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Ready to Sell or Exhibit Your Work? Prepare for Rejection; Hang Tough


There may come a time when you start to think of photography as more than a hobby. It could happen when a friend or neighbor suggests that you sell your work. Or perhaps you begin to think that your photographs are better than some of the published art you've seen.

You need to know, however, that changing your status from amateur to artist can be challenging. Sometimes the preparation takes longer than producing the work. And you have to prepare for a lot of rejection.

Although artists don't always exhibit their work, most want their material recognized and sold. Finding a place for this is difficult.

"We have such limited opportunities for artists to exhibit," said Miriam Smith, owner of Art Resource Group located in Laguna and Newport Beach.

Smith's company matches corporate and private clients with artists who want to sell or rent their work. She is also involved with multisite shows of local artists for corporate display. Among the burgeoning areas for new artists in Orange County are the lobbies of corporate offices.

"Corporate space offers a kind of alternative space which is really needed," Smith said. "The Koll Co. has designated one building (the Wells Fargo building at Birch Street and MacArthur Boulevard in Newport Beach) only for Orange County artists."

Latham and Watkis, a law firm in Costa Mesa, has a photography collection and also exhibits only Orange County artists.

Smith says the competition for display space is steep. She receives about 100 submissions a month, with half of those coming from local artists. "I know there are a lot of artists out there working, but I am amazed at how much work comes in and how many new artists I see," she said. "You can tell a lot initially from the slides."

Photography does very well in the corporate environment. Smith says she is always looking for photographs to display.

Smith, who has been bringing artists together with her clients in Orange County for seven years, says she understands the artistic side of the process because she has been a painter for 15 years.

"Artists are not always treated with the kind of respect they deserve," Smith said. "I always try to respond to an artist with a letter when they send in slides."

Another display space for the novice artist is a community center, such as the Irvine Fine Arts Center. It provides exhibition space and classes for artists at various levels.

Dorrit Fitzgerald, curator of exhibitions for the center, receives about 40 submissions a month.

"I feel committed to communicating with the artists if their slides need improving or referring them to the appropriate gallery," Fitzgerald said. "Artists are not trained how to approach (gallery curators) and they can really try your patience."

She recommends that artists ask for a gallery schedule to see if their photographs are compatible with any of the gallery's scheduled shows.

Patience is essential: Artists should not call a week after their slides were mailed and expect a response. It may take from one to three months for an institution to review the work, and it would probably be one to two years before an exhibit of your work could be scheduled.

Make a good first impression. Most curators prefer to view slides, so it's important to have quality slides of your work. Also, invest the time to ensure that your submissions have a focus.

If you're just starting out, join an artist group to make the appropriate contacts. The Art Associates based in Huntington Beach is one of many such groups. They provide lectures, group exhibitions, juried shows and information for the beginner and experienced artist. They meet on the second Monday of the month at 7:30 p.m at the Central Library in Huntington Beach.

The Photography column, which runs Saturdays in Orange County Life, is intended to help both the serious amateur and weekend shooter.

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