Thursday, January 31, 2008
How to find the right shows
Have you ever applied for a job before? Chances are that most people reading this can say that one time or another in their careers they’ve researched located and applied for a job. It’s never a fun thing to do, or at least it never was for me.
Partly because of that, I’ve been self-employed since my early 20’s. I hate rejection. Not that I ever applied for a position thinking that I wasn’t right for the job, but once learning that I wasn’t hired I didn’t know if it was the rejection of not getting it or the lame excuses why I didn’t that bothered me the most.
“We were highly impressed with your résumé, but we found someone else better suited to our needs.”
“Your work record looks impeccable and we would love to have a person with your skills work for us but, you just aren’t as qualified as the other applications.”
“The quality of your portfolio is magnificent, but we thought that you wouldn’t be as good of a fit as others we looked at.”
Enough already, I get the picture.
Well, an artist goes through that same scenario for every art festival they apply to. If you’re a busy artist that attends many different shows each year you know what I mean. Imagine applying to 30 different jobs a year. Every application comes with the ever-present chance of rejection. That’s exactly what the artist goes through each time they send in their application, jury fees and images of their work. Then they wait for the thick postage paid envelope to arrive (obviously filled with the slides/cd/photos you submitted to be juried) informing them that,
“We were highly impressed with your artist statement and the slides of your work were some of the most impressive pieces the judges have looked at this year, but, we’re sorry to inform you that you have not been chosen to participate in this years festival.”
WTF, how can that be? They said they loved my work. That is what we go through every time we roll the dice and apply to a festival. The process makes my stomach turn. I always start the year by making sure I have an ample supply of Rolaids and Tums available.
That said, there are ways to minimize these inevitable rejection letters. The first (and probably the most important) step in the application process is finding the best show for your type of art. If you’re an abstract surrealist, it doesn’t make sense to send in an application to western themed dominated show in the southwest. Likewise if you paint old west scenes you might want to stay clear of a show held in the SoMa district of a large urban city.
Go where your market is. Staying in the old west vernacular, don’t use a shotgun when a rifle is a better choice. Pin point your applications, don’t just apply to every show out there. First off, you’d go broke in jury fees alone and more importantly, sitting through a 3 day festival watching patrons stir clear of your booth like you had a sign hung in the front of it informing people that you have a deadly contagious disease is really a bummer.
Again, go where your market is.
Well, how do you find the right show? There is no one right answer but there are a series of thing to make your chances better.
1. Ask fellow artists what shows are working for them. Be careful on this one because some artist’s guard which shows are the best like their life depended on it and their financial life might, especially if you both do the same type of art.
2. Read trade journals and festival directories. These will at least give you the names and dates of the shows but not necessarily which ones are the best for you. The one I find myself using the most now days is The Art Fair Source Book. The owner of this publication, Greg Lawler, is not only a friend but in my opinion, a genius when it comes to offering unbiased, researched show information.
3. Subscribe to on-line directories. This is after all, 2008. If you are still complaining that shows aren’t accepting slides any longer and they require you to submit your application and images digitally, wake up. Those antiquated days are over. An ever-increasing percentage of the Top 100 shows are already on ZAPP, and for a good reason, it works. Instant processing of your application, your images are stored on their severs so you don’t have to worry if you just sent off your last booth slide to another show.
Even if the better shows aren’t signed up to use ZAPP now, they are adopting many of the digital image requirements into their submittal process and will probably be just a matter of time before they too, only except apps through ZAPP.
I’m currently finishing off a video tutorial on many of the features that artists find so “scary” with ZAPP and I’ll post a link to it when it’s done. I’ll be covering every thing from how to set your ZAPP account up, image preparation, artist statements and more.
To try and not turn this post into a novel, I’ll cover a few other methods on finding the correct shows later.
PS. Happy 54th birthday Dennis Brady Studio ☺