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Jul 30, 2023

How to organize gallery-worthy art awards

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Art awards are a great way for discovering talented artists, as well as to promote art, or even support your community. They can turn into a powerful marketing tool, giving you an extra avenue to engage your audience, generate positive publicity for your brand, create networking opportunities, and cement partnerships. To get the most out of this type of initiative, however, you need to have the right awards management process in place. So, read on to learn how to organize art awards effectively. 

Sketching your goals 

You’re starting with a blank canvas and your goals should be the first thing you sketch on it. To help you out, we’ve outlined two general directions you can go. 

Art for art’s sake

If art is your organization’s primary pursuit, then that gives you several options for the main objectives of your art prizes:

  • Discover and promote up-and-coming talent
  • Celebrate established artists;
  • Find and exhibit extraordinary artwork

Art-adjacent goals     

If your organization is not specialized in art, then you can use your program to achieve a multitude of other goals, such as: 

  • Marketing and building your brand — art awards and photo contests are an excellent way to do that since they generate positive buzz, not to mention, they are Instagram-friendly by definition; 
  • Engaging your audience, creating networking opportunities, and finding new partnerships; 
  • Showcase art to the benefit of your community or as part of a larger CSR campaign; 
  • Commission art — e.g., design competitions, artwork contests, or call for artists, designers, etc., where your organization or a customer uses the end product such as a logo, website design, or an art piece to present in a working space.  

Note that your art awards could have more than one objective or combine goals from both groups (i.e., your art organization wants to organize an awards program for amateur artists for marketing purposes). Either way, it is important to have a clear idea so that you can move on to the next stage. 

Framing your awards program

While in art, framing comes after painting, in an awards program, it is an earlier step that helps you paint by numbers. 

Start with requirements 

This should be a fairly easy step with your goals in place. Consider the following: 

  • Medium — painting, sculpture, design, 3D art…? The choices are endless but are largely contingent on your goals, especially if yours is an organization that deals with art. If not, think about the target audience for your awards and take it from there; 
  • Professional or amateur — this will again be determined by your goals, such as promoting established artists, looking for undiscovered talent within your community, etc. 
  • Eligibility period — consider whether the work of art participating in your competition needs to be produced within a set period of time or not. 
  • Criteria — while art is subjective, your criteria shouldn’t be. Set clear guidelines for the participants, which later you will be able to forward to your evaluators. 

Set the timeline 

Art may be timeless but your program isn’t. You need to set clear deadlines for each phase and stick to them. Plan for: 

  • Registration — the period when the artists will register for participation in your program; ideally, registration is also a good time to collect entry fees if you have them (more on that below); 
  • Submission — the phase that will see the artists prepare and submit their entries; 
  • Evaluation — the timeframe for evaluation, be it by a jury of experts, public voting, or a combination; 
  • Winner announcement — the program’s grand finale when you unveil the winners. 

The easiest way to plan the timeline is working backward — pick a date/month for announcing the winners (e.g., you want an outdoor summer exhibition, a year-end announcement that coincides with winter holidays, etc.), and go from there, while allowing for short buffer periods after each phase. 

Decide on entry fees 

Then you need to make a decision whether to make your awards paid or not. Entry fees can add credibility to your awards and motivate participants to submit higher-quality work. In addition, they can prove an effective revenue stream making your program financially sustainable. On the downside, they might limit your entrant pool. 

So, how do you decide? Simple — refer to your objectives. If your awards program seeks to recognize renowned artists and showcase remarkable artwork, then entry fees are probably a good idea. If, however, your art prizes have community and CSR goals, then it would be better to make them free. Alternatively, you could do both — create a mix of free and paid categories if your program has a broader range and serves a combination of goals. 

Put the art prizes on the easel

Regardless of whether your awards are paid or not, you should motivate people to enter them with a reward. We’ve listed some ideas to help you out: 

  • Cash prize — the absolute classic of prizes. If you don’t find it “artsy” enough, you can instead opt for a voucher from an art supplies store or a website; 
  • A physical trophy — a real-life trophy that could be a work of art in its own right, or be shaped as a tool of art (paintbrush, easel, etc.); 
  • Digital trophies — a digital seal, PR materials, etc., are a particularly good idea in the case of a design competition;
  • Exposure — whether it would be in the form of an exhibition, a printed calendar or brochure in circulation, or a special website to showcase the works of art, exposure is one of the awards the winners would appreciate the most;  
  • A project — this is the go-to award if commissioning art has been your program’s main goal. You can offer this type of prize in other cases as well, such as getting a gig for an up-and-coming artist within your community. 

The art of evaluation 

You’ve heard the old adage that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which makes it a must to choose just the right “beholders” to evaluate your awards. Take a look at the following options: 

  • A jury of experts — a selection of renowned artists, critics, gallery owners, art-inclined prominent members of your community, and other experts will lend further credibility to your program and elevate it; 
  • Public voting — putting entries up for a public vote will help show which ones have a broader appeal, not to mention it is an excellent way to engage your audience as you prompt them to vote;  
  • A combination of both — you can set aside categories evaluated by experts and others for the public to vote on, or create a mix of judging and public voting rounds, provided the awards voting system allows it. 

Choose state-of-the-art awards management software 

If the above sounds like too much planning and work, we have good news for you — we have the ultimate software that will make organizing art awards feel like a walk in the park. With Evalato you can:

  • Launch a program in under an hour — Evalato’s user-friendly interface and ready-made customizable templates enable you to set up your first program in a jiffy, while the one-click clone feature gives you a head start on subsequent editions of your program; 
  • Collect remarkable entries — Evalato features an embeddable registration form that boosts conversions, an enhanced category structure that lets you combine free and paid categories, a customizable application form that allows entrants to upload both a single image and a gallery, and a next-generation applicant portal where your entrants work with ease;  
  • Empower evaluation — you have the option to set up any combination of voting rounds, with 6 types of voting, while your judges get their own judging portal, and the public votes with a simple social login;  
  • Give artists the recognition they deserve — whatever prize you decide to go with, you can rely on Evalato’s dedicated webpage to show the achievements of entrants and winners; 
  • Analyze data and grow — Evalato’s analytics, data export, and multiple integrations give you the insight you need to improve every new edition of your program and ultimately grow. 

Kick-(st)art your awards 

Art prizes are an excellent way to celebrate beauty and talent, nurture your target audience and community, and get you some good publicity and revenue in the process. Regardless of your endgame, Evalato can help you organize a gallery-worthy art awards program. Not quite sure yet? Try Evalato for free or book a demo with one of our customer success experts to have all your questions answered. 

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