May 12, 2016

Best Rejection Letter

Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
paintings included in my application: "Green couch #1"
Nobody likes getting rejection letters. Most artists like me spend a fair amount of time in search of good opportunities, filling out applications and grant proposals on a regular basis. Some you get but most you don't. I've gotten used to the rejection letters but it's still disappointing no matter how you look at it.

There's always that brief moment of optimism when you realize the organization you sent an application to 6 months ago, and that you totally forgot all about, is finally getting back to you. Some of these letters are quick and to the point and when I ran my gallery I always tried to do that, but some are so long and drawn out, it's torturous. Paragraphs and paragraphs about the uncommonly large number of applicants this year and how great it is that you're pursuing your art career and how great they are for providing such wonderful funding for the arts, etc. etc.

I'm at the point where I don't read it. My eyes quickly scan for that one word that says it all. Once I see the word then I go back and actually read the whole letter.  
The word, of course, is unfortunately. 

This morning I got a rejection email that didn't get to the point until four paragraphs down. Finally there it was:

Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
 "Green couch #2"
"Unfortunately, we are not able to fund your application, but we want you to know that we are inspired by your commitment to your craft and by the sacrifices you're making to pursue it."

Okay so we've all been there, done that, but here's the prize at the bottom of the cereal box, they actually gave me feedback! That hardly ever happens, on top of which I thought it was pretty good feedback. Six paragraphs down it said:

Our jurors are invited to provide feedback about the applications they review. We wanted to share the following:
"Intelligent, muscular contemporary abstracts that have the flow of de Kooning combined with the chunky organic expressionism of Philip Guston!"

"I see a great dedication in your studio practice. There is a long standing investigation one can see in your works. I'm curious to see where it goes."

Samantha Palmeri Contemporary Artist
"Green couch #3"

I mean, I'd rather have gotten the $6,000, but still,
this might be my favorite rejection letter of all time.
This one I'm keeping!


Michael Kriegh said...

A little feedback goes a long way and this is good feeback. There is one call for submittals I enter annually where they are giving submitters the option to have their work reviewed and commented on at no additional cost. You just have to opt in. I did, and the feedback was pretty darn good. I wish more of them did that so we aren't just firing off into the darkness...

Samantha Palmeri said...

Yup, a little feedback does go a long way. NY Foundation for the Arts has "Doctor's Hours" where you can bring your work for a fee and talk for a half hour with someone who's supposed to know what they're talking about. I did it once and it was great. here's the link if you're interested:

Unknown said...

Samantha: I just do not think there is such a thing as a "rejection" letter anymore. I think "rejection" may be too personal. True, it stings when we go through a tremendous amount of effort to apply for something and don't receive it, but now having been on numerous grant panels, I can tell you most of the time, it's not personal. There are many, many reasons why an artist does not get a grant at a given time that are rarely personal. I think what is so great about the letter you received in response to your application (and any letter that you receive that is more of a "difference of an opinion" than a "rejection") is that they did give you some feedback. I always suggest to other artists to ask for feedback if they didn't receive it, and ask what they could have done better. But I have applied for so many grants over the years -- one grant I applied for 15 times before I received it -- I think it's just timing and often times random. It's awesome that you applied in the first place and you never know where the people on that jury will see your work again -- you never know what kind of things may occur in the future from just that exposure that you gave your work through applying. All the very best!

Don Kimes said...

2 more rejections came in today. I used to keep all of my rejection letters. Eventually the folder was several inches thick and weighed a couple of pounds. I used to carry that folder into my grad thesis class and drop it on the floor, and it made quite a loud thud. I'd then tell my grad students that when their rejection file makes a noise that loud they were bona fide artists. But everything comes online now so I can only tell the story. BTW, one of those rejections was from the MFA program at American University, where 11 years later I was hired to a full time teaching position, became head of the same graduate program and still later, as Department Chair, helped to raise the funds to design and build the 130,000 square foot Katzen Center for the Arts in DC. Two weeks ago I attended the opening of the 28th group of MFA students I've worked with in that University at the Museum in the Katzen Center. Never confuse the present with the future.

Samantha Palmeri said...

Don, that is a great story and I especially like the way you put it "Never confuse the present with the future". Very true advice!

Samantha Palmeri said...

Sharon, thanks for your comment. I do know it's not personal after all! I was a juror on a panel once and I understand there are so many factors that go into the decision making. that's why we keep applying and reapplying right?! I was happy to receive feedback, especially since I liked what they wrote! I probably would've never thought to ask them for it so you bring up a great point that we can go out of our way to ask for feedback.