May 6, 2013

OVAC Artist Survey
This post is the sixth in the series of posts (see the series here) examining the feedback and concerns expressed in the OVAC artist survey. We received over 250 responses from artists around the state.

The state of Oklahoma has a LOT of artists living in it. Currently, the OVAC database includes over 5,000 visual artists. These are just the people we know about, meaning they’ve participated in our programs or had contact with us in some way.

One of the core values of OVAC is the belief that every artist pursues a unique path. We know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for artistic success. Artists must define success for themselves and pave their own way. This is the joy and challenge of life as an artist.

As such, we strive to offer programs that can help artists at various stages of their artistic path. We know we can’t be everything to every artist, but we do try to offer resources to help artists move forward, no matter what their goals may be.

In our efforts to meet the needs of such a wide variety of artists, we can occasionally be unclear or misunderstood. Some of the most common misconceptions about OVAC surfaced in our artist survey and we’d like to take this opportunity to clarify.

If your questions aren’t answered here, please leave them as a comment to this blog post so we can respond. Or, email your questions to office@ovac-ok.org.

Momentum OKC 2012. Photo by Carl Shortt.

Misunderstanding #1: Artist selections are skewed towards artists who volunteer with OVAC or who “know people” involved with OVAC.
Or: The same artists are selected too often.
In our previous blog post (see Suggestion #4), we outlined how and why we choose guest curators for our exhibition and award programs. Inviting guest curators, often from outside the state of Oklahoma, gives fresh and informed perspectives for each program. It also allows for a diversity of opinions to be represented, with the added benefit of introducing many Oklahoma artists to curators outside the state who may not have seen these artists otherwise.

OVAC staff is never involved in the selection of artists for our exhibitions or awards, and we never ask our guest curators to give preferential treatment to artists who are involved with the organization in some way. We purposely avoid discussions with the curators that might even imply a preference from the organization.

If there is a concern that artists who volunteer with OVAC are also those that are selected for many things, it is likely because those people tend to be more actively involved in other parts of the organization – including artistic submissions. Certainly, their involvement helps them to keep informed about opportunities and the network developed through their volunteer activities creates a community that encourages each other to apply.  Moreover, OVAC volunteers frequently do not get chosen for exhibitions or awards. The percentages getting rejected are big and depend on the odds of the program.  For instance, we’ve admired many Momentum Committee members over the years who continued to promote Momentum even after they did not get selected for the show. Through their involvement, many are encouraged to apply again, keep making art, and try harder.

Misunderstanding #2: OVAC mainly supports young artists.
OVAC is open to artists of all ages and career levels. One of our most visible programs, Momentum, is also the only program that has an age limit and most other programs are for artists over the age of 21. Momentum was created in 2002 specifically to promote and bring together young artists (read more about the how and why in the FAQ under the “Apply” tab here). Because it has been successful and seen tremendous growth since its inception, the media pays attention to the event and we have large audiences.  But, please don’t confuse this with thinking young artists are our main focus. In reality, this program is only one small part of a myriad of programs and services we offer. This program is still unduplicated in the state.  It’s been quite effective at helping young artists bridge into showing in professional venues.

Many OVAC programs serve older artists. OVAC does not track ages (except on Momentum), so we do not know the age demographics of who applies or participates. Anecdotally, we know  artists of many ages participate in our exhibitions, workshops, grants, publications and resources regularly.  We encourage artists of all ages to pursue their artwork how they think best fits their work and preferences.  We hope OVAC resources help along the way.