Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Not Happy - For Port Community Art Society Members Only

If you are not a member of the Port Art Society this blog will not be of interest to you.  
I am an amateur artist and this is an email I sent to the Committee re their proposed new changes - if you are a member who will be effected by this decision and you happen to agree with any of this and don't want a society where the petty jealousies of a few vocal and disgruntled members (who have not been voted as winners in art exhibitions) can effect other happy members like myself, please let the committee know your thoughts (if you don't agree, then feel free to comment).  If anyone is upset with the content of this, sorry, but I am really annoyed about the pettiness of the whole thing and we can't all expect to be winners.

"I just wanted to say how unhappy and unimpressed I am about Committee’s decision to remove prizes in all but one of the art shows next year.  This decision is one which I confess I just do not comprehend and which I think is a backward step for the society and its members.  As I understand it, certain members who do not like competing with the more professional artists have lobbied the committee to take this action, which I think is so important it should have been put the the members to vote on.  Whatever their reasons they are entitled to their opinion, but as a member I too am entitled to mine and to have it heard, so here it is -   like it or not. 
I remember how unimpressive our past exhibitions were, both in the number and quality of the exhibits (and I include my own earlier works in that description).   I can see for myself just how much better our exhibitions are now that we have a larger number of exhibitors both  amateur and  “professional”. 
I feel that we are so very lucky to have talented artists of a high standard who are interested enough to become members of the society and take part in the members exhibitions.   I also consider that having professional artists is a drawcard for those exhibitions – the higher the standard the more the visitors who come to the gallery exhibitions and attend the openings.  This, hopefully then translates into more support from sponsors, government, council and also into sales for us all. 
Professional artists need to make a living at their art, so prizes and recognition are important to them as they are part of the means by which they earn their daily bread and butter.  Amateur artists should be realistic and not begrudge them this (and if another professionals does, he/she is not being very professional in their attitude to competition and is more likely being motivated by professional jealousy than anything else).  It does not mean that we cannot still compete with them and one day aim to be counted amongst their ranks.

It is my opinion that the best way to get both the professional and serious amateur artists exhibiting work of a consistently high standard is to offer incentives such as prizes and awards.

I gather a few of the membership are upset that prizes often  (but not always) go to some of our really talented professional members and I am guessing that they must have felt they were missing out on getting a prize because of that.   I assume they would like to return to the past and have the professionals fade away so that they can be the big fish in a small pond, rather than being brave enough to venture out into the big ocean of art competition as just a small fish. (Perhaps we should have a special beginner’s section and prize for those who feel unsure about competing – they could be allowed to exhibit in it say, 5 times, before its time for them to start swimming with the bigger fish?) 
Most of  those “professional” artists who now win prizes, started out as small fish and had to compete with the big fish to get where they are now.

Sorry if I sound a bit disgruntled and bitter or sarcastic, but the Committee has now completely denied any of the fish, big or small, the chance to win any sort of prize or recognition at all, and what’s the point of that, especially if you are trying to make a living from your art  or if you are  just seeking to supplement your art expenses with some art material prizes???!   

I am only an amateur artist (mediocre at best) but I place my art in art shows all over Adelaide as often as I can afford to do so.  One of the things that drives me to do this, apart from the desire to sell a painting, is the thought that I might just win a prize or merit award.    I have received two merit awards at Port members’ exhibitions and I have absolutely no objection to competing with either the professionals or the other talented non-professionals  in our membership, many of whom attend the same art classes as myself.

At any art show I enter,  I accept the fact that I will be competing with the professionals, but the thought of winning a prize has always made me try that little bit harder and pay extra attention to the presentation of my work.  What better thing  than to get an award in a competition where you know you were competing with some of the best eh?!.   Indeed, I feel honoured to have my work hanging in an exhibition amongst those talented people and I don’t begrudge them the top prizes – they have usually worked hard for it. 
Ever the optimist, I have my art for sale on the internet on Artfire and I am a member of an Artfire seller’s guild called “A Passion for Painting on Artfire”.  To be in the guild you have to be an exhibiting member of Artfire.  Some guild members are really impressive artists and some are amateurs like me, but each month we have a friendly monthly challenge where we all try and beat each other to  win that challenge.  In this competition there is no real monetary prize, the prize is the recognition of being the winner for that month, but it brings out the best in us and challenges people like me to try and to give the professionals a bit of a run for their money.
That is how our art exhibitions should be, friendly competitions with as many of the best prizes  as we can get and no sour grapes from any of us if we are not successful in being considered the best of the bunch by independent judges .   We all benefit by having our work hanging along side well known artists. 
One of the reasons I don’t feel threatened or jealous of other prize winners is because of the excellent tuition I have received from my art teacher. He has done everything in his power to help his students to become the best they can be and always endeavours to provide them with the help and tips that make them better able to present their art confidently (and win those merit prizes which we now won’t have!). 

