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The Main Street Fort Worth Digital Jury
Part I
Dec 17-18, 2004
by Sara Corkery

Also read Part II

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The first thing you notice is how rich and opulent the images appear, all set against a uniformly deep black background. Next you notice the silence. The rhythmic kuh-chunk of the slide projectors is entirely absent, as is the tornadic whirr of the cooling fans. There is only a barely perceptible hum from the many computers scattered throughout the room.

Welcome to jury by ZAPP

On Friday and Saturday, December 17 and 18, Main Street Fort Worth Art Festival (MSFW) held the second of the inaugural ZAPP juries; it was open to anyone who wished to attend. On behalf of NAIA, I was present to observe most of the jurying, arriving midway through the first morning session.

The event took place in a conference room at a downtown Fort Worth Hotel. Five screens showing images projected to approximately 3' x 3' dominated the front of the room. The ROKUs and projectors came next. Two long tables occupied the center space and a visitors’ gallery of a dozen or so chairs took up the rear.

The front half of the room was very dark, with the only illumination coming from the glow of the projected images and the computers. Of course, jurors had no need to see what they were writing, as everything was entered into the database via mouse. There was subdued lighting in the gallery area.

The first table accommodated the five jurors and their laptops and an MSFW staff member monitoring the whole process with a large desktop computer. Jurors appeared to be about eight feet or so from the screens. Two ZAPP staff members and their laptops took up the second table, set just a few feet behind the first, while the festival’s co-producer, John C. “Jay” Downie, moved between the two tables, remote in hand. With this remote, Jay was able to control all five ROKUs together or individually. Among other functions, he could pause, rewind, or advance the slide show, as well as change the timing.

The projected images were arranged horizontally, with Image 1 on the left screen, and the booth image on the far right screen. There was no discernable difference in image quality, color, or focus between the projectors, and there was never any time during the jurying itself when they needed to be adjusted.

The jurors used their laptops to score directly into the Zapplication system. The images were loaded directly into the ROKU computers from compact flash cards, and projected onto the screens using Dell 4100 projectors.

The first round of jurying commenced on Friday morning. There were 900 sets of images (similar to 2003) to review. Images were viewed by category. As a category was introduced, each set of slides within it received a quick preview in five second intervals. The whole category was presented again at 15 second intervals while jurors scored directly onto their laptops using a “Yes, No, or Maybe” scoring system. After 20 sets, jurors were instructed to pause and officially register the scores before moving on to the next 20 image sets within the category. (Note: this proved to be an excellent idea—at one point a juror accidentally kicked a power strip, shutting off a couple of laptops. But no rescoring was needed since the data had just been updated.)

For Saturday and the second round of jurying, the pool was reduced to 435 artists. The jury moved to a “1 through 7” scoring method to decide the final composition of the show. This round began much the same as the first, with a 5 second preview of the entire category. But the 15 second interval was cut to 10 seconds during the second day of judging. This meant that the images of those making it to the second cut were viewed by the jury for a generous total of 35 seconds each.

By Saturday’s end,166 artists were selected to join the 24 pre-invited artists for a final total of 190. (84 were given alternate status.) Of the categories submitted, Painting was top at 148 applicants, followed by photography and jewelry, each with about 130. Ceramics, 2D Mixed Media had about 70 each. 3D Mixed Media, Glass, Sculpture, Wood, Printmaking, Metalwork, Glass, Fiber, Drawing were all pretty evenly divided at 30 - 45 each. The remaining categories filled things out with digital being the smallest at ten submissions, and leather with 14.

Jay Downie was very pleased with the results. “ From my perspective, the entire process ran incredibly smoothly, and took the anxiety away from the jury process,” he says. “It also caused it to be less ‘subjective.’ In other words, since the scoring is direct from juror to system, and scores are tabulated immediately, there's less guesswork and less stress in trying to compile that data and come to a reasonable conclusion as to who is invited, and who is not.”

“The quality of the images themselves allowed the jurors to focus solely on the quality of the work,” Jay adds. “There were no distractions from their core function. I tried to impress upon them that the work was the element to review, not the quality of the image... but, the jurors never had a problem with the quality of the images at any time.”

Jay notes that "some artists have taken to sending a ‘collage’ of works in one image, or highlighting their image with a border or something else to get the jury to notice the work. Frankly, this was more of a distraction for the jurors than a benefit to the artist. As a show, we need to do a better job of policing the images prior to review so everyone is viewed on an equal footing.”

Part Two
includes impressions of others in attendance (jury members, Beth Hoffman of Milwaukee Lakefront Festival of the Arts, Terry Adams from Denver's Cherry Creek Arts Festival, and some visiting artists).

other art show jury reviews

Contents of this article copyright Sara Corkery


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