2014 Artisphere Open Jury Review
The open jury for the 2014 Artisphere art show was Saturday November 16th, 2013. Thanks to Jill Sharp for sharing the tips she learned and writing this review. It was originally posted to the Art Fair Review Facebook group which is only open to exhibiting artists.
1. It would have been nearly impossible to jury based on the initial round of viewing. Everything went by so fast! Then they’d do the second round while they read out the artist statements. That helped some, though for the actual jurors, they have had two weeks to familiarize themselves with the work; it’s not the first time they’re seeing it. Though they do not score it until jury day. This was noteworthy to me. I would personally have found it hard *not* to score things, at least in my head, ahead of time. But maybe that’s why I’m not on any juries.
2. Artist statements – in MOST cases – do not keep you from getting in. But they might just ding you a bit. Especially in the competitive areas like photography, jewelry, and ceramics, you’ll need all the help you can get.
3. Artist statements sometimes got very technical from my perspective, it seemed like they were better received when they were about the process and not the very technical details of the work. One of the best I heard all day was, “Tales told through things left behind”. There was more to that statement, but it absolutely fit the work and gave a better understanding of why the photographer shot a pair of crutches in an empty room (for example). Several statements ended up sounding like the artist was trying to sell the work to the jurors and ended up sounding a bit desperate (IMO). Also, jewelers in particular seemed to consistently state that “the work is handmade, by me, in my studio, alone, with no outside help” – a couple of those were so overwhelmingly redundant that the whole room chuckled. The feeling was like, “We get it”…I’d use the artist statement less to tell the jury you’re not a mass producer – your our photos and your designs should tell that tale for you – and more about enlightening them regarding anything that may not be obvious about your work from the photos. There were also several statements about “my BFA is from x, my MFA is from x, I’ve been (i.e. painting) for nineteen years” which seemed very ego-centric and gave no further understanding of how the work is created. I saw several groups of submissions that were interesting but not knowing the process left me a little stumped as to how to consider the work. I think it’s a fine line between sounding either desperate or pompous, and tough to strike a balance in 200 characters (or less, I know many shows only give us 100), but most of us could probably work on the artist statement a bit more.
4. Jewelers had by far the crappiest booth photos. It was kind of embarrassing! Some of those booth photos came up and I thought, “not only do they look shoddy and not-pulled-together – or too cluttered (my god, some of those booth shots looked like an episode of Hoarders) – but I wouldn’t want to shop in there at a show”. Edit, edit, edit. And along those lines, I suggest that you never, ever, ever, ever EVER shoot your booth at a show. Set it up at home or somewhere else and remove everything unnecessary (like mirrors, bins (for photographers, those bins for prints are very distracting), chairs, etc). Don’t feel like you have to shoot “the whole booth and its lovely surroundings” because that was distracting. Crop closely. Some of the BEST photographers’ booth shots had glorious lighting and looked almost like a cathedral with the light coming in from the top of their booth and illuminating their work. And the jewelry ones that stood out seemed to have good balance of clean lines and good lighting. It seems to be less about the product in the booth shots, but more about how you’re displaying it and if that manner of display suits your product photos. Things like weights in the corners, the top frame of the tent in the shot, grass underfoot, etc are all a distraction so again, set it up at home and spend the time to make it really great. And I know draped tables are EASY. But it’s really hard to make them look good in a booth shot when they look wrinkly, a little dumpy, and do nothing to upgrade the booth photo.
5. On that note, a bad booth shot probably won’t kill your chances, but again – you need all the help you can get. Artisphere puts up all five shots (four of the work and one of the booth) at once. And let me tell you, when the work is amazing and then you see the booth shot at the end that just doesn’t measure up, it’s like, “wham! wham! wham! wham! whimper”. Four powerful shots of the product and then a so-so booth shot. No one wants to end on a sad note.
6. Artisphere has both a semi-precious and a precious jewelry category. And that was enlightening. I accidentally submitted in the precious category, so I sat through both jewelry juries (which I why I was there most of the day). The jewelers in the precious category (mostly) had their sh*t together. Artist statements were smoother, photography was mostly stellar, booth shots were top-notch overall. And of course the work was mostly excellent. Semi-precious was much more of a mixed bag in all areas, and I think the work has to be really distinctive as well as technically superior to rise above the rest. Artisphere uses a 1-7 rating system, no 4’s allowed. My husband was with me and while I was looking at art, he watched the jury too – he said it looked like if the work didn’t make the cut to be marked from 5-7, most of them just gave it a 1 rating. So you’re either in or your out. But if you’re in, you need 6’s and 7’s to get the best average. You want them to score you very high.
7. After the jurying is done, the Artisphere board will figure out how many of each medium they need to make a balanced show. So say they have 20 people with high scores, but they’re only selecting 8 jewelers from the category. Otherwise they’ll have an overly heavy jewelry show. So you still might not make the cut because they’re selecting the top 8.If you received, say, a few 5’s, a lot of 6’s, and a couple 7’s, your chances still likely aren’t good…you need to be the person who gets all (or mostly) 7s. And your artist statement and booth shot need to be top-notch too so they help you get ranked the very highest you can.
I found Liz and her associates to be wonderfully open and welcoming. They answered any questions we had, and really seem like they want to put on the best festival they can and care about sharing this process so anyone who wants to learn can hopefully improve. It was exhausting but really eye-opening and I’m glad I went. I realize that each show is different; in fact she explained that their process differs from other shows, like Cherry Creek or St Louis. So it’s not one size fits all, but above are my general impressions of things that will help anyone improve their show chances.
What I personally took away from it for my business: 1. push my jewelry designs even further. My husband and I both felt like I would be somewhere in the middle of the cut which likely wouldn’t get me in. And so far I have not gotten into Artisphere, this is my third year of trying. 2. Work on my artist statement a bit. I don’t think it hurt me but I don’t think it helped either. 3. Work on my booth a bit too – it wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great. 4. I didn’t hate my photos when they were up on the big screen – which I thought I might – but I think I will switch photographers. Mine is good but there are clearly some better ones – and I need to improve the photos as well as the work, the booth, and the statement.
One more thing – I didn’t sit through every category but I sat through a lot of them – photography, 2D mixed media, ceramics, oil and acrylics, semiprecious and precious fine jewelry. Artisphere juries on application order, meaning that the first apps are at the beginning of the jurying round for each category. And I would think that for this show at least, it’s better to get your app in early because toward the end of a big category, like semiprecious jewelry (106 applicants), your eyes have glazed over a bit. So again, unless everything is just “WOW!”, toward the end of the round you may be marked down a little more, it’s probably just human nature. I loved looking at all the lovely things but even in my own category, after a while I was exhausted trying to decide. Just something to think about. I was told that Zapp allows the shows to decide between several parameters for jurying – order of applications received, alphabetical, etc. So this won’t apply to every show, unless they also jury in a first-come, first-viewed capacity, but it definitely applies to Artisphere.
Please note that I am not a juror. A good deal of what I have shared here are my own impressions of the process so take it all with a grain of salt. I hope it helps but it’s just one girl’s opinion.
Read more open jury reviews and interviews with jurors.