SEDONA ARTS CENTER - SCAM ALERT!
Because there are so many more artists than places to display art, as artists, we’re always seeking venues. The art gallery is of course the ideal venue but there are also many alternatives; bars, coffee shops restaurants, libraries, schools, and corporate offices often display art. Between these spaces (which seldom sell any art) and dedicated gallery spaces (which also seldom sell much art) exist arts organizations where art can be displayed (also seldom sold). These are the camera clubs, the art guilds, local arts centers, and those types of organizations. While you may find ‘your people’ in these mid-level organizations I also posit that they are among the worst places for art to be seen and sold. Most of these organizations exist because of the financial largess of their ‘members.’ They make their income from fees charged to artists. Their ‘leaders’ rule by ego and their membership, by and large, exist of elderly amateurs. They’ll take your membership and entry fee money and if you should ‘win’ one of their meaningless ‘contests’ you’ll get a participation trophy in the form of a five-dollar ribbon from Michaels. Now your seventy-year-old self can shoot a selfie standing next to your prize and you get a moment of geriatric ego-stroking after your retirement from a job that left you just enough funding to buy a paintbrush.
The lynchpin for all of this is money. If you’re willing to spend some bucks in the form of memberships, donations, entry fees, etc. you can get a show. Your art doesn’t have to be any good so long as your check doesn’t bounce.
Here’s a recent example of how one arts organization takes advantage of too-eager artists:
Last Fall I submitted and got one piece juried into an exhibition at what I thought was a prestigious exhibition space at a perceived ‘arts destination,’ The Sedona Arts Center in Sedona, Arizona. I paid a thirty dollar entry free via Call For Entry. Since Sedona is only an hour away from my studio delivering the artwork to the venue wasn’t expensive or too time consuming. At drop-off the one person I met was cordial and professional. Later I returned to the gallery for the opening reception. It was a typical group show; not bad but a little uneven with some wonderful pieces displayed right next to others that made you wonder how they got in the show. There was decent sized crowd on hand, good food, a band and all the ’art show festivities.’ The only thing I found a little off-putting was that during the two hours I was there not a single soul spoke to me. Oh well, Sedona can be super-snobby and I probably didn’t bring the right crystals or dress 'new age' enough.
Despite being aggressively ignored at the reception, and not winning a ribbon, or selling the art, I (stupidly) considered the exhibition a personal success. I’d exhibited in Sedona before, but this was the nicest place yet. I already decided to submit to whatever their next call could be. Big mistake!
It was exciting to receive the next call for entry and I began preparing my three entries. Naively I was looking forward to going back to Sedona for another exhibition. I carefully read all the terms and conditions on the Sedona Arts Center website and, after carefully reading the same on the Call For Entry website I found, buried deep within the content, the ‘requirement’ of a donation to the Arts Center. I read it a couple times to be sure because no donation had been required for the previous exhibition. How does the Sedona Arts Center determine which artists need to donate while others need simply pay the entry fee? This is not an equitable system and it strikes me as an unethical business practice. I figured it was simply some sort of non-profit organization formality. I searched and searched for the amount of donation required but found no numbers whatsoever. So, as a formality, I donated ten dollars. This along with my thirty dollar entry fee brought my participation fee up to forty dollars. Forty bucks is about my limit to be judged (usually badly) to off went my money and JPEGs and I waited for notification.
Then about a week before notification I received this letter which, to put it in legal terms is:
Here is their extortion letter in its entirety:
Sun, Jan 28, 4:00 PM
Thank you to everyone for applying for the Annual Juried Show. This email is to let you know we do not have you as a current donor. For this exhibition, we do require for all artists to be a current donor. If you feel there is an error, please let me know so I can double check our system. If you still wish to be considered for the exhibition, please follow the link below to become a donor. Artists need only be a “Friend” Level donor to be considered.
Thank you so much!
Operations Coordinator-Sedona Arts Center
The moment I received that email I knew I was screwed and there would be NO WAY I’d get juried into the exhibition. No donation = no show. No pay = no display I replied with this letter of explanation to JD Jenson:
Mon, Jan 29, 9:01 AM
I am a donor to the Sedona Arts Center & made a donation just before I submitted to the 43rd Annual Juried Exhibition.
In light of the NEW information from your email, I think we may have a problem.
I did carefully read the instructions on the Call For Entry and I did find the requirement for a donation. However, nowhere in the instructions did it say a $60 donation at the 'Friend' level was required. The donation amount was NOT stated at the time I made the submission. Based on the information provided I made a minimum $10 donation ($10.29 to be exact) which, according to instructions, I thought satisfied all the entry requirements.
So, I fulfilled all the requirements of donation plus $30.00 entry fee when I made the donation and submission on January 3.
I have cut & pasted the 'eligibility criteria' from the 'call for entries' page below. I have also cut & pasted the receipt for my donation to the Sedona Arts Center. I hope this is helpful. In the future the donation amount requirement should be stated specifically.
I followed the instructions I had.
How do we proceed now?
* Note my letter was courteous and professional and non-confrontational.
His letter was an ugly and clumsy attempt to coerce an additional fifty bucks from me which would bring the entry fee to ninety dollars ---an amount I would not pay. The Sedona Arts Center never stated the amount required for ‘donation.’ This violates two American laws:
Bait-and-Switch (changing the fee, ex-post-facto)
JD Jenson never had the courtesy to reply but the usual game is, “Oops, we made a mistake, you still owe us a donation.” I’ve seen this so many times I know the scam, it looks like a mistake but it’s actually covering for a scam. Based on the facts of what happened, my view of the Sedona Arts Center is they’re perpetrating a scam. (Or they’re stupid. Your choice guys, scammer or moron? You can be both.)
Again, because of my lack of adequate donation I was rejected from the exhibition. They'll say my work was no good but if you'd look at what I submitted, it's really good. It's not about the work!! My total cost for this rejection was $40.29. Here’s their boilerplate rejection:
Thank you so much for submitting your work for consideration of the 43rd Annual Juried Exhibition and Sale. We regret to inform you that the listed works were not selected to be a part of the show this year.
We had more than 125 artists submit over 325 pieces to be juried. This is the highest volume of entries we have ever received. There were 83 artists that were selected to be a part of the show this year. It was a very competitive show.
We hope that you will continue to submit work for our upcoming exhibits. The new season of shows will be posting in the coming months.
Clearly I’ll never have anything to do with the Sedona Arts Center ever again. As far as I’m concerned they’re liars and scammers. But since they so blatantly tried to extort money from me let’s take a moment and do the math. It’s easy math and if more artists would Do The Math they’d be scammed less often.
From JD Jenson’s email:
125 artists submit 3 pieces each at $30.00 per submission = $3750.00
125 artists donate $60.00 each = $7500.00
They may argue that some are members and already paid a donation, which is irrelevant because they’ve already got the money.
So for essentially doing nothing except viewing entries on a website the Sedona Arts Center has received $11250.00.
DON’T BE A SCAM VICTIM
DON’T EXHIBIT AT THE SEDONA ARTS CENTER