actual form. Here I tried to make the form as simple as possible for the artists to fill and submit, including a checklist, submission addresses and contact information for any inquires.

Coordinating all the details and making sure I crossed all my T’s and dotted all my I’s took the bulk of the time, but I believe that an appealing document goes quite far, so I invested some time in the layout and graphic design of my document (I like using PowerPoint and then saving it as PDF). After several reviews and approvals by everyone involved, including the venue and the juror, we were ready to go!

Next, I created a website, uploaded the Call for Entry, created Facebook and Twitter accounts, and used my Newsletter distribution list to submit emails to all  my artist friends who I thought might be interested in the call, or know someone who might be interested. But again, this could be a topic for another post, right?

You can see the final result on our website at http://ILartTO.com/call-for-artists/ This is the web version, which is quite simple. The PDF version, showing the full graphic layout and the above division clearly in 3 pages, can be downloaded where it says Download Entry Form.

Have you ever crossed that line and created a Call for Artists for an art exhibition? Tell us your experience and what you learned from it as an artist. Any things to be careful about? Nightmarish experiences are welcome too! We can all learn from bad experiences and know what not to do…


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  • Launching ILartTO and first Call for Artists
  • Blog for Your Artists’ Group
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