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Conversation with Jerry Gilmore
juror for 2011 Columbus
who has also juried Cherry Creek and St Louis

Columbus open jury review

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Refreshing your art
My big thing, now that Iíve juried about ten shows and after seeing a lot of artists over the years, is the idea of refreshing. The artist needs to refresh their work. The jurors are always refreshed (change each year) and then the director has to be concerned about what theyíre doing to make the audience feel refreshed when they attend the festival. The audience doesnít want to see the same artwork or they will blow it off like theyíve seen it before and stop attending.
I know that itís hard on the artist, especially those that may deal in multiples that may be very appealing to people and have sold well over the years. But I think that as an artist, you always have to replenish or refresh your part of the bargain, so to speak.
 
Giving people a reason to attend
Giving artists the same prime spaces year after year is like the permanent collections in a museum which is usually the same work. You walk through the door and immediately think to yourself that youíve been there before. I think that is a hindrance to the art festival and to the artists. The festival is entertainment and people can stay home just as easily and watch things electronically. They donít have to go anywhere anymore, and sometimes prefer not to because of the economy. You donít want to give them reasons not to attend.
As a collector, if Iíve bought a piece from an artist and then I came back a year or two later and saw the same piece, I would be offended, even though I know itís a multiple. It would be weird to see the same thing over and over again, that you really didnít buy something unique, only a slice of the huge pie of one particular image. Itís a difficult question and something that should be taught about on a national level. How do you refresh yourself, refresh the judges, and refresh the festival.
How do you make the audience come and see something theyíve never seen before? Theyíre going to see familiar artists but I think that so they donít see the same thing, there should be a turnover every couple of years that you should have pretty much all new work. For most galleries and museums, or if you apply to a grant from a foundation, the work canít be more than two years old. So for festivals, the work probably shouldnít be older than five years. You might have some older work in your booth but you should never be able to get into a show with slides (images) that are ten years old. If youíre not making new work by then, youíre hurting your own reputation as an artist. There should be a natural progression as you keep experimenting and that also keeps you alive as an artist.
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Giving people a reason to buy - the story
I think that thereís some real quality in these festivals and I also believe that artists do like the festivals more than dealing with galleries and museums because youíre talking one on one with the person who likes your work. Even if you donít make a sale that day, you still implanted something in that persons mind about who you are as an artist. And when you see them again maybe next year, they remember you and might bring back a friend. Sometimes it takes two years to make a sale because the first year they just want to know who you are. Iíve always believed that the best thing you can do for a patron who buys one of your works is that they have a story to tell about you when that piece is on their wall. Itís a wonderful transfer of the stories from the artist to the collector and then to their friends. Then their friends may come to meet you and tell you that so and so has one of your pieces and now they want to buy something. It can be a slow process building a quality sale.
 
What Iím looking for in the jury room
Iím looking for something thatís unique to me, something that Iíve never seen before. I donít give a lot of applause to someone who I know is copying someone out of art history. There isnít a lot of time when you only have ten seconds, but I look for quality, uniqueness, and for me every time Iíve juried, I try to put a sense of humor into the final show. It could be child like, naive, or folk art. Something thatís going to put a smile on someoneís face, a fun piece to look at. Thereís lots of serious artwork out there but I also believe festivals should have something for everybody so when families attend, little kids can get excited when they turn the corner and thereís those little robots or things like that.
 
On site jurying
I look for uniqueness. Iíve seen a lot of the same artists over and over, but when we jury in person (at the festival) I want to see something in their booth that I havenít seen before. If itís the same stuff than I wonít consider them for an award. They could be the best artist in the whole festival, but for me, I want to see them replenishing their ideas and work. I want them to show me some of the new stuff that theyíve done. If Iíve seen their work before, I would love to see growth and new work to get me excited. What artists may not understand is that, at the better shows, there are a lot of judges that travel all over the country. When you see enough of the top art festivals, you may see a high percentage of the artists repeatedly, so I want to see something different. I grew up in art so Iím looking for things that really floor me. Most of the awards Iíve given out over the years when Iíve been a judge are not to the most common people you would think of in the festival. They are people who are really pushing the envelope.
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Multiples printed on canvas
There was a discussion about photographs printed on canvas. The discussion didnít sway me. I wasnít bothered by price points or what it was printed on. I was only interested in whether it was original to me or not. Canvas is a new media. David Hockney built a xerox machine and now he Xeroxes his canvases through it. Heís a major artist and he did this a long time ago. Heíll paint a painting and make twenty images on it because heíll Xerox it.

 
Prices in the jury room
I donít care what things cost. Thatís up to the artist. If you price your work too high, youíre going to find that out when you get to the festival and people may say ďgreat work, but we canít afford it.Ē Youíll learn that lesson. But you shouldnít be taught that lesson by someone whoís saying that you canít sell $5,000 pieces. Maybe you could, but you only have to sell one or two of them. I feel that idea of judging a piece of artwork on what it cost is wrong, because there are pieces of artwork on cardboard that are going to disintegrate but people are still buying them for hundreds of thousands of dollars. I donít believe that as a juror, I should be putting any cost on anything. Itís whatís in front of me. Do I like it? Is it a fine piece of artwork? Do I think it has merit? Value is not my concern.
 
There's a lot of great art out there
There are a lot of artists that deal in the avant-garde in the festivals. For maybe 20% of the artists, if you took them out of the festivals and isolated their work in a museum or major gallery, they would just pop. Sometimes the booths are so crowded you canít see the good from the trees.
 
Jerry Gilmore has juried Cherry Creek twice, St Louis, Milwaukee Lakefront, Columbus, Vail, Telluride and Crested Butte twice. He received his BA in Fiber and Painting from Western Washington University and his MFA in Painting and Drawing from Washington State University. Gilmore has served as the director/curator at Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities in Colorado, and prior to that was the executive director/curator at the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art. He is currently an independent curator, visual artist and writer.
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