"Small Works" at Trestle Gallery

Hello all!

The past three weeks I have been looking through a pool of 746 applications for the “Small Works” exhibition at Trestle Gallery opening on July 26 in Brooklyn, NY. Even though exhibitions have been juried for many, many years, I thought I would share the process by which this one was juried. 

Every year Trestle Gallery offers a call for their annual “Small Works” exhibition. 

Submission guidelines for the call were the following, as were stated on the Trestle Gallery website: 

- Pieces may be no bigger than 12" on the longest side - we accept 2D and 3D framed and unframed works of all media. If a work is framed, the frame can be a maximum of 2" larger than the piece itself, making the max dimension 14"
- You may submit up to 3 works for consideration
- Images must be in JPEG format, 1000 pixels on longest side
- CV and Statement must be submitted in PDF form
- National and international artists are welcome to apply. As a non-profit we don't have a shipping budget, so should an artist be selected they will have to cover the cost of shipping to and from the gallery.
- As a non-profit gallery, Trestle splits all sales 70/30, with 70% going to the artist.

The cost to submit up to three images was $10.00 with Submittable taking a percentage.

The fee I am receiving will be $250.00.

Due to space restrictions, I could only choose 64 artists out of an applicant pool of 746:

50 people who considered themselves women
13 people who considered themselves men
1 person who considered themself non-binary

Most of the 64 artists accepted live outside of New York City.

It took me three weeks to get through the process and I learned a lot. Here are the reasons why I didn’t accept some works in the exhibition:

–Context is everything. The work must be in context with each other and fit together in harmony as to my vision of this exhibition. 

–Some pieces were not photographed well at all. It would really help if artists would care for their work and show how serious they are about their work by investing in good photography. Those with photography of poor quality were immediately put aside.

–Some of the photography did not show the work as an object and looked cropped, therefore, I couldn’t get a sense of the entirety of the work.

–Some people tried to show a lot in one photograph but were not so definitive as to what they wanted to submit. It wasn’t clear.

Those chosen had modest statements that talked about their work, images were well photographed, and worked well in context, in concert with other works put together. If there was a theme, I would say that there was an intangible lean toward identity, vulnerability and a certain tension I look for. As I’ve always said, there is no such thing as a “rejection.” It’s just a difference of opinion.

As I have said in the past, if there is a fee there should be at least comments given to those whose work was not accepted. I have also commented on the flawed Hopper Prize as being problematic. I gave a comment to each person whose work I did not include in the exhibition, basically reflecting my thoughts on one of the responses above. I also offered my email address to every participant to put on their mailing list. In my opinion, this is the least a juror can do for each artist who applies for such a call. 

In addition, Trestle Gallery is offering to the artists who were not selected an on-line exhibition of their work: one piece per person with no additional fee. For this, Trestle Gallery has committed funds toward the on-line exhibition for 6 months. This is fantastic and I totally applaud Trestle Gallery for doing this. Every organization needs to take note as this is easy to do and not expensive -- a great model to replicate.

I’m grateful to Jen Nista and Rhia Hurt for their amazing hard work through the process. They were absolutely lovely to work with. 

Installation will take place from July 24-26, with the opening on 7/26 from 7-9pm. If you want to stop by and say hello, I’d be happy to see you. 

I realize this was not sustainable for me to do this work at a fee for $250.00. However, my thought is by doing so, I could lay some ground work so we can perhaps change how these calls are carried out. 

Many thanks to all who submitted to this and for having me as a juror for the “Small Works” exhibition at Trestle Gallery. I'm so proud to have participated in this process. I recommend it for every artist to experience at some point in their lives. Hoping to see you on July 26!



Royalty checks sent today!

