Today I received an email plea from a local holiday art show (won't name names) extending the application date and encoraging people to apply. This show charges a $30 non-refundable application fee, so if you don't get accepted, they keep your money.
The question is why are they sending out a call for artists at the last minute? Are they not getting enough applications? Also, I heard that it was really slow last year compared to years past. Perhaps it's the economy, and people cannot risk paying them $30 and getting turned down, or perhaps people are rebelling against these excessive non-refundable fees. Or, perhaps they are milking the cash cow at the last minute, getting people to send in their applications so they can get their $30 with no intention of letting them into the show?
I have an issue in general with shows that charge nonrefundable application fees, but unfortunately, many shows are going that way. I can certainly understand charging a reasonable fee to review your work but $30? I think that's excessive. I applied to this particular show last year in the photography category (hand-colored Polaroid Transfers) and got turned down, so I will probably not apply again, certainly not in that medium. If you think you have a good shot at getting into this type of show and have $30 to risk, I suggest giving it at shot, but if you get turned down, don't apply to the show again, you're just throwing your money away.
Also, I have only ever been rejected by two other local juried fine art shows, both at the very most high end of the spectrum where the competition is the heaviest. Application fees are $35 - $45 for these shows. They get hundreds of applications and only let in a few, exploiting artists to raise money to fund their art museum and art school, which I think is despicable. I never applied to them again either, but my point is I don't typically get turned down for juried shows, and the show I am referring to here is certainly not high end. I entered it because I thought surely I would be accepted since I generally am.
I would rather pay a higher space rental than risk paying money for nothing, so I would like to see these shows change their application process and stop charging excessive non-refundable fees, especially in this economy.