The deadline for the artworks has passed, it was March 1 2014. Officially, the Call for Artists was out for three months but many artists knew about it since November, when the details for the exhibition at Sparkling Hill were firmed up.
The cancellation email went out on March 2. I saw no reason to delay giving artists notice of the inevitable. I’ve been severely criticized by some for being callous and dismissive, while the professional artists have been very supportive. To these last people, I thank you for your understanding. Before writing this blog post, I have had to take some time to try and be as objective as I can, and I can tell you there was a kaleidoscope of emotions over the last month, and after the Mar 2 email went out. Many of you who have submitted before and who know me personally will no doubt already have projected what I am going through. I appreciated those resubmissions from you, because it shows me that you believed in the show, you believed in the concept, and that you believed in me. Those of you who have exhibited with me before know I bend over backwards to give you the best showing possible, and will settle for nothing less. I am a believer in community, and a believer that a helping hand from one to another is not just an airy fairy ideal, but something that should be in action every day.
I am not going to get in to the number of hours that it takes to come up with a theme, the considerations, the meetings, finding a suitable jury and all that correspondence, the graphics, the paperwork for the submission form, updating and monitoring the webpage. Those of you who have done exhibitions from the other side will know exactly what I am talking about. That’s good enough for me. Those of you who don’t, rest assured that putting on an art exhibition is an artwork in and of itself, and requires, just in the planning stages, countless hours of work. Remember this show is not my full time job. I have a family, and other obligations I have to meet as a full time artist myself.
After those many, many hours of work comes the receipt of artwork submissions. Rebekah Wilkinson, who was this year’s Submission Assistant, is also an artist, and she has a tremendous amount of experience with the artwork receipts. She’s the one that made sure your form is filled out, if you missed a box because of inattention, you didn’t label your artworks as requested, or didn’t send a headshot, or your artwork picture was blurry or whatever. I have not yet asked her how many hours she spent on this, but perhaps you can guess. Some of you had email correspondence with her more than once or twice. The more experienced artists, again, you know what is required, and you were blessings, let me tell you that. The less experienced, well, now you know what it is to enter a very high standard show. If you think the time you spent on your artwork was wasted, maybe you should take up another form of creativity. Nothing is ever wasted, that is a guarrantee.
So what happened?
I’ve had two people mention that the submission fee was too high. The submission fee was 35$ for up to three works. I find the idea that it was too high a little surprising, as many artists paid 35$ and submitted only one work. 35$ is the normal submission fee for any art show in Canada or the US. Some art shows require a membership fee on top of the submission fee (ie FCA). Some art shows are more expensive, ie 50$ and some are less. Let’s take a look at that submission fee. What exactly were you getting for 35$?
Before I go on, remember this was a juried show. Just because you submitted an artwork or artworks does not mean you were automatically in the show. You were submitting with the understanding you may NOT get in the show. It’s a competition. This is not a what I call “Pay to Play”. Paying the fee did not guarrantee you a spot.
So what did you get? You get the possibility of being in a very high standard, high integrity art show. You get to show at a world class beautiful resort, Sparkling Hill, whose cultural mandate is also of very exacting standards. Once juried in to the show, you are in a catalog, unless you chose otherwise, which is sent to the National Library and Archives, present and available to any art historians who decide to look up erotic art in Canada. I can guarantee you there are not many books on that subject at this point. Right now, if there were ten books in the catalog on that subject, my show would take up four of the spots. That catalog cost you nothing, just your acceptance to be included. If you wanted a copy for your own personal records, I charged the artist the production cost – usually under $25 – which meant I made nothing on it. Speaking of making nothing on the catalog, I did that catalog out of love. I can’t even count the number of hours that went in to each year. I can say that each proof I had to order to make sure that the book was as beautiful as it is, cost out of my own pocket. That cost was not passed on to you.
Perhaps the catalog was not a big deal for some people. Okay then, what’s next?
I heard from one artist that maybe the jury was too intimidating. That very well could be. The two jurors, other than myself, that were on the panel this year were pretty amazing people and offered their services in a voluntary capacity. Miki and Stan were both very strong literary people. They were chosen because of their background, their knowledge, and because of their attitude and because of their belief in community. They were vitally interested in the show, and the quality of the show. It made sense to have literary jurors for a literary based theme. The point of the jury is that they are the ones who maintain certain inherent standards and expectations of artwork. That’s where the integrity of the show comes in. If every artwork that was submitted got in, what is the point of a jury?
Number of artists
Last year, I received almost 200 artwork submissions and over 100 artists. Of those 200 artwork submissions, only 80 some artworks were accepted. This year, there wasn’t anything even close to those numbers, not even half. After thinking about why this is, I remembered that there was a previous year where the record was broken and then following year a fraction submitted, so this is what I think. Because there were so many last year in 2013, a great many artists/artworks did not get selected. With very few loyal exceptions, those who did not get selected, did not apply again. But having said that, many of the artists who did get in last year, did not apply again even though their reviews of the show were extremely favourable. I can only give conjecture as to why that is, so I am just giving you observations.
The deadline was March 1. I’m really anal about deadlines. I am not Canada Revenue. I am not The Post Office. Post marked dates are not good enough. This is a professional show, and submissions must be complete by the deadline. The Call was out for three months, why on earth would it need to be extended? When a person comes to me and tells me, hey, I can’t meet your deadline because of x x or x, got to be honest with you – I am pretty insulted. The reason why I am insulted is because there are so many other people who have worked their butt off trying to meet the deadline, doing what it takes to get it done. I am insulted for these people who care about their work, who respect the structure and integrity of the requirements and who understand why it is so. So for all of you who did complete submissions, I appreciate you. Two finger salute.
Now, having said all that, EVEN if I were to have accepted the artworks/artists who went beyond the deadline, ie their submission was not complete on March 1, there was still not enough artworks to jury. For those of you who were first time submitters, I am sorry this was not a good experience for you.
It comes down to this. With the number of artworks submitted, there was no possible way for the jury to sit and produce a high quality show. If there was, I would have taken it. Did I see the signs? Absolutely. Did you read the submission form where it says please share the show? You initialled it didn’t you? How does an art show like this get artworks to come in besides me paying all that money that I will never get back now, for the advertising? Word of mouth. Talking up the show. Sharing with your fellow artist. Encouraging them to enter. If you believe in the show enough to enter, then wouldn’t it make sense to try and make it successful? Thank you to those artists and supporters who did pass on the Call to their artist friends. What if everyone did that? I also thank all the art groups who sent the call on to their members.
I am one person
I have repeatedly said this is not MY show. This is YOUR show. This is a professional artist run show that relied on the artists and their supporters to make it successful. Again, I am just one person. I am an artist first and foremost. I’m not Miss Moneybags, and I don’t have unlimited funds to put on this event. I know what it’s like out there, and I know that if you want to be successful, you can’t work alone.
For those who purchased Opening Night tickets well in advance, I thank you. You are true believers in this concept and I am sorry that it is not going ahead. For Hans-Peter Mayr, and Marlene Diesl of Sparkling Hill, thank you for your continued belief in this idea. Thank you to Miki Andrejevic and Stan Chung for agreeing to be the jury. Thank you to Rebekah Wilkinson for all the time you spent as Submissions Assistant. The result of this 2014 Call to Artists is an extreme example, but it illustrates perfectly how the community of artists needs to work together. Some of you, and I know who you are, shared the show. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Others, well, what can I say?