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Article: Cover Letter Essentials

What Do You Want?

Clearly state why are you writing and what you want? Do you want your work to be considered for an exhibition? Are you proposing to create a new work? Are you requesting funding for a grant? Precise information on the purpose of your submission is paramount.

Address A Particular Individual

Decide whom you want to contact and do your homework. Did someone recommend that you write to that individual? Are you aware of the kind of work s/he is interested in? Can you identify an exhibition s/he recently curated? When you know the interests of the art professional, you have a real reason for approaching them and are much more likely to be successful.

Is It A Good Match?

Make sure you grasp the mission and vision of the institution, organization or gallery you are approaching. Is it an appropriate venue for your work? Your letter should demonstrate an understanding of the kinds of programs and exhibitions the venue presents. Also, consider the exhibition schedule philosophy, i.e. are the exhibitions monographic, group, blockbuster, edgy, conservative, collection-based, etc? Where does your work fit in? Can you note some of the exhibitions the venue has organized or work it has shown by artists whose work is in line with yours?

Introduce Your Work

Provide just enough clear and concise information about your work to get the recipient interested. You might highlight some achievements, such as major exhibitions or projects, but don’t go into too much detail; your artist statement and resume should cover those issues. Do, however, let them know if the visuals you are submitting are from a new body of work or examples of a range of work.

Basics

Request a meeting or studio visit to further discuss your work. Encourage the recipient to retain the materials if they are interested; there may not be a use for them at the moment, but an exhibition or opportunity may arise in the future. Conclude with telephone number and the best time to reach you and let them know you will be following up with a phone call. Finally, alert the recipient if your work will be shown anywhere soon and send updates on shows and publications.