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Jay Downie is one of the few promoters who understands the value of giving the artists an opportunity to experience first hand how the selection process works. Ever since going to the ZAPP system, heís held an open jury that any artist could attend. In fact, I spoke with a woman observer who collects fine crafts. She had been unhappy with the selection at last years show so Jay had invited her to sit in and see how the artists were selected.

Having prepared digital jury images for over a thousand artists, I wanted to view a ZAPP jury to see how those images look in a jury room when all five are projected across. Though I have the same projection equipment, seeing one image projected is entirely different from seeing the presentation as jurors see it.

To minimize expenses, I shared a motel room with Chris Coffey and Doug Remien, two other photographers. We extensively discussed the image presentation throughout the time we spent there. Because of flight scheduling and trying to keep expenses down, we only stayed for Thursday evening and the Friday jury. If I had it to do over again, Iíd stay for Saturday also to see which artists made it through the Friday elimination round.

The jury was held in the Blackstone Courtyard Hotel in downtown Fort Worth in a second floor conference room suite. Seyan Lucero (Westaf) oversaw the equipment set up and made sure the jury went smoothly. Scoring was done on laptops connected through an intranet to the ZAPP servers and accessed in a second room where the first days eliminations were removed from the media cards in preparation for the final day of jurying. The room was arranged with five four-foot screens and the image projected approximately 40 inches square. Care was taken so that the images had the same screen alignment so the presentation was as uniform as possible.

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The ZAPP jury equipment was photographed on Thursday evening during the cocktail party when the lights were brighter. The screens are showing the browse mode of the Roku interface. The first image was clicked on to start the slide show.

On Thursday evening, a cocktail party was held in the jury room. There was a five second slide show of all the images by category so everyone who attended could see how the images would appear in front of the jurors. About 25 or 30 artists attended. When the entire slide show was completed, Jay offered to go through and project images of the attending artists so they could see their images on screen longer to better evaluate their presentation. Throughout the evening Jay answered all questions about the process.

For Friday the chairs were arranged in the back of the jury room for artists who wanted to sit through the all day first round. Only about ten artists attended.

Mediums were shown alphabetically starting with ceramics. Each medium's images were shown twice to the jurors. There was a five-second slide show proceeding a ten second viewing during which the description was read to the jurors. The jurors scored 1, 2 or 3 representing yes maybe and no. In the past, Itís been speculated that in some ZAPP jury rooms, the jurors ignore the projected images and score based on the small thumbnails on their laptops. During the slide show proceeding the viewing for scoring, we didnít see the jurors look at their laptops at all. The most prolific medium was jewelry with 196 sets of images. Photography came in second with 137. An artist statement that got a laugh from jurors was ďIíve never exhibited before. Please pick me. It would be the dream of a lifetimeĒ.

The photography category followed painting, and taken together makes up a very large two dimensional viewing, in some cases with an overlap of similar imagery. I feel that two dimensional and three dimensional mediums should be alternated to give the jurors a visual break.

In the Saturday final round jurying which we didnít stay for, the jurors scored 1 through 7 and were able to discuss the artwork among themselves if they wanted to.

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Taken during the Friday jurying. During the 10 second slide show, Jayís assistant (far left) read the artist statement to the jurors. It was very difficult to photograph the process in a way that captured the feel of the room without distracting the jurors.

Itís about the images
The images Iíve worked on looked terrific when projected. Non distracting uniform backgrounds and accurate color made the artwork jump off the screen and easy to evaluate.

During the Thursday evening slide show and then again on Friday I took notes about the problems I saw with the projected images. Though each issue on itís own was not earth shattering, taken as part of the presentation, all in some way could distract the jurors and force them to spend extra time getting a read on the artwork.

Items that I found to be distracting were non black borders. A few were dark gray or white. Some images had noticeable low contrast. You could tell that automated equipment had been used to scan those slides. Besides the low contrast, they looked overly flat with muted color. White backgrounds around artwork (like jewelry) that didnít fill the frame was blindly white. The white made it difficult to define the work easily. Different colored backgrounds from image to image was also a distraction, as were textured backgrounds.

Lack of sharpening wasnít an issue. In fact, except for those few images that were over sharpened, there was no loss of detail and all the images looked sufficiently sharp.

The booth is every artistís weak spot. Some looked terrific and some looked mediocre. Some didnít look at all like the way the artist sets up at a show. A few were obviously digitally created. For artists who create work whose size is indefinable in pictures, the booth did work as a reference to show scale.

There was no indication of digitally created jury images in any of the 3D mediums, nor were there any obvious indications of misrepresentations by artists submitting work that that didn't look like their own, as much as we could tell as the process was considered to be blind. There were a number of artists who submitted applications in more than one medium.

A lot of the issues were things I've been speaking about in my forum posts and seminars. Having excess white in the images, trusting automated scanning and having matching backgrounds for a uniform presentation are all issues I discuss regularly.

Because their jury images are their most important asset, viewing an open jury could be the most important investment an artist makes in their future. Itís surprising that more than about 35 artists didnít attend as these situations are rare. I strongly encourage every artist whoís serious about art shows to attend a jury if the opportunity presents itself.

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