Sunday, May 16, 2010

Entry Fees: The Call for Entries

My life as a Gallery Director started in a university setting. The exhibition schedule included an annual international competition. I chaired the gallery committee and my first year the concept for the competition was formed and that's about it. From that point I referred to my own resources and requested applications from multiple galleries and organizations to learn what was expected of the artists entering.

Although the basic costs for space, utilities and my pay were part of the university budget, there was plenty of expenses to be incurred in the process of sponsoring and organizing an international exhibition. I knew how I struggled personally to enter multiple competitions. The costs to send in the applications with all the slides and paperwork involved in entering a visual arts competitions could be complicated and expensive. So, I came into the process with experience from the artist's perspective.

With that knowledge I authored an exhibition application, the call for entries. Up until that point the expense were anticipated but not "nailed down". My next task was the printing of the applications. Having accumulated a 12,000 name mailing list the number of applications was a known. The printing costs, paper, ink, and auto folding was just the beginning. This entry form was 8.5"x11", double sided print and triple folded. That's the amount of sheets of paper in approximately 25 reams or 2.5 cases of 80 lb. paper. I was grateful for the automated folding.

Developing and managing the mailing list was accomplished by myself, with the help of two graduate students. To pay for that labor would have been an ongoing expense, 12 months a year. Let me say here, our mailing list was computerized but it was updated by hand. We did not have bulk mailing software at that time. We also printed all our labels in-house, paying for the seals, address labels and computer printer ink. We sealed the fold and applied the address labels by hand, and I spent the summer months sorting the entry forms by zip code for bulk mailing. Most of this process is now automated, but still creates costs, increasing the expenses.

Mid August, 11,750 entry forms were mailed at eleven cents per piece. I kept 250 entry forms for use in response to individual artist requests and documentation of the exhibition. Having mailed the entry forms, the publicity and advertising started immediately. This would be the next leg in planning and organizing an international exhibition worthy of national publicity and attention. I broke down the very beginning steps to define the expenses for seed money.

The costs were approximately $3500, seed money. Although the university provided the space and staff, the seed money was provided by a state visual arts education grant. A grant I would write every March for the following year. Without addressing the total expenses in undertaking a juried exhibition, it is necessary to recognize just how much is needed in seed money.

A successful exhibition in a non-profit, financially, comes to the end of the project having made the money needed for the following show, which includes the cost of the entry forms and mailing expenses, juror's fees and cost of events, such as receptions and speakers. Again without the cost burden of space, labor or utilities I did not have to charge the amount I needed to pay for all the exhibition costs. This show cost $20 for three entries and averaged approximately 800 entries. The amount collected in entry fees had to be augmented with the state grant.

If it is a juried competition in a for profit institution it would be somewhat prohibitive to afford without higher entry fees paid by the artist. This is a small part of what our entry fees pay for. I will address additional events in the journey to hang an international, professional visual arts exhibition. Any and all questions or topic suggestions are encouraged and welcome.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Raising Prices? Raising costs?

I have been reading artists posts about raising their wholesale prices. Although the economy is playing a role in raising the costs for most supplies for many artists, I believe the jewelers are hardest hit.

I admit my silver and gold life was long ago, silver was topping out at $7 and gold was killing us at $600. I wouldn't have the fortitude to be making precious metals work now. But...

If your cost formula has changed, (whose hasn't?), and then, a studied change is in order. Everyone doing the shows or shopping at the shows know that these materials have sky-rocketed. I say price accordingly without emotion. You want to continue using precious metals so don't under price anything.

Jewelry is "cash in hand". It can be worn for mere pleasure or sold to buy groceries...its cash. Don't give your work away...ever. I have a story about raising prices.

An internationally known artist had the opportunity to sell some silver-chased and enameled pieces. The same works were exhibited in one of my (gallery director, Billi) exhibitions. The pieces were priced comfortably...didn't raise any eye brows. Once I shipped the show out, the artist called because he/she had an offer to sell and wasn't sure of her prices.

I had commented on his/her prices and shared what I had learned about prices exhibiting an international jewelry show earlier in the year. (My eyebrows were still raised...the insurance alone for the exhibition had been nearly prohibitive.)

The artist's "comfortable" prices suited the work at my location and the audience (summer art school). But I was well aware of the reputation and breadth of this artist's life and work. Viewed outside the school setting, the work was outstanding in craftsmanship and concept. Expressed with a master's skills. I shared with the artist that I had expected the pieces to be much more expensive than the price in the show.

The artist was doubtful and was concerned with losing the sale or selling it short of its true value. We talked, I asked about the process and about being able to reproduce such pieces. Through that conversation I was able to help the artist reconsider her original asking price which was too low. Although the artist was concerned about losing a sale, I had helped the artist reconsider...everything about the cost of materials, the creation and fabulous results in the work and how all that increased the value of her work.

The next day I received a call and the artist was ecstatic...what was $1500 sold for $7000! Changed the artist's appeal forever. It sounds like a huge jump in price but the artist hadn't considered his/her value and reputation...and that it was museum quality work that would never be reproduced. The price was absolutely appropriate.

Being appropriate is essential. Anyone buying and reselling precious metals knows the costs have sky-rocketed. They are expecting a price raise even if they hate it. It's just reality. If a gallery balks at your pricing and wants a "deal"...then they are looking through "burgundy glasses".

