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December 3, 2010

I’m feeling a little panicked as the year draws to a close. I’ve been busy producing artwork, but have lost sight of getting my drawings exposed. I’ve got the goods, now it’s time for distribution. Even though it’s tedious, even counter-intuitive to the creative mind-set, every artist needs to deal with the chore of sending out exhibition proposals to public and artist-run galleries. It’s a necessary evil–letting people know you’re out there making stuff. I’ve sent many of these dull orange Kraft envelopes into the world and have opened many more here at the gallery. By wearing both an artist’s and curator’s hat, perhaps I could share some tips on how to compile your package….      

Make an impression. In the old days, people would quickly hold up a sheet of slides to a light and get an impression of visual material. If the slides were interesting, they’d be loaded into a projector. Nowadays there’s an extra step involved with viewing digital images burnt to disc—to look at them you need to put the disc in a computer. My suggestion: print out thumbnails of your digital images with the titles, dimensions, dates and notes next to the images on one sheet. We can call this a contact sheet. This streamlines the reviewing process and catches the viewer’s attention—instantly.

Make the connection. This requires a little homework. A suggestion: research the venue or community you’re applying to and make your exhibition proposal more relevant. Perhaps there’s a significant phenomenon, event or anniversary the institution or community is known for and your artwork deals with this. For example, several years ago I wanted to show my drawings in the Yukon—don’t ask me why. I found out that there was an annual short film festival in Dawson City. “Bingo!” I thought, “This would be a perfect pitch for my film-inspired drawings.” It worked. A connection was made, my proposal was accepted.

Make it snappy. Just imagine if you had to sit through all those deleted scenes from every movie you watched. Editing is very important. Same thing goes for proposal submissions. Keep it concise. Narrow-down your images to your best 10 to 15 works. This rule of thumb applies to your writing too. Don’t let your artist statement ramble on. I’ve read some proposals (actually, only started reading) that verged on the scale of War and Peace.

Make it shine. Today we have so many tools at our disposal to make a strong, professional presentation. A neat application acts as your ambassador in your absence. In the days of old, it took hours of painstaking care to compile a tidy and expert looking proposal. Your slides needed to be correctly exposed then fastidiously labeled. Your paperwork had to be carefully typed or neatly handwritten. The cost of making an impact added up quickly. Then came the digital age, with its sea of inexpensive stationary supplies. It’s never been easier or cheaper to send out a package that has that spit-and-polish shine.   

So those are some tips you can consider when making your exhibition proposal. Who knows; under the right circumstances and a little luck these Kraft envelopes are like seeds that hopefully germinate into an exhibition.

Stay tuned for some more tips to come….

This year's proposal submissions from artists