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I’d Make a Great Cop: Or How to Submit Applications for Exhibitions, Part 2

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Part 1 of this two-part series addressed SPACES’ procedure for reviewing material as well as the more effective methods to use when applying to exhibit. This post tackles the more painful, less-effective methods. No one wants to realize that they did something incorrectly after the fact. Most every artist is excited about the prospect of exhibiting their work, but some treat that opportunity like Lennie Small from Of Mice and Men treats his puppy. Just relax. We can’t understand your apparent genius when you’re acting crazy and squeezing us to death. Just pay attention to the effective methods in Part 1 and steer clear of the following less-effective methods.

Less-Effective Practices

  1. Introducing Yourself Through Facebook: Facebook is a very handy tool, but you’ll come off as a tool if you drop me a note suggesting that I look at your website or post images of your work all over our profile’s wall. See #1 under Effective Practices.
  2. Casually Stopping By the Gallery With your Portfolio for a Meeting with the Staff or Director: Our days are often tightly scheduled. Even 24 hour notice isn’t quite enough to accommodate a meeting. If you want a show, apply just like everyone else. If you want to meet us and talk art, most of us would be happy to do so. If you want to meet us and talk specifically about your art, it may happen, but don’t expect much.
  3. Submit a “Curated” Exhibition of “Me and My Friends:” We have a term for exhibitions that have been curated by an artist wherein he/she inserts him/herself into the exhibition. We call these “Me and My Friends” exhibitions*. Exhibitions like these lack legitimacy and honesty. It places the curator-artist at the center of the dialog with supporting characters who validate and verify the curator-artist’s practice. It’s a small step above the director of a non-profit art space scheduling a show for him/herself in the space they run. Something smells fishy. We hope that our curated shows give curators an opportunity to meddle in experimental curatorial practices (the artists shouldn’t have all the fun).
  4. Following Up With a Phone Call: Don’t do this. If you are worried about your work arriving or arriving on time, mail delivery services have options that will let you know when a package arrives. It sometimes takes a while for us to organize a full-exhibition schedule and then respond to those we couldn’t fit in. Don’t call us (or email) unless more than four months have passed beyond the initial submission deadline and we have not responded to you.
  5. Asking for an Extension: If you miss our annual deadline, let it go. Your career won’t fall into ruins because you missed this opportunity. Just like our own beloved Cleveland Browns, there is always next year. Mark your calendars and set your cell phone to warn you regularly of the pending deadline so you don’t miss it again. Most likely you missed the deadline because you were ill-prepared, ill-informed or didn’t schedule properly. But by trying to get an extension, you are in effect telling us that if we give you a show, you’ll likely blow past any other deadlines we give you. Try again next year and impress us with your organizational prowess.

All in all, the application process is seen as a reflection of what it would be like to work with you on an exhibition. If you demonstrate that you are responsible, smart, reliable and skilled when it comes to submitting an application, then it stands to reason that the same characteristics would surface when assembling and installing an exhibition. If you blow past deadlines and cannot communicate or follow instructions, you will likely be a disaster to work with. Regardless of the merit of your work, exhibitions are social in nature. They involve working with the venue’s staff and interacting with the public. We don’t work with difficult people if we can help it.

If you disagree with these practices, I can completely respect that. We have been doing this for years and find this structure useful, but acknowledge that it isn’t perfect. Also, the government sanctioned 501(c)3 status of non-profits has its own limitations that some might find, well… limiting. If you dislike our process and guidelines, my advice is to start your own art space. Heaven knows, we need more.

Posted by Christopher Lynn, Executive Director

(Update 08.31.09: See also: Being an Artist: PROOF-READ EVERYTHING.)

* Other types of exhibitions include: “Crap in a Room,” “Things That are White,” and “Trying Very Hard to Look Very Bad.”
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Filed under: call to artists, SPACES

One Response

  1. I would also like to add another type of exhibition to the list: “Objects Placed in a Grid.”

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