I'd Make a Great Cop: Or How to Submit Applications for Exhibitions, Part 1   08.03.09

We receive a lot of exhibition inquiries and submissions to exhibit at SPACES. Many artists employ many different tactics to get an exhibition with us. Because this is the case, I have to be a stickler for rules to make sure that your time and our time are used effectively—I am the Application Police. Allow me to make our process more transparent in hopes that this can help you not only glide through the application process here, but elsewhere as well.

We select exhibitions from two main sources: 1) a panel reviews applications culled from an open call-for-entries; and 2) the panel also brings the names of cultural producers to the table who they think would be great SPACES artists. These materials are all considered equally and side-by-side to create a list that is ranked according to the panel's votes. This list is then contacted to find out if selected artists or curators are interested in exhibiting and when during the coming season they would like to execute their projects. The selection panel consists of 7-10 community staff members, artists, curators and/or other arts professionals and rotates annually.

To further demystify the process, I want to point out both effective and the less-effective practices when applying to exhibit at a non-profit art venue like SPACES. Part 1 of this post will address the effective methods.

Effective Practices

  • Check the Website First: Don't call, don't email the director, don't send us a message on Facebook, don't "just drop by" until you've checked the website for application details. At SPACES, we took the time to let you know how to best approach us. By taking the time to do your research, you are showing us that you are both responsible and able to operate a computer—two key traits in navigating the modern world. Read through the application guidelines thoroughly, including the FAQ before you approach us with any questions regarding the process.
  • Look At the Type of Work That We Show/Read the Mission: You can refer to our website, press or catalogs to get a sense of what we're about and the type of work we exhibit. Our mission statement also clarifies that we are looking for experimental and challenging work. There is nothing wrong with working in a more traditional vein, but if you work that way, you won't be shown at SPACES. We can't be all things to all people. We are dedicated to providing a venue for artists who are trying new things and questioning norms. Straight documentary photographs of native Amazonian tribes, although striking and well-crafted, will not win us over.
  • Follow Instructions: If you assume we receive around 200 applications in a year (most accumulating on the day of the deadline), and assuming that processing each application takes approximately 5-10 minutes (if the applicant has done their job properly), that means that our staff and volunteers spend at least 24 cumulative hours opening envelopes, sorting materials, copying images to a computer and other miscellaneous tasks just to get applications ordered for a panel review. When an application strays from our guidelines, we do our best to accommodate and correct, but each correction takes additional time. Doing an end-run around our easy-to-follow procedures does help us to remember your name, but not in a good way. As a matter of fact, you would make everyone else look even better and smarter—not a good move on your part.

    If we ask that all file names "should be lowercase with no spaces" we mean it. To streamline our process, each batch of images is uploaded to a server so our panel can review all applications online before convening. If files are not formatted as asked, they won't show up on the website for review, so we have to reformat them for you. If we're in a bad mood, your application gets tossed into a bin, never to have eyes laid on it. So, if we say that text documents should be in PDF format, don't send us Microsoft Word files. If we ask for JPGs, send us JPGs and not GIFs, TIFFs, JPEGs, or PSDs.If we ask for a CV, give us a CV, not a narrative life story.

    We ask for "10-15 digital images" "submitted in JPG format, 72 dpi, no larger than 1MB each." I can't tell you how many 3+ MB files we received in our last batch of applications. Since our panel is reviewing materials online, a file < 1MB takes 1-2 seconds to load. A 3+ MB image can take 10-20 seconds to load. You want the panel to be spending their time experiencing your work, not a loading screen.

    Don't send us a URL of your portfolio site or your Flickr page. We didn't ask for that.

    If we didn't ask for it, don't send it. Less is definitely more in this scenario.

