As a creative maker, you know very well why you should show your work and enter your work into exhibitions and shows. If you’re not sure why then you’ll want to read this article about the benefits of showing your work.
But if you’re already convinced that you need to show your work, the question still remains: “how exactly do you select art shows to enter?”.
Not knowing what to do, or having too many choices in itself can become paralyzing and eventually result in inaction.
The first question you need to ask yourself is “why do I want to enter into shows?” Of course, you may know what the general reasons for entering shows are. But you need to hone in on what you personally want to achieve from showing your work.
Think about this from your personal creative goal and fashion a statement of one or two reasons you want to enter art shows and exhibitions. It’s important to start with a goal for doing this because it gives you clarity down the road.
Start with a goal that reflects where you’re at in your personal creative journey. In the future, those goals may change and that’s ok. For now, just start with where you are and what makes the most sense to you.
Your goal could be that, you want to build your resume. It could also be that you want to get your work in front of some recognized jurors. Or it could be you want to get feedback so you can improve your work.
Whatever it is, be clear about it. Think about it. Write it down. Don’t sweat about whether it’s right or wrong for now. Nothing is set in stone. This is you carving out the creative life you want to live. You can always change it later.
Your aim for entering art shows would then guide you in selecting which ones to enter.
Entering art shows is not free. There’s a cost to entering such shows (both in terms of monetary costs and logistics costs). Having a goal helps you create a set of selection criteria to narrow down which shows you want to enter, since you can’t enter them all.
When I started entering my work in shows, I entered any show I saw. But pretty soon I was no longer excited to be in a show. The excitement only came when the show had certain qualities. I didn’t realize that subconsciously I’d created a set criteria for selecting shows to enter.
Initially, it wasn’t something that I sat down and thought about. It just evolved with the level of creative satisfaction I got from having my work accepted into a show. Soon I realized I had to define this thing for myself. What do I really want when I enter my work into shows? I got clear on my goals and I began to consciously ran every call for entry I saw through this selective lens.
One day when a friend asked how I select art shows to enter, I knew exactly what to say. There was a plan to having the exhibition history that I have. Initially, I’d unconsciously gone for what I thought I wanted. But later, I purposefully formulated a plan.
I don’t enter as many shows as I used to enter when I got into art. And it doesn’t bother me now as it would have bothered me a few years ago. Your goals will also change. But being clear on them, allows you to be confident about whatever stage of your creative life you find yourself at.
Here are some of my criteria for how to select art shows to enter. Some of them may have more weight to you now than others. That’s where the characteristics of your personal creative journey come in.
Criteria for How to Select Art Shows to Enter
- Local or National Show?
Prestigious or Well-known and Established Annual or Bi-annual Show?
Who’s the Juror?
Venue: Museum, Gallery Space, Alternative Space with a lot of Foot Traffic, Academic Environment?
Great publicity or publication?
Stage in your career?
I’ve got my work in two exhibitions which will be opening later this weekend. One of them will be in the Slater Memorial Museum. I received the museum’s newsletter earlier this week. And I was pleasantly surprised to see a multi-page article about the history of quilts written by the art director in preparation for the opening of this show.
It’s the kind of article that when you read, you’ll like to go see the exhibition. That right there (great publicity), is one of my current selection criterion for how to select art shows. A few years ago, I’ll be just happy to get my work in any show but as I grow and the opportunities for showing my work become more available, I weed some shows out.
You also will have to start with a set criteria for entering shows. Because, as I’ve already stated, you can’t enter your work in them all. When you start out you’ll not be able to enter into some shows. I wasn’t. But as you grow, you will. When that happens, you’ll have to tweak your criteria for how to select art shows to suit the current stage of your creative journey.
And you’ll be happy you did this exercise because you’ll not be pulled in all directions by the numerous opportunities that will become available to you. You’ll be able to stay focused to achieve your goals.
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Also published on Medium.