The Jury Process for Classes

Warning:  This post exposes the entire thought process we used while jurying class proposals.  Our intent is for you all (teachers and students alike) to see what was going through our minds.  We are indebted to everyone who had the courage and initiative to apply and hope that you’ll give us another chance whether you were selected this year or not…when push comes to shove, we could only accept approximately one out of three applications and keep a reasonable weekend schedule…quite a challenge!

Yesterday we met in Winthrop and faced the daunting  highly rewarding task of deciding which classes to offer this year.  The committee is the core group of  four (Emma, Dee, Jim and me (Astrig) and four artist/students (Laurie, Jen, Faith and Becky) all with varying fiber interests but each truly understanding Fiber College’s mission of educating creative expression.  As a group we have a broad spectrum of experience to draw on so that when we need to decide if a project has been well done (the points on a star are well executed or the complexity of the embroidery stitches) we have at least one accomplished artist to make the call.

Before we start with the slides, we have a cup of coffee and talk about the fiber arts world based on our conversations with friends, magazines on the newsstands, conferences we have or will be attending and our own personal interest.  We talk about which topics seem the most popular and try to predict which will gain popularity in the months to come.  We talk about the feedback (both formal and informal) we received from last year’s event.   We remind each other of the blazing successes and the things we could still do better.

We also discuss creativity and its application to the internet…this is a big, vague, cloudy subject.  What do you do when a very talented artist isn’t comfortable submitting digital pictures?  Honestly, the artist who maintains a compelling website sells her/his talent and class(es)…it’s a win/win for Fiber College and the instructor…but should that be considered during the jury process?  How do we stay fair to everyone if we know one artist submits low quality pictures (out of focus, poorly arranged, bad color etc) but their work is wonderful…yet we don’t know another artist personally so we can’t be certain if it’s just that the picture is mediocre or if the work lacks interest.  These are difficult judgement calls because we endeavor to keep the jury blind…those deciding on the classes are not informed the artist’s name to avoid bias in the process. 

Oh, there’s another wrinkle.  The instructors we know and love who can’t seem to get their applications completed…so they just send the information in the form of notes (often missing key components like kit fees or number of hours to teach)…we KNOW their work is wonderful, we KNOW their projects will be interesting and well thought out…but should they be given the same consideration as another artist we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting who follows the application instructions to the letter and submits a great photo?  And inevitably we begin to discuss the meaning of life…but we have a schedule because we want to get on the road before dark tonight.

Fiber College Class Jury 2011

So the jury is instructed to consider the following criteria:

  • Does it sound like an interesting class?
  • Do you believe the instructor can complete the class in the time he or she has allotted?
  • Is the kit fee reasonable?
  • Is the image submitted with the class compelling?  Is it clear?  Is it exciting?
  • Have we offered the same thing during the past couple of years?
  • Is the class being offered in other venues around New England?
  • Have we kept a balance in class offerings between weaving and woodworking, spinning and knitting, serious and whimsical?

Those are the easier questions.  The more difficult discussion is less tangible.  When two people submit very similar classes and we need to choose…we look at kit fees, images, if we have any experience with the artist in the past…is he or she a pleasure to work with, can we support a vendor?   How many classes had the artist submitted and how far away did he or she live…did we need to make certain that if she/he was chosen for one class that she/he was chosen for three to justify the travel time?  Does it matter?  Maybe she’s planning on coming anyway.

And then we begin…this year we had 91 class proposals in 13 categories. We also had several offers from accomplished artists who would create a class to fill in a gap if we found something missing in the over-all curriculum.  Our goal was to offer 45 classes that best represented beginner through advanced artists.  Per the request of students, we solicited and received classes that were intended to be offered in two or three sessions.  In this scenario students will have the opportunity to learn techniques, practice at the beach or in the woods and then return to the class for the next steps. 

To simplify the decision-making process, we had three piles on the floor: YES, MAYBE and NO.  “Yes” means unanimous acceptance, usually from the moment the slide was on the screen, “Maybe” means that we all liked the class but for one reason or another had reservations and “NO” means that we all agreed this wasn’t the year to offer a particular class.  When the piles were sorted, we’d schedule all of the “yeses” and then fit in as many “maybes” as possible.  We loved the class proposals!  The first time through we had more “yeses” than time slots…you know how that goes…

With no further ado, this is the slide show we judged on Saturday.  We are proud and thankful for the wonderful proposals we received from EVERYONE.  Fiber College is about education and community.  This year we’ll be offering some of the best classes in Knitting, Spinning, Quilting, Woodworking, Surface Design and the Needlearts that you’ll find any where in the country.

We’re exposing the process because we care about each and every one of you and your relationship with Fiber College as a teacher, student, artist and friend.  This week we’ll be contacting all of those who submitted classes and get the website ready…By April 1st we’ll launch the site and begin taking registrations from our new electronic registration site…see you then.  We all look forward to your feedback.

3 thoughts on “The Jury Process for Classes

  1. thanks so much for the fabulous slide show! I can’t wait for registration to open! This will be my first year at Fiber College and I’m very excited. I can see the decision process must have been very difficult.

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