It's that time of the year again: today, one year and two days after we launched "The Artist as Culture Producer," I am sending 44 royalty checks to contributors of this book and for the fifth year in a row, 43 checks to contributors of "Living and Sustaining a Creative Life." These payments are relatively small for each book but the point is to pay artists, share royalties and secure for every contributor their own copyright for their essay -- not the norm in publishing for anthologies which I believe has to change. I'm so happy to do this! Next year, I will be sending another 87 checks and I hope to continue this practice for years to come. MANY THANKS to the contributors of these books for sharing their stories and to all who have supported (and continue to support) these projects. I'm deeply grateful!

Royalty Checks.jpg

Hopper Prize: bad pay-to-play call

A few friends of mine shared with me the Hopper Prize application and "opportunity." Artists have long applied for and participated in pay-to-play calls for exhibition and prizes. As I mentioned last summer in regard to the Pulse Art Fair call for artists, sometimes they seem to be unethical. I personally do not have problems with artists participating in whatever they want to do, but how about if the venue/organization makes these calls fair? Why do artists who do not receive entry into these exhibitions pay for those who do? Here is the letter that I wrote to the Hopper Prize people. Maybe by making this public, more artists will join me in correcting these practices. Sponsors of these kind of "opportunities" can do better:

Dear Staff of the Hopper Prize Organization,

Hello! I'm writing today in regard to your application for the Hopper Prize "Artists Grant Program" to convey how troubled I am by this call. Your request for high entry fees for each person to submit an application is disappointing for several reasons:

--While I understand that there are costs to run such a program, where exactly do the fees go? What percentage goes toward the curators to be paid and how much are they paid?

--I realize that you will be highlighting 30 artists on your website who made a short list, but what about the rest of the applicants who do not get into this group or who are not selected for the prize?  Are your curators providing any written feedback to these applicants? It clearly appears that they are being paid from these fees whether or not their work is accepted. Please elaborate.

--You also claim that you believe in inclusivity, and yet you have a tiered system of costs per person, which is actually an insidious system: spend more and the artist has a better chance of being selected! You have clearly set up a screening process tilted toward those who can afford to submit the maximum number of images, and I find this part of your call the most troublesome.

--Is your organization a non-profit 501(c)(3) entity? Or is this strictly a pay-for-play and for-profit endeavor? Your organization does not identify itself either way.

--Fundamentally, I'm against these sort of pay-to-play calls and as an advocate for my fellow artists, I am finding myself speaking out publicly against this practice more and more frequently. I think this model of charging an application fee for such an opportunity is outdated and needs to stop. Your organization has the infrastructure to raise money to offset these fees, versus the individual artist who you are asking to pay fees to apply. Even if there is a small fee charged, there is little transparency on your call as to where this money goes, especially for those artists who are not chosen. 

Is there any way you could perhaps do the following?

-- remove the required fee; or if you absolutely cannot avoid this fee, reduce it substantially so that it is manageable.

-- a simple flat fee is much more palatable rather than this tiered system which only favors the artist who can afford such high fees.

-- amend this call to share where the money for the fees goes exactly, to be completely transparent.

-- provide feedback to those who have invested in this process and who are not selected for the top 5 "winners" and 30 people who are secondary. 

Having traveled all over the country and abroad on my conversation tours, I have met more than 8,000 artists and my research shows that this sort of call is extremely distasteful to the vast majority of them. I know that many artists would appreciate your amending your process. It would also set a standard for other organizations going forward with calls like this in the future.

Thank you very kindly for your receiving my inquiries and requests. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

With Kind Regards,

Sharon Louden

Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: The Series

I am thrilled to announce that I have signed a contract with Intellect Books for the Living and Sustaining a Creative Life series of books to be released over 10 years between 2020-2030. As the Senior Editor of this series, I will be selecting editors to choose contributors for the following titles (subject to change): 

Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Academia in the Arts
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Artist as Activist
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Dance
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Writing
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Poetry
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Art History
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Music
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Theater
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Artist-Run-Spaces & Nonprofits
Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Collaborations

Each editor I select will receive a contract from Intellect Books and will choose their own contributors. We will strongly encourage them to tour their books, as the distributor will remain the same (University of Chicago Press).  As my books are intended to be platforms for conversation, this series will hopefully generate discussion and cross-pollinate artists in each field to exchange and share opportunities. 

