Jurying the Brookside Art Fair


I was invited to help jury the 2007 Brookside Art Fair, which we carried out today. Think it’s glamorous? Oh yeah: 11 hours of viewing images in a windowless room, working straight through with few breaks, everyone exhausted at the end, hungry, ready to go home. Despite this, we kept the humor and energy levels high, no one complained, everyone remained focused.

How do you jury submissions? Simple: stay open-minded, treat every submission (1400 in this case) with respect, and don’t only jury on the basis of what you like. Sometimes disliking is important. So is intellectual assessment as opposed to intuitive–depending on the nature of the work.

Did I jury for this just as I would for a corporation or my gallery? No. This was for an art fair, and serves a different purpose. Either way, I’m sure it will be a success–again.

Too late to go swim laps now, damnit. Well, we’ll dream up something.

33 thoughts on “Jurying the Brookside Art Fair

  1. Hey Paul. Many “art fair” artists will feel slighted by what appears to be a “dig” at the art fairs when a lot of us feel like we have the same goals as any gallery artist. Like me, I went straight to google “brookside art fair” to see a list of who was in last year and your blog was right under the fesival website. Never seeing a “jurors” blog I went straight to it. Very insightful. Thanks for including a photo of what the zapp set up looks like. Especially liked your “how do you jury submissions” Rick

  2. Richard: Yeah, the Zapp set-up was quite impressive. Made the process much easier than it otherwise would have been. Glad you appreciate how we juried. I always try to be fair to all when called to do this. Every artist sacrifices, and most put great passion into what they do. You’ve got to be sure to always respect that. The bourbon and toast can come after you’re done.

  3. Applying to any juried show is equivalent to riding a roller coaster. You get on with great joy and climb the hill with anticipation rising to a high crescendo. Topping the crest, you plummet screaming as the cars twist and tear at your sensibilities. Then before you know it you are screeching to a halt……and Paul is yelling to the unlucky…GET OUT…..and don’t forget to BUY a ticket and try again next year. My ticket got punched.
    Se la vie…I love the ride…..NEXT.

  4. Hi Paul, Thanks for creating this blog. Many artists wonder how their images appear in a ZAPP jury. Is there anything about the images that stood out, or any suggestions you can make that might help artists improve their digital jury images?

  5. Sounds like my submitting books in the early years as an unpublished writer. For how long was I rejected? 20 years. How many rejections? 177. Why did I keep submitting? Because I could sense something about the work that the agents and editors could not. I trusted the art more than the machine I had to submit it to.

    It’s good that you enjoy the ride. However I don’t yell at anyone (except my sons when they beat me at raquetball). Nor do I instruct anyone to buy a ticket. We all take the same risks in the arts. Perserverance sometimes pays, yet all too often does not. Still it’s better to have the opportunity than not. Either way, your photography is exceptional.

  6. Larry: Sure. Please make certain the photos have adequate contrast. If 3-D, a neutral background. If 2-D, crop in tight, only showing a frame if you feel it adds to the piece or communicates a feeling of substance (assuming a frame is used). Good light is important of course, but Photoshop helps with that. If an artist can’t afford good studio lighting, then just shoot outside; that’s the best light in the world.

    Finally, if a booth shot is required, make sure it looks well laid-out. It can look different, or untypical, so long as it looks professional. What? You don’t have any booth shots? Fake one in a park or backyard. It’s the work that counts, not how many fairs you may or may not have been in.

  7. All tongue-in-cheek Paul. If you don’t develop a taste for rejection (acidic as it might be) then art and the ever present struggle to bring it to the ultimate arbiter…the person who embraces it and brings it into their world… is the wrong place to toil.

    No one can control the 8:1 odds of Brookside or the 22:1 odds of Cherry Creek. The best one can do is to present the best work and hope that the passion with which it is created resonates. ( And the judges aren’t tired or hungry) ;-)


  8. Thanks for the blog.

    What do you mean when you say…judging for an art fair? As you say that it is different then what you look for in judging for your gallery. I am new to art festivals and just assumed that art is art.

  9. With most fairs, you want to consider whimsical art, craft, leatherwork, wearable art, decorative art, then the usual other categories that apply to galleries. This is different from jurying for, say, a corporate collection, where only certain categories apply–though I always advise my corporate clients to remain open-minded.

    Unless it is intended otherwise, an art fair should be fun for the attendees, and the artists. You don’t want it so riddled with snobbery that only elitists will attend. You don’t want it so burdened with decorative work that purists avoid it. You want, in my opinion, a wide variety of works and price points that will appeal to a wide variety of collectors, both the well-heeled and folks of more modest income (which are by far the greater number). This brings a bigger crowd, greater buzz, resulting in more sales, more careers advanced, and most everyone hoisting an ale come Sunday night. I’ll be there for that last bit.

  10. I’m a second generation artshow artist and have always strived to bring my best work to the general public. While there are definately shows of the “whimsical” caliber you seem to be referring to, there are quite a few that try to include truely creative work. These are the shows I apply to, and I was under the impression that Brookside was among them.

