Saturday, June 30, 2007

NEA Honors Roland Freeman (Quilter Documentarian)

Roland Freeman has been honored by the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as one of 12 Heritage Award Fellows. The $20,000 award is granted to promoters of traditional arts via teaching, collecting, advocacy and preservation.

An internationally reknown photographer, Roland Freeman is the author of the acclaimed volume, A Communion of the Spirits: African-American Quilters, Preservers, and Their Stories – 400 pages representing 25 years of photodocumentation – it is the first national survey of African-American quilters.

More about his work can be found on the website of The Group for Cultural Documentation.

Additional information can be access on the blog of Kyra Hicks –

Friday, June 29, 2007

Quotable Quote - William Ernest Henley

"Pointed criticism, if accurate, often gives the artist an inner sense of relief. The criticism that damages is that which disparages, dismisses, ridicules, or condemns." - William Ernest Henley

Thursday, June 28, 2007

2008 Niche Award Applications Due

The NICHE Awards, sponsored by NICHE magazine, celebrates excellence and innovation in American and Canadian craft. Entry deadline for professionals is August 31, 2007 and entry deadline for students is September 28, 2007. Categories include Ceramics, Fiber, Glass, Metal, Wood, Jewelry, Home Furnishings, Goblets, Judaica, Mixed Media, Narrative, Recycled, Teapots and more. Judging is based on three main criteria: technical excellence, both in surface design and form, market viability, a distinct quality of unique, and original and creative thought. Finalists are invited to display their work in the NICHE Awards exhibit at the February Philadelphia Buyers Market of American Craft, February 15-18, 2008, and will be included in the Winter 2008 issue of NICHE magazine. Winners will be announced at the February 2008 Buyers Market and featured in the Spring 2008 issue of NICHE magazine.

Awards winners in the 2007 fiber category-Professional were:

Susan Leslie Lumsden - Pieced/Quilted
Izabela Sauer - Surface Design
Anna Shapiro - Handwoven/Knitted
Elizabeth Smathers - Decorative
Ileana-Olympia Andruchovici - Clothing

Finalist entries for all of the the 2007 fiber categories can be viewed:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Artist's Creed - by Jan Phillips

The following is an excerpt from Jan Phillip's book, The Marry Your Muse Workshop: Making a Lasting Commitment to Your Creativity. It is posted by permission.

I believe I am worth the time it takes
to create whatever I feel called to create.

I believe my work is worthy of its own space
which is worthy of the name sacred.

I believe that when I enter this space, I have the right
to work in silence, uninterrupted, for as long as I choose.

I believe that the moment I open myself to the gifts of the Muse,
I open myself to the Source of All Creation, and become one
with the Mother of Life Itself.

I believe that my work is joyful, useful, and constantly changing,
flowing through me like a river with no beginning and no end.

I believe that what it is I am called to do
will make itself known when I have made myself ready.

I believe that the time I spend creating my art
is as precious as the time I spend giving to others.

I believe that what truly matters in the making of art
is not what the final piece looks like or sounds like,
not what it is worth or not worth,
but what newness gets added to the universe in the
process of the piece itself becoming.

I believe that I am not alone in my attempts to create,
and that once I begin the work, settle into the strangeness,
the words will take shape, the form find life, and the spirit take flight.

I believe that as the Muse gives to me,
so does she deserve from me:
faith, mindfulness, and enduring commitment.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Regional Arts Councils

Non-profit organizations are the primary target audience for regional arts councils. However, most have some resources specifically for individual artists as well.

Arts Midwest -
A regional arts organization primarily serving the nine states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. It provides funding, training, publications, information services, and conferences to arts and cultural organizations, artists, art administrators, and art enthusiasts. Arts Midwest is the Ohio Arts Council's regional arts service organization.
Of Special Interest:
Midwest Arts Conference
Mailing List

Mid-America Arts Alliance -
In partnership with the six state art agencies of Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas, M-AAA stretches the boundaries of the "heartland" to include national and international programs and arts activity

Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation -
Providing leadership and support through grants, technical assistance and information to artists and arts organizations in Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands and West Virginia. Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation encourages arts access, expands audiences, connects Mid Atlantic arts nationally and internationally, builds arts appreciation, support and leadership, and supports professional artists.

Of Special Interest:
DE, MD, NJ and PA Fellowships – Over $1,000,000 in fellowships is awarded
State Fellowship Workshops
Creative Fellowships – awarded annually to two artists from each of the member states
Artists & Communities Residences – supports artist residencies
CAP/MEX/EX – Capital area visual artists travel to Mexico for residency activities

New England Foundation for the Arts -
NEFA serves arts organizations in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont. NEFA supports programs in three areas: Culture in Community—advances partnerships between arts and non-arts entities; Creation and Presentation—enables the development and presentation of high quality artistic work by providing support to artists and their organizational partners; Connections—works to expand knowledge concerning the roles, practices, and social impact of the arts, and to evolve and support strategic collaborations that build practices and tools for the field.

