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Jurors Jim Edwards and Ginny Lee discuss the merits of work submitted to the Illinois Artisans Program jury.
By Illinois State Museum | SUBMITTED
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The artist's judge and jury
By Janet Seitz Carlson

Ever wonder what trial an artist in a "juried" art show endured?

Many organizations, shows and exhibitions review artists' work for participation. While not "American Idol" fanfare, a jury - or panel - selects those who qualify for a type or skill level and eliminate those who don't. So, you likely won't find beer-can airplanes in the same show as the emerging Picassos.

Entering juried art events is a way for emerging artists to build a resume, expose works to a wider audience, and exhibit with peers.

The Illinois Artisans Program, part of the Illinois State Museum, recognizes artists living and producing work in the state - nearly 1,700. Accepted artists may show and sell work in the Illinois Artisans Shops and Museum Stores located in Springfield, Chicago, Rend Lake and Dickson Mounds. The number of artists represented at each location varies, but about 200 are represented in Springfield.

The jury is held twice yearly. Program director Carolyn Patterson said they receive 75-100 applications each time with no limit on the number accepted. Jurors (usually three) are then selected by specific areas of expertise needed. She explains that jurors "are all well-informed by craft" and include those with a history in the art field, art critics, gallery owners and those familiar with various techniques.

"These are people who have looked at a lot of work over time," Patterson said.  

Jurors review the entire pool of work initially, which includes slides or digital images of applicants' work, then by medium. Nothing other than a number identifies the applicant. They look at originality, use of materials and craftsmanship. Majority agreement gains acceptance.

"When you have a well-informed jury, it's a smooth process," Patterson said. "We have a huge pool of talent here, so there's no problem getting qualified jurors."

Patterson stressed that "it's so very important for artists to get professional photographs or consultation on how to take photos of work. The best work on the kitchen table with canisters in the background won't pass muster with the jury."

Similarly, the Prairie Art Alliance not-for-profit art gallery and school selects the jury after artist applications and images are received, says PAA board member and membership chair Kathy Pippin Pauley. The jury is comprised of several artist members selected to cover each category of applications, and different members may be on the jury each time. The work is scored on technical skill, level of achievement, presentation and personal statement. Like the artisans program, PAA does not limit the number of new artists. PAA currently has 123 member artists who may display work in its gallery.

For the Old Capitol Art Fair and Edwards Place Art Fair, Amanda Lampert Gleason, Springfield Art Association interim director and art adviser for the Old Capitol Art Fair, is responsible for getting jurors for these applicant reviews.

Gleason says that for OCAF, traditionally local jurors (artists and professionals) are chosen for new artists or those rejurying. An artist may be asked to rejury if that artist's displayed work is different from that presented in the application process or has changed. As with other groups, jurors do not know the identity of the applicant.

"We've never had a number or quota of artists," Gleason said about both shows. About 100 artists exhibit in the Edwards Place Show and about 200 in OCAF. Jurying criteria is in the applications, Gleason explains. OCAF has four jurors. The board chair may vote but usually doesn't unless there's a strong opinion or need to break a tie. Acceptance is by simple majority.

"Art is subjective. Jurying is from photos, so it's important that they're good works in both ways."

And as for the process, Gleason says the jurors "do a fantastic job and are thorough. They're honored to do it and take it seriously."

Story published Friday, March 6, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 2 )

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