Monday, February 25, 2013


by Arnie Fenner

Want to see what something around 6000 pieces of art looks like? Here you go.

All of the entries to Spectrum 20 have been logged in, divided into categories, and placed in tubs for transportation to the judging venue this weekend. The plane tickets for the jurors have been purchased, their hotel reservations confirmed, now it's all a matter of...waiting. Tim Bruckner, Irene Gallo, Tim Kirk, Mark Nelson, and Michael Whelan are the judges this year: how will they get along? How will they vote? Will they play hardball with their beans—er, votes—or will they be generous? And who and what will win the awards in the eight categories? 

I haven't a clue. After twenty years of working on the Spectrum competition, each year is a surprise. Each jury is different. The works that are selected—and those that win awards—are as unpredictable as those that aren't and don't.

Unlike some competitions, we don't pre-screen the art: everything that is entered is seen and voted on by the jury. Again, unlike some competitions, one single group of jurors determines the best works in all categories.

The judges vote independently without discussion about the art until the awards debates; the identity of the artist they're voting on is generally unknown until after they drop their bean. The quality of the art is what they're voting for, not who did it. (Yes, it's easy to recognize work by a popular artist, especially if they're friends—and then there are the clever folks who put their names in 30pt type on the front of their entry—but for the most part we try to keep everything anonymous and on a level playing field.)

Judges can not vote for their own work and are ineligible for awards.

Cathy and I do not get to vote (it's entirely on the shoulders of the jury) and we never know what the results will be until the dust settles. Which is part of the excitement.

So thank you to everyone that participated in Spectrum 20! Thanks to the judges willing to take time out of their busy schedules to spend a weekend in balmy KC! And thanks to Iain McCaig and designer Guy Giunta for doing such a bang-up job on this year's C4E poster! We'll be posting photos and videos (including a run-down of the top five award finalists in each category) at the Spectrum website this Saturday and Sunday. And if you want to join with your peers and see who wins what live in one of the country's grandest theaters, please make plans to join us in May at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live 2. It'll be fun. I promise.


  1. When you mentioned yesterday that you were preparing a post, I was hoping that this was what it was about. Very exciting! I really enjoy the looks into this process that you give us, Arnie, and I can only imagine the flood of impressions the judges must have to deal with and somehow sort through... I envy them and yet don't envy them, both at once!

  2. Thanks, Dave. It really can be something of a sensory overload to walk into a huge space full of tables covered with a virtual sea of artworks—but the juries always step up to the task. There's not a lot of time and they have to maintain their focus to be efficient AND conscientious. A piece has to receive a simply majority—3 out of 5 votes—to get in the annual; it's the same with the awards, though the voting always follows vigorous discussions, rounds of elimination, and multiple votes. It's fun to watch. Not everyone may agree with the way the jurors vote, but whatever the results they were always achieved thoughtfully and fairly. How often does that happen these days? :-)

    1. I hope you'll keep us frequently updated when this actually goes down.

  3. This is a great competition and jurying it was an incredibly rewarding experience. Fun too. The Fenners couldn't have been better hosts and though the acres of work were daunting looking at artwork can never be that hard right? Just make sure you wear comfortable shoes jury.

    1. I agree. I've partaken in a lot of juries, and Spectrum is by far the most enjoyable, smoothest running, and fairest I've seen yet.

  4. So stoked!

    Sorry about all that snow you get to shovel.

    (Fingers crossed.)


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