Application Sunday, part XI: Artist call sites: 4 indicators of the “wrong kind” and my best of list

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Every Sunday I share the weekly open call I submit my work to and the lessons I learned from over a year of following a relentless application regimen!

This week’s open call: This week I submitted work for the SeMA Nanji Residency in Seoul, South Korea. I discovered the call on the day of its deadline, so unfortunately applications are now closed, but maybe you can benefit from taking note of this residency program and applying in one of their next application rounds.

What I learned from a year of artist call submissions, Part XI: Artist call sites: 4 indicators of the “wrong kind” and my best of list

Since the beginning of 2014 I have been following a strict application regimen: Submitting my work to artist calls persistently and in a consistent, organized manner, trying not to take rejections, which at times come down like rain, too much to heart.

In this enterprise, aiming to get my work out there, there was a kind of resource that I referred back to consistently and used as my starting point to venture out into the opportunities “forest”: The Artist call website. Not one, but rather a whole category, these are websites where art organizations or individuals list their “artist opportunities”. These can be a valuable resource for artists seeking to submit their work for the purpose of an exhibition participation, a publication feature, being awarded an artist residency, a grant, etc. In short, any kind of “opportunity” that is to be communicated in the form of an “open call”, through which the pool of candidates is created, can be listed on an artist call site. So the artist, rather than doing repeated internet searches and visiting the individual organizers’ sites, has all these “ads” available in one place.

Not all artist call websites are created equal

The service that artist call sites provide to the artist is pretty valuable. Nevertheless, the value that they can provide us with has created in its turn a drawback: Because these sites are so popular now and can attract large numbers of visits from artists seeking the next call to apply to, they in turn present a lucrative opportunity to those who run them: They can turn into a virtual goldmine, capitalizing on their high visibility in the form of advertising, fees charged to organizers to list their calls or to artists in order to have “full” access to their content, etc. These sites have become more numerous than anyone would bother to count. Unfortunately, as is the case with the opportunities listed on them, not all of these sites are worth our time and attention. In my article To apply or not to apply? 7 indicators of the wrong kind of artist call I attempt to identify the common signs that should tell you an artist call is better ignored. But what about the artist call sites? How can we identify which ones have quality material worth spending our time and energy on? Here also, as in the case of artist opportunities, spending too much time on artist call sites that don’t provide us with much value can result in us despairing and calling the whole thing off, or postponing it, making it more difficult to reach our goals. In this article I will go through the indicators I now use, after inevitably having had to waste a lot of time on sites that didn’t give anything back, to identify those that can be a valuable tool. I will then provide you with a list of my 10 favorite websites for tracking the opportunities that matter.

4 indicators of the wrong kind of artist call website

If you spot any of these characteristics on an artist call site, its content will most probably be of low quality:

  1. Poor aesthetics. As is the case with artist calls themselves, a site with poor aesthetics is most likely to have low-quality content as well. In the beginning, I was trying to ignore this factor and go against my instincts, but eventually I realized that when the website’s overall appearance is bad, then you are better off not spending any time on it. Too many advertisements is one of the factors contributing to poor aesthetics. An example.
  2. Claiming to be for “professional artists”. I found that most of the listings on “professional artist” sites are of low value. I am not referring here to sites that indeed belong to professional artist organizations. An example.
  3. Sites that require the artist to pay a yearly or monthly fee in order to have full access to their content. Unless you are willing to pay to have access to a site that already monetizes your presence through advertising, which is something I myself refuse to do, most listings available on these sites are nothing worth spending your time on. An example.
  4. Difficult to use. The whole idea of an artist call site is to make our lives easier. If, by looking at a website’s appearance, it seems that the time and effort it is supposed to save me will be spent navigating pages and pages of illegible or poorly organized content then, again, I immediately move to the next one. An example.

My 10 best of list

These are sites that I use regularly in order to identify artist calls worth spending my time and effort on. Naturally, the “good” ads are in the minority here as well, because this deficiency has to do to more with the plethora of parasitical “organizers” in the art world, rather than the quality of these sites themselves. Nevertheless, I have found that I am statistically more likely to spot high quality ads here than anywhere else. Also, these sites are fun to browse: Their use is intuitive and you can read the listings in one glance, identifying key elements like the venue, the deadline, whether there are fees, etc. all pretty quickly. 

Here they are, listed in alphabetical order:

  1. artopportunities

  2. Call for…

  3. contest watchers

  4. Culture 360

  5. e-artnow

  6. on the move

  7. Resartis -exclusively listing residency opportunities

  8. Residency Unlimited (RU) -exclusively listing residency opportunities

  9. re-title (also an artist registry)

  10. wooloo

A two-part strategy to get you started

Now that you have a list of artist call sites that can be a valuable tool in your quest for open calls to submit your work to, take the next step in order to make the best of what they have to offer and stay up to date on new opportunities:

  1. Subscribe to these sites’ newsletters or to their deadline notifications. This way you will be sure to be regularly updated on new ads listed on the site and not miss out on an opportunity that might have been a good fit. Usually, a quick scan of that e-mail will be enough to determine the value of those calls, and whether it is worth clicking through to the artist call site or to that of the organizer for more details.
  2. Even if you have subscribed to these sites’ e-mail alerts, make a habit of visiting them independently at least twice per month. Because the e-mails they send out are meant to update you on listings that were posted in the last 15-20 days or so, depending on the frequency of the e-mails, there may be calls that you would benefit from being informed about earlier. This is especially true in the case of calls concerning grants or certain residencies that have a long list of material required of the applicant.

What is your own strategy in staying up to date on the new opportunities out there? Is there a tip/method that you would add to my two-part strategy? Are there any other artist call sites you would add to this best of list? Have you identified any other indicator of the “wrong kind of artist call site” not mentioned here?

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2 thoughts on “Application Sunday, part XI: Artist call sites: 4 indicators of the “wrong kind” and my best of list

  1. Hi Penelope,

    as always, thank you for sharing your precious experience and your valuable resources!
    I wish to suggest another possible way to keep in touch with all those sites without getting tons of newsletters on our mailbox.
    The mayority of sites and blogs publish their RSS feeds, which is a way to let other applications read and elaborate their post.
    By using an RSS reader you can register all this sites and read their posts grouped together in a sort of, let’s say, personalized magazine. You can even organize the registered sites into different hierarchical categories and then read only one of the (sub)categories’ branch.
    One can for example create a category “news” and under it two categories called “news from Berlin” and “news from Rome”. Then by clicking on “news” you will get all of them, otherwise you can choose the sub-category to only see its specific articles (Berlin or Rome).
    I use “Feedly” for this purpose, it is free and, besides the main web site, it provides also a mobile app that keeps synchronized, so that if you register a new site through your Feedly mobille, you will find it on the Feedly main web site as well, and vice-versa.

    Regarding the list, I can only add “www.artconnect.com”, which I consult quite regularly and find valuable.

    My two cents.

    1. Hello Marco,

      I haven’t tried this method to keep up with the sites’ content, it looks very practical. I will look into it. Yes, you are right about http://www.artconnect.com, this is a good resource as well, especially for artists residing in Berlin. I used to visit it often around the time I worked on the part of my project Metamorphosis in Berlin. I also like the fact that the artist can create a profile and feature new projects he/she is working on, which appear on the site’s feed right away.

      Thank you for these useful tips!

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