Meta-Practice

Collective Agreements from the MAP Fund

I recently learned about these collective agreements for panelist discussions from Jenn Woodward of c3:initiative, from the MAP Fund‘s RE-Tool: Racial Equity in the Panel Process (2018, PDF). I think these are great agreements to review to cultivate equity and mutualism.

Openness to others’ points of view 

Awareness of power dynamics 

Positive spirit, generosity, laughter, constructive critique 

Full attention to discussion, limiting distractions*

Letting others speak, finish thoughts, deep listening 

Staying grounded in the guidelines and criteria  

 

[*On Zoom, to me, this means limiting the what’s entered in the chat window to relevant items like agendas, links, spellings of names, etc.]

Standard
Art & Development

Some Thoughts on Public Art

Notes from a panel on public art

Last week, I participated in a webinar called “Public Art: The Way Forward.” It was hosted by the Armory Show and moderated by the Armory Show Executive Director Nicole Berry. The guests were Jean Cooney from Times Square Arts, Michelle Woo from For Freedoms, and two artists in Messages for the CityNekisha Durrett and myself. 

Here are some of my recent thoughts about sentences on public art—some things I said during the panel, and things I wanted to say but didn’t fit in.

On the purpose of public art, and public art during COVID and the current racial justice movement

It’s interesting to reflect on public art in this moment, as monuments to white supremacists and colonialists are being toppled. Some people think those monuments represent history; I think they represent re-writing history with certain people as victors.

Public art is cross-sector. It is where visual form, storytelling, and civic dialogue intersect. Public art is a way we, as a society, discuss what we value and who we are. It asks us to think about participation, engagement, and representation.

I like to think about artwork as more than the object and the artist’s intent. People leaving a mark or toppling a statue is also part of the life of an artwork. So are people discussing what statues mean, what should replace it, and whose stories should be represented.

Truly public art is democratic. The purpose of democratic public art is to serve the public with representations, stories, and voices that reflect them.

In contrast with historic bronze statues, there’s the murals on boarded up storefronts in downtown Oakland, CA, which have sprung up in the people’s uprising for justice for Black lives. There, public art is the voice of the people, where you see emotions like anger and grief, calls for action, and—what artists can do best—transformative visions of society.

For artists, public art is an opportunity to bypass art-world gate keepers and connect with more democratic and diverse audiences.

 

About freedom of expression in public art

[In response to: “Do you feel more of a responsibility to have a message in public art? Is there less freedom of expression?”]

I don’t feel more responsibility to have a certain message, ideally. I do feel more responsibility to be ethical and diligent working in partnership with a community.

There is less freedom of expression in public art, but that’s OK, because that’s what studio practice is for. It’s not always about you. I value creative freedom and artistic autonomy as an artist. But that might be in the same way that someone else may value liberty above all and think it’s a good idea not to wear a mask in the middle of a pandemic. There’s more to life than doing whatever you want whenever you want.

Public art can be complicated and require compromises. But shouldn’t just be a sacrifice—there is a tradeoff. There are gifts that you can’t gain alone, which come from being in relationship with others, and those relationships are nurtured by listening, mutuality, understanding, and sharing.

There is a phrase that comes up a lot in different things I think about, as well as in current events, and in Messages for the City. I come across it in studying psychology and how people find purpose or meaning. I hear in when people talk about belonging. It’s why people participate in movements for social justice, and why they sign up to be public servants, and run towards danger, like the FDNY paramedics, rather than running away. It’s the idea of “becoming part of something bigger than yourself.” Public art is a way that artists make art that is bigger than their individual studio practice (and often, but not always, utilizing larger capacities and platforms).

 

About how the art community can promote public art and public artists

Every art opportunity is an opportunity for more equity, diversity, and inclusion.

I have to thank For Freedoms and Times Square Arts, because the artists and designers included in Messages for the City include legends whose work I’ve admired for years and sometimes over a decade. So I’m very grateful to be included. I also say this as someone who’s mostly experienced The Armory Show from the perspective of an art handler, installing art at the fair.

