Finding and applying for art opportunities can be a daunting task. Specto is here to help, we're breaking down everything you need to know about apply for calls for art over a several part series. In this first part we will look at the different types of art calls and the different things to think about when considering each.
Part 1: How to Choose a Call for Art
Juried shows are shows which allow applicants to apply to a group exhibition, accepted artists are placed in the exhibition. These shows usually center around a specific theme, like black and white or landscape, or they can be open theme. Open theme shows will accept any kind of work. These shows are juried, meaning there is one or several people acting as the juror or jury, which will go through all applicants and choose which works will be included in the show.
Things to remember when applying for juried shows:
- Theme: these are based on a theme, so pick your best work that fits into that theme. Sometimes you can try doing half and half, half of your entries from one body of work and half from the other, or you can do a mix throughout.
- Shipping: usually you will be required to ship your work to wherever the gallery is, and this can be a limiting factor for a lot of artists. Artists are usually required to send their work with prepaid shipping back from the gallery to the artist. This is so your work will be returned, but be warned it can be costly, especially with bigger works.
- Check out the gallery: check out past juried shows, this will help you understand what kind of stuff the gallery likes showing, and may be able to tell you if you are what they are looking for.
Call for Proposals/Featured Artist/Solo Exhibition
These calls can be a bit overwhelming, but offer a great opportunity for the artist. Artists apply with a cohesive body of work, sometimes you also need detailed plans about the show you hope to put on. These can include hanging instructions, schematics of the space and where things should go, any special requirement requests. Some spaces are more flexible than others, find one that you feel comfortable applying to, and if you don't get accepted don't be discouraged, these are hard to get sometimes.
Things to remember when applying for a solo exhibition:
- Cohesive work: these calls are looking for thought out, cohesive, meaningful bodies of work. If you feel like the group of artwork you've created isn't very cohesive, then edit yourself. Take out works that maybe don't fit in so well. Think about every part of your work and what it means as a group. Sometimes bodies of work with less pieces that are stronger is preferable over more pieces that don't flow as well.
- Do your homework: make sure you give everything needed for consideration. If you are confused about something ask the organization you are applying to for clarification. Everyone has to start somewhere, don't be afraid to ask questions.
- Experience: Solo shows are great resume builders and can offer valuable experience for understanding what connects with your audience and can help you find your voice as an exhibiting artist.
Grants are income opportunities for artists. Generally speaking grants are offered as lump sums of money to allow an artist to do something. Some grant applications require very specific intent, others are more flexible. Usually artists apply with a body of work and a reason for the grant, i.e. supplies, tuition, education, workshops, residencies, etc. Grants can offer artists a lot of support but can be hard to get and even harder to find.
Things to remember when applying for grants:
- Proposal: some grants require what is known as a grant proposal. This can be a lengthy document outlining the exact intention, scope, and budget of a grant project. Templates for these can be found online, and can be a little lengthy. Make sure to give yourself enough time to create the proposal and proofread and edit it before submission.
- Budget: some grants require specific and approved budget spending of awards. These can be a pain, but if it's for free money you can't really complain. Make sure to follow these stipulations to the letter.
Fellowships are similar to grants, but usually happen over a period of time. A lot of fellowships offer artist support which is paid out every month to every six months or year. These awards allow artists to take a period of time and accomplish something they want to do. Education, workshops, residencies, all of these would fall under the scope of a fellowship.
Things to remember when applying for fellowships:
- Details: like grants there can be a lot of necessary paperwork and budgets. Make sure to meet these requirements as often fellowships are rigorous awards and not fulfilling a requirement will kill your chances of getting awarded one.
This section is especially for photographers. There are so many online competitions offering crazy prizes and extreme exposure. Be wary of these competitions because a lot of times they can be money making machines. For example, any competition that requires shares, likes, or followers for consideration is not about your work it becomes about promoting their site.
Things to remember when applying to contests:
- Numbers: often these contests have tens of thousands of entrants, this means your chance of winning is low. This is especially true of contests having a social media component, you can't compete with someone else who is using paid bots to like and share their work. Don't waste your time or money.
- Prizes: sometimes prizes can be an alluring prospect, but some competitions are known to never send these prizes, or take months to years to follow up on your win. Make sure its a legitimate contest.
- Resume: these don't always look the best on resumes, especially for photography, these contests can be an industry of their own that the art world may or may not be aware of. In these cases a win may not seem as great of an honor as it is on paper. It all depends on what you want.
Online Juried Shows/Galleries
There are a number of online juried shows and galleries popping up on the web. Some of them are awesome opportunities, and others are just money making ventures. Make sure you do your homework with these and check out how much the site promotes itself and its artists. Make sure it's not just taking your money and not doing anything for you and your work.
Things to remember when applying to online juried shows:
- Reputation: whats the reputation of the organization putting on the show? Do they have a lot of visitors? Do they advertise regularly? Exposure is one of the main reasons for showing your work, and the application fee may not be worth it if the site doesn't do anything to help your work be seen.
- Resume: again on the resume these can act as just neutral filler. They show you are engaging with the art world but they may not raise any eyebrows. Don't get us wrong, these can be great opportunities, but if they are some unknown source they may not add much to your resume.
- Cost/Award: if the site is digital only then the application fee shouldn't be exorbitant. Keep this in mind and set a price for yourself and don't go over it.
Call for Publication:
Publications can be a fun and interesting thing to add to your experience. They offer a great way to get your work out there in a way that will always be around. One thing to consider when applying for these is what the nature of the publication will be. Is it something you believe in and want to be a part of? Check to see what the scope of the audience is, and if the publication is just digital or physical too.
Things to consider when applying for calls for publication:
- Scope: publications have the greatest range of possible audiences. Sometimes mainstream publications have calls for artists, and in these cases your work could potentially reach millions. This is in contrast to small online publications which may have only a handful of engaged readers.
- Pay to play: some publications can be almost predatory in nature. They will pressure you into paying to be in their exhibition, and in exchange you will be in their yearly book. In these situations you should look at whatever payment to be you paying for an ad. These are basically paid opportunities for exposure, but the audience and reputation of the publication can vary.
Check out our next article coming soon about how to choose what work you include in a call for art! In the mean time, check out our active calls for art here!