Finally, I feel I can relax, having just completed the major hurdles in organizing a Regional Juried Fine Art Show for the Spencertown Academy Arts Center (SAAC). The show took about 6 months to organize.
It was an interesting learning experience. Thankfully, the show’s Opening was a resounding success, and there were several sales and a large group of nearly 50 artists joining in the fun for the Artists’ Reception.
Here’s a high-level summary of what it took to pull it off:
Developing a Theme
Earlier this year, after having started a new slate of curators for the Gallery at SAAC, the Curatorial Committee members (through a series of monthly meetings) developed the theme for the show working in collaboration. I took the lead as the organizing Curator, and David Lesako agreed to be Co-Curator and help hang the show (a needed skill with multiple works in a small gallery).
The entire curatorial committee brainstormed dozens of ideas and then proceeded to focus on a few related concepts. It was important to us to provide a theme that artists could embrace and implement, even possibly have works that might be a fit for their existing inventory. We felt “close to home” or a regional theme would be the right idea (we’re in the Hudson Valley), but wanted to avoid an “all landscape” show, as the SAAC already has a large number of exhibits that relate to landscapes.
So the concept of small town and rural living came into focus. This would allow the artists’ responses to cover elements of their towns, farming communities, etc. that weren’t necessarily landscapes but which resonated with them. The final write-up of the Prospectus (after many rounds of revisions) was called “Homes, Hamlets and Villages: Style and Lifestyle in Small Towns and Rural Communities.”
The criteria for entry included a residence requirement either in our Columbia County, NY, or one of the surrounding counties (in New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut). Artists were allowed to submit either 2D or 3D works in any media, style, and on any subject that worked with the theme (people, places, or things, really). This proved to be a very successful combination of a focused theme that could be interpreted broadly, and we heard later that the artists really appreciated the local nature of the theme, but with the ability to interpret it broadly in an abstract, stylistic, or representational manner.
The next step was to find two or more jurors. We decided to include in our outreach art instructors (who were well-versed with what it took to create a work of art) as well as area gallerists (who lend a different kind of critical eye and also whose presence will attract entries). After winnowing down a list of potential prospects, we were pleased that two gallery professionals (Carrie Chen, gallery owner in Great Barrington, MA) and LInden Scheff, Co-Director of the Carrie Haddad Gallery in Hudson, NY accepted the task. They were complemented by a professional artist and art instructor: Wednesday Nelena Sorokin (associated with the Berkshire Art Center and the Springfield Museum.)
Online Platform and Promotion
We used an online submission platform with which we were familiar: OnlineJuriedShows. The administrators there are very easy to work with and provide friendly support for the site’s users – whether, artists, jurors, or curators. Setting up the show was relatively straightforward.
One of the great advantages of OnlineJuriedShows is that, once the show is configured to accept submissions, it has built-in advertising and promotion. They send out eBlasts on a regular basis, and artists who have registered for previous shows can therefore get informed about upcoming shows in their area where there are calls for art entries.
Additional forms of advertising and promotion for our show’s Call to Artists included:
- An experienced locally-based publicist who got the word out in numerous paper and online venues
- Traditional event posters placed in regional bookstores, art stores, libraries, town halls, coffee shops and community centers
- “Boosting” posts for the Call to Artists on Facebook
- Other online advertising, including an ad on ArtShow.com and a listing on Create Magazine
- Our own eNewsletter blasts
Jurying and Selection Process
The jurying process took a week. Jurors rated the works using a numerical system we chose, and then the curatorial committee looked at the ranked works and decided what we would be able to hang in our two galleries at the Gallery at Spencertown Academy. Due to the very large turnout for this year’s show (nearly 350 entries from 135 artists), we decided to fit in as many artworks and artists as we could fit.
This meant a certain amount of double hanging on smaller works, which looked fine. It was a little tight between “columns” of wall-hung art, but we were able to fit 72 works by 50 artists on the walls, and 4 3-dimensional artworks (some stoneware and mixed media sculptures) by 3 artists on a shelf.
Hanging and Promoting a Show
My co-curator, David Lesako, who has considerable experience hanging work for various venues, including the Art School of Columbia County, assessed the work we had received and within about an hour had decided where and how the pieces would be arranged. The trick, according to David, is to set the larger works (mostly paintings) where they will catch the eye (usually in the center of each of the larger walls), and then alternate with “clusters” of four smaller works, for a pleasing composition.
The show hung beautifully, with colorful bursts of color nestled in between more sedate, subdued works. Although the larger gallery featured many of the larger works by more established regional artists, the smaller gallery held its own and included some stunning smaller works as well as an interesting diorama.Simultaneously with the work going on the walls, the poster and social media images went up to promote the show. When the artists came to drop off their work, many went home with posters to put up in their local communities.
A Positive Reception
Our Gallery Administrator, Moira O’Grady, did a lot of reach-out to gather the artists at the Opening Reception, attended by two of the jurors and most of the award-winners. There was quite a bit of networking, which is one of the reasons to do these kinds of shows. Regional artists deserve opportunities to exhibit and talk about their work.
To everyone’s delight, several works were sold on the first day of the show, and the curatorial committee members breathed a sigh of relief. (And have a much-needed glass of wine).
Whew! Over the hump….now on to the next show.