The criteria for inclusion in these books will dovetail on my previous books: generous thought-leaders who lead the way in their field will share inspired stories that will give readers insight into their lives. My hope is that their examples will be replicated, thereby creating unlimited opportunities for others. 

Academia in the Arts will begin the series in 2020, and one book will be released each year thereafter.

I'm excited to learn from these editors! Through the contributors they select, they will show me and many the reality of who is shaping these fields today. 

Stay tuned for more developments and thank you for allowing me to share this news!

Why is there a $50 fee for artists to participate?

An artist recently brought this call to my attention as he knows I oppose most "pay-to-play" opportunities. This particular call really surprised me as it's hosted by the Pulse Art Fair, a for-profit entity, charging artists a whopping $50 per application. Certainly, I understand there are costs to every exhibition. But is it right to charge artists such a hefty fee for an opportunity where they may not get in, not receive feedback on their work, and inevitably fund an exhibition while the Pulse Art Fair has the resources to pay curators and their expenses? Is it fair for the artists who do not get into this exhibition inevitably pay for the show to go on? I wrote to the Pulse Art Fair to ask why this is, where the money is going exactly, and most importantly, if they can amend their call to give feedback to those artists who would inevitably be overlooked for this exhibition. You can see my email to them below. 

Here is their response:

"Dear Sharon, 

Thank you for your thoughtful message. We are always happy to hear feedback on our programs at PULSE and take all comments and criticism seriously. 

This is the first year we have instituted the $50 submission fee for PLAY, following last year's inaugural open call. Adjudicating the open call for PLAY in 2016 was a huge task for the curators as we received over 800 submissions. This year's fee helps to compensate the curators for their time spent reviewing and thoroughly considering each submission and will cover the cost of submittable, a platform which will streamline the process of collecting and reviewing each application. 

Additional revenue generated from the submission fee will be used to promote the PLAY program and the artists selected for this year's iteration both onsite at PULSE Miami Beach, in a month-long exhibition at Project for Empty Space, and through media channels in advance of the fair. 

When we instituted an open call for PLAY last year - for the first time allowing artists to apply who were not represented by galleries exhibiting at PULSE - it was our goal to use the fair's platform to provide opportunities for artists who otherwise may not have the chance to take advantage of the enormous vehicle that is Miami Art Week. That continues to be our goal and the submission fee will allow us to add to that opportunity this year. 

I hope this provides some insight into our motivations. At this point, we are not able to change the submission fee for 2017, but will be sure to take your feedback into consideration when we plan PLAY in 2018."

Really? So, if they received 800 responses this time, that would come out to $40,000 of revenue. Question: is it fair for the artists who will not get into this exhibition but paid the $50 application fee to be fronting the costs for this show and not get anything from it? I think it's disappointing and these old-fashioned calls need to discontinue. The Pulse Art Fair has the resources to raise the money to fund this while many artists do not.

The Pulse Art Fair wrote me again after my response where I informed them that I would be making their comments public, by saying: "I would like to reiterate that we are happy to hear any and all feedback regarding PULSE and hope that you will continue to share your thoughts with us in the future."

So, artists, I encourage you to send your feedback discouraging this practice to info@pulseartfair.com. I would recommend not applying for this opportunity, because the more we participate in "pay-to-play" exhibitions, the more this old way of getting no-guarantee "exposure" continues.


My initial email to the Pulse Art Fair asking them to ammend their call. 

My initial email to the Pulse Art Fair asking them to ammend their call. 

Book Review: Glasstire

Many thanks to Ayden LeRoux and Glasstire for this fantastic review of The Artist as Culture Producer

Quotes from the review:

"What emerges is a picture of collaboration and camaraderie that eschews competition between artists."

