Having an accurate, up-to-date, relevant CV is vitally important for visual artists and craftspeople, especially when applying for residencies, workshops, commissions or other opportunities.
It is important to remember that a CV for arts opportunities is usually very different from a CV used for applying for jobs. Although presentation is important for either, an art CV has different requirements. Many artists send the wrong type of CV for the opportunity they are applying for, which can be detrimental to their chances of being selected. This document is only concerned with arts- and crafts-opportunity related CVs.
Read how to make your CV useful for each opportunity you are applying for and pick up invaluable tips on making it clear, concise and accurate.
Headings and sections
A breakdown of the main sections contained in a good arts CV.
Always include the following sections:
NAME / CONTACT DETAILS
As well as your name, include where and when you were born and where you live and work. The essential information required here are your contact details: email, address, postcode and contact telephone number.
Details of your educational history with most recent first. Only go as far as qualifications attained after secondary school: degree / postgraduate / HND etc.
Any solo exhibitions you may have had, including year of exhibition, exhibition name, gallery and location (eg London). If you have had a lot of solo exhibitions, make the heading ‘Selected Solo Exhibitions’ and only include the most interesting and impressive.
Lay out the information as above, but for group exhibitions. Some artists choose to include the name of the curator, particularly if s/he is well known. Again, if you have had a lot of these, make the heading ‘Selected Group Exhibitions’ and include the most interesting and impressive.
Has anyone bought your work? If so, your work is now part of their collection. Again, year (of purchase) first, followed by name of collector / foundation / company etc.
Have you won or been short-listed for any awards? Give details of these.
Information on any publications that have written about you or your work, or information about any publications you have written for. It is best to include the name of essay / article, name of the publication, Issue / Volume number and date so it can be looked up. Include an nline reference if there is one.
Depending on the opportunity, also include these sections – think about the opportunity you are applying for and the experience you have, and include only the relevant headings and information:
Details of any work that has been commissioned for you to undertake. Commissions are important to include as they show the level of trust someone has made in you with their money. Include year, commissioner, and what the outcome was (eg, portrait, public artwork, etc)
Details of any residencies you have taken part in, including year and name of residency. Where the residency was particularly impressive, include one short sentence outlining the sort of research you carried out.
List any relevant experience you have and where and when you took part in specific projects. Include web links where you can.
Suitable for artists who produce publications as part of their practice (i.e. artists books). Information should be organised as above.
For all of the above, rather than write lots on information about each entry, include a website URL where possible so more information can be found.
Add more headings only if absolutely applicable.
Remember, there is no universally right or wrong way to write a CV. Don’t worry if you haven’t had lots of exhibitions or won an array of prizes – make the most of what you have achieved. A good, clear, concise 2 page CV is best – only include more information if the opportunity seems to require more, such as if it is for very established artists and they need to see more of your experience.
The difficulty in writing a good CV stems from the fact that there are no hard and fast rules – each opportunity calls for different element to be highlighted more strongly in your CV, and different elements to be left out or toned down. There is no exact right and wrong way, but there are certainly things that artists would benefit from considering when composing their CVs.
Here are some things to remember:
* Keep the design and layout of your CV very simple. Avoid elaborate fonts or designs
* Use black ink only – CVs are often photocopied where you send them, and colour printouts might not turn out as well as plain black and white
* Tailor your CV for the opportunity. Read the guidelines very carefully for whatever opportunity you are applying for, and include only relevant information. For example, if you are applying for a residency, include the other residencies you have done, or funding you have received to take part in residencies, or references from people who run residencies, etc.
* Use reverse chronological order with dated lists of your experience; for example, in your ‘Education’ section, put your most recent qualification or course at the top of the list.
* Keep your CV and the information you send concise and relevant.
* Include unnecessary information. You need only include the most recent experience or qualifications you have gained – and even then only if relevant. For example, don’t include any work experience in an exhibitions CV, but do include recent exhibitions in a residency CV, as this gives more information about the level of your arts career, and therefore allows a better judgment to be made about how you might do in a residency.
* Include information on school qualifications. Only higher or further qualifications need be included, unless you don’t have these. Do include short courses you have done if relevant – for example, Final Cut Pro training if you are applying for a new media residency.
* Make your CV longer than it needs to be. It is not more impressive to have a long CV, particularly if you are just starting out. Aim for 2 pages of A4 at the most.
* Squash everything together. Think about composition and layout, and make sure it is easy to read.
* Include photographs of yourself or your work- these should be included elsewhere in your application or submission where asked for.
* Using more than one font or typeface – keep the layout as simple as possible.
* Write a CV in prose or narrative – only use headings or bullet points as listed in the Headings and sections page.
Your CV is for presenting factual information about yourself to the world. Always consider:
* What is the purpose of sending this CV?
* What am I applying for?
* What do they need to know about me?
* How can I best present myself?
Your CV is like a calling card – how it is laid out, organised and what it contains is the only information the people you are sending it to will have about you.
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