Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Jury Process: Part I

Any good juried show begins by assembling bright, enthusiastic, and resourceful people. . . . The key ingredients are a sense of adventure and mission, balanced by a pragmatic approach to budgeting and grunt work.” Susan Eckenwalder, The Trials of Jurying: A Guide for Organizers and Jurors, Ontario Crafts Council, 1989

Each month, this blog has a new guest editor. My name is Ruth Blau, I’m a member of the Potomac Fiber Arts Gallery, and I’m primarily a weaver. However, like many fiber artists, I do other things as well. I dye (cloth and yarn), spin, knit, sew, do bead crochet, and do the Japanese braiding technique called kumihimo. I’m your blog writer for February.

The Potomac Fiber Arts Gallery is located in the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria, Virginia (TF). Under TF rules, we must jury in a minimum of 10 new shows per year. Jurying is a fact of life for all artists—those who work in fine art as well as we who work in fine craft—who wish to exhibit their work.

In the case of some exhibits and shows, jurying is carried out by submission of slides or photos on CD. In the case of our gallery, we judge each hand-crafted item separately and in person.

judging-each-itemGuest judge Diane and gallery judge Betty inspect jewelry item submitted by a gallery member for the January show

The gallery has a jury committee made up of eight gallery members. Each year, four members rotate off and four new members join the committee. Every show is judged by two jurors—but not always two jurors from our own jury committee. Under TF rules, five of our shows each year must be judged by an outside juror, someone who is not a member of our jury committee and is also not an artist-in-residence at the TF. Our outside judges are people who live in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area and who are recognized fine craft artists in fiber: weavers, art quilters, felt-makers, fine-craft knitters, and so forth.

All artists (fine art and fine craft) must at one time or another submit their work to be juried if they wish to participate in shows or exhibits. For some, it’s a painful process (the work isn’t accepted into the show), but for others, it’s a growth process. What didn’t the judges like about this piece? Did the piece not fit the show criteria? Or did the artist not execute the piece well enough to qualify? If the latter, how can the piece be improved?

Here’s an interesting article by a painter who has had her work judged and has served as a judge. While we artists are licking our wounds from having our work rejected from a show, we’re not often thinking about the agony the judge goes through in deciding whether to accept a piece. Katie Lee, the author of this article, reminds us that jurying can be a painful process on both sides of the jury table—and also an opportunity for growth as an artist.

Next blog post: We empty out the gallery and check in the items for the new show before handing them over to the jurors.

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