Of Special Interest:
ArtistLink – This is a collaborative effort working towards improving resources for individual artists.

Pacific Arts Councils NetworkAmerican Samoa, Guam, and Northern Mariana - It works to increase organizational capacity andcollaboration among Pacific Arts Councils.

Of Special Interest:

Southern States Arts Federation -
SSAF serves state arts councils in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee. The SAF "...creates partnerships and collaborations; assists in the development of artists, arts professionals and arts organizations; presents, promotes and produces Southern arts and cultural programming; and advocates for the arts and arts education."

Of Special Interest:
Newsletter – multidisciplinary showcase of outstanding southern artists

Western States Arts Federation -
WESTAF serves Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Founded in 1974 as a private nonprofit corporation, WESTAF believes unconditionally in the cultural resources of the American West and works for the advancement of artists, audiences, and arts organizations in the region. This is accomplished by developing and coordinating unique projects and services across state boundaries and through the creation of partnerships between arts organizations and arts professionals.

Monday, June 25, 2007

State Arts Councils

State Art Councils and Commissions are major and underused resources that offer a broad array of opportunities and services for artists including: grant and fellowship opportunities with substantial monetary awards; artist registries; arts in education rosters; professional development seminars; grant application workshops, calls for entry; and employment opportunities in the arts, among many others.

Listed below by state is an alphabetized list of Councils with links to the website, newsletter, and grant guidelines for each. However, be sure to fully explore the website of your state’s council. More than likely, you’ll be amazed at the resources they have available for you. In some cases, I could not determine if individual artist grants are made or if a newsletter is published. If you have any questions at all, just check the staff directory on the agency’s website for contact information. They will be more than happy to assist you.

Information about Regional Arts Councils will be posted tomorrow.

Alabama State Council on the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Alaska State Council on the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Arizona Commission on the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Arkansas Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

California Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Colorado Council on the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form
Newsletter Contact the Council to inquire if one is available

Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Delaware Division of the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form
Newsletter (scroll to bottom of page)

Florida Division of Cultural Affairs
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Georgia Council for the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form
It was unclear to me whether or not they make awards to individuals

Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Idaho Commission on the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Illinois Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Indiana Arts Commission
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Iowa Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Kansas Arts Commission
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Kentucky Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Louisiana Division of the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Maine Arts Commission
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Maryland State Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Massachusetts Cultural Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs,1607,7-160-17445_19272---,00.html
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form,1607,7-160-18833_18834---,00.html
Newsletter Contact the Council to inquire if one is available

Minnesota State Arts Board
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form
Newsletter Contact the Board to inquire if one is available

Mississippi Arts Commission
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Missouri Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form
NOTE: Does not appear to make grants to individual artists – however, inquire anyway

Montana Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Nebraska Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Nevada Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

New Hampshire State Council on the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

New Jersey Council of the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

New Mexico Arts Commission
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form
Newsletter Contact the Council to inquire if one is available

New York State Council on the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form
Newsletter Contact the Council to inquire if one is available

North Carolina Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

North Dakota Council on the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Ohio Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Oklahoma Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Oregon Arts Commission
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Pennsylvania Council on the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form
Newsletter Contact the Council to inquire if one is available

Rhode Island State Council on the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

South Carolina Arts Commission
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

South Dakota Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Tennessee Arts Commission
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form
Newsletter – Quarterly
Newsletter - Weekly

Texas Commission on the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Utah Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Vermont Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Virginia Commission for the Arts
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Washington State Arts Commission
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

West Virginia Division of Culture and History
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Wisconsin Arts Board,1607,7-160-18833_18834---,00.html
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form

Wyoming Arts Council
Grant Deadlines, Policies, Guidelines, Application Form
Newsletter Contact the Council to inquire if one is available

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Grant/Fellowship Application Review Process

In 2005 I successfully applied to the Mississippi Arts Commission for an Artist Fellowship. With this agency, the application review process is an open one and artists are notified of the approximate time their work will be judged. Artists are given the option to observe the panel review process for as long or as short a period as they choose. Or, of course they can choose to observe not at all.

I decided to attend the full day’s proceeding and was there from 8:30 am in the morning when it started until they finished at 2:30 pm that afternoon. This was an eye-opening experience. Following are the things I observed and learned – but remember, things may vary depending on the grantor agency.


  1. There were 3 panelists. All were from out of state to minimize any chance of “favoritism” based on familiarity with the work or acquaintance with the artists.

  2. There was absolutely no interaction allowed between observers and panelists.

  3. Panelists were supported by several Commission staff that operated the slide projector and LED projector, took copious notes about their comments, turned the lights on and off, collected the score sheets and generally took care of any needs they had.

  4. Out of 31 applications submitted, only 2 other artists chose to attend the review session, and I was the only applicant who was there for the entire day.

