OVAC Annual Artist Survey – Report: Suggestions for OVAC Exhibitions

This post is the third in the series of posts (see the series here) examining the feedback and concerns expressed in the OVAC artist survey. We received over 250 responses from artists around the state.
This group of responses emphasizes OVAC’s exhibitions. OVAC offers the following exhibitions regularly: Art 365(triennially), Concept/OK: Art in Oklahoma (biennially), Momentum OKC & Tulsa (annually), and 24 Works on Paper(biennially with Individual Artists of Oklahoma).   
Many of the surveyed artists have hopes for our exhibitions that fall in several themes.  We welcome your additional comments and are glad to keep the conversation going.

The Concept/OK: Art in Oklahoma exhibition was on display December 16, 2012-February 16, 2013 at the Hardesty Arts Center in Tulsa.
 Suggestion #2: Create exhibitions that focus on a specific media or artistic style.
Oklahoma is rich in artistic talent, with artists working in every way imaginable. OVAC’s exhibitions highlight this diversity while creating opportunities for artists that did not exist before. As mentioned in earlier posts, we strive to present unduplicated programs, and our exhibitions are no different.
There are several media- or style-specific arts associations in the state that present exhibitions (such as Fiber Artists of Oklahoma or the Green Country Watercolor Society), along with other organizations that offer juried or invitational exhibitions. Click here for a list of some of the regularly occurring juried shows in Oklahoma. So, we would not want to offer exhibitions that overlap with their good work.
Over the past 20+ years of organizing various exhibitions, we’ve found that categorizing artwork according to its media or style isn’t always the most clear-cut, as more and more artists are creating work that defies categorization. Instead, our exhibitions seek to recognize artistic merit amongst all media and styles.
Also, OVAC does not have a gallery. We work with museums, galleries and art centers to feature our exhibitions.  Because of this structure, OVAC must be especially careful adding exhibition programs, knowing we will need a venue partner enthusiastic to host each exhibition.
Suggestion #3: Give feedback to artists who submitted but were not selected.
OVAC offers many open-call artist opportunities, meaning any artist meeting the eligibility requirements can apply or submit. Happily, this often means we are inundated with applications. While we understand how feedback on a particular application could be useful for an artist, it isn’t always practical or logistically possible for our staff or guest curators to provide feedback on each individual application due to the quantity or complexity of submissions.
Instead, we strive for a more proactive approach, offering guidance on how to make all of your applications and art submissions the best they can be. You can find resources for this information on our blog and in our workshop topics. Additionally, given adequate timing, our staff can also help provide guidance on how to make your submissions successful. We are always here to help and answer your questions, but we recommend you contact us with queries at least a couple of weeks in advance of a deadline to allow for thoughtful and thorough response.
If you are seeking direct feedback on your work, we suggest you seek out artist groups that hold critique sessions, invite a curator or other artist to do a one-on-one studio visit with you, or find other ways for feedback since this open call format doesn’t have room for that kind of interaction. 
Suggestion #4: Use a panel of judges rather than a single curator to avoid subjective opinions and make selections more fair.
For all OVAC’s programs that involve artist selections we recruit outside expertise to review the submissions. For things like exhibitions and Fellowship awards we ask a curator, usually from outside the state of Oklahoma. For our artist grants, we have a panel of local artists, curators, educators, and arts supporters.
The invited curators or selection panelists are chosen for their experience and expertise. While their opinions could be seen as subjective, they are also informed and knowledgeable in their fields. We hire them because of their opinions. The fact is that art is a subjective field and artwork that resonates strongly with one person may not have the same effect on the next. This is part of the reason we ask a different curator every time to bring a different perspective to each exhibition, rather than having an ongoing curator on staff. Particularly with exhibitions, we think that a single curator can create cohesiveness and focused vision for the show, while a panel of judges could potentially dilute that vision.

OVAC Annual Artist Survey – Report 2: Room for Improvement

This post is the second in the series of posts (see the introduction here) examining the feedback and concerns expressed in the OVAC artist survey. We received over 250 responses from artists around the state.
The Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition strives to meet the ever-changing needs of artists in our state. To do this, we actively cultivate an environment of learning, adapting, and growth.
We know there is always room for improvement and this annual artist survey is one of the many ways we gather feedback to help guide our growth and decision-making.
In this post, we’d like to highlight some of the most common suggestions from our survey and some comments about them. If you have additional feedback, please leave them as comments to this or future blog posts.

At the Artist Survival Kit workshops, artists share resources, learn business of art skills, and expand their networks. 
Suggestion #1: Repeat/duplicate [insert program name here] in my community.
As a statewide organization, we do our best to serve artists in all areas of the state. To do so, we often partner with other local arts organizations to help us deliver programs in their community. We are pleased when there is such interest in one of our programs that it creates a demand for it to be duplicated in another geographic area!
While we do consider this demand when making decisions about program growth, unfortunately repeating programs in multiple communities requires additional resources of time and funding that are not always available. Also, we consider the face-to-face interaction of artists from multiple parts of the state a vital part of the program. For instance, the Artist Survival Kit workshops cover professional information that might be readily available online, but we know that artists gain much more by meeting other artists and sharing with each other. OVAC is purposely statewide, considering that artists need more than just one town or community to find their audiences.  So, if we offer a workshop in Tulsa and artists drive from Stillwater, Enid and Oklahoma City, we hope that creates a larger network for them all. 
Also, we are always looking for ways to make our programs more accessible beyond geographic barriers. Here are some ways we are doing that now:

 Occasionally we do partner with other organizations to present joint programs, but we never want to duplicate something another organization is already doing. As an example, while OVAC presents the Tulsa Art Studio Tour each year, that need is already being met in Norman by the Norman Arts Council through the Norman Open Studios and in Stillwater by the Stillwater Art Guild.

