Developing and Writing a Proposal

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If you are responding to a call for submission a set of submission requirements should already be available to you. These requirements will provide the framework of your submission proposal and it is up to you to make the most of them. As a general guideline, everything you submit to a professional organization should look as though it came from someone who is professional themselves. This means that all written content is free of spelling and grammatical errors, images of your work are impeccable, the package is neat and organized, and most importantly, the submission has fulfilled all the requirements of entry in an appropriate and thoughtful way.

Another aspect to the development of your submission proposal concerns its “fit” with the organization, event, or institution to which you are submitting your work. Conveying your understanding of the themes and goals of the organization you wish to do business with and articulating a relationship to your work is essential. If you are submitting your work to an organization outside the context of a call for submission, the above rules still apply; only you will be responsible for developing the submission guidelines.

If possible, speak to other artists and knowledgeable persons to get a sense of what your submission should include, and look broadly at submission guidelines that have been published by similar institutions. Finally, put yourself in the shoes of the (probably busy) person receiving your submission. Can the information in your proposal be absorbed relatively quickly? Is your contact information easy to find? Do your sentences convey your thoughts clearly and succinctly? You may find it helpful to have someone unfamiliar with your work review your submission before you send it off.

Let’s look at an example:

This Call for Submissions was taken from  Akimbo (a great site for any Canadian artist).

The call is for the Desmond Juried Art Exhibition. Here are the details:

Deadline for submissions is Tuesday, June 28th at 5:00 p.m.

Call for Submissions – Sixth Annual Desmond Juried Art Exhibition & Sale – Celebrating Canadian Rural Living. A juried exhibition exploring the themes of small towns and rural living in Canada. All Canadian artists are invited to submit works in any media completed within 24 months of the entry deadline. The Exhibition and Sale will be held at Ridgetown Campus of the University of Guelph (located at Ridgetown, ON) – July 18-28, 2011. Total prize awards: $1,000.00. Submission in jpeg file format is preferred. Submission fee: $20.00 per entry. 75% of sale price goes to artist. Maximum 3 entries per artist. Submissions must include media, size, year & selling price of each artwork plus artist’s statement for each artwork and short artist bio. Entry form & details at 519-674-1955 or

Let’s break down the details:

1. When is the deadline? Can you put together an application in this time? If yes continue with the process.

2. What is the space/magazine/etc. looking for? This exhibition is looking for work that is celebreating Canadian rural living, does your work fall into this category?

3. Are there any restrictions (ex. media)? They are looking any type of media but the work has to have been completed in the past 24 months. Have you made new work in this time period?

4. Pay attention to the location. If you are living outside of the area can you travel to attend the opening? Will be able to pay for the shipping of the work?

5. Note the image submission details. They would prefer work to be sent as jpeg files. It is important to do your very best to meet these types of preferences.

6. Notice they are asking for a submission fee (common for juried exhibitions). Can you pay this? Do you want to pay this?

7. Also notice that they will be taking a commission on work that is sold. Be sure to price your work accordingly.

8. Is there a limit to what you can send in? This call is only accepting 3 works per artist. Make sure that if there is a limit you do not to send more than this.

9. Pay close attention to how they would like you to title your submission files (ie media, size, year & selling price). Make sure that the three files you send in your submission are titled accordingly.

10. Make sure you have an up-t0-date artist’s statement and bio.

Whenever you are applying to something new be sure to do some research. Are these exhibitions well attended? Have other artists enjoyed participating in them in the past? Is there any additional information that is not explained in the listing (for example you must watch the gallery space for x amount of hours if you participate in the show)? It is always best to make a check list of the requirements. This way you are sure to send all the necessary information.

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