From the Archives
It’s application season, and today’s Help Desk column contains some advice about making strategic decisions when applying—again—to various opportunities. This article was originally published on June 23, 2014. You can submit your question to Help Desk anonymously here. All submissions become the property of Daily Serving.
Should there be a limit on the number of times you apply for the same opportunity before you come to the realization that they just aren’t buying what you’re selling? The application process for many residencies, fellowships, and publishing opportunities is annual, and it’s tough not to continually try your luck. While obviously submitting the same materials every year would be a fool’s errand, does there come a time when (even with diversified submissions) it’s reasonable to assume they aren’t interested in your practice and you need to move on? Is there a risk of being viewed as oblivious to when you’re being told “no”? Or is it more valuable to demonstrate a little fortitude?
There’s no doubt that one of the easiest ways to get your work out into the world is by applying for exhibitions and residencies/fellowships. (See my prior advice on this subject here.) Ridiculous application fees notwithstanding, the process is fairly low-risk: You mail the envelope or hit “submit” on a web page, dust off your palms, and head to the bar for a celebratory drink with the other hopefuls. Yet despite the overall simplicity, it’s just not worth it—emotionally or economically—to approach this process haphazardly. It helps to have a strategy, so let’s discuss the options.
To start, most competitions are juried by a different person (or persons) every year, so it’s not exactly “the same opportunity.” Some years might present better odds because the juror is someone who is specifically interested in practices like yours; other years, you may want to skip the application after discovering that the jury is primarily sympathetic to new-media work, when you make ceramic sculptures. So the first strategy is: consider your audience and apply only when it would be an advantage to present your work.