Category Archives: Arts Opportunities

Beyond the Border Donation Box Commission

I’ve been sent details of an ‘opportunity’ this morning from Beyond the Border story telling festival.

They have issued a brief and an open call to artists for the creation of a donation box ahead of this year’s festival as follows:

Beyond the Border would like to commission a sculptor to make us a beautiful donation box. The sculpture must:

  • the words Beyond the Border Storytelling Festival on it
  • Be robust enough to be kept outdoors during the festival and to last at least four years
  • Be transportable to our other events, but also be sturdy/large enough not to just be picked up/stolen
  • Be made of recyclable, sustainable or found materials
  • Be interesting and interactive to use, for example a coin would make a noise, set off moving parts, go on an interesting journey and somehow reflect the theme of stories and storytelling

I opened up the full details of the brief that I was sent eager to find out more as it sounded like an interesting project and one that I thought some friends of mine might be interested in; particularly with regard to the interactive aspects of the project.

However, as I scanned through the document I clocked the fee for this job which totals £200.00.

Maybe I’ve missed something, or maybe the visions of donation boxes that I was imagining having read the brief were a far too fanciful, but £200 for a project of this scale seems ludicrous. I’d actually go so far as to say I felt disgusted at reading this.

The donation box that they are asking for is essentially a one off handmade piece of sculpture with interactive components, whether that be digital or mechanical, and must be of a size that it can’t be stolen – which in my mind is a sizeable object.

Now I could rabbit on about the amount of funding that the festival receives, or the price of their tickets, or even the fees that they pay to festival staff or storytelling performers, but the fact of the matter is that regardless of all of those other counterpoints £200.00 is a pitiful amount of money for this brief.

I think I would be less offended if the the Beyond the Borders festival organisers had leant heavily on their charitable status crutch and simply come out and said that they are strapped for cash and would like to find an artist / maker who would work for free.

The briefing document states that the £200 offered is divided in half with £100 allocated for materials and £100 as the artists fee. It is stated that the box should be made from “recyclable, sustainable or found materials” so I’m sure a thrifty maker could scrape by with £100 materials budget.

The current UK minimum wage is apparently £6.31 per hour and £100 at this rate would allow for 15 hours of work by the appointed artist which equates to two full days work. However, I’m assuming that Beyond the Border storytelling festival are seeking a skilled individual to create their donation box. After all they refer to it as a ‘Sculpture‘ (see above). With this in mind a basic minimum wage would seem to be far too low a rate of pay which would mean that the fee that they are offering would barely cover a days work.

It’s oft been said that you get what you pay for and there is a little part of me that hopes Beyond the Border will end up with not a lot more than a cardboard box and a tin whistle. But the sad thing is that for every artist who looks at this brief and agrees that the fee offered doesn’t come close to work being asked for, there will be another who will jump at this opportunity because they will make and do regardless of whether they’re paid (fairly) for their creative endeavours or not, and of course this perpetuates the cycle of poor pay for visual artists.

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Artist Opportunities – Fresh Meat

I’ve just come across this open call for artists from Fresh Meat Gallery who describe themselves as “a pop-up gallery and artist-run space established in late 2012”. Their mission statement is as follows:

Fresh Meat Gallery provides opportunities for emerging artists across the UK as well as continually developing creative opportunities for the East Midlands and Yorkshire. We intend to create programmes that focus on participation and debate, building relationships between artists and audiences. We aim to focus on working with young creatives in developing their practice and providing the public with contemporary, innovative art.
– (www.freshmeatgallery.com/?page_id=824, 8 April 2013)

Hardly ground breaking or awe inspiring is it?

Clearly Fresh Meat’s definition of an “opportunity” for emerging artists (whatever an emerging artist might be) is very different from my own.

It’s irksome enough that artists so often have to pay, through a submission/application fee, for someone to even look at their work. I can understand that there may be a need for those holding exhibitions to charge an exhibitors fee to cover the cost such as hiring a space, insurance or marketing, amongst others. And I can accept that more commercial galleries will take as much as a 50% commission. This at least puts the onus on the exhibition organisers to at least try and sell the work rather than hosting an exhibition and then sitting back with thir feet up expecting the work to sell itself.