I think there are a lot of amazing public art organizations in NYC. I think sometimes they are comfortable following the lead of major galleries and museums. It would be nice to see them take more risks with artists—especially women, Black, indigenous and POC, queer, trans, and disabled artists—whose work is not validated by the market.

I think if institutions are serious about equity, the have to:

  • Pay artists.
  • Don’t ask artists to work for free or on spec.
  • Change the culture that undervalues artist’s labor, where artists compete against each other by submitting budgets where everybody else gets paid for materials and labor, but artists get paid for only a portion of their studio time and even less of their admin time.
  • Think about the resources, support, and mentorship it offers to artists—that translation and accessibility are not afterthoughts.
  • Have strong, genuine relationships with communities, and connect artists with those communities with enough time, outreach support, and accountability.

Since public art is inherently cross-sector, it encompasses social practice, community art, crafts, outsider art, etc. There’s so much attention, resources, scholarship, documentation, archiving, support, and platforms in the art world, there’s no reason a disproportionate amount should go to the top 5% of artists being collected by the top 1% of people in the art world.


Note: The webinar had many great questions asked in the Q&A function. Unfortunately we were only able to answer a few questions. I asked the moderator if it’s possible to capture the questions, and she sent a spreadsheet with emails, so I emailed my answers to some of the questions. It was nice to learn that this is an option.

Huge thanks to everyone who attended the panel, the Armory, For Freedoms, and TSQ Arts, and the fellow panelists. I felt honored to be part of such a lively and timely discussion.

Standard
Art & Development, Art Worlds, Citizenship, Values

Hopes for Chinatown: Ethics, Complicity, & Tactics Rationale

I was invited to an art opportunity that was funded by a tech company that I detest. I weighed the ethics of my participation. Here’s what I decided to do.

Sorry this is so wordy—I’m choosing transparency and thoroughness.

Background

In early May, I was invited by 100 Days Action to contribute art to Art for Essential Workers.

“100 Days Action is installing art on boarded up storefronts by local and national artists with images of optimism and solidarity with our essential workers.”

100 Days Action is “a Bay Area artist collective that produces creative resistance projects to build community at the intersection of art, activism, and social engagement.” It was formed immediately after the 2016 presidential election in response to Trump’s 100-Day Plan.” I know several of the members and respect who they are and what they do.

Art for Essential Workers is a cool model of a program that supports the community, small businesses, and artists. They invite artists to respond to the COVID-19 crisis with sketches to show business owners, who pick from the designs. Then 100 Days Action prints and wheat-pastes the artwork, to be seen by essential workers and neighbors. The project started with the Mission District in San Francisco and is now expanding to Chinatown.

Art, Culture, and Belonging

The chance to display art in SF Chinatown via Art for Essential Workers plugged in beautifully with Art, Culture and Belonging.

Art, Culture, and Belonging is a community-engaged project exploring the impact of art and culture on belonging SF Chinatown. I’m the lead artist and I work in partnership with the Chinese Culture Center of San Francisco and the Chinatown Arts and Culture Coalition.

Since shelter-in-place restrictions, we’ve pivoted programming to online platforms and encouraged people to support local Chinatown businesses, which have been slammed by compounding losses resulting from shelter-in-place, xenophobia, and reduced tourism. For many reasons, I haven’t been able to travel and engage the community as much as I planned.

Because of this, Art for Essential Workers is an especially welcome, timely way for the project to have a physical platform in the neighborhood.

Hopes for Chinatown Project

In Art, Culture, and Belonging, we solicited stories about belonging in SF Chinatown, including a question about hopes for Chinatown. I’ve taken excerpts from these responses to create the artworks for Art for Essential Workers. (Thanks to YY Zhu and Weiying Yu at CCCSF for translation and proofreading.)