  5. The disciplines reviewed were clay, photography, sculpture, painting, mixed media, printmaking, fiber.

  6. Two weeks prior to the review session, panelists received: copies of the artist narratives; descriptions of the processes used to create the work; and a CD of the slides. The panelists therefore had enough lead time to seriously consider the work of each artist prior to the review session – they did not have to make snap judgments.

  7. The review session started exactly on time. Were I to do this again, however, I would arrive 15 minutes earlier to hear the introductions of the panelists as well as to hear all of the instructions to the panel. Nonetheless, over the course of the day I was able to learn that one of the panelists was an art professor and painter, one was the owner of a fine art gallery, and one was a professional craftsperson (clay).


This will vary from organization to organization, but it is probably a pretty standardized process

  1. A document was provided listing the time scheduled for the review, the grant # (no names), the medium/discipline to be reviewed, and which panelist was assigned to be the 1st and 2nd reader (there was a rotation set up in terms of who would comment first and second for each application – the 1st reader was the person identified as having the most expertise in the specific medium being reviewed).

  2. All of the slides for the artist who work was under review was shown without comment in approximately 5 second intervals.

  3. Once the last slide was shown, the 1st and 2nd reader made their comments. The 3rd panelist then added his or hers.

  4. The panelists were allowed to look again at any or all of the slides if they wished.

  5. The awards were to be based on artistic excellence defined as being comprised of three components: originality, vision, technical mastery of the medium.

  6. A Commission staff person served as a scribe writing many notes about the strengths, weaknesses and suggestions for improvement as they were made – these were to be provided to each applicant along with the award or non-award letter.

  7. Panelists were not restricted in terms of having to make awards across the spectrum of disciplines, but were to focus on excellence – they were told that it “would be nice” to have awards made to artists working in different mediums, but if all of the best applications were from one medium, e.g., sculptors, then that is to whom the fellowships should be awarded.


  1. Follow the instructions – an application may not be considered if instructions are not followed – e.g., don’t submit a five page narrative when the limit is two; don’t submit 7 slides when the limit is 6.

  2. consistency, Consistency, CONSISTENCY! – Over, and over, and over again, the presence or absence of this element in the work submitted was commented upon. It was a major factor in the panelists’ judgment. From their point of view, they were looking to see ”…a unified body of work”. When they were not able to perceive this as they reviewed an artist’s slides, it was a very strong negative in terms of how they commented about and evaluated the work.

    It was clear that many applicants thought they should show a broad range of capability. For example, one painter submitted a couple of landscapes (one was oil, the other was a watercolor), a couple of portraits (done in radically different styles), an abstract and a still life. A sculptor submitted work that ranged from a loosely handled clay process to polymer to stone. This was a major mistake! Let me repeat, this was a major mistake!

    The panelists were not interested in the “breadth” of the artists’ work, but in the extent of its depth, mastery of the medium, and cohesiveness of concept.

    NOTE: This may or may not be important for the jurying process of quilt-only or fiber-only shows

  3. Quality of slides is critical! Some of the slides were horrid.

  4. The order in which you arrange your slides may be important – if possible, arrange them in some type of order that shows some sort or progression or cohesiveness in the execution of your vision or concept.

  5. If allowed, send slides instead of putting the work onto a CD – for this grant, artists were allowed the choice of submitting the work on slides or in CD format. However, when the CDs were shown with the LDC projector, the colors on the screen were not the same as the colors on the computer. In fact, they were so far off in some cases that the panel had to huddle around the laptop screen.

  6. Vision! “Work has to transcend the medium to make it meaningful…” – The panel wanted to see the artist’s vision.

    Following are a few of the comments made:

    Photography applicant: “These are just standard cliché images about the south.”

    Painting applicant: “It all seems to be mimicking a lot of other work – Warhol, for example.”

    Mixed Media applicant: “Quality of the pieces is extraordinary. The leather is transparent and has been scraped very thin…each character scene is complex and rich.”

    Painting applicant: “Pieces all seem to be like investigations…”

    Photography applicant: “There is a lot of strength in the understatement of the composition…this is a new perspective on the subject…has taken technology to the next level and made it into an art form…the conceptual imagery is very strong.”

    Painting applicant: “These don’t seem to be finished works but are more like assignments done for a class.”

    Printmaking applicant: “The work is technically strong, the presentation well done and the exploration of images is very appealing but the artist’s use of text draws your attention away from the art…we should be able to understand the concept by looking at the piece…the words detract from the art.”

    Sculpture applicant: “Very clever idea but it’s very academic and ultimately leaves you cold…work is not layered – there is no richness in terms of meaning, it is what it is. There is no soul – where is the relevance? It looks like something done as a MFA candidate. The message is discussed in the narrative but what the artist is trying to portray doesn’t come through in the work.

    Sculpture applicant: “Very well crafted and a high degree of mastery. There is evidence of risk-taking and a strong sense of precision but I don’t find the work to be conceptually challenging.”


