Re: Emily Damstra's article on Art/Design Competitions

I'd like to post a comment on Emily Damstra's article on Art/Design Competitions. Emily Damstra makes some good points about exploitive art contests. They exist. But also realize that many are genuine opportunities for the artists who participate, and modest application costs ($25-$50) barely begin to cover what it costs the sponsor to provide that opportunity. It's up to each individual artist to look critically at the competitions they enter, and talk with their peers before entering or deciding not to. What can I afford to put into this? What would I hope to get out of it? Are my expectations, or their asks, reasonable? A lot of online art competitions appear to me to offer very little even for the winning artist, other than perhaps more experience in honing their application skills. Then there are vanity publications that offer to print an artist's work or resume' (good or not) in the pages of a glossy paper publication that no-one has ever heard of for a very high fee. Such marketers prey on the artist's naiveté and enthusiasm to be recognized. Watch out! However, Emily takes some of her examples too far. True, charities are asking all the time for donations of artwork and usable images, and so do some government agencies. Competitions are very common in the fine arts. She mentions State and Federal Duck Stamp programs. To that, I can add Artist-in-Residence competitions that take a lot of effort to compete and even more if you win. I've have competed in several such competitions, won some, and volunteered time as publicist or exhibition chair for some. I also know a number of other art professionals (artists and art instructors) who have. There is a place for awards on every artist's resume. Each participant who I've talked with expressed that winning a prestigious competition was a notable highlight on their artist's resume, and that they felt it was a competitive edge in the art marketplace. Some of the best known and most successful of these artists also donate a piece of art, a print, or stack of art note cards, every time they are asked to - as do I. It is true that the people making the ask often don't recognize the amount of time and experience required to produce good artwork, but philanthropy also has a long history. It also helps to keep the artist's name in the public eye and associated with good programs. Would such programs dare to ask for contributions from other professions? Well yes, they do - all the time. Some professions call it "pro bono", but most of us call it volunteerism, or charitable work. I've done my fair share of it throughout my first career as a scientist, and still do as a natural science artist.

Robert Winfree