Photo of Dragon Seed Bridal and Photography storefront. A big sign above reads, "Dragon Seed" in brown text on white background. Below, the window is boarded up and covered in a wheatpasted poster. The text on the poster is in English and Chinese. It reads: Hopes for Chinatown. To see people living and working in peace and harmony, by Alina. Everyone in Chinatown will be safe and healthy. Anonymous. Less discrimination. More Understanding. YY. Chinatown's Generations of love and care will continue. Sunflower. The text is in red in light pink boxes on a background of red with a scale-like pattern of overlapping concentric circles.

Christine Wong Yap, “Hopes for Chinatown,” 2020, site-specific public art: participation, hand-lettering, digital print, 80 x 148 inches and 96 x 48 inches. Commissioned and installed by 100 Days Action for Art for Essential Workers. Photo by Jeremiah Barber.

100 Days Action worked with the Chinatown Visitor Information Center to secure permission to install art at Dragon Seed Bridal and Photo. They installed my artwork on May 30. Dragon Seed is a longstanding business on Clay Street, facing Portsmouth Square. I’m pretty sure I’ve patronized this business—purchasing traditional clothes and trying on cherng sam for my wedding there.

I’m also excited about the location on Portsmouth Square, as that’s the neighborhood’s ‘living room.’ As a child, I played in the playground, getting splinters from the boat-shaped play structure located in the shade of the skyway. In spite of the physical distance, these memories—the sense of familiarity and continuity—make me feel connected to this location, and very proud to contribute to Chinatown in this way.

Funding

Art for Essential Workers “is funded by the Facebook Analog Research Laboratory and private donors.”

The association with Facebook presented a problem for me.

In 2014, I declined invitations to develop art projects at Facebook (see my blog post). It related to the lack of public accessibility and public good, balanced against public harm and lack of accountability in the Bay Area’s economic inequality and quality of living.

Also, a former Facebook AIR told me they had conflicting feelings about their participation. I also noticed that as soon as another Facebook AIR completed their residency, they deleted their Facebook account. Knowing myself—that acting against my conscience would lead to regret, which would haunt me for years—and values—money comes, and money goes—it was easy for me to decline and feel secure about my decision.

There are many well-known reasons to believe Facebook is evil. Two reasons that are unforgivable to me: Facebook tweaked its algorithms to mess with user’s moods. As a psychology nerd, this a major no-no. And, I don’t think Trump would be be president right now without Facebook’s negligence. [Not to mention Facebook’s complicity and collusion: Facebook board member Peter Thiel has donated at least $1.25M to Trump, and a few days ago, Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout to protest Zuckerberg’s inaction on Trump’s violence-inciting posts.]

Complicity

I’ll point this out so no one else has to, internetz: I’m already complicit. I’m on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook. I quit Facebook years ago, though I may have to re-join for my day job or art partnerships with institutions. As an artist whose “Hopes for Chinatown” project is now a part of Facebook art programming, my work may be used to “art wash” its corporate misdeeds on its platforms and internally. If I felt fine with this, I wouldn’t feel the need to write this post.

Considering agency within partnerships with institutions

In the past I’ve had a self-limiting view of artists’ agency in relationships with institutional partners: I thought the institution gets to set all the terms, and the artist was so relatively powerless and needy that they just have to accept what is offered. But artists have more agency than that.

In my zine on interdependence, I learned about some tactics that have informed my thinking over the years:

“Instead of competing for individual … opportunities, [radical opportunists] utilize project-related apparatuses to foster temporary yet tangible collectives, clusters, and networks based on principles of solidarity and equity.”

—Kuba Szreder, “How to Radicalize a Mouse? Notes on Radical Opportunism,” in Dockx, Nico, and Pascal Gielen, eds. Mobile Autonomy: Exercises in Artists’ Self-Organization. Amsterdam: Valiz, 2015.

 

“members and allies of this [alternative, artist-run] ‘field’ must leverage [our power] within … commercial, academic, … and civic spheres… to position ourselves outside, and in resistance to, these hegemonic power structures… using radical forms of participation to forefront self-organized, inclusive, and equitable structures.”