  1. In the narrative, define clearly anything that is different or exceptional about your process. For example, in one body of work classified as “experimental”, the artist painted in watercolor around some coffee splotches. Apparently there was nothing in the narrative to explain it, and the jurors stated that they “…don’t see a correlation between the style of the work and the process used.”

    In one artist’s sculpture, there were some pieces that looked much cruder than others – since there was no explanation, the panel didn’t understand the artist’s intent.

    Also, if the process is unusual, panelists will be concerned about the longevity of the work – this concern was expressed about some clay sculpture that incorporated glass. There was another concern about some painting that was a combination of oil and acrylic paint. One of the judges explained that if the oil was the base and acrylic was painted over it, there would be no problem, but if it were oil over acrylic, it would be – the artist had not specified what he/she had done in the narrative.

  2. You can’t assume that your review will be held at its scheduled time. Depending on a variety of factors, it may occur earlier or later than expected.

  3. If allowed to do so, it is definitely worth your while to attend a review session, because even if you have no immediate plans to submit an application you will probably learn a lot that will help you whenever you do.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Photographing Textile and Fiber Art

One of the major gripes of curators (ergo one of the major reasons competition submissions are rejected) is poor quality of slide and digital images. The subject of today’s blog posting is photography – specifically, how to photograph textile and fiber art. Five (5) articles are cited that provide detailed and extensive online tutorials as well as an offer from a quilt photographer for free online digital photography lessons. Another short article gives a “fix” for eliminating glare.

Photographing Fiber – Dawn Cusick – Sept/Oct ’01 issue Fiber Arts Magazine

Shoot That Quilt: Digital Photography for Textile Artists – Andy Baird and Holly Knott – detailed information, pictures and diagrams about lighting set-up, mounting the quilt, taking the picture (balance, camera aperture, bracketing, calibrating, etc.)

Creating Consistent and Better Quilt Images – Gregory Case – 4 pages of information

Photographing Quilts and Paintings – Gregory Case – 14 pages – addresses all aspects

How I Photograph Quilts – Jim Evans – detailed information with pictures and diagrams

Free Digital Photography Lessons – Jim Evans – you need to have either the PhotoShop or the PhotoShop Elements program – conducted twice a week in two-hour sessions for 4 weeks – lessons are conducted using your own photos.

How to Take a Picture WITHOUT Flash Glare! – Caitlin O’Connor

Friday, June 15, 2007

Gee's Bend Quilters - A National Treasure

Innumerable amounts of money have been and continue to be made off the art produced by the Gee’s Bend quilters . Now coming out into the light are details about how very little of it these national treasures have received.

An article published in the June 5, 2007 issue of the Press-Register announced the lawsuit filed by Annie Mae Young against Tinwood Ventures and others:

Gee’s Bend Quilters Claim Big Rip-Off

Tiny URL:

Published in today's (June 15, 2007) Press Register, an extensive article gives more details:

Gee's Bend: A Fight for Rights

Tiny URL:

For more information about the Gee’s Bend quilters:

  • Fabric of Their Lives – Smithsonian Magazine

  • Quilters of Gee’s Bend – 60 minute audiocast – June 3, 2005

  • The Quilts of Gee’s Bend – NPR audiocast – February 4, 2003

  • The Quilts of Gee’s Bend – PBS Streaming video – July 1, 2003

  • Quilts of Gee’s Bend Catalogue – Images of 61 of the Gee’s Bend quilts

  • Pulitzer Prize-Winning Article (2000) about Mary Lee Bendolph by J. R. Moehringer of the Lost Angeles Times – August 22, 1999

  • The Quilts of Gee’s Bend in Context – Auburn University

  • Freedom and Order: The Masterpieces of Gee’s Bend

  • Drop the Needle

  • The Quilts of Gee’s Bend – Tinwood Ventures website

  • From Museum to Housewares: Marketing Gee’s Bend Quilts¬Found=true

  • Interview with Bill Arnett – Alabama Public Television

  • Quilts of Gee’s Bend – videoclip

  • 2-Minute Vidcast Preview of The Quiltmaker’s of Gee’s Bend 60-Minute DVD Produced by Alabama Public Television

  • Where Quilting Becomes Art – Barbara Sloan

  • The Culture of Civil Rights: “Now They Call it Art”

  • The Power of Color in the Art World – This is a book review of The Last Folk Hero: A True Story of Race and Art, Power and Profit by Andrew Dietz

  • YouTube videos:

    The Quilter’s of Gee’s Bend, Alabama Clip 1 – 1 ½-minute YouTube video – Quiltmaker Revil Mosely of Gee's Bend, Alabama, talks about how she got started quilting.

    The Quilter’s of Gee’s Bend, Alabama Clip 2 – 30 second-minute YouTube video – Loretta Pettway of Gee's Bend, Ala., talks about her community's internationally acclaimed quiltmaking.

