Do’s and Don’ts on an Artist Resume by Cara Ober
I was shocked and dismayed by the disorganization I encountered. One resume did not have the artist’s name at the top–if they had been selected, there would have been NO WAY to contact them! Several resumes did not include basic contact information. Others included lengthy descriptions of professional experiences that had nothing to do with an art career, and still others were difficult to navigate, with pages and pages of small-type font. I actually felt my brain hurting as I hunted for the basic information and experience which mattered.
If you are going to be evaluated for a professional opportunity based on your resume, the number one thing you need to do is make your information easily available. Make the font legible. Keep the size large enough to read without reading glasses. Use bullets and clearly separated or labelled sections. Is there enough white space? Too much white space? If you fail to cover these basics, your resume will be useless.
The Art Resume vs. The Employment Resume
Art resumes are very different from your job resume. The purpose of an art resume is to help an artist to win awards and grants, to gain acceptance into a residency program, or to achieve exhibition opportunities. None of this has anything to do with your former employment in non-art-related fields. You will want to leave your employment experience out, for the most part.
Another main issue: length. Typically, an art resume is two to three pages long. If you are asked for a ‘Curriculum Vitae,’ this document can be many pages in length and include everything you’ve ever done in art related fields, but a resume really should be no longer than two pages. Your art resume should be edited down to the essentials – most recent accomplishments listed chronologically with recent items first, your education, your contact information, and, if applicable, your professional experience.
Resume Goals and Considerations
Who is your audience? What is your goal? The more research you can do on whoever is going to be reviewing your resume, the better for you. How can you make yourself look most appealing to your audience? Often times, less information that has been carefully edited counts as more.
Categories and Sections:
1. Contact Information
Contact information is always first. Include your name, address, phone, email, and website. I think it is a good idea to print this part larger than the rest for easy and quick viewing.
Education goes next. Include your most recent degrees first. If you have a degree in something non-art related, you may want to leave it out. Competitive artist residencies can also be listed here as well.
3. Awards and Honors
I suggest putting ‘Awards and Honors’ next, if you have any. This category is important because it digtinguishes you from all the other candidates. If you have been awarded a grant, put it here. If you received an art award at college graduation, it goes here. Any ‘Best in Show’ awards, cash prizes, or other distinctions go here. These items are a big deal.
4. Solo Exhibitions
Solo Exhibitions go next, listed chronologically. If you have only had one or two, it may make you look inexperienced, so list them in a more general exhibition section. If you are editing your information, which I highly recommend, then call this section ‘Select Exhibitions.’
5. Juried Exhibitions
Juried Exhibitions can be a separate category. Base your decision to include a juried section on your numbers of these. Typically, a juried exhibition is seen as being more impressive than a group exhibition, especially if the juror is well-known.
Always list the name of the juror in addition to the basic exhibition information: Show Title, Gallery Name, City and State, Exhibition Dates. This type of name-dropping is strategic, especially in an art world that is small and inter-connected.
6. Group Exhibitions
‘Group Exhibitions’ or ‘Select Group Exhibitions’ (if you are editing) go next. Choose what to include based on what you are applying for. For example, if your resume is part of a packet you are sending to a gallery, you may want to edit out shows done in coffee shops or other ‘non-gallery’ spaces. Gallerists tend to be snobs.
Also, if you have exhibited with a gallery that is seen as ‘less desirable’ than the one you are applying to – leave it out. If you have showed with someone that your goal gallery has a good relationship with, great – highlight it by leaving out ‘filler.’ Your goal in this section is to display a breadth of experience and a professional appearance. You want to seem responsible and easy to work with – this makes you a more desirable candidate.
The next section should be ‘Press’ or ‘Select Bibliography.’ To be a viable candidate for pretty much anything, you need to have some kind of press. Press on online sources and blogs are absolutely fine. Even a small local newspaper or newsletter is worth mentioning. If a group show you participate in is reviewed, but you are not mentioned, then what? If you need more lines in your press section, then include it. If you have enough press to look respectable, leave it out.
8. Related Professional Experience
This last section is optional: ‘Related Professional Experience.’ Remember, your artist resume is not a job resume. Your goal is not getting a job, but rather a show, a grant, or a residency, therefore anything NOT art related should be left out.
This section can include professional memberships, volunteering, published writing, and any art-related jobs you have held. Don’t worry if it seems like there are gaps here – this is not a job resume!
I know that many professional resumes include an objective. This takes up unnecessary space and is redundant. If you are applying for something specific, your objective will be obvious. Leave this section out of an artist resume.
The Curriculum Vitae
You should keep an all-encompassing curriculum vitae on your computer in order to cut and paste the info into a new, shorter resume designed for a specific purpose.
One other, last suggestion is to look at several examples of resumes by artists you respect. Most artist or gallery websites have easily down-loadable resumes. Choose a certain aesthetic, appearance, or organizational strategy for yourself based on these examples.
Happy applications! Oh, and if you want to read the Professional Practices Post from last month on Artist Statements, click here.
Author Cara Ober is Founding Editor at BmoreArt