Stay tuned for more posts in this series, outlining additional suggestions from our survey.

OVAC Annual Artist Survey – Report 1: State of Artists

Each year, the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition surveys artists who have participated in our programs in some way over the previous three years. This annual survey gives us a snapshot of where Oklahoma artists are in their careers and practice, and tells us how OVAC has helped them reach their goals. The survey is in its second year and you can read results from the 2012 survey here.
OVAC board and staff developed clear outcomes we are seeking with our programs and services that drive these survey questions.  OVAC seeks for artists to have vital, fulfilling careers and artistic practices in Oklahoma, which drives us to offer resources, encourage connections to other artists, and emphasize recognition of artists. Also, OVAC seeks enriched and vibrant Oklahoma communities and culture because of and through the arts. For this outcome, OVAC offers more opportunities and increased access to Oklahoma art and artists.
This post is the first of many, summarizing the results and responding to specific needs or concerns expressed in the survey. We received over 250 responses.

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Environment for Artists in Oklahoma
*96% of respondents say they believe the general environment for art in Oklahoma has improved because of OVAC.
*Because of OVAC, 85%say they are better able to practice their art in Oklahoma and 63% are less likely to move out of Oklahoma to fulfill their artistic goals.

“OVAC empowers artists to pursue excellence… Honestly, I cannot overstate the impact that OVAC has had on my own art career, and the impact it has had on visual art statewide! OVAC is radical because it believes in artists (by giving them $$, training, and other resources) as the way to push Oklahoma art forward. OVAC programs stand out by keeping artists in mind at all times.”

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Networks for Artists
*Because of their participation in OVAC programs, 66% of respondents say they know more people to call on about making their art and 71% say they know more people to talk with about the business of art.
“The ASK workshops allow artists to meet peers while building or sharpening required skills without evoking a feeling of inadequacy.”

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Business Tools
About 60% of survey respondents have attended an Artist Survival Kit workshop. The numbers below give us some insight into artists’ readiness for opportunities, as well as areas where artists could use additional resources or help as potential workshop topics.
*84% have an artist statement
*81% have an artist resume
*82% have a studio or work space
*79% have a portfolio
*64% have a website
*40% have an action plan
“[The Artist Survival Kit is] absolutely a life line for me. I do not have a mentor or anyone to ask about references or resources to obtain information. Your workshops have always been priceless to me.”

Oklahoma Artists & OVAC: Survey Results

Recently, the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition asked Oklahoma artists to respond to a survey about the current state of their practice, and how OVAC has influenced their ability to make their work.
Many of your responses were encouraging and show the impact that our programs can have for artists in Oklahoma. We are also carefully considering the suggestions and comments we received, which can help to guide our future programming. We received close to 300 responses and wanted to share some of the preliminary results with you.
Environment for Artists in Oklahoma
*An incredible 94%of respondents say they believe the general environment for art in Oklahoma has improved because of OVAC.
*Because of OVAC, 83%say they are better able to practice their art in Oklahoma, and 68% say they are more satisfied with their art.

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“It is because of OVAC’s outstanding support that I am practicing art in Oklahoma. Without their amazing support I feel that the visual art scene In Oklahoma wouldn’t be anywhere near as vibrant!”
Networks for Artists
*60% of respondents say they have experienced increased help and support from other artists because of their participation with OVAC.
*Because of their participation with OVAC, 73% say they know more people to talk with about the business of art, and 63%say they know more people to talk with about making their art.

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“It helped me meet fellow artists and provided encouragement. It also created opportunities for me to encourage and help other artists share their work. We can kind of pass on information to each other that may be helpful.”
Business of Art Tools
When we asked artists about the tools they have prepared for their business, we found that the strongest responses came in the areas that have been well-covered in our Artist Survival Kit workshop series. 45% of respondents said they had attended an Artist Survival Kit workshop.
*86% say they have an artist statement (23% said they developed it with the help of OVAC)
*81% say they have an artist resume (17% developed it with the help of OVAC)
*86% say they have a portfolio (14% developed it with the help of OVAC)
Other business tools that artists might need additional resources for appear to be websites, studios and action plans for their careers.

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 “Through going to the ASK workshops (and later experience), I am now comfortable writing my resume and an artist statement.  I’ve had to create a couple crates to ship my work and the crating workshop is the only way that happened.”
Other Resources
We wanted to know what resources artists are using, besides OVAC. We know that OVAC isn’t the only resource for artists and in order to have a healthy career, artists must have many networks and resources. These came in several categories:
*Arts Organizations: such as the Oklahoma Arts Council, Fiber Artists of Oklahoma, Tulsa Artists’Coalition, Norman Arts Council, local art guilds, and tribal art associations.
*Galleries: such as Individual Artists of Oklahoma, Artspace at Untitled, City Arts Center, Paseo, and other independent galleries.
*Internet Resources: such as Art Biz Coach by Alyson Stanfield, and Etsy
*Exhibitions: attending art openings and events
*Peers: networking with other artists
*Schools/Workshops:such as universities and workshops with practicing artists.
Big thanks go out to the artists who participated in this survey. The data collected will be put to practical use for OVAC’s future programs. Watch for future blog posts that will include further information from our survey.

This survey was funded in part by an Oklahoma City Community Foundation grant. Many thanks for their support of our self study and organizational improvement.