    The Quilter’s of Gee’s Bend, Alabama Clip 3 – 40-second YouTube video - Louisiana Bendolph talks about how quiltmaking is inherited in the celebrated community of Gee's Bend

    The Quilter’s of Gee’s Bend, Alabama Clip 4 – 30-second YouTube video – Matriarch quiltmaker Mary Lee Bendolph explains how the women of Gee's Bend, Ala., never thought of their beautiful quilts as works of art.

    Year of Alabama Arts – Gee’s Bend Quilters – 30-second YouTube video – The beautiful quilts of Gee's Bend, Ala., speak a language all their own. To learn more about these incredible women and Alabama's many other creative talents.
  • Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Guide to Exhibition Applications

    In the last blog entry, Keisha Roberts wrote an article from the curator’s point of view (“We Wish You Knew: What Juried Exhibition Organizers Wish They Could Tell Artists). This following link is to an article by another curator who also is “telling it like it is” in some very plain English. She makes many of the same points as Keisha along with some additional ones.

    In a separate short article, Kirsty gives additional insight into the selection process with some explanation of why your entry may be rejected/not accepted even though the work is strong.

    Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    Message from Exhibition Organizers to Artists

    We Wish You Knew: What Juried Exhibition Organizers Wish They Could Tell Artists
    by: Keisha Roberts
    This is an excerpt from Keisha Roberts’ 3-hour seminar

    Professionals in our field have been slow to develop professional standards to provide consistent guidance to those who organize and enter juried art quilt exhibitions. One show asks you to label slides one way, while another sets out a totally different procedure. Another show wants digital files named like this, while yet another wants them named like that. Despite the wide variance from exhibition to exhibition, there are problematic issues that arise time and time again.

    As someone who has worked professionally as an artist who has exhibited her work widely--and as a curator, exhibition developer and designer--I have the benefit of seeing exhibition experiences from both sides of the fence, and have an appreciation of organizers’ and artists’ frustrations. You’re probably well acquainted with artists’ frustrations, so I won’t belabor those here. I will, however, be your proverbial fly on the wall and share what drives exhibition organizers to the point of distraction.

    No matter the size or stature of the exhibition, exhibition organizers and curators have similar lists of what they wish we could tell--beg, implore, threaten, or bribe--professional artists to do!

    1. Tell us what we ask.

    In the absence of professional standards that unify juried exhibition entry processes, organizers have all rebuilt their own little wheels and have developed a system that will help them manage the several hundred entries they expect to receive. Please read the prospectus and entry form carefully and with your full attention. DO WHAT THEY ASK.

    We ask precisely what we need artists to tell us. Answer every question on the form, especially if the organizer asks you if your quilt can travel. Few things are worse for an organizer than trying to select a traveling exhibition, without knowing what artwork is actually available to them.

    If you are asked for a statement to accompany each entry, write it. If the word limit is 50, don’t write 51 or 77. If the statement is to be provided in the space on the entry form, don’t attach it on a separate sheet.

    Above all else, please write legibly. Many an organizer has sacrificed time trying to communicate with an artist via email, only to find that the provided email address is not valid.

    2. Don’t tell us what we don’t ask.

    It seems few artists understand the additional burden they place on the under-appreciated entry coordinator when they send additional materials. It’s a tough task to keep track of hundreds of entry forms and corresponding images without the added challenge of being saddled with extra “stuff”. It’s wonderful that you’ve invested in your career and have prepared business cards, promotional postcards, a curriculum vita, a press kit, and artistic statement. Congratulations for putting forth that effort. But it’s a waste of your money and time to send unsolicited support materials the jurors will never see.

    Only send supporting materials if the entry form or prospectus explicitly note that the organizers welcome additional materials. Else, the materials go in the round file, if you aren’t disqualified for not following directions. Or, your materials could land in that great paper purgatory--known to many as a file cabinet--because the poor entry coordinator felt too guilty to throw your money away.

    Let’s fast-forward a bit. Your artwork has been juried into the exhibition. Congratulations! Now please don’t bombard the coordinators with requests. Wait for them to send you necessary delivery and exhibition instructions. If they do not give clear guidance in their communication about supporting materials, then most likely, they don’t need it. However, it is appropriate to ask them if it would be helpful for you to send them your promotional materials to support their media campaign. There may also be an opportunity to display your materials at the exhibition to help viewers become more knowledgeable about your work and the quilt medium. But please, ask first. Don’t just include your materials with your quilt otherwise if you have not been instructed to do so.

    3. Only send the best images of your work.

    If you were to apply for a position in polished surroundings, where deadlines are tight, great pains are taken to make sure everything is just so, and the current managers only want to hire professionals they believe they can depend on to be reliable, you wouldn’t arrive at the interview wearing your shirt backwards, chewing bubblegum and twirling your hair! You would dress and act appropriately for the environment.

