Spring Into the Art Show Season

Written by Joely Rogers

You’ve put your heart and soul into your art: capturing that magic moment when your inner muse is stirred, setting up the ideal composition, fine-tuning the details and then fine-tuning them some more. Now it’s time to get out of the studio or from behind the lens and in front of an audience.

Finding art shows, competitions, and fairs was challenging even before “social distancing” landed in our collective vocabulary. As we move further into 2021, and COVID-19 vaccinations are more widespread, we hope to see an increasing number of in-person shows. But expect to find a fair share that are cancelled, postponed, or moved online. To help make your hunt go a little smoother, we’ve gathered some tips and tricks that will help you find the right shows, competitions, fairs, retreats, and more.

Tap into the Power of Social Media

Social media has never been more important for artists looking to connect with an audience and find venues to showcase their work. “I use Instagram and Facebook as my primary resources,” says oil painter Christopher Johnson. He goes on to say that social media “got me to where I am today with respect to shows. Instagram in particular helped me enormously.” 

Christopher recommends using social media as a way to research shows, connect with other artists to find events relevant to your art, and to ask questions that will help you determine if a particular event is right for you. He also recommends the Facebook group Art Fair Buddies: “It’s a collection of artists talking about various shows throughout the world,” Christopher explains. “It’s a helpful resource to gather info and ask questions.” 

Collage artist Richard Curtner also emphasizes the power of networking —on social media and off. He points out, “Once you start doing shows, you also get a lot of word-of-mouth [and] recommendations from other artists, especially artists that do similar mediums as yourself.”

Join Relevant Art Societies

As you’re seeking shows and venues, don’t forget to focus on your niche. Joining professional societies centered on your primary medium will often qualify you to exhibit with them. From the National Watercolor Society to the Professional Photographers of America, if you create it, there’s likely a group devoted to it. 

'Zines and Pubs

The art community’s trade magazines and publications often put out their own calls for entry or sponsor competitions. Many have cash prizes along with great exposure. Here are just a few to get you started:

Artists Magazine 38th Annual Art Competition. (Artist focus) With competitions in several categories — from still life to wildlife — this contest features tiered cash prizes, including five first place awards of $2,500. The 2021 early bird deadline is April 19. 

Communication Arts. (Graphic Artists, Designers, Photographers, Illustrators, Interactive) Around since 1959, CA is of the most prestigious juried competitions in the world. There are separate competitions throughout the year for various genres. No cash prizes, but the solid aluminum trophy is very cool. 

The American Landscape 2021 Annual Photo Contest. (Photographers) Sponsored by Outdoor Photographer magazine, this competition is now in its 10th year. Give it a shot: $1,000 grand prize plus a Tamron lens, $500 second prize, $250 third prize. Deadline for submissions is May 27.

Pound the (Virtual) Pavement

Nothing can replace time spent on doing your homework: online research, networking, and signing up for mailing lists. Sometimes there’s no magic formula other than a little creativity mixed with dedicated time — and as artists, we know a thing or two about both, don’t we? One quick tip: as you’re signing up for all those mailing lists, consider setting up a separate email just for art calls-for-entry. They can pile up quickly in your inbox, and having a separate account can help you keep things organized.

Click and You Shall Find

Here are some online resources to consult as you embark on your search for art shows and fairs this spring:

ArtShow: Includes a database of calls for artists. 

Art Gallery Finder: Find galleries across the U.S. 

Art Fair Calendar: Listings for both craft shows and fine art fairs and festivals. 

Art Jobs: International job listings for artists and a huge “Open Calls” site for creatives. 

C4E: Search for opportunities for art calls and events. 

Side Arts: From exhibitions to vendor events to residencies, find verified calls for visual artists of all kinds.

Sunshine Artist: Reviews of art shows and fairs across the U.S.

AFSB: The Art Fair Sourcebook is designed to help artists and event organizers find the best fit for them.

ZAPP: Apply to a number of art shows from one central website.

Also, check out regional arts organizations for lists of events and calls for artists. Two useful organizations are Art and Seek (a North Texas hub for art news and events) and the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod (a regional nonprofit promoting and supporting the arts in the Cape Cod and Barnstable County area). 

Wishing you a prolific and profitable springtime! Let us know how it’s going with a comment below.

Last Updated February 23, 2021

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