Showing Your Work

Open calls

Often curators will decide on a theme for a show and issue an open call. Sometimes the theme is just “emerging artists” or “new work,” so the call can be very general. Often, there is an entry or jury fee involved, and this can get quite pricey. Charging a fee used to be the mark of a bad or vanity show, but with budget cuts, this is no longer necessarily the case; entry fees are now the norm in most respectable shows. But do some research and make sure you are only entering show by reputable sources such as legitimate galleries and art centers. Open calls can be a way to get your work out there in front of other curators and the general public, but you can spend a great deal of time and money entering shows. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your work fits the call. Don’t waste your time entering shows that don’t really fit your work—it annoys the curators and you’ll only be throwing money away.
  • Read the prospectus carefully and follow the instructions to the letter. If they ask for an artist statement of less than 100 words, edit your statement so you don’t go over the limit. Send everything they ask for exactly as they ask for it.
  • Follow the date restrictions. If the email entry is due by Friday, send it by Friday. Pay attention to the dates for mailed entries—is it a postmark date or a received by date? Make sure you send received by entries at least 3 days before the deadline and use priority mail.
  • Send good images. Consider having your work professionally photographed. Keep your digital images as TIFF files as large as you can. If the instructions say to send JPGs, open your TIFFs, size the images to fit the guidelines, then save as a JPG. Don’t resize your JPGs—each time you save a JPG, you lose image quality.
  • Stay organized as you enter open calls. Keep a record of what you send, including information regarding the price you quoted for your work and what images you sent. Consider keeping computer folders for each call so you have a record and you know exactly what to send if you are accepted.
  • If you get into a show, make sure your artwork is properly packed and arrives by the deadline. Ask if you need to include return shipping, and do so if requested. When you ship your work UPS or FEDEX, you can usually purchase a return shipping label and include that in the box with your artwork.
  • Make sure your artwork is ready to hang. If it requires a setup, include a photo of what it should look like, along with hanging instructions.
  • Save any press you receive! If you are in an out of town show, Google the show at least mid-way though the run to see if the local press wrote anything!

Finding Open Calls


Registries

Slide Registries, in the Internet age, can be useful places to upload your work for curators and collectors to see, or they can be complete wastes of time–it’s difficult to tell.  Still, it often doesn’t hurt to be seen.  Most of them are free, although there are a few that charge artists–this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re better, so don’t pay for one unless you hear from someone that a particular registry is worth your hard-earned money.  There are also curated and uncurated sites–the curated ones require that you send images to a jury for inclusion, while uncurated registries allow you to simply upload your images.  Some local arts commissions maintain artist registries for artists residing in their locality–to find one of these, search “[locality] artist registry” in your favorite search engine.  Many of the artist organizations listed at the bottom of this page have media-specific slide registries for their member artists.  In many cases, that is one of the primary reasons to join the organization.  Still can’t figure out if you need to do this? Here are some non-media specific registries to start with:


Cooperative Galleries

Co-op galleries are really popular for emerging artists. Usually these are started by groups of friends, and, if run well, can be ongoing businesses that accept new members from outside the original group. There is usually a jury process; it often helps to be friends with one or more of the members. There is also an ongoing cost; some coop galleries pay their rent using the combined resources of their members, so you can pay $50, $100 or more a month (depending on the number of members and the gallery’s rent) to belong. These types of galleries give their members a solo or 2-person show on a set schedule, depending on the number of members (once a year, once every 18 months, etc). There is often a work requirement as well. Other coop galleries charge much lower annual membership fee; these often have annual member juried shows or curated shows for members and you are not necessarily guaranteed a show opportunity, but they can be valuable for their networking opportunities as well. If you decide, or are invited to join a coop gallery weigh the pros and cons carefully and make sure you can afford the monthly cost, have time for the work requirements, the work of the other artists fits in with yours, and you feel like the show schedule gives you the exposure you need for the time and money you put into the gallery. Some local coop galleries include:


Gallery/Boutique

These galleries are more like retail stores that sell handmade goods.  If your work is more craft-oriented and/or you produce multiples (prints, pots, glass vases), this may be the best venue for your work.  Each is run differently, so check the website to see if they have submission guidelines; if not, call and ask for an appointment with the owner/manager, and then be polite and professional when you show your work.

  • ArtStar
  • Cerulean Arts
  • Philadelphia Independents
  • Nice Things Handmade
  • Etsy connects buyers with independent creators to find the very best in handmade, vintage and supplies.  When you sign up to be a seller, you’ll get your own easy-to-use online shop. You can customize it with a banner, fill out a profile and set your shop policies. You’ll need a credit card to start an account, but it’s very low cost–you pay 20¢ to list a work for 4 months, and then a 3.5% transaction fee if/when it sells.
  • Amazon Handmade-like Etsy, but with the Amazon 800# gorilla behind it.
  • Best in American Made from the people who do the Niche Awards
  • Saatchi Online is a platform that allows emerging artists to showcase and sell their work and gives art lovers insider access to new talent from around the world. They enable artists to sell their originals as well as make them available as prints while giving them access to an engaged global audience. Artists manage their own portfolios and price their own work letting both artists and collectors skip the formalities of the traditional gallery structure.  They take a 30% commission on the sale of original artwork, but you can also sell prints of your work, which they print.

Local Traditional Galleries

There are lots of independent traditional gallery spaces in Philadelphia.  They will usually have a specific point of view, which your work may or may not fit into.  Most have specific guidelines for reviewing/choosing work, which are usually posted on the gallery’s website.  Do your research to make sure your work fits into the gallery and follow their guidelines to the letter.  And don’t forget to be polite and professional when talking to gallery owners!

Other Sp​aces

These are not traditional galleries, but they are spaces that regularly show work.  Each has its own way of selecting artists, so check the web site to see what you need to do to show there.