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.

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