The costs for exhibition with Fresh meat are: £20 entry fee. 40% commission on works sold.

That’s right; not an application (or exhibition) fee or a high rate of commission. They’re milking these “emerging artists” for all they can get.

Frankly I find this disgusting and far from an “opportunity” for artists.

I have a distaste for exhibition entry fees as it stands but this £20 fee is not far off the fees charged by the likes of Jerwood Visual Arts for their open calls or the Oriel Mostyn Open as previously discussed. In these instances artists applications are reviewed by arts professionals with a wealth of experience and proven track records (not that I approve of entry fees in these instances either).

But who are Fresh Meat? Apparently they are Calum Crowther and Alexandra Cavaye who graduated from their degrees (in fine art, or a related undergraduate degree, presumably?) in 2011 and 2012. So with the possibility of a whopping 18 months of real world experience between them how can they justify a £20 application fee for this “opportunity”? It seems to me that they are no more qualified, if even as qualified as many of the artists from whom they will likely be receiving submissions. Yet here they have placed themselves are arbiters of taste.

I can’t help but think that this exorbitant fee is simply a money making fee to help get their venture off the ground. Sadly there are hundreds and thousands of artists out there who will cough up the cash in the hope that their work my be exhibited in a real world exhibition in London.

But then this “opportunity” does offer “long-term promotion and the possibility of commissions”. …apparently.

The possibility of commissions? Surely every single exhibition opportunity out there offers such possibilities?

Given that Fresh Meat have only existed for a matter of months I can hardly believe that they have a network of buyers and collectors chomping at the bit waiting for their exhibition to open. Whilst I’d like to believe that these potential gallerists will be working their socks off to elicit countless commissions for their exhibitors the location of the show puts doubt in my mind.

The exhibition is to be held in the offices of a technology company. It’s hardly Cork Street. Yes, London W1 is a desirable location, but despite Fresh Meat’s bold claims that they are “working together to providing [sic] their contemporary space with artwork by emerging artists“, and that this partnership offers the “possibility of selling work to a high-end market“, I can’t believe that the staff at this technology company will have the time to be acting as sales representatives for Fresh Meat.

Likewise I find it hard to believe that the the Directors of Fresh Meat Gallery will be camped out in the offices of this technology company drum up sales in their makeshift gallery.

I have no problem with young graduates try to start up their own galleries and art organisations. In fact I would applaud anyone who is trying to do so. However, seeing such organisations, run by young graduates, exploiting their peers, or “emerging artists” if you prefer, in order to help themselves get a footing disturbs me.

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Welsh Artist of the Year

So today is deadline day for getting your application in to the annual Welsh Artist of the Year competition.

Though to be honest if you’re not in Cardiff it’s probably too late already as there is still no online application process. Yes the Welsh art scene is still apparently entrenched in the dark ages of pre-digital media. It’s ridiculous really because the application form asks for little more than a name, address and title of the artwork. With the amount of time a digital submission process could save the organisers could probably half the submission fee which would be very welcome in these austere times.

Of course they could still make a hard copy available for the old dears who have a fear of technology. After all it should be as inclusive as possible.

Not that – finally – updating the application process would encourage me to apply.

The competition is a bit a joke really. How can they judge the Welsh Artist of the Year based on the submission of one piece of work?

Not only are the artists judged by one single piece of their output but there is no opportunity to contextualise their work either in the context of their own practice or within a wider view of the contemporary arts. After all context is everything.

It’s an issue I’ve had with an number of Welsh open exhibitions recently such as the Cardiff Open last autumn. By judging an artists career off the back of one single image without context perpetuates the notion that visual art is about nothing more than the creation of an images and that the intellectual values of the work are redundant.

The judges might as well pull names out of a hat or employ the age old ‘ip-dip dog shit’ technique.

Not that any of this will stop hundreds of artists from around the country handing over £10.00 on the of chance that it might be their year. After all without any context ‘Welsh Artist of the Year’ as a stand alone CV entry reads rather well doesn’t it?