"Every artist in this book is doggedly championing other artists, and creating opportunities to explore their own art-making outside the studio."

"This current image of the artist is to always be supporting others while maintaining (or taking breaks for) their own practice."

"These artists are turning away from the definition of value that the art market paints, to look instead at how and where they want to create value."

Royalty checks sent today

I am very proud to be sending 43 royalty checks to contributors of "Living and Sustaining a Creative Life" today for the fourth year in a row. It is a small check, but the point is to pay contributors by sharing the royalties. And every contributor retains his/her own copyright, which is rare in publishing of anthologies. I'm hoping by these actions other editor/authors will insist upon these requirements for their contracts to change the way in which contributors are compensated. 

Thanks to all of the contributors to both of my books for their generosity of sharing their perspectives and stories. Next year, I'm proud to say, I'll be sending out 87 checks (total contributors to both books). And in 2020, royalty checks will be written to even more contributors. I am thrilled to do this! And I actually love writing out the checks: it's like sending letters. It's a powerful physical statement that we can share both symbolic and physical profits.


Launch at the Strand

On March 2nd, me and Hrag Vartanian proudly introduced The Artist as Culture Producer, which included shout outs, readings by artist-contributors Morehshin Allahyari, Steve Lambert and Shinique Smith, and a book signing to follow with other contributors who were also in attenedance including Deana Haggag, Cara Ober, Jayme McLellan, Brett Wallace, Caitlin Masley, Michael Scoggins, Austin Thomas, Sharon Butler, Kat Kiernan, Matthew Deleget, Jean Shin, Mark Tribe and more. Over 225 people attended and the book oversold. It was amazing.

In case you missed it, here is the video of the event.


Book Review: Library Journal

The Artist as Culture Producer received its first review today:

“In this book’s preface, editor, multimedia creator, and author (Living and Sustaining a Creative Life) Louden describes artists as ‘extending creative energies’ into their communities. True, but it’s the subtitle that characterizes this informative volume and continues the efforts of her first book: it’s a collection of essays by artists who, in their own words, explain how they chose their careers and how they've survived and thrived, creatively and financially. The life stories told here are by visual or cross-disciplinary artists working in a range of media (painting, photography, sculpture, mixed media). Most of them also pursue related occupations (writing, teaching, curating, running galleries). This title is a welcome alternative to so much of the general interest writing on art and artists’ lives, which tends to focus on attention-grabbing topics such as multimillion-dollar auction sales, celebrity gossip, or tragedy. The essays steer clear of literary flourishes and artspeak, offering straightforward descriptions of each individual’s struggles as they navigated life and career paths. Recommended for students and aspiring artists who hunger for this kind of real-life experience, advice, and wisdom, and for those in organizations that work with them.”—Michael Dashkin, Library Journal.

Artists: Calling for a Mandate

In this last issue of Mira Schor and Susan Bee's M/E/A/N/I/N/G, I contributed an essay calling for a mandate for artists to share their "wealth." This frames a lot of what I will be talking on my upcoming tour but also what I believe should happen in these days of uncertainty.

The essay is the third essay listed:


Thanks, Mira and Susan, and thanks to everyone for reading this. I welcome any feedback here.

The Artist as Culture Producer is here!

I'm thrilled to share that "The Artist as Culture Producer," a book I edited of some amazing essays by people who are extraordinary artists, has been released! This 402 page book arrived today and is available for pre-order. For me, a book is a platform for conversation. Conversations at 80 venues start on March 2, 2017 at the Strand Book Store in New York.

You can preorder the book here.

Hope you will enjoy these essays as much as I do! Feel free to add your comments below. Thanks!

"The Artist as Culture Producer" is my second effort in a series of "Living and Sustaining a Creative Life" books.

"The Artist as Culture Producer" is my second effort in a series of "Living and Sustaining a Creative Life" books.