    Fiber artist Mary Horton said it best when she remarked that images of your work are like the suit you wear to an interview. If you are applying to a professional exhibition or wish to present yourself as a professional artist, present your work in a professional manner.

    I see bad photography all the time and I’m continually befuddled. Often artists photograph their work in poor light, so the image of the quilt appears washed out. Or the image is over exposed and the quilt looks nearly neon. Some photograph quilts laying on the floor or lawn, so the quilts appear to have a distorted, trapezoidal shape. And then there’s my personal favorite: hands in the upper corners of the quilt and legs and feet poking from the bottom.

    The area around your quilt should be completely free of all competing visual information. Nothing should distract your juror’s eye from your work. I once was very surprised to see entry slides submitted by a widely respected and exhibited award-winning artist. I could clearly see the fold lines in the fabric she used as a backdrop. I’ve seen several other artists submit work surrounded by so much furniture, it was difficult to tell where the quilt ended.

    Because it's such a touchy subject and organizers are weary of artists' negative reactions, they rarely feel safe telling the artist they were disqualified because of poor image quality for fear of bad publicity.

    As a working artist I fully appreciate the financial constraints that make it difficult for artists to afford professional quality photography. I know photography is expensive, but consider what you waste when you pay an entry fee and the juror never even sees your work because your slide was eliminated due to poor image quality. Your wasted entry fees are better spent on professional quality photography.

    Every year when I plan my studio schedule and budget, I call my photographer and schedule tentative dates for quarterly photo sessions. It hurts, but I know my success is dependent upon how I present myself and my work. When a museum curator calls and asks me for images of my work, I only want the curator to see my work at its best.

    Remember, jurors can only make judgments based on what artists show them. If you present an image of a quilt that looks blah, we can only believe that the quilt is blah.

    Professional image quality is especially important to exhibitions that document their exhibition checklist in a catalogue or brochure. Just think of the poor designer who is working at 3 am to resolve issues presented by poor image quality. Sometimes, it’s even hard to remember why we're investing so much time in work that the artist isn't investing more effort in. It's really challenging. It's difficult to make a commitment to curate the best exhibition you can, then be saddled with further difficulties when you try to document the exhibition (also for the artist's benefit!) when artists haven’t provided you with clear images.

    I think people who are artists and curators tend to be more lenient when considering work that isn't presented clearly because we understand the money issue and are committed to using our position to advocate for artists. But, I will admit... it's difficult to spend well over an hour editing an image, or invest the time and expense to re-photograph the work. Though we have the best of intentions of helping artists, it is difficult to invest extra time making up for the artist’s shortcomings. We're already sleep deprived and working so hard to conceptualize, plan, implement, and publicize projects. It is easy for an organizer to feel as if the artist is taking advantage of them.

    It seems that some artists can only see their inconvenience and sacrifice, and that perhaps they don't understand the sacrifices the curator or organizer is making. We're doing the best we can and investing everything we have within ourselves to develop meaningful projects and exhibitions. It's tough to pull up the slack for artists who photograph their work in dim light with furniture in the way or on top of sheets with visible fold lines.

    Tips for Professional Photography

    Here are a few things to consider when having your work professionally photographed:

    1. If you cannot make your own professional quality images of your work. Hire a professional. Never circulate poor images of your work.

    2. When looking for a photographer, ask other artists or arts organizations for recommendations. Ask to make a brief visit to the photographer’s studio and review examples of photographs they have made of fiber art.

    3. Lighting is very important. Use light appropriate for your film. Be certain that your quilt is photographed with proper lighting and appropriate exposure. Use a light meter to guide you and be sure to bracket the shots (make the image with the exposure setting that are best guess, then make images one setting higher and lower than your guess).

    4. Use a tripod and cable release to avoid shaking the camera. Shaking results in blurred image quality.

    5. Bear in mind that camera lenses reflect back 18% of the light that is bounced into them from the surface of an object. If you photograph artwork against a “neutral-density gray” or “18% gray” background, the chances that the camera will interpret light and color well are improved.

    6. If an 18% gray background is not available, a white background is usually preferable over a black one. Use your best judgment for white quilts. You may need to use a darker background to make your quilt’s edges obvious. Black backgrounds then to dull the colors in artwork.

    7. Though it is not yet standard practice in art quilt work, in art world objects are routinely photographed with a color scale in the image field. This help’s the juror’s know they are seeing your quilt in true color (or not!). This will also give you a clear indication of how well your slides are aging and whether or not you have a good slide. Do not put the scale on the quilt.

    8. Make sure the quilt occupies the maximum amount of space in the slide as possible.

    9. If you submit slides, consider using metalized slide masking tape inside the slide mount to crop your quilt, IF the exhibition permits this practice. (Do not use gummed paper from envelopes or any tape not explicitly manufactured for this purpose. Such tapes can melt or separate from the slide in the carousel and damage the organizer’s projector.)