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National Eisteddfod of Wales’ Visual Arts Exhibition

The application form for the National Eisteddfod of Wales’ Visual Arts Exhibition (competition) 2013 landed on my desk this week.

I’m gob-smacked that there is still no online application process for the open submission exhibition. To apply artists must:

“send their £20.00 fee, a completed application form, the Jpeg images or DVD works, together with a clear statement concerning the work to the visual arts officer at the following address: Eisteddfod Office, 40 Parc Ty Glas, Llanishen, Cardiff CF14 5DU”

I’m not suggesting they completely replace this real world process with a digital process. There are plenty of ancient artists across this country who would no doubt have a heart attack at the prospect of having to complete an online form. But, I’m a millennial. I don’t have a chequebook, I don’t have a writable CD drive on my computer in order to burn jpeg images to a disk, and a certainly can’t remember the last time I sent anything by snail mail.

The thing is, this postal application process is typical of Wales’ national art events. The Welsh Artist of the Year organisers offered no digital submission process either this year, instead opting for their usual expensive hard copy application forms.

I do wonder if it’s an age thing. I know the key organisers behind both of these events and they are not exactly young whippersnappers! I get the impression that these open submission events in Wales are organised in this way because that’s the way they’ve always done things. For example, I never get an invite to the Welsh Artist of the Year exhibition via email. It always arrives through my letterbox.

The expense of continuing to issue hard copy only literature must be phenomenal. There’s the cost of having the fancy leaflets and application forms printed, and then there’s cost of posting these papers out. In addition to this there is of course the man hours needed to stuff and label hundreds of envelopes.

Using a digital submission process alongside the traditional postal method would not only make these open submission exhibitions more widely accessible, but also help to reduce the administrative costs.

Of course I’d like to think that any costs that are made would be passed on to the artists and the organisers would reduce their submission fees.

This years Eisteddfod is charging a £20.00 submission fee for their Visual Arts Exhibition and that doesn’t guarantee you anything but a quick glance across photographs of your work by the judges.

That in itself is enough to put me off. I occasionally pay £1.00 for a lottery ticket with ambitions of winning a million pounds or two, or a large fraction thereof. Why would I pay £20.00 for the chance to win five thousand pounds and risk the feeling of dejection that comes with not winning the Eisteddfod’s grand prize – or worse still not being selected for the exhibition?

After all it is just pot luck. The organisers will receive hundreds of submissions no doubt from across length and breadth of the country. Whether or not one gets selected is ultimately going to come down the mood of the judges on the day of selection and possibly whether or not they recognise your work.

Between the expensive submission fee and hassle of having to prepare a hard copy submission there is no way I’ll be submitting anything for this year’s National Eisteddfod of Wales Visual Arts Exhibition, and in my humble opinion that’s their loss.

I always have the feeling that these exhibitions are incestuous, introverted; constantly looking inward on our country ignoring the bigger picture. Open submission events such as the Eisteddfod and the Welsh Artist of the Year need shaking up from top to bottom.

Lets get some new blood in and bring them all kicking and screaming into the twenty first century. The country needs some national exhibitions by Welsh artists that we can shout about and be proud of.

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The Cardiff Open

So I missed out on the opportunity to submit something for the Cardiff Open exhibition. Unfortunately I didn’t find out about it until the submission deadline had passed. It’s a little bit of a shame because it’s not often that geographically restricted shows include the Vale of Glamorgan within their boundaries.

However, hindsight is not a bad thing at all and after a little further inspection I’m not really that bothered to have missed out since the project seems to be lacking in intellectual rigour.

The remit of the Cardiff Open is as follows:

Cardiff Open will act as a platform for showcasing the best contemporary art practice from an open call of submissions.

Whilst the submission guidelines were as follows:

  • max. 3 images [jpeg 72 dpi or pdf. no more than 5mb in total]
  • details of all images [title, medium, size [cm], wall price]
  • current CV including contact details

How can the selectors for an exhibition that purports to act as a showcase for the best contemporary art in the region make their choices from nothing more than a handful of low resolution digital images without any context?

You’ll notice that instead of asking for an artist statement which contextualises the work the Cardiff Arts Collective asked artists to submit their CV.

