A rant for all of you today and no pretty pictures--sorry! A while back I saw a posting on the message board of the Artists Registry (http://www.artistsregistry.com/) website from a disgruntled artist. Unfortunately, it has since been archived or taken down. But it has percolated with me since then and I just kept getting madder and madder about the issue. So here I am distilling and adding to that message (with apologies for not crediting the original source--I did try to find you!)
As an artist employing a non-traditional medium, I am always on the lookout for new places to show. As I troll the 'net I come across many "calls to artists" in the form of art or design contests. Sounds like a great idea for all concerned--create a poster for the next sidewalk art festival, get publicity and perhaps a monetary prize. What could be better for both parties? The festival organizers and the lucky artist? Upon deeper reflection, its not such a great idea at all, in fact, its a pretty bad idea on several fronts.
For the festival organizers (or whomever), they have no (or very little) control or input into the design as it is developed. They are completely at the mercy of the entirely coincidental population of artists who have seen the call and decided to enter. They have to pick the best or most appropriate of whatever entries there are. Could be pretty cheesy. Might be OK. Seldom is great. I have a question for those art festival organizers in particular (and you know who you are): if you are so "pro" art why are you not paying a fair price to an artist to design your poster/T-shirt/logo/whatever? Face it, you know you're trying to get something on the cheap. A professional design created with your input is sure to elevate the tone of your festival and all the publicity that you use that design for. And then there's the added bonus that you won't be big fat hypocrites shouting: "Come out and support the arts and buy something!" when you don't do the same.
For the artists who enter, its really not such a great proposition either. Most of the artists won't win and thus will receive absolutely no real compensation for their time and creativity. Zero. Zip. Nada. Too bad, so sad--you didn't win--try again next year. For the winner, of course, its a better deal. There is that award money and the notoriety. Lets look closer: usually the monetary reward is a bit on the light side, if you ask me. The honor of winning is supposed to make up for that. Does it really? I've seldom thought so.
If you look at the bigger picture, art/design contests demean and devalue the role and careers of struggling professional artists and designers everywhere. What if every art/design job was put out to a contest? Few, if any designers could make a living, thats what. Ten spec jobs for one measly payoff. Artists are already starving, thank you very much. Sadly, there are websites that now promote this very concept. This completely undermines the respect that these creatives should be getting for their work. You want a poster for your festival? A new logo? A cool T-shirt? Review portfolios, find an artist and then hire them, work with them and get the perfect design for your project.
Respect the art.
See more on this subject at: http://www.no-spec.com/articles/design-contests/ and http://www.thelogofactory.com/knowledge-base/contests.html as well as a related blog entry by Cheryl Jones Evans, a super artist (see her website at: http://www.cherylevans.net/). See Cheryl's blog entry at: http://artistswayworkshop.blogspot.com/2009/05/and-todays-ramblingcompetition-and.html