I love it when my art travels….

I was very honored to have been included in the Pastel Society of America’s “Enduring Brilliance” International Exhibition this past Fall. I believe it is the 14th time I have been part of this very competitive exhibition with brilliant pastel paintings from all over the world. The entries are in the thousands and they chose about 175 images. I was very honored to have won my second-ever award with this group too –  The Southeastern Pastel Societies Award, which gave a cash prize of $750. 

The director from the Butler Museum of American Art in Youngstown, Ohio then curates a show of 50 pastels from that exhibition to be shown at the Butler Museum. It is a real honor to be chosen and it is my 5th time showing there.  I wish I could go to the exhibit. 

Which brings me to what is great and yet crazy about being involved in a show like this.  

I often hear artists say they have a goal to be in shows like this. And I always ask why… it is prestigious, but it is also expensive. What do I mean by that? Well, when artists are part of exhibitions like this, the cost of shipping, framing and insurance is all on the artist.  Then to be in the New York show there is a entry fee – $50 – and then if you get accepted there is a mandatory “uncrating fee” of $150.  Shipping to either New York or to Youngstown (depending on where you are located) will cost another $300- $700 each way.  I once shipped a painting to France that cost me $1400 for the round trip, plus customs fees…Then there is the cost of the crate or box and packing material. Plus, it normally takes me quite a bit of time to carefully pack up a painting for that kind of transport. Especially since the “museum” glass alone on this particular piece was $150 and the framing was around $500. The funny thing is you can not insure a painting for what is is worth anymore.  The limit on insurance is $1000. So if it got destroyed while shipping, it would not cover the frame and the value of the work, This is a huge risk every artist takes when entering a show.  

The cool thing about working with a museum is that they called me to let me know that my painting arrived safely and they were letting the painting and box “acclimate” to the environment before unpacking it with white gloves. That’s pretty cool. Everyones’ artwork deserves that. 

So when I ask artists why they want to be in these shows I normally get a vague answer.  We just know that this is it. This is the show to get into. But how does that help us as artists?  What makes these shows worth the overhead? 

I am a business. At the end of the day what I do is a business and I get to tax expense these lovely charges, but it still has to pay off.  Will these shows drive more followers, potential clients or fellow artists (to take my workshops) to my site to see what I do? That is the hope. 

My sister is an accountant,  She is very good at what she does.  My dentist seems competent enough. Do they have to spend a lot of money in the hopes that others will believe they are at the top of their game? 

I knew an artist when I was pretty young who was very accomplished. He had work at the Carnegie Museum of Art and belonged to the very best artist organizations. And I once asked him if he was excited about being in a particular show. He looked at me in a weary way and said “Once you get there, you realize there is no there, there.” Only the next painting, the next problem, the next bill….the next show… I never forgot that.

There is no finish line for artists. 

I will keep entering big exhibitions like this but it needs to be acknowledged that there is a big cost to being part of these shows. That $750 award was not enough to cover the admission fee and the $800 round-trip shipping fees to get the painting to the Museum and back. I will also have to pay income tax next year on that award money as well, which means a loss of about $300 on this little venture.  And if I hadn’t won the extremely-hard to-get award, the loss would have been over $1000. I think it is good to be honest about these things. To understand that artists have to paint better, work harder and put in more hours than most other professions to reach a level where we are acknowledged as competent. 

I am so very honored to be in this show. If you are anywhere near the Butler Museum, I hope you will stop by and appreciate the very, very talented artists on the walls from all over the world that all have the same hope that this exposure and investment will nudge them forward just a little bit more.  After all, I do get to brag that I am in one of the best museums in the country right now. 

Till next week.  

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