I was recently pleased to find out that the New Orleans Photo Alliance was running a juried competition for photographic pieces related to Hurricane Katrina. As I have a large body of work relating to this subject and I've worked with the Photo Alliance in the past, I eagerly read through the competition information ready to submit several pieces to it. Until I came to the $35.00 submission fee.
Now many of you might think, well $35.00 isn't that much. In fact I could budget for the submission fee and enter it. But you know, the simple fact is that a lot of artists/photographers can't.
There are more than a few literally "poor starving artists" out there who have talent that should not be overlooked just because the artists cannot afford a submission fee.
There are a lot of good organizations out there, the Photo Alliance is one of them. I am not blind to the fact that these organizations often run on shoestring budgets themselves. But penalizing the artists with submission fees does not seem to me to be the wisest idea. It immediately eliminates the artist who struggles just to make it through each day while creating their work.
A few months back I wrote an article on art competitions becoming nothing more than what amounts to popularity contests instead of focusing on the art. Well juried competitions are still one of the true venues that allows an artist to submit their work solely on the value of that work and not how popular the artist is or isn't.
I have undying respect for the juried system. I think it allows artists to be seen on their merits in a way that many of today's art contests do not allow. But, if the artists who need it the most are never able to enter into the competition then whats it for?
So is there a solution to this? How do we tackle the problem so that it is fair for both the organization putting on the competition and the artist that would like to participate in it?
I think first of all that the fees need to come down if charged at all. $25 - $50 is the average right now and that continues to go up.
Second I think the organizations need to fund themselves more on door entry fees rather than artists fees. Some would argue that this eliminates an audience for the artists because the patrons won't pay. But wouldn't it be wiser to charge the artist and the patrons just a bit? If you charge each $10 then that defers the costs for the artists just a bit.
Third I think we need to get creative about at the venue level. Rather than charging an artist a fee to submit, what if you charge the artist with creating one item that can in turn be sold at the venue with the proceeds of that sale going directly back to the venue itself?
The problem is that we get lazy. Its easier and less hassle to just charge the artist. But if we think creatively, there are dozens of ways to defer the cost directly off the artist.
What if the artist (if its a local competition) is required to volunteer a set number of hours at the venue? What if, part of the competition involves patrons viewing the art and voting for a particular piece by placing a single dollar bill in a box next to each piece? The most dollar bills is part of the judging criteria for the competition.
These are just a few ideas off the top of my head while writing this article. If I set my mind to it I think I could come up with a list of at least 20 different ways to raise needed funds for the venue while not shafting the artist.
Again the problem is that the venue wants as little work involved as possible. But if you want your venue to be successful then you put some time and energy and creativity into making the even as unique as possible. After all, this is about CREATIVITY!
If you are a creative outlet (gallery, arts organization, etc) why one earth would you not utilize creativity as part of your marketing plan in the first place? Creativity sells! We know it for a fact.
Now a last word. I am not picking on the amazing organizations that help support artists through juried competitions. And I am definitely not picking on the New Orleans Photography Alliance whom I have had the pleasure of volunteering for in the past and continue to support all they do for the photography community.
What I am trying to do is change the paradigm for the whole damned art world and how artists and sellers interact and promote each other. There has to be a better way and it will only change through the participation of all involved to make it change.