By Jennifer Reed
I’ve been in the art industry for a long time, and I’ve applied to and been accepted to (and rejected from) some of the best shows in the country. I am also the promoter of the Great Lakes Beach Glass & Coastal Arts Festival held in Erie, Pennsylvania. I am one of the five jurors for the festival, which will be held in May 2019. Sharing my experience of the application process from both sides—as an artist and promoter—can provide insights to help you increase your odds of being accepted to a show.
Putting your best application forward
Send quality photographs.
Make sure they are in focus! Seems obvious right? But I have seen my fair share of out-of-focus, poorly lit, and poorly framed images. Unless you are a very good amateur photographer, it would be best to hire a pro for your application photos. Don’t think that average photos will present your work in an above average light. Bad photos will simply fast track you to the rejection pile. Get up tight to the subject. Make your products visually appealing and yet recognizable. This is no time for abstract photography. And keep in mind: Application reviewers (jurors) may only spend a few seconds looking at each photo, so it needs to be obvious what they are seeing. Don’t create any undue confusion.
Beware the group photo.
It’s tempting to take a shot with several pieces of your work in it. You want to convey your scope, right? Wrong. It’s better to showcase one item that shows your attention to detail and design. Some products can work in a grouping as long as the items in the image are the same, like knives, and candles. That said, have at least one shot of a standalone product.
Read and follow the directions.
If the application asks for a booth shot, submit a booth shot. Don’t have a booth shot? Take the time to set up your booth at home or in your studio and photograph it. In my years, I have seen otherwise wonderful art work displayed in the most awful ways. Displaying a professional, well-lit booth will tell the jury about your level of professionalism.
Submit the application on time.
Late forms can be an immediate disqualification.
Spell check and proofread your bio.
If accepted, your biography likely will be used in show promotions and program, and clearly conveying your story is important.
Be a consummate professional
Pay on time.
Neglecting this important detail may result in you being rejected the next time around. Promoters have limited time to chase down vendors that aren’t respectful of deadlines. Time is everyone’s biggest commodity: be mindful of that.
Create a file and keep all emails pertaining to each show. That way you can reference things like dates, times, and costs. Phone calls and emails should be a last resort. It’s not like promoters don’t want to help, but many organizers have limited time. Don’t stand out as the applicant that just can’t figure things out on your own.
Follow the rules for set up.
There is so much to be done on move-in day and the actual show dates. Promoters are getting things ready for you to make things smooth and hopefully hassle free. Don’t show up early to set up your booth. Be patient and considerate of the promoters and your fellow vendors.
Be aware of your booth space.
Don’t let your displays, props, or artwork encroach on your neighbor’s space. There may be times when you have to mention this to a neighbor if they have “urban sprawl” going on. Do so politely as it could be their first show and they really are not aware. If that doesn’t solve the problem, talk to the promoter; they are there to help. We are in this together, we are there to help you be successful.
Help me help you.
Marketing takes a village. Let your customers and fans know about the show. A good show advertises early and often. But there is no way a promoter can reach all of your customers. By handing out promotional materials, sending out emails, and posting on social media, your customers will know where to find you, and that helps your bottom line.
Don’t give up if you don’t get in
In the event of a rejection, try not take it personally. It’s easy to be offended when you thought for sure you’d get in. For your next application, double check to avoid the above-mentioned errors, which could have derailed your application.
If you have awesome photos, you applied on time, your booth shot was clean and professional looking, and you still weren’t accepted, it could be something out of your control. Maybe there was an artist with items similar to yours that was already “grandfathered” in due to early registration promotions last year. Some categories, like jewelry, are extremely competitive. The number of jewelry applicants is staggering, and you may not make it in just because of that factor alone.
There may be times when you should have gotten in and did not. Maybe there were times that you got in and should not have. Consider the latter good luck. The former? It is not luck at all.
You have to put your best foot forward.
For a list of coastal events, please visit our Community Page ›
Learn more about Jennifer Reed ›
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine January/February 2019 issue.
Check out the list of annual events at https://www.beachcombingmagazine.com/pages/community to find out how to apply!
How do you apply to the Sea Glass Festivals ?
Thank you for the advise… it was helpful.