Just attended a meeting for setting up criteria for the acceptance of paintings in the co-op gallery. The whole process was fascinating. First, we had to establish what type of work the gallery wanted to accept, our expectations and the entire application and selection process.
I own my own gallery and have nothing but admiration for that grassroots setting up of a co-op gallery. I normally prefer my own company but last year I decided it was time for me to get out of my own little artistic world and comfort zone and see what other options were out there.
Surprisingly, I am enjoying the artist interchange. This particular gallery, the Courtyard Gallery in Enderby, is well-run and is enjoying some dynamic input from the local authorities. Of course there is some volunteer time to put in but you can always find tasks to finish.
Establishing evaluation criteria went rather smoothly but what was really interesting was the actual application of the criteria to an actual applicant. Everything was done anonymously in terms of evaluating from 1 to 10 for technique, composition, creativity and presentation but as this was our first go-round we decided we had to discuss how this would work if others took over this task. An interesting factor came to light, 3 of the 6 people on the panel were former teachers. The teachers demonstrated more lenience when it came to evaluating than your regular artist.
This begat an interesting conversation. Art, no matter which way you look at it and define it, is a subjective process. Yes you can and need to follow criteria and guidelines to make the most informed choice possible but we all have our biases. It’s important to know and acknowledge your biases. More importantly, in an age where there is very little art education per se, we, as artists need to mentor others and teach them how to effectively critique and evaluate art. Being part of co-op galleries has shown me the need to share information and learning strategies. As artists in a co-op, we should all have a turn hanging a show and jurying new members. As long as there are guidelines artists’ fears should be somewhat alleviated. Of course, there is always the guilt when the work is not quite up to par but that’s another topic. Always present your strongest work.