As your career advances, it is important to manage your time and effort wisely, particularly as it relates to the exhibits you participate in. You have to ask yourself, how will I benefit from this in terms of exposure, sales and credentials BEFORE you commit to participation in an exhibit. What is worthwhile in the early stages of your career, may not be as beneficial as your work gains in recognition and popularity.
For example, when I first started exhibiting, I entered local shows in addition to applying to most of the national juried competitions. Now that I have been exhibiting professionally for 10 years and have 4 galleries representing me, I have to focus my efforts on putting my best work in the gallery exhibits. You can never let the quality of the work you show be anything less than top notch. Therefore, you have to pick and choose which venues will make the most sense to show it in.
My strategy has always been to aim for the next level. Back when I was starting out, I exhibited in co-op galleries and participated in local shows. At the same time, I entered juried exhibits such as the Salmagundi non-members exhibition and the Catharine Lorillard Wolfe Club annual juried exhibition. Having been accepted as a member in both of these clubs, I now participate in their annual member exhibits. I no longer apply to juried exhibits as there are only so many professional organizations that you can actively participate in.
Also, as your work grows and changes subtly in style and subject, you need to again consider where you are showing it. I used paint in a much more realistic manner, and participated in several shows with the International Guild of Realism, a wonderful professional organization. However, my work has really evolved to become a combination of realism and abstraction. I am no longer a realist, so apply for inclusion in realistic exhibitions is not in my best interest in terms of time and effort.
The best advice I can give on the subject of where to exhibit is to do your homework and to be honest with yourself. Stay focused on your goals, is it really worth it to enter a show where you are more experienced than the rest of the artists in the show simply because you know it will be an easy acceptance? Aren’t you better off stretching yourself with the risk of getting rejected at a higher level? If you don’t look ahead and strive to attain the next level of your career, you won’t ever know how far you could have taken things. Challenge yourself to move forward! 🙂