    10. If you are submitting a digital image or a slide made from a digital image, leave a thin border of “white space” around your image and use “black space” to block out the rest of the empty space. Why? Excess white space is projected as pure light. When excess white space is projected, the screen becomes very bright. In this situation, the juror is essentially trying to view an image pasted in the middle of a flashlight.

    It’s Okay to Ask Questions

    Remember, it’s okay to ask the organizers any questions you have BEFORE you apply. If you’re unsure about anything, ask the coordinators in a succinct, polite email that clearly states your reason for contacting them. It’s better to resolve any issues, before creating extra work for the exhibition team. It enhances your image to present yourself and your work professionally. And remember to always present yourself as a professional artist. Curators and organizers want to work with artists who take their careers seriously, and with whom they can have easy working relationships.

    Good luck with your juried exhibition adventures!

    About Keisha Roberts

    Keisha Roberts draws inspiration from African and African American history and culture, and the striking graphic composition of African textiles. Roberts forges passions for art, history, and culture into fine art, exhibition experiences, research projects, lectures, workshops, and works of non-fiction.

    Roberts’s current abstract and photographic quilt art is a synthesis between figurative and conceptual elements. Roberts infuses personal, familial, and cultural memory into each contemporary quilt, while incorporating the continuity and tradition of generations of quiltmaking. She also creates quilted installations and sculptures, and integrates glass, acrylic, water color, oil and chalk pastels, ceramics, and encaustic in her work to create quilted, mixed media works of art.

    She is actively engaged on several museum boards and committees. She has curated and exhibited in solo, group, and traveling exhibitions across the country. Her work is included in Textural Rhythms: Constructing the Jazz Tradition, a national and international touring exhibition curated by Carolyn Mazloomi and organized by the National Afro-American Museum in Wilberforce, Ohio, and published in a book of the same name. Her work is held in private and public collections in the United States and South Africa.

    Roberts holds degrees in African and African American Studies, History, and Women’s Studies, and a certificate in Communications from Duke University. She co-edited the award-winning book Remembering Jim Crow: African Americans Tell About Life in the Segregated South and contributed research to several NPR documentaries. She is currently studying non-profit management at Duke University and collections management and preventive conservation in the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program in Collection Care at George Washington University.

    Sunday, June 10, 2007

    Chance for Free Creativity Coaching

    Eric Maisel, reknown creativity coach, periodically offers an opportunity for artists to receive free creativity coaching. They are 16-week email sessions conducted by creativity coaches he has trained.

    If you would like to participate, send a paragraph about yourself (e.g., name, artistic discipline, place of residence, etc.) as well as a paragraph about what it is that you would like a creativity coach to work with you on. Your info goes into a pool and the coaches read the entries and from them, select the clients with which they wish to work. Approximately 20 slots are available.

    Saturday, June 9, 2007

    Take Action Now!

    Please - Urge Members of Congress to Co-Sponsor the Artist Deduction Bill - As the law stands now, a "collector" is allowed to take a fair-market value tax deduction for works given to and retained by nonprofit institutions (e.g., museums, libraries, educational or other collecting institutions). Artists, however, can take a tax deduction only for the cost of materials.

    You can send a message to your members of Congress online on the Americans for the Arts website:

    Friday, June 8, 2007

    Textile Traditions of Canada

    Canada has a rich textile tradition and appreciation of the fiber arts. Following are three exceptional sites that illustrate this:

    Textile Museum of Canada – Toronto, Ontario

    Canadian Tapestry: The Fabric of Cultural Diversity – a global exploration of indigenous textiles

    The Quilt of Belonging – This is a project that was begun in 1998. In recognition that Canada was created from a "patchwork" of peoples from aboriginal to immigrants from all over the world, volunteers from every segment of the community created quilt blocks representing their heritage. The finished quilt is composed of 11-inch sqares representing 17 Aboriginal groups and 192 immigrant nationalities in Canada. It is 120 feet long by 10 1/2 feet high.

    The rich, cultural legacies portrayed in the 263 blocks include all the First Peoples in Canada and every nation of the world. A close-up view of each block is accessible as is a detailed description and a brief history of the tribe or nation it represents.

    Wednesday, June 6, 2007


    The subject of the last post was Critique. Today's topic deals with how we as artists can effectively cope with the ultimate in negative critique - rejection. Following are links to three articles about dealing with rejection as well as the text of an article on rejection that was originally published in the November 2006 issue of Creative Wisdom, "...a timely, topical, monthly newsletter on sculpture written by the editors of and contributors to Sculptural Pursuit magazine."
    It is reprinted here by permission.