I don’t think I lose out on sales because I don’t get a first prize or if my painting is hanging next to a first prize winner (at least if I’m hanging there I have more chance of being noticed!). There are buyers for all price ranges and whilst someone may admire the first prize winner’s efforts, they may not like the price tag that is attached to it.  However, if they see and like one of my paintings with a much better price, then I might make a sale when the pro artist doesn’t.  Besides, in the interest of the society’s coffers it is good to attract a buyer with big money who is looking to buy prizewinning art and we should do everything we can to get them in the door.  It is better for the society that they buy a nice expensive painting done by one of those talented professional members as the society gets commission from the sale and let’s face it, we’ll get a much better sales commission from it than from one of mine! 

Lastly, let me just bore you a little longer and tell you the tale of a country art group in  SA  of which I was a member,   and of the studio they ran.  It was a small society with a council owned studio with lots of space but not much happening.   It had been stagnating for years and badly run by a small group of artists who didn’t like new members or competition.  A couple of them thought they were the best artists in the town and let the other members know it.  A little while before I joined, a new committee  was elected (which included my brother who had recently moved there and a small group of enthusiastic people) and they set about putting it on the map because they all wanted to sell more of their art.
They started to promote it and invited members to try and put more art on display, they encouraged people from outlying areas as well as inviting professional artists to exhibit.  This upset a few of the long standing members who didn’t want any competition, but they persevered and organised prizes and art competitions and the word spread.  Articles were written up in the local paper and more and more people started coming to the gallery.  Their membership increased for the first time in years and years, they had more volunteers and were open longer hours and as a result both the visiting exhibitors and the members started getting more sales.   They painted the gallery and did some eye-catching coloured panels.  In short, they did all they could to put their society and its artworks  into the public eye.  They even started getting requests from interstate artists asking to exhibit and they hosted a special exhibition from the SA Art Gallery.   People from the prestigious gallery just up the road started visiting their gallery to check it out.  They handled all the art with white gloves and taught their members how to hang the art to best advantage.  They got a computer and put members and artists on their mailing list. 
Sadly, my brother and his wife had to stop participating when my mum became terminally ill, and shortly thereafter,  ill health prevented a few more of the committee from contributing their help for a period of time.  Enough of the “old guard” were re-elected to the committee and everything went downhill from there.  They actively discouraged the professional artists, didn’t continue with the competitions, knocked back requests for members of the society to exhibit their art in neighbouring art society galleries and stopped hosting exhibitions.  The art on show went back to being small in quantity and poor in quality  and items were left on show for long periods without being rotated with something fresh.  They didn’t even let their members know when they were invited to exhibit  elsewhere.  They also knocked back the council’s offer to install air conditioning for the studio along with some other improvements.  The membership fell away and as a result they couldn’t get enough volunteers anymore to man it every day of the week, so they only opened for 1 or 2 days only.  No professionals exhibited there anymore, very few members of the public came in. Sales completely fell away, and to cut a long story short, the council decided they were no longer worth supporting and when the decision was made by council to upgrade and rebuild certain buildings in the area, they were no longer offered a studio.  This is all true and rather sad, but it shows what can happen when people harbour petty jealousies and resist positive competition and change. There is now no more place for any of them to sell their art.  The only people really hurt by it all in the end were the amateur artists – the professionals still exhibit in the other gallery just up the road.   
I think the society should consider very carefully any actions that might deter professional artists from exhibiting.  I think that the society should encourage students and amateur artists to exhibit and offer them lots of merit awards and prizes.  Don’t take away our prizes please!
Well, that is my 2 cents worth (hmmmmmm, actually it’s probably more $2 worth, but what the heck). " 

ps 23/6/11:  There is presently a rule that paintings or works of art can only be exhibited once in member exhibitions.  With this in mind I think the committee should consider the possibility that the standards of the exhibitions will further be decreased because some members like myself  will choose to hold back their best works from the other exhibitions because we will prefer to enter them into  the only competition where the prizes are still being awarded.   



  1. This has been forwarded to the chairman and secretary of the committee and posted on our facebook site. If anyone else agrees (or disagrees) with the comments I have made, you know what to do - put your comments on facebook and write to the committee. This is something that affects us all.

  2. A truer word was never spoken in your comments heather. I thoroughly agree if the members react badly to these new ways then membership could drop off, big negative effects could follow and nothing is ever gained from negative actions. Partition the societies board to rethink their decisions if necessary.

  3. Call me cynical, but i think it is interesting how a day or two after I posted a link to this blog on the society's facebook page and urged you all to let them know your view, suddenly now you can't post something on to the wall anymore?! Guess you won't be able to put your comments, either for or against, on our facebook page now - sorry everybody (I didn't expect them to react that way!).

  4. I am reminded of a workmake's comments when I told her about this - She said "Tall Poppy Syndrome". People hate seing people doing better than them. Why is it that whenever people want to be at the top are not good enough to get there, they do their utmost to get the standards lowered to their level.