How to Enter a Juried Show

Q. How do you go about entering a juried show?

A. The first thing you need to do is request a prospectus, a form that provides information on the show, including how to enter. A prospectus will also tell you how many slides you may enter, how to label your slides, where to send your slides, and what fees to pay. Most national juried shows accept entries "by prospectus only." To get a particular show’s prospectus, you typically need to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope (an SASE). Use a business-sized, self-sealing envelope. Once you get your prospectus and know how to enter, here are a few more tips for successfully entering a show:

Don’t send unsolicited material. Resumes, tear sheets, letters, life stories, additional slides or other materials are rarely needed or wanted. These items are generally discarded and aren’t forwarded to the juror. Please remember that the person who receives your entry may be processing hundreds of entries.

Do send high-quality slides. Slides should only show artwork. The juror isn’t interested in your carpeting or landscaping. Eliminate all background distractions by framing the art carefully in the camera, placing a black cloth or a sheet of paper larger than your painting behind the artwork. If the slide comes back with "background" showing, you need to use Mylar tape to crop the image so only your painting shows. You can buy Mylar tape at a camera store. Don’t use masking tape, or any other kind of tape because the slide will be too thick and won’t drop down into the projector. If this happens, the picture may be rejected from the show.

Do follow instructions. Follow any matting and framing guidelines on the prospectus. Generally, you will be asked to use a white or off-white mat and Plexiglas instead of glass. Sometimes, glass is accepted, so be sure to read the instructions carefully.

Do ship with care. Label the back of your painting with your name and address. Use a sturdy box, preferably one designed for shipping artwork. There are companies that specialize in making boxes for shipping paintings. ("Strongbox by Airfloat" is an example. Tel. 800/445-2580). Look for ads in art magazines for these companies.

Use good packing material. Wrap your painting in brown craft paper, followed by bubble wrap. Don’t excessively tape the bubble wrap. Immobilize the painting in the box with at least two inches of foam or Styrofoam cushioning. Don’t use crumpled newspaper or loose packing materials, like peanuts. These may shift during shipping. Securely tape all seams with wide packing tape (don’t use masking tape or duct tape). Clean off old tracking codes in order to avoid shipping to the wrong address.

If you’re shipping a painting with glass, buy some wide, blue painter’s tape at your hardware or paint store. It’s designed to peel off easily without leaving adhesive on the glass. Put it on the glass in an X (see illustration at upper right). If the glass breaks, it will stick to the tape, not to your painting.

Do make return shipping arrangements. If you’re going to enter a lot of shows, you may want to consider opening an account with a shipping company. If you have an account, you can simply include a return-shipping label and your account will be billed automatically. Note that some shows may specify the return shipping method. In this case, follow their instructions for paying for return shipping. Attach all paperwork and payments to the back of your painting.

Do keep trying. If a painting is rejected, don’t be discouraged. Resist the urge to paint over it! Instead, look at it objectively. If you believe in your heart that it’s a good painting, then leave it alone and enter it in another show. If you feel you can improve it, then take it out of its frame and go for it. But before you do anything drastic, be really honest with yourself. You’ll know if it’s a good painting or not.

(Special thanks to Beth Connolly, Chairman of the Northwest Watercolor Society’s 2000 Open Show for sharing her tips on entering competitions.)

Mark Gottsegen is an associate professor of art at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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