    Rejection: Playing The Game - Marilyn Noble

    Sometimes the universe tests us with rejection; life asks us if we are confident enough in ourselves and our creations to keep going in the face of obstacles. . . .While we must be open to feedback, we must also hold a faith that supersedes the opinions of those who do not agree with us. If you believe in something enough, you will not be put off by obstacles or setbacks. - Alan Cohen

    The invitation arrives in the mail and your heart skips a beat. You’ve been asked to submit a piece for jury consideration for the biggest museum show in your area. You’ve just finished a work that you know is perfect. It’s a shoe-in. You fill out the application, enclose the slides, and send them off, confident you’ll be accepted. You envision your piece in glossy splendor on the pages of the show catalog; you imagine yourself stepping forward to receive the Best in Show award. Fame and glory follow. Your career is made.

    Several weeks later the letter comes in the mail. “Dear Artist,” it begins. “We regret to inform you. . .” You’re crushed. You berate yourself. I’m so stupid, How did I think I could possibly get into a show like that? Then you get angry. The jurors are idiots. They obviously don’t understand good work. You vow to get even. I’ll show them. I’ll never create another piece of sculpture again. And I’ll never set foot in that museum again either. You rationalize. I’m sure they had to play the political game and accept work from the director's third cousin and their big donors. They didn’t have room for me.

    Once the initial emotions have finished racing through your heart and head, what’s your next step? Do you dash off an angry letter to the director of the museum, thus ensuring you’ll never be invited to show there? Do you moan and complain to everyone you know, convincing your family, friends and colleagues that you’re a spoiled diva? Do you give up, believing your work will never be good enough? If you stay stuck in those unproductive emotions, you’ll never achieve the level of success you desire, a level many of your less talented colleagues may surpass.

    Professional artists know rejection is part of the game -- it happens to everybody. The difference between satisfying success and bitter failure is how you handle it. Rejection always hurts, but accepting the pain and moving on is critical to building your career. How do you do that?
    1. Turn loose of your work. As with a child that you bring into the world and raise, at some point you have to let go. Your children move into other relationships in life, and so must your art. You can still love the pieces you create, but allow others to love them, or not, as well.

    2. Realize your work is not You. Your work may be the deepest expression of your soul, but it’s not your soul. Rejection has little to do with you, and everything to do with the viewer. Jurors and others who examine your work do so through their own lenses of life experience. Sometimes they relate, sometimes they don’t. It doesn’t mean they don’t like, admire, respect, or even know You.

    3. Rejection is not necessarily criticism. Galleries, jurors, and others who make choices about work make those decisions based on criteria about which you may not know. They may reject your work not because it’s poor quality, but because they have enough bronze figures, or abstract stone, or wood miniatures. Maybe it’s simply not a fit for the gallery or show. Much of the time it has nothing to do with your talent, your statement, or your creative expression.

    4. With criticism, accept what makes sense to you and ignore the rest. Everybody has an opinion, and most people don’t hesitate to express theirs. Consider the source of the criticism. If an art professional tells you your piece lacks proportion and gives you some ideas about fixing it, pay closer attention than you would to a collector who lives in a house full of ceramic frogs who tells you your abstract female figure doesn’t have any personality. It’s important to listen with an open mind, and then take an objective look at your work. If you can see how it would improve by incorporating someone’s suggestions, do it. If not, let the comments go.

    5. As my best friend says, honor the process. Continue to improve your skills, stay true to your vision, create your art, and send it out into the world. Let go of your attachment to the results. Sometimes you’ll feel the sting of rejection; other times you’ll feel the happiness of success. It’s all part of the journey. As in life, the journey is just as important as the destination.

    6. When all else fails, comfort yourself with the thought that every no leads one step closer to yes. You’ll learn to relish the rejection because you know acceptance is imminent. A writing friend of mine plays something he calls the Rejection Game. His aim is to collect one hundred rejection slips all while writing the best he can. He’s never reached the goal because he gets so many acceptances along with the rejections that he doesn’t have time to keep playing the game.


    Dealing With Rejection – by Matthew Deleget and Sandra Indig

    Rejection Article - David Walker

    Understanding Rejection - Sylvia White

    Monday, June 4, 2007


    Following is a list of excellent articles about the critique process including: 1) how to form a critique group; 2) how to give critique; and 3) how to respond to critique:

    The Creative Critique - Artist Contract for Workshop Participants – Steve Aimone

    Start and Maintain a Critique Group – Susan Brandeis

    Stimulating Discussion in a Critique – Helen Davis – a handout of trigger words

    Giving Critique – A Check List for Critiquers – Henrik Lindberg

    6 Techniques for Handling Criticism – by Gradiva Couzin

    The Mannerly Art of Critique – by Peg Robinson – written from the perspective of critiquing writers, but valid for artists as well; just make appropriate substitutions; particularly focuses on giving and receiving critiques in discussion groups.

    Toward a Process for Critical Response – Liz Lerman – This critique process was developed for dance, but it is equally valid for any art form. It provides a structure for discussion of the work in question in a useful and helpful manner.