Spotlight: Open Calls at The Greenpoint Gallery

Spotlight: Open Calls at The Greenpoint Gallery

Founded in 2005, The Greenpoint Gallery is a non-profit gallery that provides New York City artists with affordable and flexible performance, exhibition, and music rehearsal spaces. The Greenpoint Gallery has shown the work of thousands of artists over the years and awarded nearly $100,000 in prize money at its weekly juried competitions. NYFA Classifieds Intern Kate Centrowitz talked to Shawn James, the founder and director of The Greenpoint Gallery, about the gallery’s competition process and what factors to consider when applying.

NYFA: Tell us about The Greenpoint Gallery and some of the programs you offer.

SJ: The Greenpoint Gallery offers an opportunity for emerging, outsider or established artists to exhibit their work in a non-profit gallery space where no commission is ever charged for the sale of artists’ work. We also offer a variety of classes and lectures to help artists market their work and further their careers.

We offer two floors of spacious galleries and rehearsal areas, along with several studios that are available for rotating artists in residence. These artists are able to subsidize their private studios by participating in gallery events, workshops, lectures and art education classes.

To help facilitate gallery sponsored events, maintenance and operation of the space, the Greenpoint Gallery is available for rent. This allows us to remain independent and self-sustaining in our commitment to serve the artistic community. Our space accommodates virtually any purpose where a large, well-lit, open space is needed. Revenues go directly back into the Gallery, funding art education programs for NYC youth and enabling partial or full grants toward rental fees for extraordinary proposals that demonstrate financial need. With a 10 year history of excellence, the Greenpoint Gallery has been one of the originators of standard for independent galleries.

NYFA: What is the process for your competitions?

SJ: We advertise in several places because we find that paid advertisements produce far more artist entries. Submissions are reviewed by me and the gallery staff. Each artist receives a personal response letting them know if they have been accepted and if not, why. In most cases, works are not accepted because they do not fit the size requirements or do not correspond to the guidelines or theme of a particular show. Once the work arrives to the gallery and the show is installed, the judges evaluate each work based on a dozen categories including: form, context, composition, socio/cultural relevance, use of color/shade/hue, concept, originality, use of medium, overall presentation, etc.

NYFA: What factors are considered when selecting the winning entries for each competition?

SJ: Artists are awarded points from one to ten for each category. Judges then calculate the total of points for each artist. When several artists all have the same number of points, the judges must deliberate and come to a consensus in choosing a winner. For this reason we always have an odd number of judges (three to five) to prevent a deadlock. In the instance that a deadlock does occur, I make the final decision.

NYFA: How important are presentation and image quality in submissions?

SJ: We don’t penalize artists for not framing or matting works, as we realize this is an expense many artists have trouble affording. Likewise, not all artists own or have access to high-resolution cameras. The work always looks better and is easier to judge in person. For this reason, the judging process begins once the work is installed and can be viewed in the physical space. Since it would be impossible for artists to submit the actual work in the initial submission process, we use jpegs to get a basic idea of which works we want to see in person. Once the work has arrived and been installed, good presentation can earn an artist extra points and can sometimes be a factor in the final decision – like in the instance of a tie. However, it’s primarily about the image itself.

NYFA: Should an artist take the gallery’s previous winners into consideration when submitting an entry?

SJ: It’s important to understand that we have a rotating panel of renowned and accomplished art world professionals. What one group selects may not be at all the same as another group may have. We can never anticipate what each different combination of judges will pick. We also have frequent People’s Choice shows, when ballots are passed out at the door during the reception and then counted at the end. The winner is decided by popular vote. This enables us to level the playing field so that every artist has the same chance of winning.

Often the winners are shocked when they are chosen by the judges. Therefore all artists should be encouraged to enter, as their work may be stronger than they think. Also from show to show, you never know what each rotating panel of judges will pick. It is a difficult and arduous task to select only three winners from 60 – 70 artists.

NYFA: Is it better for the artist to showcase a theme, particular style or something more general for each of their entries?

SJ: Artists should always enter what they feel are their strongest works. Often our shows have specific themes. Some shows have a limit to the number of works they can submit. On other occasions, artists can send a link to a website where their whole portfolio can be reviewed. If a particular show has a specific theme, then we will be looking for works that correspond to that theme.

NYFA: What suggestions can you offer to help artists who want to enter your competitions?

SJ: By entering open call shows in general, artists are being proactive about their careers. Even artists who do not win still get the chance to have their work shown and gain exposure. Many artists, who do not win or place, still sell their works. It is a tremendous experience in helping them understand how to market themselves and realizing their work has value.

For artists who do not enter these types of shows, they need to understand their work cannot sell in their homes or studios where no one sees it. By going on the circuit of the many independent galleries who host similar opportunities, their names and works become more familiar to the general public, art patrons, buyers and private collectors and also the judges, many of whom participate as judges in other competitions. Often they will track the progress of certain artists and when improvement is recognized, they are awarded respectively.

Here at Greenpoint Gallery we offer an entry level experience and teach artists how to go about presenting their work with an actual gallery experience. Each show is an opportunity for sales, exposure, and a chance to network and get feedback on their art. In recent years we have been visited by curators from more mainstream galleries, who come to observe the latest trends or to find who will be the next up and coming artist. We have thousands of positive thank you letters from participants who truly feel the experience has helped them in furthering their art career endeavors. The majority of our best in show winners go on to find true success and confidence in the art market.

NYFA: How should artists contact you if they have questions about your open calls?

SJ: They can reach me at [email protected].

Amy Aronoff
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