Fees Fees Fees.
I have been so overwhelmed by the number of opportunities with entrance fees attached recently. I don’t know if there are more of them around, or it’s just because they are ones I am interested in, but they seem to be everywhere.
I have a no entrance fee rule and have only broken this twice (and really regretted it) since 2009. But it makes some things difficult.
I totally object to artists always being asked to pay to enter things, to essentially go through a tendering process, which takes time and SO MUCH ENERGY. I know funding is scarce. I know exhibitions cost money. I also know that artists, including myself, earn very little income and don’t need to be an additional source of income for organisations or whoever. Often the people organising things, such as the Lacuna Art Prize, are doing so voluntarily. Much of the time, the people organising/administrating things are doing so in an organisation where people are on salaries.
I decided to tot up what the entrance fees on opportunities I’ve considered would have cost me since last autumn.
British School at Rome £25
RBS Splash £25.20
Jerwood Drawing Prize £22
(for one work. I am extra outraged by their decision to charge regional entries more).
Creekside Open £20
Whitechapel Open £25
RBS Bursary Awards £20
Charlie Dutton Crash £10
Mark Tanner Sculpture Award £15
Standpoint Futures £15
Exeter Contemporary £20
Locws Art Across the City Open £15
Total = 212.20
YEOWCH. There were more too, these are just the ones I remember offhand.
There must be a better way of doing this kind of thing. I realise there is a dependence on a conventional and tested model (especially for organisations), but why does the artist have to bear the brunt of these costs when they are the very person the competition/organisation/whatever is supposed to be supporting? It makes no sense to me.
I was asked to be a judge for one of these things once, although in a very odd and messy situation, but I still would have said no without those complications. I was offered £250 plus travel and accomodation to do so. I have no idea what other opens pay their judges, but I know that this has got to add up. Before you start on at me, I do realise the logic involved in having judges: it adds credibility, publicity, opens networks and the people in the opens should (but don’t always, some have a first round elimination) get their work seen by said judges. But at the end of the day, artists are funding these events, the many fund the very few, essentially making it a very odd kind of lottery. Artists are paying to apply for work. What other sphere of the world would do that? Totally bizarre.
I don’t know why I still get tempted by these things, I guess the pull of the award (whatever it may be) is strong enough in some cases. I shall continue to sternly talk sense into myself.
The other problem of course, which is a whole different disaster zone, is that if you are ‘lucky’ enough to be selected, especially for an open, there is probably no assistance with travel/production costs etc and it will cost you a fuckton of money just to take them up on their offer. Probably just save up the cash each time you are tempted and you’ll have enough for a new laptop/spa-day/food in no time.
I recommend reading this Career Suicide post and try and use it as a filter next time you look through opportunity listings :)