  11. Brookside is indeed a sophsiticated show, otherwise I wouldn’t agree to participate in jurying. In fact I consider this one of the best shows in the country. The work is all of gallery caliber, including the one or two artists whose tendency is toward whimsy. By this I suppose I mean amusing or surprising, but certainly not amatuerish in execution.

    Whimsy has a great tradition in the arts: Lautrec on occasion, Savadore Dali on occasion, and Pollock…never. But please don’t confuse my reference to one of dogs playing poker. Man, that would scare me too.

  12. When you speak in terms of “fun for the attendees”…. (and) wanting to avoid “snobbery (so) that only elitists will attend,” I believe you are sending a message that disturbs many artists doing shows. That is, that most shows are less interested in bringing higher quality, creative work and the patrons who appreciate it, and more interested in bringing in huge crowds for the food, the bands and the sponsors. It sounds a little like you’re advocating the dumbing-down process that many believe is a growing disaster for high quality art shows and the artists who depend on them.

    I’m not speaking directly about Brookside-I never seen the show–but this is an overall trend. While I’m sure your comments are well intentioned, they struck a nerve, for me anyway, relating to the problems with shows in general.

    Thanks for you blog–its good to have some contact with the “shadowy figures” who help determing our fate!

  13. Will, this is a good point, so let me explain: You have shows like SOFA in Chicago, which serve one purpose (if you can afford the insane booth fees), and then you have the more common shows, with modest booth fees. Most artists submit to the latter.

    With these, the task of jurying is complex. You have to keep the show sophisticated, yet not so obscure that the general public will feel daunted. At the same time, you have to have “accessible” work that will appeal to a wider audience, yet not offend the sophisticates. Then you need work that is not necessarily accessible, that may well confound most viewers, but at the same time intrigues.

    Then while you’re jurying, you MUST be aware of the fact that each artist has submitted work that is the result of years of sacrifice and labor–as well as love. This is where the respect comes in, along with the knowledge that you’re trying to help advance careers. Unfortunately because of the number of submissions, you can never choose all you’d like to.

    It’s a balancing act, where you’ll never please everyone. But if you do the job well, the level of sophistication keeps advancing, as do the expectations and taste of the attending public. That is one of the goals.

  14. Paul- I talked to a past Brookside slide juror and was told the comments by the director went like this ” These slides look good-but if you saw the work….” Oh we must have him in!” to mention just two…did this happen this year? This is not the first time I have heard this.

  15. I never heard these sorts of remarks this year–the first time I’ve participated. Nor did I encounter this sort of attitude. If I had, I certainly wouldn’t offer to assist again.

    Beyond that, I’ve no idea what’s happened in the past. But I can say that I don’t feel this show has acquired national respect by happenstance; they’ve earned that, and it hasn’t been easy. How individual jurors might behave on occasion is unfortunate, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect the tone or attitude of an overall show, and the people behind it.

  16. I am a full time artist making my liing on the road so to speak. I have participated in some of the top festivals according to Sunshine Artist mag azine ( Yellow Daisy festival and Court of St James to name a couple) and yet — I have not been accepted at any festvals through ZAPP.

    I would really like to know what I am doing wrong. Is it a matter of Zapp making applications so “painless” that so many more applications are being submitted that my work doesn’t make the cut?

    I guess I would really like to know more about the process you as a judge goes through – more than a “saw 1300 applications” — btw – I do not apply or show in your part of the country– too far to travel.


  17. Debra: To be honest, as a gallery owner, this was the first time I’d encountered ZAPP. Prior to this, I participated where jurying was done the old fashioned way: discs from the artists who had that technology (the majority), slides from the rest.

    After observing the sleekness of this system, the ease with which it allowed us to examine each artist’s work, and how it effectively kept track of the jurying process so that NO ONE’S vote was missed, I have to say I’m mightily impressed. But apparently it makes submitting equally easy.

    Yeah, I’d say that likely increases the # of submissions, thereby decreasing each artist’s odds, since the # of booths doesn’t change in most fairs. In the case of Brookside, I believe there are 200.

    I can’t say what you might be doing wrong, if anything. Your photography does seem a little flat, where what is obviously brilliant color in your work could likely be brought out to more dramatic effect, both in terms of lighting and background. But other than that, you should do fine. Just make sure your photos stand out, and that you submit to shows where you stand the best chance; in other words, those that have a strong 3-D tradition, and that aren’t biased toward 2-D.

    Beyond that, take heart. You’re submitting to shows in the wealthiest nation in the world, rather than in a crowded marketplace in the 3rd World. With perseverance and determination, all things are possible.

  18. No. I am not in a 3rd world market place. Nor are you a judge in a 3rd world marketplace. Perhaps mistakenly, I thought you put out your blog in an effort to have meaningful discussion. Thank you and I will continue with my work.

  19. Meaningful discussion is indeed what we had. Best of luck with the fairs; you’ve obviously worked hard, and deserve success.

