I once won a $1,000 prize at an art show, and I liked to think that money went a long way in covering the expenses of subsequent competitions. Nevertheless, like many artists, I've wondered over the years whether such competitions are worth the price. As I thumb through my latest copy of Ceramics Monthly, and check out the "call for entries" page, I'm frustrated by the rising cost of entry fees. $45 to enter a show that I may very well not get into, and even if I do, I have to pack my work and pay the shipping expenses. If I don't win a prize or make a sale, is it worth the trouble and expense?
In doing a little research on google, it becomes apparent to me that a lot of artists are struggling with this question.
Some websites and artist's blogs tout the benefits of entering competitions:
But then others make the case that the benefits may not outweigh the costs:
"How about all this just to enter a competition; six images formatted in a precise way, an application form, an entry form, an artist’s statement, a link to your website, references, a C.V., and of course the
aforementioned fee which is non-refundable and payable in advance (PayPal and credit cards accepted)."
Some artists complain about having their work judged:
"Who are they to tell me I'm not worthy of being shown?"
"Some crusty f***-head thinks that what you do is NOT good enough for others to see. This very principle is wrong at the most basic of levels. They ignore what’s going on in the real world and focus on their academic intuition to judge you. That’s not always a smart move. For me that means it’s pre-judged beforehand and that certain types of work will never get accepted as a result. How can that ever move art forward?"
And the inevitable pain of being rejected:
"Then there’s the stress of waiting for the acceptance or rejection correspondence. Have you experienced that? You sit and hope that you will get accepted and then the envelope or email
arrives and it’s a no again. How does that make you feel? Personally it’s a stress I can do without."
And most important of all is the question of whether art competitions advance an artist's career:
"Get real. Success with your art will have little to do with what you get from these competitions. Sure they can provide a platform to showcase your amazing work but they can also be very demotivating too. If you’ve been successful in the past then tell me, how has that changed your career today? Have you won a major prize and has that kick-started your career? I would love to hear from you if it has."
But I find myself agreeing the most with the artists who see art competitions as a mixed bag:
I enter shows, but I choose them carefully, and I never enter those with fees over $35. That's my limit. Once in a while I'll find a competition with no entry fee, but those are
all too rare these days.
For some tips on entering art shows, check out this link: