Last month, we held the selection meeting to choose which artists will exhibit at the museum in 2015. Rather than allocate exhibition slots on a first come first served basis, we fix a deadline each year and then look at all the applications received by the deadline together. This way we can ensure we have a balanced and varied exhibition programme. We want to include different media, emerging and established artists, group and solo shows, traditional and modern styles, art-school-trained and self-taught people, and varied subject matter and themes.
At the annual meeting, we decide the exhibitions for the whole of the following year – last month we planned the 2015 programme. The artists will now have between a year and nearly two years to prepare new work and/or select existing work to include in their exhibition.
I always approach the selection meeting with a mixture of excitement and nervousness. I’m excited to see who will get chosen – whose proposal will become a fully realised exhibition. I’m nervous about the reaction of the rest of the selection group to the work and ideas of the artists who’ve applied, many of whom I’ve met and encouraged during the year. I see my role as being the artists’ representative at the selection meeting and ensuring I present their applications in the best possible way.
There are inevitably people we have to disappoint. This year, there were 8 available slots across our three gallery spaces and we had 19 applications. In contrast to some years, we had quite a few photographers applying. It’s great to be able to choose from a strong field but it means that some talented people don’t get exhibitions because we want to ensure there is a variety of media. For example, we wouldn’t programme more than one photography or watercolour exhibition at the same time in different galleries or following another in the same gallery, unless the subject matter was very different.
The fun bit is telling the artists who have been selected that they have an exhibition. There is something satisfying about accompanying someone on the journey from an initial meeting advising them how to apply to seeing their work on the wall of the gallery, with posters advertising the exhibition and people buzzing about it on Facebook and in the comments book.