  20. Thank you for taking the time to establish this blog; I find it extremely interesting and informative.

    I would like to go back to you initial comments and to your answer to Will Conner’s comments on Feb. 1. When you use the word “accessible”, are you speaking in terms of imagery(2D) or understanding, function, use, fun (3D) or price points or range of pricing?

    Aside from an artist submitting great photography of the work, which is a given, in order of (your) judging priority, what would be your criteria for picking artist for this (or any) show?

    If you received jury instructions from the show, did this differ from the way you would have done it if you were only given the same info that was submitted to entering artist?

    Thank you in advance for your comments.

  21. LaTrece: Accessible can be defined in so many ways. But in this instance, what I meant was work that wasn’t so abstracted or conceptual that the average fair-goer wouldn’t just pass it by. On the other hand, I feel it’s good to have work such as that at certain fairs; it keeps pushing the edge of the envelope, which is nothing that artists haven’t done for thousands of years.

    My criteria for this, or any similar show, was abstraction that seemed truly original and impassioned; landscape with true depth and sophisticated execution; jewelry that was either surprising or refined, and yet reflecting great workmanship; 3-D that was also surprising, or refined, or raw and original. I could go without end. It varies depending on medium, and as soon as you think you have your parameters set, along comes an artist who challenges all that. Hence, just keep an open mind.

    I received no instructions on this show, nor on any other I’ve ever juried. Normally when I’m asked to serve as a juror, the sponsors of each show look to us for experience and fairness, which by my own experience, is something all jurors try to deliver each time. I think many artists would be surprised by the air of openness, and the lack of snobbery.

    Glad you dig the blog. Just trying to be of use. Who was William, by the way? Seems very lively, vibrant work.

  22. Looking at the images being projected, I’m wondering; What is that image on the left side (that looks like a composite of 12 images?

    In addition, how similar must the images within an entry be, in your opinion?(ie; if a photographer works in both color and b&w, do you feel it is ok to mix them within one submission, or should they be separate?) How literal are the jurors, in your experience?


  23. The left hand image is the Roku interface needed to start the slide show. Assuming the jurying hadn’t started yet, they were getitng the projection equipment in sinc.

  24. Deborah: Larry has answered your first question very well. (Thanks, by the way. You answered it more thoroughly than I could have.)

    I don’t advise mixing media, or black-and-white with color, when submitting. If you feel you do both equally well, make two submissions. Most fairs have no problem with this. But I’m afraid if you submit both, you may get uneven response, and your chances thus be dimmed.

    In well-established shows, I do not find the jurors to be greatly literal. In fact I’ve always been pleasantly surprised by how open they were, and how sensitive to nuances and subtlety. Regarding newer shows, it depends entirely on the awareness of the organizers. I’ve met some jurors in newer venues who were as qualified as those for SOFA; I’ve met others who were better suited to selling used cars.

  25. Paul,

    I have never spent time reading blogs. So I find this all interesting. I am an exhibiting artist; yet I also oversee the jury for Art in the Pearl, in Portland, Oregon. I find some of your comments troubling. From your email dated Feb.1. It seems that you were over thinking the jury process. Trying to find work for the public to enjoy. I always instruct our jurors to chose the A+’s. The best of the best. That we are not concerned about the marketability of the work presented. Now I am wondering if many other jurors for other shows are trying to match artists to the the public.


  26. Lyn:

    No worries. We do accept the best of the best. But in this particular show, it has been decided that a variety of disciplines, and therefore tastes, should be given consideration. Hence the following: great abstraction, great conceptual, great figure, outstanding landscape, outstanding craft, outstanding art jewelry, and anything at all that might be surprising.

    It isn’t a matter of catering to lowest-common-demoninatorism. It’s more a matter of variety at master status, since the collecting world is made up of a variety of tastes. Now I know plenty of contemporary artists who claim there are no legitimate landscapes, and I know plenty of landscape painters who claim the same about contemporary, but I don’t get involved in those disputes. Instead I advocate only one thing: keep an open mind.

    Various fairs serve various purposes, but that is a different discussion.

    Portland. I spoke a year ago at the Portland Art Center. Great audience. Great town. I especially dig the micro breweries. Otherwise, rains too freaking much for my taste (bear in mind, I lived for a year on the Olympic Peninsula). However two of my sisters and one brother have moved to OR. So has my Ma. Good excuse to visit, which I do on a regular basis.

  27. Paul,

    I stumbled upon your blog looking for the Brookside website and I’m glad I did! My father is going to be an artist participating this weekend and I have really enjoyed reading your comments about shows and galleries. I also appreciate how honestly you have answered all the questions asked of you.

    It has been interesting to hear about art shows from a jurors perspective. I’ve been an artist’s kid my whole life, in fact I went to my first show when I was 2 weeks old. I don’t really have any rhyme or reason for this post I just wanted to say….thanks!

  28. Pingback: Paul Dorrell’s Blog » Brookside Art Fair Fast Approaches

  29. Rebecca: Just trying, in my straightforward Midwestern way, to be of some use. Please drop by the gallery and say hello. Have your father do same. Art shows since infancy? Man, you’re a veteran.

  30. Perfect site :-) I will recommend it to all my friends and fans

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