How to Exhibit Your Art Locally, and Enter Juried Shows and Competitions

By Yolanda Fernandez-Shebeko in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

So you’ve been creating art for a while now. . . what’s next?

That question may sound silly and simple, but for artists in all stages of development, it really is the next subject you’ll find yourself thinking about.

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The truth is, many artists don’t earn a living wage from their work. Selling a piece of art remains a cause for celebration, not a routine occurrence. So, if you are producing art that you are happy with, what should you do with it?

(That’s assuming you don’t want to rent a self storage unit, wrap them up as presents, arrange them all on shelves at home, or have an artistic bonfire!)

Why not start the process of exhibiting your art?

Certainly, with the advent of the internet, social media, and online art galleries, it has never been easier for any artist to show their work globally.

But you may feel that going from the studio (or your kitchen table) to your keyboard isn’t much of an artistic journey. If that’s the case, start where I did:

Find a local non-profit art center

For me, a way forward came about when I became involved with a not-for-profit art gallery—first as a volunteer, then as an artist. Meeting other like minded people is a wonderful boost no matter where you are in your journey, and there is no home substitute that can compete with looking at a piece of art actually hanging in front of you.

Even if you’re very set in your technique and satisfied with your subject matter, engaging other artists in the hows and whys of their own practice will either open up your eyes to something new, or confirm in your heart what you’re already doing.

Many small towns and counties have art centers or galleries like this that offer a place to meet, take a workshop, or just get involved with the local art scene. It’s a very easy way to slowly put yourself, and your artwork, out into the world.

And if you do get involved with an art center, finding other like minded artists may result in generating a little heat and interest for a group show or a themed exhibit you can be part of.

Submit your art to juried shows and competitions

Submitting your work to competitive exhibitions is another way forward.

Entrythingy, Chicago Artists Resource, and CaFE are just a few of the free sites listing out timely information on upcoming shows and competitions, both nationally and within specific geographic areas.

In most cases, the actual entry will cost you. Standard fees are $30-50 dollars for three pieces and this fee is non refundable.

If one of your works is chosen for the exhibit, you will also have shipping costs (probably there and back again) as well. But participating in a show is almost always worth it.

Entering is always simple. The obvious details will be right in front of you: how to apply, the deadline, the venue, and the date for the opening.

But because of the entry fee, most of us will not be applying to everything out there, so you will have to pick and choose. Be sure to do a little research on your own for the most important factors. I recommend asking these 5 questions:

Does your art qualify?

Double check to make sure your work is the correct size, media, etc. Many competitive juried exhibitions are themed, but not all. You’ll always find opportunities that only require a certain size and media.

Is your art a good fit for the exhibit?

Take a long look at any currently featured artwork and past exhibitions. No, the art you see doesn’t have to exactly “match” your own output, but if you find yourself viewing a whole lot of flowers in jars, or Picasso-like portraits, make a judgement call whether or not your art will be appreciated alongside the work they typically choose.

Is it a high-quality venue?

How many juried shows do they have on an annual basis? How long have they been around?

Some very new shows will be titled with their age, i.e., “Second Annual. . . ” When you see a new show like that, I would recommend checking out all the images and links to last year’s accepted entries. You can find out who applied, where they are in their “career” or skill level, and decide if you would have wished to join them in a show.

Does it ONLY hold competitions, year round?

Check to see if the venue puts on curated shows of local or regional artists, or if they only hold competitions year round. I have been to some shows where, unfortunately, the only attendees were the participating artists themselves who had traveled some distance to get there!

When you consider the entry fees, shipping costs, travel, etc, you might not find this such a worthwhile experience.

Who is the juror?

This is the detail I have found to be the most important and the most rewarding—who will judge you? Who is the juror?

If the juror is an artist, familiarize yourself with their work. What artistic elements, if any, might your work share? Do you have any obvious aims in common?

If the juror is from a gallery, what type of art do they show? Again, showing your work will probably not result in an immediate sale, so what’s in this for you?

If you submit your work to a show with a juror whom you admire, and you do get in, you will find yourself with a good answer in hand and heart. It will mean something to you as well as for your art.

If you are one of the many who will be rejected for a show, there is no reason to despair. If you are near enough to attend the opening, go see the work and meet the artists and the juror if present.

If you cannot attend, check out the finalists online. It will sometimes be very clear why your own piece was not accepted! At other times, you can easily make the assumption that your work could have been chosen just as well, and you will want to try again.

Don’t forget! Double-check everything before submitting

As with any online submission, I cannot stress enough how important it is to double-check the requirements for file size, proper image descriptions, and labels. Do it first, and then again, just before you hit submit.

The last thing you want is to be rejected for a show due to an error in your submission!

Special thanks to Yolanda Fernandez-Shebeko for sharing this post! To learn more about her or her art, please visit www.yfernandez.com.

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