    We don't ask that your applications be sent in a fancy folder or binder, because we then have to remove your materials from said folder or binder to place in our big, ugly manila folders to be filed with all the rest of the applicants. Your pretty binder will end up in the trash.
  • Test All Digital Materials Before Submitting: Don't just try to view your images/videos or listen to your MP3s on your computer, try out the material on a friend's computer as well or a few different types of DVD players (if applicable). Try the material on a Mac and a PC, if possible. We received a few applications where most of the images would not open on any of our computers. We asked the artists to send the images again. Rather than testing the images on their end before sending the second time, the artists would just send the same files to us once again. It isn't surprising that they didn't work that time either. Anyone who works in video realizes that often, video burned to DVD from a computer has the potential to not play on a myriad of other equipment. Test everything first.
  • Have Realistic Expectations: We have only four slots annually in our main exhibitions. We receive around 200 applications to fill those four slots. You can figure out the odds. If you do exhibit at SPACES, chances are you won't be "discovered" at SPACES. Your show will likely not sell-out on opening night. Our emphasis is not on selling work, that is the realm of commercial galleries. Although we do sell work occasionally, we are not constantly pushing your work to a steady base of collectors who we have been cultivating for years.

    We provide a safe space for experimentation, feedback and presentation of work to a varied public audience. We are more of a spring-board than a final resting place.

Read Part 2: Less-Effective Practices:

Posted by Christopher Lynn, Executive Director

Keywords: professional practices, r&d, spacelab
Author: Christopher Lynn, Executive Director
Category: General

Won't You Please Be My Special Social Networking Friend?   07.29.09

We're on Twitter and we're going to sink your battleship!

I've heard that some people are abandoning blogs in favor of Facebook and Twitter. And here we are, just catching up with the pack as they scatter. Yes, Twitter and Facebook are handy, but I don't think that their sum equals the demise of blogs.

Blogs are just a way to get information across to an audience, the same as Facebook and Twitter. But, there are a few key differences. Organizations opt for Facebook because it has a large following, you can post a variety of material, it has a built-in newsfeed and allows for event notifications on a large scale, and a large portion of its audience is obsessed with Facebook. Twitter is nice because it forces the writer to be succinct. It's like sifting through headlines without all the pesky content. Twitter reads like a newsfeed, displaying all the tweets from the people you have opted to follow. There is no need to check individual profiles for updates. It also has garnered a somewhat rabid fanbase. The problem with both of these systems is that to get full access, you have to have an account.

Facebook is notorious for altering their terms of service to figure out how to best monetize its platform. Twitter is a strange and rather opaque service at this point. There are so many hacks and special languages in order to fit desired content into a 144 character format that it can sometimes be like trying to decipher a Little Orphan Annie message without the decoder ring (and is often equally disappointing). Why are people using a pound symbol: "#"? What does RT stand for? Why should I care what you're eating?

Blogs are typically straight-forward content presented in a straight-forward manner with flexibility of length and type of material that can be presented. And, what is best, is that there are no strings inherently attached. Some sites will require registration, but for the most part, blogs are public. What is both the great things about blogs, as well as their downfall, is that there is no character limit. We need long-form content. Not everything can be summarized in a tweet or a Facebook quiz. On the other hand, once blog software became readily available, so did the pictures of every mother's child as well as rambling vacation stories. Blogs are a tool, and every tool has the potential for misuse.

So, we are on Facebook and Twitter, because they are useful, but we also started a blog. We hope that you find some use from it as well. Please let us know what type of information you would like from us, or if we're just lost in the clutter of baby photos and political rants that occupy the greater part of the internet.

Posted by Christopher Lynn, Executive Director

Author: Christopher Lynn, Executive Director
Category: General

SPACES on Helping Hands   07.28.09

Helping Hands is a program on Time Warner Cable's Northeast Ohio Network  designed to help "meet the dedicated people behind the organizations, those they assist, become inspired by the stories, and find out how YOU can make a difference." They visited us a few times to shoot the exhibitions and talk to staff. Other than looking like a zombie on camera just shy of moaning for brains, I think it turned out nicely and we appreciate that Helping Hands is doing this for community oriented organizations in the region.

Its currently airing locally on channel 23 at 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Posted by Christopher Lynn, Executive Director

Author: Christopher Lynn, Executive Director
Category: General

What the NEA means to us ...   07.24.09

I'd like to start by saying, simply, I <3 the National Endowment for the Arts. I've worked at three different arts organizations in the last 10 years (The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Mid-America Arts Alliance, and now SPACES) and all are regular recipients of NEA funding. For example, the SPACES World Artist Program (SWAP) has received NEA funding for the last six years.

Reason enough to love the NEA, right? They support fabulous art institutions that bring quality art to communities of all sizes across the United States.

But, as with all relationships, it's a little more complicated than that.

Rewind almost three years ...

