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How You Get into an Art Show Like Mystic

You send them your best stuff, and then you wait

When I am not reporting, writing or editing for the Montville Patch, chances are good that I’m painting.

This year, like last, my paintings and I are in the Mystic Outdoor Art Festival.

I received notice in early spring that I’d been juried into the festival (yay!). A couple of months later, Patch became a major sponsor of the event.

Most people don’t know how these art festivals work, and so Patch has given me the opportunity to share that experience with you.

The whole thing starts with a call to artists. For a summer show, the call (an invitation to submit your work to the jury) usually comes in the winter.

Not everyone who applies to be in an art show or outdoor fair is accepted. Some shows are very stringent; others are more relaxed. All are striving to achieve a balance of numbers vs. quality. The show organizers have to have enough artists to make it financially successful (they make their money from sponsorships and from the booth fees that we pay)  and the work that is accepted needs to be of a high enough quality to make the show esthetically successful.

But the work also needs to be right for the location, the tastes of the show-goers, and their financial standing. A show filled with vendors whose lowest price work is $1,000 will appeal to a very different audience than a show filled with vendors who have $30 items for sale.

And so the jury wants to see examples of your work, and your price range, and in most cases, your booth set-up. If you have beautiful work but are showing it in a junky set-up, you will be out on your ear.

Mystic requires five examples, so early in the year, I sent them off, with my jury fee, money that you pay for the chance to have your work judged. Usually, this is $35-$40. Mystic’s is $25. The booth fee, if you pay on time, is $235. This is about average; fees can range into the thousands.

So the whole thing is a gamble. You can pay good money, and a lot of it, for a booth fee at a show that should attract buyers with bucks – and then not sell a single item. There are no guarantees.

By now, most of the application process happens online. So you have to have good photos of your work, at a size that can be projected onto a screen or looked at on a good monitor. Some people have professional photographers make images; most of us learn to do it well enough to make it work.

Of course, you can’t fool with the image. No blemishes may be removed, no colors changed, no alterations made.

You send the images off, and then you wait.

Every time, at least for me, the application process brings up a host of self-doubting questions. Is my work good enough? What if I got in last year and I don’t get in this year, what will that mean? What is the jury like? What if one of them is in a bad mood when they view my work? What if they like realism? Did I send the right pieces? Are the examples I sent really indicative of my work? Will they be able to tell that I really don’t know what I am doing, that I didn’t go to art school, that I’ve only been painting for five years, that I am plagued constantly by doubt of myself, my skills, my future?

So you wait.

And then, one day in the spring, the envelope arrives.

I carry it into the house and leave it on the counter for a while, until I can stand it no longer.

And all you have to read, really, is the first word: Congratulations!

The Mystic Outdoor Art Festival takes place Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine, in downtown Mystic. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. I'll be at the corner of Main and Willow, across from the Mystic Post Office.

Look for Patch in the information booth at Bank Square Books, where you can sign up for the online newsletter, and for Patchers out and about in the crowds, handing out bubbles and tattoos.

You can see more of my work on my website and on my blog, The Accidental Artist.

Polly August 11, 2011 at 02:38 PM
So good and smart of you to fill people in on the inner workings of these events and how it all works! Thank you Carrie! =)
Polly August 11, 2011 at 02:40 PM
Oh and best wishes with the festival! =)
Ellen Hillman August 11, 2011 at 10:20 PM
Well so far it looks like great weather and a good weekend. Hope you sell out

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