The Saint Louis Art Fair is a renowned event that showcases the work of talented artists from around the country. Since 2014, with the help of ZAPP as its sponsor, the fair offers artists the chance to have their applications reviewed through an annual mock jury that takes place prior to the official jury selection for the show. The workshop provides artists with valuable feedback and insights on how to improve their applications for all art festivals, including the Saint Louis Art Fair itself.

In January 2023, the Saint Louis Art Fair invited two seasoned art professionals— Dan Tierney and Tony Borchardt—to serve as jurors and provide both written and verbal feedback to artists. They reviewed and scored 130 applications during the live, mock jury session. “Dan Tierney has long been involved with the regional arts scene and served on the Regional Arts Commission,” explained Sarah Umlauf, executive director of the Saint Louis Art Fair, whom we interviewed for this feature. “Tony Borchardt is an award-winning artist and a professor at Fontbonne University. Tony is a fantastic mentor and often refers his students to our Emerging Artists as Entrepreneurs Program.” Both jurors had the opportunity to review applications ahead of time and take notes. The jurors separated the applications into 2-D and 3-D categories, and selected applicants for review in a random order within those categories. 

One of the key benefits of this mock jury workshop is the comprehensive feedback that artists receive. During the jury session, the jurors provided feedback on various aspects of the applications. When asked about the top things jurors look for when reviewing the images, Umlauf described how booth shots are always a big topic. “The jurors had some great comments about how less is more with regard to displays,” she explained. “There’s no need to show all of your work in the booth shot, and [it’s best to] avoid clutter.” She also said the jurors suggested tailoring the application to the specific requirements of the show, such as including outdoor booth shots for outdoor shows. In addition, the jurors emphasized the importance of having professional quality images of their artwork. 

The mock jury itself was conducted during a live session that could be joined virtually, allowing applicants to understand how their applications were evaluated and provide them with insights on how to improve. Jurors’ scores and written comments were made available to the artists, and the results of the jury and workshop  were posted online, along with a video of the session, making it accessible to artists who were not able to attend the workshop in person.

The success of the mock jury workshop is evident in the stories of artists who have benefited from the feedback and insights they received prior to officially submitting their applications to the Saint Louis Art Fair. Umlauf shared a notable success story of a particular mixed media artist who submitted his application to the mock jury prior to submitting to the Saint Louis Art Fair. Using the feedback he received, not only did he get into the Saint Louis Art Fair, he became an award-winner at the show and returned to serve as a mock juror. The opportunity for growth is another reason why the Saint Louis Art Fair decides to conduct this mock jury. Umlauf states, “We do not want artists to feel defeated or that only the same artists make it into the Saint Louis Art Fair year after year. We want to continue to grow the pool of applicants so the industry can continue to move forward and improve through a more diverse field.”

By providing artists with valuable feedback and resources, the Saint Louis Art Fair is committed to fostering a thriving arts community and helping artists succeed in the competitive art fair industry. “We love the mock jury and feel it is a great help to continue to develop quality applications for our show, and others,” concludes Umlauf.

With a decorated history of supporting artists, the Saint Louis Art Fair’s mock jury is just one of the many resources and artist programming the event offers. In addition to the mock jury workshop, the Saint Louis Art Fair also offers other resources and programming for artists, such as the Emerging Artists as Entrepreneurs Program and workshops on the business side of being an Art Show Artist. These additional resources further support artists in their professional development and help them succeed in the competitive art fair industry.

Interested in participating in the mock jury? Look for next year’s application for the Saint Louis Art Fair Mock Jury open around November 2023! 


Photos courtesy of the Saint Louis Art Fair.