the price of juried exhibits

I’m annoyed at how the price of juried exhibits has escalated to the point where artists are actually being excluded because they can't afford them. Something about this just feels wrong. The purpose of having these juried shows, I thought, was to give emerging artists a place to exhibit. It’s how artists become seasoned. It’s the way they meet other artists, the way they compare their work to other artists and the way they build a resume. This is an age-old system all artists have to go through, but I am increasingly concerned about the motives of the promoters of these exhibitions.

Years ago when I was a member of the Philadelphia Artist Equity they had taken a no fee stand on juried exhibits. It was a large and important organization which had a big influence in the art community…strength in numbers. It actually stopped the fees because artists stood together and boycotted shows with a pricetag. 

There’s a sense of helplessness about entering these exhibits. The artist population is somewhat at the mercy of the establishment. Many of the galleries that offer juried exhibitions do it to make their rent. I know what I’m talking about, I was once a member of a co-op gallery in New York and was unwittingly part of this process. Sadly, there’s something that feels desperate about it.

What’s the answer? I propose that a gallery or organization find another way to make the funds to run one of these shows. Applying for grants is one way of bringing in money, or having a fundraiser, or charging a membership that gives a free entry to their juried exhibition... museums offer this, or, at the least, just charge artists whose work is accepted into the show.

Do we not exhibit our work because there’s a fee, or do we gulp down our pride and do it anyway? I think we have an obligation to seek out and support the no fee shows. They’re out there. As artists we need to show a stronger, organized presence.