Avoiding Bad Bets and the Dane County Cultural Affiars Commission

by Doug E. L. Haynes

Whenever one enters a show, there is a mental equation to be calculated. Is the potential prize money and prestige of acceptance in line with the entry fee? One might also factor in the ferocity of the competition, who the juror is and what their tastes might be. Finally one might weigh one’s past experience with a particular show.

This year I was particularly disappointed to see that the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission was asking for a $25 entry fee in its competition for their annual calendar. 13 prizes of $100 for images accepted in the calendar images seems like a pitiful compensation for such a hefty entry fee. If I were at Ho Chunk and a $25 bet on the slots paid $100, I would not be playing that one too often. I suppose that the Cultural Affairs Commission is hoping that artists will be lured by the wide distribution of the calendar, but “exposure” is the same lame excuse that every coffee shop “venue” uses to get free use of art. One would hope that a government entity whose mission is advancing the art of the region would have a stronger vision.

Other competitions to be wary of are those that culminate in an online exhibit. Or those in which you have already been juried in on the strength of your website (i.e. the Florence Biennale) I would also be cautious of the first annual of any type of event as sometimes it takes a few years to work the bugs out.

No competition should be a sure thing, so it makes sense to have a tough skin for rejection. At the same time an honest appraisal of the odds is worthwhile and if no one speaks out about a bad bet, the organizers of such events will take that as a ratification of their wisdom in charging excessive fees or putting on half-baked events.