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Entering a Juried Show: Advice from a Museum Curator and Juror

Jennifer Thompson, a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, recently served as the juror for York Art Association's 51st Annual Open Juried Exhibition. She viewed 323 online entries submitted by artists from around the region, including two-dimensional works and sculpture. Thompson then culled through all those submissions to select 101 works for the exhibition. After the show was hung, Thompson viewed the juried works in person to choose award winners, including Best in Show and five Awards of Excellence.

Artists may enjoy learning what went into Thompson's decisions if they plan to enter other juried exhibitions. While all jurors are different, she uses three criteria to guide her selections and whittles down submissions in three or more rounds of review:


Upon the first review, if a work of art is particularly striking, it's often because it isn't like all the others. Thompson looks for artwork that is full of creativity and appears to reflect the artist's individual voice, making it stand out as highly original. It may be personal interpretation or style. An original artwork, by its nature, is hard to quantify, but she says you usually know it when you see it by the way it forces you to stop and look.

Technical Skill

A top-notch work of art demonstrates that an artist has excellent command over their chosen medium. They have explored that medium, substrate, or material and know how to use it to best effect. In the case of paintings, it may be the use of color, texture, line, or composition. With realist artworks, it could be drawing skills or the ability to suggest space and model forms. An abstract work done with technical proficiency has a substantive richness and depth. With photography, it may be how the subject is framed, the chosen depth of field, or the crispness of the image. Signs that an artist struggled with the medium are often apparent.

Sense of Ambition

Even though a work stands out at first glance, will it continue to intrigue the viewer the following day and for days to come? When deciding what pieces will make it into an exhibit, Thompson looks at everything the first time, highlights a few, and then looks afresh at every submission several more times. The artworks that draw her in over and over, the ones in which she finds herself discovering additional nuances each time, are likely to get in the show. She appreciates it when an artist knows their level of competency but pushes the envelope, reaching beyond their current comfort level. This sense of ambition, while risky, can result in a highly successful artwork.

A Note of Caution:

Jennifer Thompson reports that, regretfully, some works are eliminated due to poor-quality photography. While the artwork itself might be excellent, photos that are out of focus or show glare from glass or the shimmer oil make it hard for her to jury the works and to appreciate the handwork of the artist. She encourages artists to read up on how best to photograph their submission or hire a professional.

The Juried Exhibition

Please join York Art Association this Sunday for the opening reception of its 51st Annual Open Juried Exhibition from 2 to 4 pm. The show runs through December 18 at the gallery located at 220 S. Marshall Street in York. Hours are Monday through Friday from 10 to 3 and Sunday from 2 to 4. You can call the YAA at 717-755-0028 or email



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