Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Putting Out Feelers

I have spoken previously about simultaneous submissions and the necessity to keep track of what you've proposed where so to avoid double bookings or conflicts. I am revisiting the theme today because it's been awhile and because I wanted to explore it from a different standpoint: the exhibition proposal.

So you've gotten a group of artists together and curated a show, written up a proposal and are seeking a venue. Or maybe you have just gotten a show packet together for a solo show. You just sent it off to the best-suited venue you could think of, and now you're playing the waiting game. Well, I have news for you - you may be waiting a long, long time, especially if there was no set date by which applicants would hear back.

Waiting to hear back regarding show proposals is excruciating. Few cold proposals get into galleries and many institutions take a long time to review submissions. As a result, submission materials can quickly become outdated while you are waiting to find out whether or not you were accepted. Rather than hounding the gallery constantly and lessening your chances of getting in, it is best to know their submission policy beforehand. Many galleries accept simultaneous submissions, which means you can send your packet off to multiple places for consideration.

Here are a few important tips to remember when submitting show packets simultaneously:

- Ask questions before you send anything - it will help you to follow directions and guidelines. It is especially important to ask questions if policies aren't clearly spelled out beforehand or if there are no real deadlines and proposals are reviewed on an ongoing basis. And it can help because you can open up the lines of communication early in the process, which is a real boon if you need to contact the institution later regarding the status of your submission. Please note: this is not near so crucial or recommended when following a written prospectus and may even be a hindrance because you can come across as a bother or as inattentive if you ask about things that were clearly spelled out. (I always feel like an idiot when I realize that I asked a question that I already knew the answer to.) That doesn't mean you shouldn't ever ask anything when you have a prospectus, just make absolutely sure that you aren't asking about something that was outlined in it unless you need further clarification.

- Make sure that the gallery information is correct and appropriate to the submission you are sending out. It doesn't reflect well on you or your proposal to be sent to the wrong person or to be addressed to the wrong place. I typically make sure to adapt everything to whatever guidelines each individual gallery has specified. I always double- and triple-check a proposal (and not all at once so I can look at it fresh) for accuracy and to make certain to avoid these kinds of embarrassing and hard-to-bounce-back-from errors. It helps to have someone else proof-read your work as well. Remember it takes time to read proposals too, so if you are attentive to the institution's specifications and invest time and thought in your proposal, it is more likely to be read and not immediately filed in the trashcan or sent back.

- Promptly tell any other galleries where you have submissions outstanding if you've been accepted elsewhere or make certain that the gallery that accepted you is aware that you are waiting to hear back from another institution and may not be showing there. This really helps in regards to not overextending yourself and double-booking your work. It is also courteous to those who are planning out their schedules to keep them informed of any changes so that you don't "burn near so many bridges" and may be considered again later on for a future endeavor.

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