I was working from my home office in Cleveland for Mid-America Arts Alliance, which is located in Kansas City, Missouri. As a fairly recent transplant to Ohio, I wanted to get to know the area, so I volunteered at the Cleveland Artists Foundation. The nice gallery manager there, Nicole Edwards, told me that there was a development manager position open at SPACES. Shortly after that, she started working for SPACES in a communications role, and I was hired for the development position.

We share an office, the same middle name (Louise) and the same taste in music. She's a really, really wonderful person to work with.

But we almost didn't live happily ever after ...

Things are tight, folks. We are a nonprofit, and I'd be kidding you, me, and a whole bunch of other people if I said that we aren't thinking a lot about where the next dollar is coming from. Fortunately, the National Endowment for the Arts used funds allocated through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for job preservation. More precisely: to support the preservation of jobs that are threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn.

We applied and received funds to preserve the communications manager position. That means Nicole  -- without whom I wouldn't have this job -- can count on keeping her job.

I love the NEA ...

~ Posted by Sarah Hoyt, Sr. Marketing & Development Manager

Author: Christopher Lynn, Executive Director
Category: General

Budget Update from Ohio Citizens for the Arts   07.22.09

Below is a "re-printing" of an email from Ohio Citizens for the Arts. Thank you to all you corresponded with your representatives and policy makers to retain arts funding. Please continue your efforts and do all you can to educate your politicians about the arts and their importance to our communities.  I recommend reviewing the Ohio Citizens for the Arts Advocacy FAQ page.
The final curtain in the budget drama came down with a thud as the Governor signed the state's FY 2010-2011 budget.  In the worst economic crisis since the creation of the Ohio Arts Council, the good news is that there still is an agency.

Your advocacy efforts ensured we still have an Ohio Arts Council despite threats of extinction by some law makers.  Thanks to all of you who participated in this process.

The bad news is that the Ohio Arts Council will have fewer dollars to help Ohio's vital arts community in the coming biennium. We are deeply disappointed in the final budget allocations for the Ohio Arts Council, which total $13,188,580 for the biennium.  This funding represents a 47% decrease from the original appropriation of $24.9 million for the previous biennium and a 38% decrease from the final allocation of $21.3 million. We are disappointed that the members of the Ohio legislature and the Governor, who heard our message and told us they agreed that the arts are important and worth the state's investment, in the end did not provide adequate funding.

We must recognize that with tight budgets as far into the future as discernible, with the plague of term limits which restrict members to a few years of learning about the arts, and with increasing problems in the area of Ohio's economy and education, it is now imperative that we do much more on a constant basis to educate members of the legislature, possible members of the legislature, and the Governor about the importance of what we do to help solve Ohio's most pressing problems.  If you believe in the necessity of public support to keep our arts institutions and artists viable, we must redouble our efforts at communicating that which we know to a certitude to legislators.

Our policy makers must be made to understand the role the arts play in education.  We now have generations of tests which prove conclusively that children who are immersed in the arts do better across the board, in every subject and in their ability to learn.

The Board and staff at Ohio Citizens for the Arts have never been more proud of the arts advocates in Ohio.  During this budget cycle more than 25,000,000 emails were sent to the Governor and members of the Ohio House and Senate.  Arts advocates made personal visits with legislators at home and in Columbus. Arts advocates worked beyond the call of duty to enlist friends and colleagues to join in the advocacy effort.  Editorials, facebook, blogs, and websites all carried the call to action in support of the arts. We thank you for your dedication.

We must forge ahead in our efforts to educate policy makers about the value of and need for the arts in Ohio.  We must continue to deliver the message that the arts in Ohio are part of the solution.  The arts are economic drivers that generate revenue:

Creative industries contribute more than $25 billion to Ohio's economy annually
Creative industries support 231,200 jobs in Ohio's economy annually
Creative industries generate $1.06 billion in state and local tax revenues annually
Creative industries generate $1.78 billion in federal tax revenues annually

Ohio Citizens for the Arts is committed to help you, your organization, and your community to continue the fight for arts funding. Together we can educate and prepare legislators to be better equipped to make the right decisions about investing in the arts.

William P. Blair
Legislative Counsel
Donna S. Collins
Executive Director
Ohio Citizens for the Arts

Author: Christopher Lynn, Executive Director
Category: General

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