It's insulting to any artist, but when the costs are obvious and the markets haven't made any secret about the rise..."We buy gold for cash." So, raise your prices appropriately and do so before you go to the shows. Do you want to lose money as the year goes on? Wether the market crashes or not, it is what it is now.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Entry Fees for Juried Exhibitions?

The juried exhibition is necessary, time consuming and becoming more expensive. I say, "Necessary", because of my own experiences in my personal creative journey. When I began entering and being accepted for exhibition, it was an indication to me that my work was worthy of public viewing. It indicated that a professional in the field thought my work was "good enough" to be included in the specific exhibition. Then, winning place awards, a few with monetary rewards, gave me the additional encouragement I needed to continue pursuing a professional career in the visual arts. I will later add the invaluable role juried exhibitions played later in my career.

I have exhibited my artwork extensively throughout the United States. Always in juried or invitational venues, and always of national or international scope. I, also, sought out traveling exhibition opportunities in which to participate. For 35 years my work traveled in art exhibitions coast to coast. I sought exhibition opportunities at the most prestigious venues I could find and I watched for who the juror or jurors would be. After being on the juried show circuit for awhile I began to recognize the jurors that favored my work and style. Most importantly, who didn't understand or appreciate my work.

After years of participating in juried shows I began to exhibit regularly by invitation. I, also, came to be in professional positions where exhibiting new work was expected from me regularly. Later, I created a body of work and organized the 18 pieces into a traveling exhibition. I now have the pleasure of documenting the artwork that traveled for 5 years. I am documenting the 18 artworks on my website at Currently it is an ongoing project, please join me as I add works to the narrative. 
This is the evolution of my earlier efforts to show my work in a multitude of juried exhibitions. When first perusing "calls for entry" from the galleries, museums and educational institutions. Monthly, I would quickly skim the listings and identify the location, the time frame, the theme or concept, and who was to be the juror or jurors for upcoming exhibitions. I also sought out "galleries reviewing portfolios" for solo or small group shows. I was particularly excited by any type of publication that would accompany the exhibit.

The time came that I had to begin taking note of the amount of the entry fees. The first 10 to 12 years most entry fees were between $10 and $18, quite reasonable for a young artist. The next bump up was $20 to $25. That amount wasn't too high but it did limit the number of shows I entered. Entry fees, now, have become diverse and reflect the institution or caliber of exhibition, the quality of any accompanying publications, or that of the juror/jury. Currently entry fees are running from $25 to $45. Some charge that and $5 for each additional artwork up to three. Although I am well aware of the costs the sponsoring entity takes on in the course of an exhibition, I would be hard pressed to enter the quantity of shows I once enjoyed.

If I was just starting out building my career and marketing my artwork, I would not be able to follow in my own footsteps today. Not being a "trust fund baby" I would be required to take a job to afford the level of activity I once managed. I wonder if I would have achieved all that I did without the foundation of multiple juried exhibitions, including the contacts gained from the shows?

Today, I'm not sure I would start my career in the same way. Even now I know the costs of exhibiting with juried shows can be prohibitive for emerging artists. There has always been some controversy, not only about the amount of the entry fee, but that there was any fee to begin with. The juried show phenomenon is useful in many ways, especially if one should chose to teach in higher education. Being accepted and exhibited in a prestigious show can be as valuable as the “publish or perish” diatribe for academic. With that aside for a later discussion, I want to concentrate on the fee itself. Why is there a fee? What does the hosting institution do with the fees?

If you are a visual artist and have any questions or comments, please do so here.
I will discuss the costs that make up the entry fee in my next post. Thank you.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Face of Retail Galleries...

I have been reading about and thinking about, artist vs. gallery and wholesale vs. retail, oh yeah, remember the art vs. craft debate? We have all been subject to these debates off and on.

Recently one artist has posted quite matter of factly that due to the state of the economy she has started to retail. Hats off to you!

We have garnered and nurtured business relationships with the best galleries and shops. Going out of our way to sanctify the gallery's role in promoting our work. I know the gallery and shop buyers feel that they, too, have done the same for us.

At one time a gallery played a pivitol role in many artist's careers. All done under the umbrella of representing an artist, and as artists we expected to be represented in every sense of the word. Then exclusive contracts and such were, as a rule, expected.

Not so anymore. It is a rare circumstance to be represented in the "old school" way. I think it can be said of the high end and one-of-a-kind endeavors of today. Those gallerys will always be here. They make our art stars. But in general we have redefined the meaning of "gallery" and faced the "wholesalization" of the handmade market.

Having said that, I believe any of us who begin or continue to retail at some point do so out of economic neccessity not out of any competitive wish to "out sell" our brick and mortar locations. We each have a different situation and have our own relationships with our stores.

The face of retail is changing, fast. While shopping the mall may never long as we have people are shopping and spending is changing. Economy aside, how we sell our work is changing.

If the galleries are worried about competition, then they can buy their inventory and give us the freedom to work in our studios without struggling with a bottom line. Then the "art" becomes theirs to investment they must turn over. A change of emphasis is in order in that case. (I decorated many gallery walls for too long!)

Until then we aren't required to have the kind of loyalty expected when our work is always purchased...we have no choice but to explore other streams of income. Will they really compete with our locations? Does the gallery always buy your work?

So, Amery, stop making "apologies" for selling retail. You go, girl. I thought your results and activity justify the move. You and your lines are grounded in a solid background of sales and with solid galleries. This may very well be the move you need for your biz. It's gonna grow to the next level. WooHoo!

If your success in retail threatens your established accounts, I would be suprised. It's a global selling field, so is the opportunity.