Sarrita Hunn, “Artists for Artists’ Sake.” Temporary Art Review, October 15, 2015.

I think some of these ideas are at play in 100 Days Action’s participation. When I asked them about their thoughts on the funding, they shared some of their deliberations. I can’t speak for them, but I think they are parlaying the resources to benefit artists, small businesses, and essential workers through this project.

Here’s another idea that resonates from the zine:

Seeking “opportunities to support folks … (rather than solely … individual projects)”

—Weston Teruya, as quoted in inter/de-pend-ence, 2015.

I’m not saying that the Hopes for Chinatown project falls neatly within, or is an example of, any of these concepts or calls to action. But these ideas have been helpful for thinking about how I partner with institutions, who benefits from my projects, why, and being able to have more agency and options than to either accepting or rejecting.

Response

I will donate 100% of my $500 artist fee to support Feed & Fuel, the Chinatown Community Development Corporation’s response to COVID.

Feed & Fuel mobilizes legacy restaurants like New Asia and volunteers to prepare and distribute up to 1,600 meals per day to seniors living in SROs and public housing, where residents live in 80-square-foot rooms with communal kitchens where social distancing is impossible. Feed & Fuel reduces transmission rates in dense housing among a particularly vulnerable population of elders, helps local businesses survive, keeps restaurant employees working, and provides a safe way for volunteers to serve the community. Learn more about Feed & Fuel, watch their informative video, and donate  if you can.

Feed & Fuel tackles multiple issues—loss of business from xenophobia and shelter-in-place, serving vulnerable elders, and stabilizing food security. And it’s all organized within and by the local community. I love that it’s an effective, responsive social initiative, as well as an aesthetically elegant network of relationships, mutual empowerment, and service.

Chinatown Community Development Corporation is a non-profit 501(c)3 founded in 1977.

Rationale

Another useful set of questions are:

“Given an opportunity…
Do I believe in what this institution does/stands for? Is it the ideal venue for this project/my work? Does my work feel alive in this context? …
Is this opportunity helping me reach the audience I want to reach?…
Is there enough freedom in this opportunity? Is this the best artworld for my work? Is it the most effective use of my time/money/energy? …

Am I being instrumentalized? Am I okay with that?”

Helena Keefe, “Standard Questions for Artists” from Standard Deviation, via ArtPractical.com, June 13, 2013.

My answers to these questions are “no” followed by all “yes” responses. That’s much different than in 2014.

With Hopes for Chinatown/Art for Essential Workers, I’m compelled by:

  • the public accessibility of a street-level storefront window
  • engagement with a community facing economic and public health uncertainties under Covid and shelter-in-place
  • coordination between community-minded organizations
  • the messages’ emphasis on optimism, health, and discrimination
  • the alignment with this neighborhood (a low-income, immigrant community of color), at this urgent time, with me. (Not to trying to toot my own horn, but I feel like I’m in the right place at the right time for this project: I’m Chinese American, and in a position to submit bilingual artworks that amplifies voices from the community.)

So rather than being stumped by a complicit-or-resistant choice, these questions have helped me think through tactics of circumvention, re-distribution, and public benefits. Ultimately, I participated because I think the impact on the local Chinatown community will be a net positive.

Documenting and sharing my thought process—and registering my hesitations openly for other artists to consider and discuss—are also part of this experience. I’m happy to engage with other artists, curators, and thinkers in respectful dialogue about this. If you have questions, please ask. I always prefer open dialogue over silent recriminations or unspoken criticisms.

Standard
Art & Development

A New Bandanna Design: See the Good in People

blue bandanna with calligraphy in teal and white, stating, notice small acts of kindness and connection; see the good in people

See the Good in People, 2020, two-color screenprint on cotton bandanna, 20×20 inches. Available on ChristineWongYap.com.

