5 steps for nailing an open call

ArtsHub takes you through the game plan of applying for an open call.

As the year begins it’s time to plan your strategy for jumping on the range of opportunities and open calls that can expand your creative practice and audience.

If the idea of an open call is a little daunting or you just want a game plan to ground your approach, we help you break it down to five steps and offer some tips along the way.

1. HAVE A PLAN

As much as we hope ourselves to be tireless superheroes, we only have a limited amount of time and energy, which is why it’s important to have a plan before jumping on every opportunity that may arise.

Working out a timeline so you can put aside sufficient time for the application can be fundamental in bringing more clarity around which opportunities may be the best for you.

Ordered by application deadline, our 2022 awards and opportunities calendar can be a starting reference. We also have a calendar specifically for writers.

Read: Getting an arts grant for your literature project

If you’re still trying to decide on what’s worth your time, ArtConnect offers great insight into the red flags that could be identified before applying to an open call. Make sure you understand the fees that are involved and check that crucial information are not missing to mitigate any risks.

2. RESEARCH

If you want to maximise your chances of success, researching the opportunity can give you more context and a better idea of what the judges are looking for.

Apart from the what, when, where, look up who the previous winners are and the judges’ comments. Know the strengths of your practice and match that up to what’s being spotlighted by the judges to see if the opportunity is the best for you.

For exhibition open calls, look at the space, visit it if you can, and try to envision your work within that space. If it’s a publication, read the stories but also the editor’s letter.

Applying for an audition? Make sure you are familiar with the director’s work, the production company, and the character that you’re applying for. If the audition is held online be sure to check out our essential’s guide to help you adapt to this new digital age.

Be sure to also make use of the information sessions or contact the organisers if you have any questions or need clarification – you’ve already put the time in, better safe than sorry.

3. SELECT THE RIGHT WORKS

Decided that the opportunity is right for you? Well then comes the most exciting (if not the most difficult) task of choosing what works to submit.

Often there is a subject and an object measure when it comes to the selection process, where judges not only determine artistic merit but also whether a work captivate one’s attention.

If there is a theme make sure that your work aligns with it, or that you can make your case through the application as to why it’s relevant. However, just because there is a theme doesn’t mean you can’t think outside the box – originality of approach will always give you extra points.

The art business journal decided suggests the ‘criteria, creativity and originality’ approach, suggesting works that demonstrate fit and alignment while making an impression can award you the best chances of standing out.

To approach an open theme, submit works that exemplify your interests and those that carry your trademark. If you are in the process of new experimentations, don’t be afraid to share them but be sure to contextualise that within your practice.

4. PROOF READ

Even if you think it’s not necessary, do a double take on your application and look for the basic spelling/grammar mistakes. This is where applying early also comes in; sometimes coming back with fresh eyes can make a tremendous difference if you have been bashing at the application for hours the previous day.

It might be helpful to also have a quick scan through the guidelines again, make sure that your eligibility matches, files are in the right format and that you’re not submitting any irrelevant/non-permitted material.

5. MOST IMPORTANTLY, DON’T GIVE UP

We all know that rejection can be hard, but sometimes not making it into the next round is not a discredit to your work – it can incorporate a variety of reasons including suitability to the project, space requirements, and the priority of organisations.

This one from ArtsHub’s archives on why funding applications fail can give you a similar insight on how to improve your open call applications.

Seek feedback on your application where possible, speak to friends or colleagues who might’ve had some experience or even just for that mental encouragement.

Read: Anti-resolutions: 10 things to embrace in 2022

If you feel your mental/emotional battery running flat, know that it’s ok to take a break, focus back on your practice and try again when you’re ready – remember that most people it will be a matter of time and several attempts before the sparks ignite.

Ready to check out some opportunities? Look to our Opportunities page to see what’s open and best of luck!

Celina Lei is an arts writer and editor at ArtsHub. She acquired her M.A in Art, Law and Business in New York with a B.A. in Art History and Philosophy from the University of Melbourne. She has previously worked across global art hubs in Beijing, Hong Kong and New York in both the commercial art sector and art criticism. Most recently she took part in drafting NAVA’s revised Code of Practice - Art Fairs. Celina is based in Naarm/Melbourne.