Call For Entry, aka CaFÉ, is one of the biggest (if not the biggest) venues for applying for grants, art shows, exhibitions, artist residencies, etc.
As an artist, I’ve been submitting pieces and proposals for around 8 years, but over the last 2 years, I’ve also started curating shows and have gained a new perspective on the entire process. It’s definitely changed the way I submit on CaFÉ for the better, and hopefully the following tips will help you as well!
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I know everyone talks about how to take great photos of your art, but hear me out: this is one of the most important parts of your application!
Jurors and curators are limited to making decisions about your work via a digital image or two and let me just say, as a curator, the amount of images that need to be slogged through is incredible. If the image is poor quality (with distracting backgrounds, poor lighting, pixelation or blurriness), it gets the axe first.
Here’s a quick example of a poor photo on the left, versus a good photo on the right:
The better photo has been cropped so JUST the artwork shows (no distracting background). In addition, the colors are vibrant and true-to-life, and all the little details that make up the piece are crisp and sharp.
If there are multiple ways to view your work, it’s a good idea to include these as other images as well. Just make sure to label them accordingly. If you are only allowed to submit a couple of images and need to maximize your image usage, I recommend creating a collage layout of your piece to show multiple views. If your work shines from a distance, include a picture that shows it this way. . . If your piece is meant to be studied up close, then send detail shots.
In short, the more visual information you can give a juror or curator, the better they will be able to visualize the work. I also recommend including images that illustrate how a piece of art is to be displayed so a juror or curator will know if the work will fit with the equipment they have available for the show.
If you don’t want to pay a professional to take your photos, here’s a resource for photographing 2D artwork and here’s one for photographing 3D artwork. Of course, you can also do a trade with a photographer (pay them in artwork) or if your art is small enough, you might find that scanning it is easier.
Many times descriptions can feel bothersome and unnecessary. Artists will often leave this blank either because they don’t know what to say about their work, or from the desire to allow the image to speak for itself (or pure laziness—I can say that because I’ve done it too).
But leaving it blank would be a huge mistake. . . I simply never knew how important descriptions were until I starting curating.
Even a short description gives curators some much needed insight into the images submitted. Remember, they often have no other information about the work or artist. It is very common for artist names and website info to be kept out of the picture in order to make the selection un-biased. And yes, art should speak for itself, but writing a couple sentences regarding the intent of the materials, the subject matter and style will add a world of richness to the digital images that are submitted.
Many times, I would look at a particular work and cock my head. . . I knew that I liked the work, but didn’t quite “get it.” If the artist had a good description, I moved from liking the work, to understanding and respecting the work AND the artist.
When a description was weak or non-existent, it was difficult for me to guess as to the reason why. Was it laziness? An inability to communicate the purpose or intent of the work? A desire to have the work be interpreted without the interference of the artist? If it’s the latter, than simply write this in the description so I’m not thinking you didn’t care.
There are a lot of considerations when it comes to exhibitions. The physical space, the “feel” of the exhibit, congruency of the work, audience, activities during the show, surrounding exhibitions occurring at the same time, corresponding community events. . . the list goes on. These are all things that a curator has to take into consideration when selecting work. It’s not an easy job and it usually pays pretty poorly (if at all).
So keep in mind, these curators are doing the best they can with the resources and circumstance they have as well. Curators and jurors also come with a variety of experience as well as a variety of personal preferences and knowledge. I mention all this to remind artists that the people who are looking at your work are just that—people. Jurors and curators do their best to be objective regarding work, but art, by its nature, is subjective and it’s nearly impossible to separate yourself completely from the work that is being reviewed.
All this means is that there are a lot of factors at play that are not within your control.
I’ve had to reject some really amazing work from very talented artists because it simply wasn’t the right fit for the space or the audience. . . and this is heartbreaking. I hate it, because I know how it feels to get that dreaded “uninvited” email. Ugh. In many cases, the rejection had nothing to do with the artist’s competency or the quality of the work. It just wasn’t right for that particular exhibit.
Just because a work gets rejected from one or two or three shows doesn’t mean it’s bad. Obviously, if you question the strength of the work, get some good critiques and take the time to hone your skills. There is always room for improvement! But my big message today is DON’T GIVE UP. KEEP GOING.
Just as pieces sometimes take a while to find the right forever home, some pieces take a while to find the right show. Be patient and persistent, artist. You’ve got this.
Special thanks to mixed-media artist Amelia Furman for sharing this post! Visit www.ameliafurman.com/blog and join her mailing list to find out which shows she managed to get into this year!