I have been making bandannas for a few years. I see them as mementos that remind us of our core beliefs and express them to others.
I recognize that recommendations to cover faces in public may freight the timing of the release of this bandanna. I actually designed this bandanna prior to these guidelines.
This text was inspired from an unfortunate personal experience I had in a public space last December. Strangers stopped to help, share sympathy, offer soothing commendations, and accompany me when I had to speak up.
After, my brain kept returning to the physical sensation of the incident, which triggered feelings of loathing, vulnerability, and self-pity. But I deliberately shifted my attention to the kindness of strangers.
This helped me re-write the story from one of misfortune to one of faith in humanity. It also became an experience of self-knowledge: because I changed my negative feelings into positive ones, I felt powerful.
I learned that seeing the good in people is sort of a superpower.
I would be thrilled if this bandanna helped to lessen some of fear and division of our present moment and to increase our awareness of connection and togetherness.
I’ve launched a new Shop page to sell this bandanna, as well as some reprints of previously sold-out bandannas from the Belonging project, and other zines and books.
I’m a working artist. Over the past few weeks, some of my day jobs and freelance gigs have been postponed or canceled. Your support is greatly appreciated. The funds also help me pay Forthrite Printing, the artist-run, small business in Oakland, CA who printed these.
Standard
Art Competition Odds

Art Competition Odds: BRIC ArtFP Exhibition Open Call

BRIC’s ArtFP Exhibition Open Call received over 250 applicants, from which 3 finalists were selected.

//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////
//////////////////////////////////////////////////+

Selected images represent 1:83, or 1.2%, of applicants.

See all Art Competition Odds.

Standard
Art Worlds

Commendations: NYC’s Public Artist in Residence (PAIR) Open Call

The program design and the open call of New York City’s Public Artists in Residence (PAIR) demonstrate refreshingly pro-artist principles. 

It all boils down to trust and transparency.

Artists are Leaders

Inspired by an artist-led initiative, PAIR supports artists to step outside of the cultural sector into municipal collaborations.

PAIR is based on the premise that artists are creative problem solvers. To that end, DCLA embeds socially engaged artists in New York City municipal agencies to utilize their creative, collaborative art practice to offer innovative solutions to pressing civic challenges. Launched in 2015, the PAIR program takes its name and inspiration from the pioneering work of artist Mierle Laderman Ukeles, the City’s first official artist in residence (1977), with the NYC Department of Sanitation.

This is a unique residency. What a wonderful legacy for Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ iconic work.

Let Artists Be Strategic

The open call describes necessary characteristics of successful applicants.

Artists who are able to be flexible, adaptable, and can maneuver through different situations and populations are encouraged to apply.

Many open calls are intentionally vague. They want to cast the widest net possible and let the jurors decide. Or, some open calls are transactional; the gallery wants to generate income via the entry fees, so they are disincentivized from stating their curatorial interests out right.

Applicants and jurors benefit when calls result in quality over quantity.

Budget Transparency

The call clearly states the budget.

PAIR funding per residency is $40,000: $20,000 for the Research Phase and $20,000 for the Implementation Phase. Funding is inclusive of related project expenses (e.g., printing, fabrication, equipment rental, wages for collaborators, video production, etc.). The selected artist(s) are responsible for managing the project budget and submitting invoices. No additional funding is provided….

Sometimes institutions like to be coy about the total budget available—it gives them more wiggle room to move funds around as needed. Or, they’ll say, “up to [X amount]” is available, and then artists have to justify what they ask for.

When everything is up for negotiation, artists—honored to receive an opportunity and unsure how much is available—can get the short end of the stick.

Trust Artists to Manage Budgets

They will just disburse the funds to the artist. Artists don’t have to explain or justify every expense.

All funds ($40,000 total) are paid directly to the artist, who manages all program costs.

This is, hands down, my favorite way to handle funds. Just give artists the money!

If a city agency can do it, then I have hope everyone else can find a way to do it too.

The alternatives—submitting reimbursement requests with receipts and line items—can add up to a lot of administrative labor and stress. (For example, one institution refused to reimburse me for expenses for which I submitted scans, rather than hard copies, of receipts.)

Don’t Overstretch

Since they advocate for artists to be paid fairly, they encourage solo artists rather than collaboratives.

