Sunday, August 22, 2010

Show entries and jurying

More of my responses to the readers who commented on my earlier post about show entries. Thanks to all who took the time to read and share such thoughtful remarks.

Barbara Lardon wrote:  "I read an article from the jurors of a major show. They said that each quilt gets three seconds when they go thru the initial photos. If they do not catch their attention in that time they are discarded. Then in each viewing after they add a bit more time until they are down to the final few and then and only then do they look at details. That bothered me a lot."

I suspect you're describing Quilt National and perhaps Quilt Visions, not some of the smaller shows.  A lot depends on whether the jurors initially get together in the same room or whether they each look at the entries online at home, and later discuss their choices via conference call.  Clearly the latter approach gives a juror more time to scrutinize even the pieces that don't yell "I'm wonderful" in the first three seconds.  And assuming there's an efficient method to collate the jurors' first votes, it allows much more time to talk about the pieces that are still in the running.

On the other hand, leisurely discussion of the short list does make the process vulnerable to the persuasive powers of the juror who is most articulate, most passionate, or highest on the food chain.  By contrast, the three-second approach, I understand, usually has no discussion at all, just a ranking system whereby first impressions eliminate a large proportion of the entries. Having changed my own mind many times as a juror because of the comments of my colleagues, and vice versa, I tend to like a system that allows more works rather than fewer to be talked about. 

I believe that detail shots are important in telling the jurors more about how a piece was made and whether the workmanship is good, bad or indifferent.  But I think it's OK to make a first judgment based on the full view only.  If a piece has poor design or insufficient visual impact, it doesn't really matter whether it's quilted by hand or machine or how well.

Nina-Marie wrote: "I believe some of these shows use entries as a way to raise money for the show itself. The more entries -- the more revenue. That said, now the jury needs to look at all those entries -- in QN they have to whittle near 1,000 entries down to a show under a hundred. How are they going to do that? Using some of these complicated rules as a way to disqualify seems to have become part of the solution."

You're absolutely right that entry fees go to support the show.  Even if you don't have to pay rent and insurance for your space, and if the staff support is already on the payroll of some sponsoring organization, you have to pay jurors and/or judges, give prizes, print postcards and other publicity material, buy refreshments for the opening reception, perhaps buy ads to promote the show to both entrants and visitors. If you print a catalog, you instantly add five figures to your expenses.  Entry fees are one way to recoup these costs, but I suspect it's a rare show that collects enough on entries to cover its costs.

I don't think shows use complicated rules to help whittle down its entries -- they use jurors.  It takes a lot less time and effort for a jury to eliminate a quilt on its merits than it does for a staff person to vet each entry in hopes of finding a gotcha.

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