Spectrum 17 – My Adventures as a Jury Member!

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I am thrilled to have been included among the five-member jury for Spectrum 17, along with Bill Carman, Kerry Callen, Rebecca Guay, and Iain McCaig.

We convened in Kansas City, MO on February 26 to view nearly 6000 works! The morning started at 8:15AM when we met with Arnie and Cathy Fenner in the hotel lobby. We were escorted to Pershing Hall, which encompasses 15,000 square feet. I recall walking into the room, looking to the left, then to the right, and being astonished at how much material was laid out for viewing. Arnie then told us they would have to lay out the room again once or maybe two more times. (It turned out the room was filled almost a third time). There’s some pictures and video of the room at the Spectrum website here.

The five of us were armed with a cup of beans, with each jury member having a different color. Every piece of art had its own upside down cup with a small hole. Our instructions were simple. If you like the art, drop in a bean. Every piece of art that gets a majority vote (three or more beans) goes in the book. The different colored beans for each judge makes sure no double votes are cast by mistake by the same person. We also had the option of dropping in a paperclip to mark those pieces we felt were exceptional for consideration for a Gold or Silver Award. We were discouraged from talking to one another and started from different areas of the room to make our personal and anonymous choices.

Throughout the day I was really impressed by many things. I’d like to point out two of them. One was how fair the voting process is. Having the opportunity to vote on a pure anonymous level, and not knowing the names of the artists works I was viewing was a no pressure, comfortable experience allowing me to vote based on the merits of the individual art. The second thing was how great the Spectrum staff was. The kept us fed, provided plenty of breaks, and had everything taken care of. I felt relaxed, so viewing the nearly 6000 pieces of art didn’t seem overwhelming. I felt I could give the proper amount of time to each piece. It was a very smooth good day.

I admit I was disappointed to see the Comics category so sparse. Comics are my first love and I was especially looking forward to see the submissions. I hope to see this section grow in the coming years, so if you are a comic artist, I encourage you to submit your work. And, some sequential pages would be good, too! I only saw a few comic pages, with most of the entries being covers or splashes.

One (of the many) things that I liked was being able to view all of the art in a hard copy form, and not on a computer or in digital form. It was easy to go back and forth, and compare pieces to one another, go back to a certain area or table, and give each piece a good viewing.
Arnie and Cathy gave us a time limit for viewing the three separate layouts of the room, since they wanted to make sure we had enough time for award considerations at the end. They explained this final process has gone long into the evening in previous years.

Well, it turns out we had a like-minded jury, as we made the award selections fairly quickly. It was pretty amazing how unified we were. Arnie and Cathy seemed happy with how quickly we made group decisions. I was surprised by how many pieces had multiple paperclips. It’s just staggering to think that out of 6000 pieces, that we were so close in aesthetics to have picked the same types of pieces. For instance, for the Unpublished section, we all picked multiple Eric Fortune pieces for award consideration. I was completely unfamiliar with his work at the time. I was impressed and dropped a few paperclips for his art. I think we had five or six Fortune pieces to choose from. The only other artist who came close to having as many pieces marked for awards was Sam Weber, who received two awards, one in the Advertising category and another in Editorial. We were all in the same groove. We whittled the ten or fifteen or so selections from each category down to a handful of pieces, then debated the merits of each piece until a majority decision could be made. Each jury member was great about listening and expressing his or her reasons why a piece of art should receive an award. It also helped that Arnie let us choose two pieces for a silver award for the Dimensional and Unpublished categories. In those two cases, we felt each of the four pieces were really deserving of a Silver award. You can view all of the award winners by clicking here.

It was a terrific weekend. Again, the Spectrum staff and the Fenner’s made the whole process so smooth and enjoyable, it left me relaxed and focused all day. It was an honor to be among this delightful group and have this opportunity.

Congratulations to everyone who makes it into Spectrum 17! The list of artist names selected for the book has been posted on the Spectrum website. You can view the results here.


John Fleskes
Flesk Publications