DCLA advocates strongly for fair artist wages. Given that PAIR awards are fixed, we strongly encourage individual artists to apply for PAIR, rather than artist collectives that would have to share the award. Collectives are still welcome to apply, knowing the financial restrictions.

They’re acknowledging that $20,000 for a year-long project is not enough of an artist’s fee for multiple artists.

Pay Yourself

This call recommends that the artist’s fee be 50% of the total budget.

We encourage artists to take a $20,000 artist fee and use $20,000 for the project budget. However, it is up the to the artist’s discretion to use the fee as they see fit.

Stating the proportion, and making it a generous proportion, are radical. Many artists are unsure how much to pay themselves, because they are often expected to underpay themselves.

(When I was an undergrad, a teacher told our class that his grant application was unsuccessful because his artist’s fee was too much of the total budget. The message was: “Don’t pay yourself too much, or else you won’t get paid at all.” In fact, underpaying myself and using my own capital to subsidize ‘opportunities’ has been part of most—but not all—of my experiences.) 

The message here is: “We value artist’s labor”—and not just in theory, but in practice.

 


Addendum:

This program was created by Tom Finkelpearl, former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

There’s a lot that I don’t understand about politics. One thing I know: New York City is worse off having lost two top talents: Tom Finkelpearl and Andy Byford.

Standard
Meta-Practice

Notes from a Juror: New Glass Review

I recently served as a juror for New Glass Review 41. In the interest of making the art world more transparent, here are some of my insights from that process.

Entry way to the museum, with a long path framed by bare winter trees.

Corning Museum of Art. This is a great museum—the largest museum of glass in the world, in fact—and their new contemporary galleries are especially gorgeous. Well worth a trip to Corning, NY!

Invitation

I was honored to be invited by Susie Silbert, Curator of Postwar and Contemporary Glass at the Corning Museum of Glass, to be a guest juror for New Glass Review 41, an annual exhibition in print.

Three books, with images of glass sculptures and installations on the cover.

Past issues of New Glass Review 38 & 39, and New Glass Now.

To be totally honest, I was surprised by the invitation. My practice infrequently overlaps with glass. But I trusted Susie’s instincts as a curator and that the perspective I could bring was welcome—that it was OK for me not to be an expert in glass or a glass practitioner, but that my art practice and writing practices could be a good launching pad for worthy contributions nonetheless. I’m OK with being a weirdo outsider in this process (though I would love to return to making hot glass again in the future).

Jurors

There were four jurors: Susie, me, a US glass artist/writer, and an international curator. (I’ll let CMOG reveal the full list of jurors.) We all brought different bodies of knowledge, interests, and perceptions to the table. I found the mix of our backgrounds and where our curiosities lie to be very educational in the jurying process. I was a little intimidated at times, but I also knew it’s OK to be humble and honest about what I don’t know. By the final round, I felt that all our perspectives were different and valid, and that was very freeing for me. I am learning that approaching with curiosity is always a good way to go.

Process

The process was fascinating. There were 978 total entrants. Each entrant could submit one to three images, so we reviewed a total of 2,599 images! The jurors were asked to select 100 images for inclusion in New Glass Review 41. See the art competition odds here.

I was curious as to how this would be accomplished in two full days of meeting in person at the Corning Museum. As with most feats, it was possible because of the invisible labor of support staff—namely, Violet Wilson, Whitney Birkett, AV crew and others. They had done a lot of preparation and were heavily involved in technical, behind-the-scenes work to make the jurors’ jobs smooth and on schedule. (I also appreciated that there was catering to help keep our energy and focus up.)

Round One: Overview

In the first round, we did a quick look only at images; we didn’t look at statements or the title, year, media, dimensions, etc. This was just to see everything and get familiar with the entries. If you can believe it, we started at just after 9 AM and finished by noon.

