Sunday, October 24, 2010

Should Art Be A Competition?



I have been thinking about this question all week. I posed the question on my FACEBOOK wall to stir up discussion. We all have our own experiences and opinions about this topic. Life is a competition. Why not include ART in that scheme? I am an artist. My art is just as vital and valuable as any other human who takes the time to create. However in the art life scheme of things, it gets thrown to the jurors (lambs or wolves?) who sit before our work as grand judges. Who are they to decide?

The whole idea of art as competition rubs me the wrong way. In recent years, I have steered clear of any shows that reeked of the idea of “art as sport” "who will win the trophy?" kind of deals. “I AM BETTER THAN YOU ARE!! NONNY NONNY POO POO!” I am just over that part of my art life. In the past, it did me well. I have won my share of “best” of this, that, and the other. I have won the pots of gold. That isn’t really important to me anymore because I know I am the best I can be.

Also, I have been a judge and part of art juries. I know how it works. If the exhibition is local, it is obvious whose art is whose. Thus, the judge often picks the artists with names or their friends. If the show is national, the jury will pick their SUBJECTIVE choices. Usually, these decisions fulfill some kind of personal agenda. The judgment could be based on the kind of art they like, the kind of art they do, the kind of art the gallery wants to show, etc. etc. When you get rejected it might not have anything to do with the quality of your art at all.

Actually, the reason this question has been bothering me has very little to do with what I just wrote. As an art educator, I am expected to enter the art of my students in a few exhibitions throughout the year. The most recent option is a show for 3rd to 5th graders. Some of you know I work with kids with emotional and behavior issues at a special ed school. There are very few students in that grade bracket, but we worked away on our projects trying to illustrate the theme. We have worked a month on these drawings with computer typed stories. We are allowed five entries. Since getting these kids to produce ANYTHING is a true miracle the fact I had five kids complete the project made us do a happy dance. We managed to get our exhibition worthy pieces together and submitted them.

On Tuesday, our five pieces will be “JURIED” in or out of this elementary art show. This bothers me to no end. How am I going to tell any one or two or three or four or five kids……”SORRY, your work got rejected. They didn’t want your art in the art show.” The whole idea of having to break the news to them just freaks me out. They already have rejection issues. Now their art might be rejected too? I just don’t like the idea at all. Yes, it is important to teach kids about life, but there should be time for them to create and express without the fear of being judged. That is why this art as competition idea drives me NUTS!