Most of what follows is in response to a couple of “less than kind” messages that we have received.
Anything in the arts, when it is being judged, is subjective… subject to the personal whims, training, prejudices, background and experience of the judge(s). Although we have discussed, and would prefer, having more than one juror for our shows, it would not eliminate the possibility of having the “wrong” photos chosen as winners… and there is a large cost factor for the Arts Council.
We lose money on the Photo Shootout and the Art Contest every year. Entry fees only cover 30-50% of the prize money awarded. It costs money, also, to bring a juror to Vernal, reimburse them for their travel and meal expenses and house them for a night. Multiply that by two or three and we have probably reached the “Why are we doing this?” stage. It would cost less to have local judges, but then half of the people don’t like them anymore and publicly castigate them and threaten their children. So, to avoid trouble, we bring jurors from outside the area. It seems that we appreciate the juror’s hard work and willingness to serve in years when we win… and hate the juror and the system in years when we are not the winner.
We try to keep entry fees at a minimum to encourage more participation. And we know that the entry fees are only part of the cost to the entrants. Even doubling the entry fees, at this point, wouldn’t cover the prize money that we give out… and I’m pretty sure participation would go down.
We, the Uintah Arts Council, have been using one (individual) juror for the Photo Shootout for 19 years. Is it a perfect system? No. Has it worked well for the majority of entrants year after year? Yes. Did all of the entrants read the complete contest rules… the part that says, “JUDGING: Winners will be selected by a juror or jurors chosen by Company based on relevance from among all eligible entries received. By participating, entrants agree to be bound by the Official Rules and the decisions of the juror, which shall be final and binding in all respects. Odds of winning depend on the total number of eligible entries received. All prizes may or may not be awarded. Winners will be notified via email, U.S. mail, telephone, and/or in person.” Probably not. Have any entrants been coerced, bullied or threatened into entering the contest? No. Was anyone guaranteed a prize? No.
Just a side note… 27 photos won cash prizes this year… out of 85 photos entered. That is a 1 in 3 chance that your photo might win a cash prize. You won’t find many contests with those odds.
I, honestly, was very pleased with this years show. I think all of the photographers did an excellent job. We had many veterans of our shows, and quite a few newcomers. We spread the wealth… there were lots of different prize winners. We spread the word… more people know about our shows now than before. Was I happy with the outcome? Very! Would I have chosen the exact same winners throughout the show? No… but I was not asked to be the judge (and don’t want to be). Do I think that the juror was fair and made the right choices? Yes!
So, in this day of instant communication, we sometimes need to measure our responses to anything and everything that we are not in 100% agreement with. We need to take a few minutes and realize that, first of all, we don’t have all of the facts. Second, we’re pretty lucky, I think, to have some of the arts opportunities that come our way in this remote, small town. If it’s not good enough, donate some money… or time. Try to make things better… not just tear it down. Third, if you don’t like the rules or the outcome (past or future), don’t enter the contest.
For those who entered the Photo Shootout, whether you won a cash prize or not, thank you for getting involved. Thank you for putting part of yourself out there in the public eye. I hope you had fun. I hope you’ll do it again. I hope we can keep encouraging and promoting activities like this in our area. Go create something… it’ll make you, and me, feel better.