Do a little research about any show before applying.
Whether you receive an email invitation to apply or you hear about a show through an advertisement or word of mouth, the first thing you should do is try to find out more information about it.
Make sure the show sponsor/gallery is legitimate and above board in its dealings. There have been stories of scams so you want to protect yourself. Also, I and some of my artist friends have had issues with galleries that are careless with work or don't pay their bills. Sometimes a quick Google search will tell you if others have had problems with a show or gallery in the past.
Google the sponsor/gallery. Look at their website and make sure that looks professional. Do they advertise? Do they participate in social media? Check out the work of other artists they represent - you might even contact one or two of them for references.
If the show is local, try to visit the venue. Go to the gallery and check out the space, note the manner in which they display the art - Are the works displayed professionally? Do any show sign of damage from improper handling? Look at the exhibition space - Is the gallery clean? Is it well organized? Pay attention to the staff - Do they seem professional and well-informed? Attend an opening - Is it well trafficked? Does it look like they are making sales?
Reach out to other artists you know and see what they have to say about the show/venue - ask questions about such things as care and handling of artwork, turnout for shows, and promptness of payment for sold items.
For art fairs/festivals - if possible, visit the show the year previous to applying. That way you can get a sense of the quality of the fair itself and the artwork being shown, see what's selling, get a sense of the crowd, and speak to other artists (see my artist's guide to visiting an artfair).
Doing a bit of legwork before even applying to a show will help you prepare for what to expect and may even save you money and potential heartache.
More About Applying to Art Shows
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