I can only conclude that the selectors have chosen work by artists with a good track record (based upon the request for a CV) and/or artists whose work makes for a pretty picture at 72 dots per inch. Of course a pretty picture makes for a potential sale which is no doubt why artists were also asked to submit a wall price.

It’s a sad state of affairs but unfortunately symptomatic of many open call ‘art’ exhibitions that I’ve come across lately.

What really irritates me though is that this project has the support of the Arts Council of Wales. At least this is the assumption I making since the ACW logo is plastered all over the Cardiff Arts Collective website.

The Arts Council of Wales exists to “support the creation of the best in great art”.

I would argue that ill considered projects like this Cardiff Open exhibition do not present the best in great art. Instead we will be presented with a selection of works that are linked only by geography and by the fact that they satisfy the aesthetic tastes of the selection panel (who I assume were the Cardiff Arts Collective committee members).

It’s exhibitions like this that give the visual arts a bad name. They give the general public the idea that visual art is simply the creation of an image by relegating the intellectual values of the work

Without context visual art exhibitions are meaningless collections of images.

I’m all for regional exhibitions to highlight the strength and depth of work that is being produced but curators need to put more thought into these projects. Simply grouping all of the work together under one roof just because artists all live within the same county boundary is lazy at best.

Organisers of exhibitions like this should take the time to get to know the artists in their region and develop and understanding of the work produced. By doing so they’ll better place themselves in a position to produce an exhibition which works with the artist and their work to produce an exhibition that shows all involved in the best light.

Whilst I must applaud the organisers of the Cardiff Open for not charging a submission fee I fear that they will present us with a jumble of un-curated work.

I’ve no doubt that some, if not all of the work on display will be of a high calibre but it will be difficult to fully appreciate such work if careful consideration is not given to the presentation of the work in the context of the exhibition as a whole.

I suppose part of the responsibility should lie with the artists in as much as they should give some thought to the exhibitions they want to take part in and not exhibit for the sake of exhibiting.

Having said that I can understand that artists just want to see their art out there in the world.

Although I have concerns about the Cardiff Open exhibition I’ll reserve my final judgment until the show opens for us all to see.

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Mostyn Open Again

So Oriel Mostyn has announced it’s open call for 2013.

You’d think they’d have done a little research following last year’s show and garnered a little feedback from artists and makers outside of their own contemporary fine art bubble. They clearly didn’t come across this piece on the Cathedral of Shit (which shouldn’t have been hard to find) since they’ve upped the submission fee to a whopping £25.00 this year.

Given the austere times in which we live I can understand this. After all funding streams are dwindling and so it must be tough for a gallery in the back end of nowhere. Where better to scrape a few extra pennies together from than the pockets of artists struggling to keep their heads above water?

Perhaps the hike in submission fee is actually because they’re not expecting so many submissions this year after only making their application form available digitally as an Adobe Reader document.

As per Mostyn’s own instructions on their blog:

“YOU MUST FILL IN THE REGISTRATION FORM USING ADOBE READER ONLY”

This doesn’t really do much for widening participation in the project now does it?

If you have a butchers at the comments on the blog you’ll also discover that the only way to find out what the maximum size and age of the works that are eligible for this open call are is by emailing the gallery.

It’s a clear as muck then.

Nonetheless it’ll be interesting to discover which works they pull out of the lucky dip for the exhibition this time around.


Update 12 July 2012

clearly the lack of accessibility to the registration form as a result of it only being in an clunky Adobe Reader .pdf is showing as Mostyn have updated their blog to announce that the registration deadline has been extended by a week.

I guess they’re concerned that they’re not going to make enough money from the Mostyn Open enterprise this year.

Interestingly the .pdf information sheet that they distributed via email with an update about this extended deadline doesn’t include the registration form nor a direct link to the registration form on their finger out. Someone’s not doing their job properly are they?

These sort of failings wouldn’t fill me with the confidence to apply if I was an artist interested in this “opportunity”. If they can’t organise an effect open call what assurances is one going to get for their £25.00 that they are going to be able to organise an effective exhibition?

#Fail

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