A note about the format… In this first round, each ‘slide’ of the deck contained one entrant’s images. If there were three images, it filled the ‘slide’ well. Some people submitted photos of one artwork: an overall view, and detail views. Others submitted three different artworks. This is not a distinction that made a big difference to me. But, if there was only one installation view, with no details, it seemed to be a missed opportunity to fill the screen with more visual information. Conversely, when only cropped views were offered, I wanted to see an uncropped image to understand the full extent of the object.

Round Two: Initial ‘Keepers’

In the second round, jurors were asked to voice whether we’d each like to keep none, one, or multiple images to see again in the next round.

We went through all the entries again, this time, with supplementary texts. If I remember correctly, titles, years, media, and dimensions appeared under each image in this round.

An artist’s statement was shown on a large monitor. To be honest, we really could only skim the statement in this round. The shorter, clearer statements, with headers identifying sections, worked better for me. When entrants submitted works that looked disparate, brief statements about each work or project were helpful. I found long, narrative paragraphs too wordy and rambling for my tastes.*

We also stated if we had personal connections with the artist in this round. We recused ourselves or shared relevant context if necessary. I recused myself from advancing artists who I had personal connections with in this round and round three.

Round Three: Cull to 250 Images

The next day, we spent the morning narrowing down the number of images to 250. We went a little slower, spending more time reading the statements. I think this is when we really got a sense of the artist’s intent. Spending the time in this stage really made the final round easier. We went past our scheduled lunch time, and I’m grateful that the support staff bore with us.

Round Four: Final Selections of 100 Images

In preparation for the final afternoon, the staff printed our selections of 250 images and taped them to the walls. Then each juror was given a colored dot sticker and asked to select 25 images to make up the 100 selected works to appear in New Glass Review. Jurors are also asked to write a few sentences about 25 works, and it was generally agreed upon that the works we picked in this stage are also the ones we would write about.

A window case behind glass of nine printouts, each bearing a photo of glass art, with colored dot stickers below.

Sample printouts with dot stickers from past jurying processes on view in the exhibition New Glass Now | Context.

There’s an element of chance in this final stage. Some works that I wanted to choose were already picked by other jurors by the time I made it to that area of printouts.

Full disclosure: In this stage, I selected some artists whose work I had previously recused myself from. I felt that if the other jurors advanced it to this final stage, it was fair game for me now.

We were also given the chance to add an unlimited number of dots to other juror’s selections, so our initials would appear next to the works. This also had some element of subjectivity—I noticed that sometimes jurors spoke favorably about some works in early rounds but didn’t add their dots in the final round. For me, for better or worse, the many small decisions, considerations, and a certain level of decision fatigue gave way to gut instincts by the end.

Observations

I think this process is really efficient for the time frame available. One constraint is that some images that may have benefited from clarifying statements were cut in round two. But given the enormous task of whittling down images, the various subjectivities, positions, and interests of the jurors, and Susie’s varied concerns related to the history and role of New Glass Review in the glass field at large, I’d say there’s a generous mix of rigor and chance in the process. No artists should be discouraged from applying again in future years.

I appreciate the democracy and transparency embedded in the New Glass Review.

Signage that states, "Methodology for Selection. New Glass is democratic in a way that few curatorial projects are. Usually, exhibitions are initiated by one curator who solicits art work from an artist they have researched. By contrast, any artist can submit to New Glass, and all of the artists are given equal consideration. Instead of one curator selecting, New Glass invites a group of people from outside the Museum to select from these submissions. The selectors do not have to agree about every work, instead a piece can be accepted to New Glass even if it was chosen by a single selector. The selections of each panelist are identified in both the New Glass publications and exhibitions, including this one, by publishing their initials alongside their choices."

A didactic text from the exhibition, New Glass Now | Context.

Advice: Apply!

In the process of preparing to be a juror, I reviewed New Glass Review 38 and 39, as well as New Glass Now (sort of a super-version of New Glass Review 40). The juror’s selections varied widely. I would not want any potential applicants to feel that New Glass Review favors any particular look, style, medium, or technique.

