Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Letter from the President: The ACGA Jury

Before I became president of the ACGA, I was on the Board of Directors for many years. One of the many persistent, ongoing issues that are brought up from our members and from the Board itself is the jury system. Everybody knows jurying into the ACGA as an exhibiting member is a tough process. Prospective exhibiting members have to haul their work to San Francisco, hang out for a few hours while the jury considers their work, and then drive home late in the evening. It's trying, and nerve-wracking. Most people in any group of candidates do not get in. Many exhibiting ACGA members have had to jury two or three times to get in.

The jury's judgment about work is subjective, but it is not capricious. I've been on the jury several times over the years and I've always been impressed by the seriousness of purpose the jury members bring to the process. The ACGA's mission statement is to establish and maintain high standards of craftsmanship and design in clay and glass, and as the jury considers each person's work, that standard is held first and foremost in each juror's mind. Matters of personal taste are put aside as the work is evaluated. Long discussions ensue when the jury is split. Work is held and examined from different angles. Jurors step back and examine the body as a whole. And then, when everybody has had time to formulate and opinion about the work, there is a vote, and the majority rules.

Even with this careful process, there is no doubt that it is imperfect. Most members of the jury do not feel happy to turn away so many. I know as a former juror that I walk away from the process feeling a bit deflated that it is not perfect, worried that the people who get turned down will not be willing to try again. I think it is always worth a second or third shot, even more if it is important to you. But I hear from people, and I know that there are people out there who are not willing to go through the process again. I often wonder of there is a more perfect way to jury work, of making sure that people do not fall through the cracks.

I like to hear about people's experiences with the jury, whether good or bad. Members, both associate and exhibiting, should know that the jury process has been refined over the years and changes made in response to feedback. There are certain things that cannot change, we cannot lower the standard. But there are always tweaks that can be made, ways to make the jury process more perfect. What are your ideas?