Jurying Members’ Exhibitions
In the usual course of things, we at ArtsWorcester get a lot of questions. Through these questions, we learn that how we produce exhibitions is sometimes a mystery to artists and gallery-goers alike. In these posts, we answer some of the questions we are most often asked. Send in what seems like a mystery to you to Allie (allie “at” artsworcester.org), and we’ll answer your questions!
Question: If it’s a member exhibition, why is there a juror?
Answer: To give prizes!
The mission of ArtsWorcester is to advance this region’s artists, at whatever point in their career they may be. Our work is to give artists professional experience, exhibition and sales opportunities, and lines on their resumés that make sense to the gallerists, curators, and patrons they will encounter along the way. For emerging artists new to this work, member exhibitions are without a doubt the first and easiest way to begin exhibiting their work publicly (and receiving feedback on it). But member exhibitions are not only for emerging artists, and, given our mission, we are always seeking ways to advance artists professionally in everything we do. Hence: prizes for member exhibitions, so every artist has a crack at not just a modest cash prize, but also an important career marker.
As in the solo exhibition process, ArtsWorcester staff doesn’t determine prizes. Instead, we seek a juror to award them. That juror doesn’t choose the artwork that’s in the exhibition, because showing an artwork in it is open to all members. They come in during the last stages of exhibition installation, look at all the work, and determine which pieces get awards. Generally, they have $500 to distribute as they see fit. Perhaps they give 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prizes, with relative amounts of cash associated with each prize, or they can give, for example, five juror’s prizes of equal cash value. It’s up to them. They may also wish to name some artworks as honorable mentions, which don’t come with a check, but are, again, a form of professional recognition. We are always happy when a juror’s enthusiasm for a large number of works or even some indecision on their part results in honorable mentions.
We are grateful that some ArtsWorcester donors give money that is restricted to funding these prizes. Most of our member exhibition provide cash prizes. The exception is our “Call and Response” collaboration with the Fitchburg Art Museum, in which the juror is usually a junior member of their curatorial team (just as we seek to provide career advancement to artists, we do the same whenever we can for the staff of exhibiting organizations). Our colleague from FAM selects ten artists from our member exhibition to go on view the next season up there. In this case, the prize isn’t a check; it’s a museum exhibition credential.