This year’s jurors were fortunate that the jurying coincided with the New Glass Now | Context exhibition on view in the CMOG Rakow Research Library through January 3, 2021. This exhibition is a great overview of the history of New Glass Review and how it and CMOG have been formative in fostering the field of glass art. It’s also interesting to see how Susie is shaking up things with new energy.

A case with "New Glass Review 1" in vinyl, displaying the first and most recent issues of New Glass Review.

A display from the exhibition, New Glass Review | Context.

archives

The exhibition, New Glass Now | Context, includes this display showing that all submitted entries become archived at CMOG. This is a really generous additional benefit. Even if works are not selected for publication, they become part of this institution’s archive, available to researchers. I really loved Lenka Clayton’s and Jon Rubin’s  “Fruit and Other Things” project using the archive of past entries to the Carnegie International, and I would love to see artists and researchers dive into the New Glass Review archives for future projects.

I see applying to competitions as a skill that artists develop with practice. Personally, I think it’s fair to advance entrants who are skilled in photographing and presenting their works to their best competitive advantage; writing clear, concise statements that add to the works rather than undermine them with cloudy thinking or contradictory info; arming themselves with knowledge about the formats of the submission and review process (hint: this is the point of this blog post!); and strategizing appropriately.

This skill can be learned by attending professional development workshops (and applying that knowledge!), going to info sessions whenever available, practicing the art of writing, investing in good documentation, not waiting until the last minute to apply to an opportunity, being strategic about which opportunities you apply to rather than taking scatter-shot, cut-and-paste approaches, and asking fellow artists to give feedback on your submissions.

A Caveat

The jurors were asked to share feedback about the process. It sounds to me that the organizers are interested in making improvements, so the application may shift slightly in the future. These notes reflect my experience, during this one particular jurying session of New Glass Review, solely.

Takeaways

Each juror will submit an essay on our perspective, as well as short statements about 25 of our selections. I appreciated the opportunity to articulate what I’m interested in as a viewer, and what I saw in the works I selected. I think this is a unique aspect of juried artist’s competitions that makes a jury feel less de-personalized. As an applicant, I always appreciate getting any feedback or encouragement, but most organizations don’t have the capacity to give feedback. I can’t think of any that includes jurors’ direct responses  like New Glass Review.

I felt honored to be part of the process. I am coming away with a lot of images and knowledge about contemporary glass art from the past 18 months. I’m very grateful to learn about so many glass practitioners around the world, to be exposed to so many artists’ artworks and practices. I hope that New Glass Review 41 acts as a starting point for readers to learn more about these artist’s practices.

I’m grateful to all the artists for preparing entries with care and intention.

Huge thanks to CMOG, Susie, Violet, Whitney, support staff, and the fellow jurors for such a wonderful opportunity, the great support, and generous hospitality.


*Addendum: Unsolicited Advice on Writing Artist’s Statements

If you’re interested, here are some writing strategies I’ve picked up over the years.

One strategy is to print out your artist statement, use scissors to cut out each sentence, and then cut out any words that aren’t necessary or communicative. This is nice for artists who like to work with their hands. Also, taking it off the screen and making it mechanical can help you focus on individual words and phrases.

A chart in the shape of an inverted pyramid with three sections. The top section states "Most newsworthy. Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?" The middle section states, "Important Details." The bottom section states, "Other background info, general info."

The Air Force Departmental Publishing Office (AFDPO) derivative work: Makeemlighter // Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inverted_pyramid_(journalism)

Another method to try is to use journalists’ inverted pyramid. (See graphic and link at right.)

The last tip is to use headers. Think of them as signposts for navigating a text. Usually, setting the header in all capitals and extra space are enough to distinguish it from body text, if you can’t style the text otherwise.

(While Susie emphasized that we’re selecting artists, not writers, to me, clear writing is an indication of clear thinking. I like to know what artists are thinking about their work and what they are trying to do. If they can’t articulate it clearly, I can’t understand the work as well. I did allow some leeway for non-native English entrants in this regard.)

Standard