Improving the Quality of Art at Art Shows
by Larry Berman

Since the art shows started jurying digitally, artists have been reporting a drop in quality of the artwork seen at those shows. This may be a jealous backlash from the higher than normal number of artists applying - and being rejected. But with the growing number of artists reporting this phenomenon, there must be some truth to it.
Digital jurying has made it easier for artists to apply to shows. So much so that the majority of shows using ZAPP have seen a ten to twenty percent increase in application numbers. Initially, a number of artists rejected the technology and thought it would go away (like the horseless carriage), but with over 300 shows using either ZAPP or Juried Art Services, and many more asking for digital images instead of slides, the artists have had to jump on board or get left behind.
So whoís responsible for the quality of the art at art shows? You canít fault any artistís dream for wanting to do a ďCherry CreekĒ or ďAnn Arbor.Ē And with current imaging technology, more artists than ever have higher quality jury images, compared to only those who used to hire professional jury slide photographers. Responsibility to maintain a quality show has to lie with the art shows and how they jury the artists who apply.
Improving the System
The concept of ZAPPlication is a great concept on an intellectual level. A universal storehouse for artistís jury images making it easier for artists to apply to art shows without leaving their homes. The back end of the system provides only the images of the artists who apply and manages the scoring. This allows shows to run their juries using less staff and have more accurate information.
Whatís missing from the system appears to be the management of the jury process itself to insure that itís universally fair for all artists applying to the shows.
Additionally, the suggestions I make in this article can apply to any art show looking to improve the quality of their jury results, whether their jurors are looking at digital files or 35mm slides.
Projection Jurying
The process should be set up so as not to tire the jurors. Let me repeat, the process should be set up to not tire the jurors. For shows using projection equipment (digital projectors with Roku media players), there needs to be recommended guidelines on proper distance of the projectors to the screens based on the size that they want to images to appear, type of screens used, and distance that the jurors sit from the screens to not tire easily when viewing thousands of images. Additionally there needs to be recommendations on jury room light levels and the background and contrasting text color on the laptops used for scoring. It needs to be adjustable to not create a tiring or distracting environment. Now obviously the recommendations on projection room set up may conflict with what the shows have been doing for years prior to signing up with ZAPP, but nevertheless, guidelines should exist for a show to consult if they desire.
Monitor Jurying
The ZAPP monitor jury process should be set up to not tire the jurors. PC computer monitors should be a uniform size and set at a specific resolution with text and background color set to be easy to read. Jury image placement on screen should be positioned to not force the jurors to scroll to see the entire enlarged image. Room brightness should also be controlled. Currently there is no standard monitor size or resolution or even specific placement of the 700 pixel square image on the page. As a result of this, some juries have reported having to scroll to see the bottoms of the images. Juried Art Services, as a point of comparison, brings in matching monitors and their system makes sure that images are seen by jurors without scrolling.
PC Monitors and the sRGB Color Space
The artistís jury images are their most important asset in applying to shows, and the accuracy of those images can make or break their careers. If the images have been prepared properly, they are in the sRGB color space, which is the universal standard for browser (monitor) or projection viewing. The RGB color space is used for printing so it doesnít apply here, and RGB files viewed in a browser or digitally projected, show a decrease in color accuracy with a muting or dulling of the image. Images uploaded with the correct (sRGB) color space, get resized and keep that color space tag, but images that have been uploaded without a color space tag do not have one when resized. PC browsers treat all untagged images as sRGB, but MAC browsers, in trying to be more accurate, do not treat untagged images as sRGB. So for monitor jurying, images seen on PC monitors will be more accurate than images seen on MAC monitors.
Improving the Jury Process
Iíve attended a few open juries but have never been a juror myself, so I canít say that the solution is black and white. But I can offer some suggestions based on what Iíve experienced or heard from others who have been jurors or observed the process.
What Iíve seen is a two step process per medium. First, the jurors view a five second slide show. Then there is approximately a ten second viewing while reading the artist statement and simultaneously scoring and then moving on to the next artist. I feel that there are two problems with this jury process. The images arenít viewed long enough to actually see what the artist is doing and the artist statement isnít accurate given its restrictive length. The ZAPP system only allows 100 characters (includes spaces) in an artist statement and you canít describe art in 100 characters. Juried Art Services, as a comparison, gives the artist up to 1,000 characters to describe their body of work. And to make matters worse, some shows donít read the artist statement at all.
What I propose is after the initial five second slide show, the work stays on the screens for at least twenty seconds, thatís approximately ten seconds after a more accurate artist statement has been read. This additional ten seconds will give the jurors time to see in the artwork what it is that the artist is describing in their statement, which will result in a better understanding of the creative process and hopefully a more educated decision from the jurors. I realize that my suggestions will probably double the amount of time that the jury process currently takes. But if the artists feel that they're not getting juried fairly, they will stop applying to the shows they get rejected from.
Alternatively, asking for more than four or five art images can give the jurors a better feel for a body of work, and make it more difficult for those three piece wonders, with no depth to their style, to get accepted into shows. But asking for more images will still require an accurate artist statement and maybe even more time to evaluate the work.
Jury fatigue
Two suggestions for combating juror fatigue. Alternate 2D and 3D mediums so the jurors arenít visually overwhelmed. For example, if categories are viewed alphabetically, photography follows painting which means hundreds of screen filling similar images are seen one after another. A second suggestion is for the shows to have separate 2D and 3D jurors. That will ensure the jurors only see half the number of images, and if the jurors are chosen correctly, may be better educated in the processes they are judging. Whichever process is used, the jurors need to be given more breaks so as to not tire themselves. Maybe have breaks where they are given a choice of natural fruits and juices instead of carbohydrates to snack on.
Picking Jurors

Iíve heard both good and bad about peer artist jurors, gallery owners, museum curators, teachers and lay people. What I do suggest is jurors should be chosen based on their knowledge and familiarity of the categories they are judging and encourage discussion among their fellow jurors. Having artist advisors (or at least one exhibiting artist on the jury) can also help because there should be someone knowledgeable enough to answer questions.

Hopefully my suggestions will be taken seriously by ZAPP and any art shows looking to improve their jury process. As a result we may begin to see more great art at the art shows.
My Credentials
As an unpaid consultant for both ZAPP and Juried Art Services, I monitor to make sure images are asked for and viewed in a format that is fair for all artists. At my recommendation ZAPP changed their initial image format request to the square image format with black borders so that all images would be viewed at the same size. Besides working on digital jury images for hundreds of artists, I answer every image related question on the ZAPP forum and all other art show forums. In my spare time I write for Shutterbug Magazine, beta test Adobe Photoshop and even do an occasional art show with my own original photography. My instructions for preparing images for ZAPP has been downloaded from my web site over 3,000 times.
If you either agree or disagree with my position, or have other ideas, please e-mail me to let me know your thoughts

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