NAC Corner

Novice artists can easily begin with unjuried shows

Are you an artist who has either not exhibited your work in a while or never shown anything you’ve done? Perhaps you have just started dabbling in art. Or perhaps, like me, you are a proverbial Stella getting your groove back. (For the record, I am a skinny white boy and look nothing like Angela Bassett).

As an art school grad living as a nine-to-fiver, I find it difficult sometimes to muster up the motivation and backbone to make art and exhibit the results. For some, the arts community can feel exclusive or intimidating, and many arts organizations certainly have a standard for excellence.

But the walls are not impenetrable because many galleries, museums and co-ops open the doors to outside artists through juried and unjuried shows. It’s a good idea to take advantage of those as often as possible. So I have made a resolution with myself for 2010 to take the initiative to continue making art, and take advantage of local juried and unjuried exhibits to get myself back on the gallery radar. 

My first step this year was Hygienic XXXI, the annual unjuried exhibit in January at the Hygienic Gallery in New London.

A good start

This exhibit was a good start to work up my art-exhibiting nerve because the process is very accessible to amateur artists with no previous exhibiting experience and those of us who need to get our foot back in the door.  The process for the unjuried show works like this: You arrive during the specified sign-in hours the day of the exhibit with your one piece, fill out an entry form and label, then hang or install your work in first-come, first-serve style. No jury process, no anxiety about whether or not you’re accepted. And because the exhibit opens the same day, there’s an instant gratification factor as well. 

I went with a couple of friends who were also submitting work, and it is always a plus when you have the support of fellow artists. The morning of this year’s exhibit, the gallery opened early to accommodate the crowd waiting out in the cold, and by 8 a.m., there already were a number of pieces on the walls and pedestals. The gallery was a buzzing hive of activity. It was a great bonding experience — the three of us had never before exhibited in the show, and we felt a sense of satisfaction that all it took to enter was to pry ourselves out of bed at an unnaturally early hour for a Saturday morning.

Varied work

In an unjuried show, the range of work submitted is varied, in both quality and content, because the show is open to professional and newbie exhibitors. There is something exciting about this unbridled, stick-it-in-the-face-of-establishment kind of spontaneity.

If the unjuried show feels like an accomplishment, then facing the challenge of the juried show is a real victory.

The juried show involves both the fee to enter and the nerve to accept that the work you submit could be rejected. And so, for the 67th Annual Connecticut Artists Exhibit at the Slater Museum, I decided to enter and put my backbone to the test.

There were already more than 200 pieces leaning against the walls and resting on pedestals when I arrived at the Slater’s Converse Gallery. Looking around, I could see a difference in this exhibit from the Hygienic: Much of the work was similar in subject matter and level of sophistication. It helps to research the juror of the exhibit to get a sense of the quality and style of their own work.

Next step: Waiting

With my work submitted, my next step was to wait for the fateful notification cards in the mail to let me know if I would be considered an exhibit-worthy Connecticut artist. Exhibits are motivation for art-making, so I plan to take advantage of them. Juried or unjuried, accepted or declined.   

I recommend a class or an open studio. Affordable classes are available at Meiklem Kiln Works in Bozrah, the Mystic Arts Center, the Lyman Allyn Art Museum in New London, and many other arts centers.

To find out more about upcoming juried and unjuried shows and art classes in the region, sign up for the NAC online newsletter, Intaglio, on the NAC Web site,, or visit a non-intimidating arts organization.

-Joe Matovic


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