Left to right, top to bottom: Dave Van Patten, Modern Prometheus; Pross, Blue Sights; Jazmine Atienza, Last Stop; Kristina Ambriz, Wall of Concrete; Jose Loza, Memory and Perspective; Eric Almanza, The Journey Home. Learn more here.

“Leading an online artist selection panel went smoothly and had a number of unexpected positive results,” shares Maya Emsden of LA Metro Arts & Design for Art-in-Transit

We’re all adjusting to operating remotely as we try to keep projects moving forward. LA Metro Arts & Design for Art-in-Transit didn’t let sheltering-in-place orders keep them from convening (virtually) and running a successful artist selection panel. The show must go on!

Metro Art enhances the customer experience with innovative, award-winning visual and performing arts programming that encourages ridership and connects people, sites, and neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles County. A diverse range of site-specific artworks are integrated into the growing Metro system, improving the visual quality of transit environments and creating a sense of place. From photography installations to onboard posters, art tours and live performances, their multi-faceted arts programs add vibrancy and engage communities throughout Los Angeles.

The Metro Arts & Design staff generously shared tips for planning, testing, and setting up an online artist selection panel. 

 

Research online meeting software and dial-in options.

Run internal tests to narrow your selection. Metro Arts & Design staff researched and tested Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Zoom and GoToMeeting. They ended up going with Microsoft Teams.

 

Run a test meeting. 

Run a test meeting with each artist and all panelists in your selected software. This way you can learn beforehand if a particular connection is slow, which affects the quality of audio and visuals during the meeting. 

Testing is not only important to resolving technical issues with software installation, microphones, speakers, and internet, it is also an important opportunity to acclimate the users to provide comfort, ease, and familiarity with the remote method. 

 

Establish roles and responsibilities in advance.

Here are some roles you can assign:

“Host” guides the panel, sets the tone and direction, and provides introductions.

“Facilitator” understands the software, watches the lobby to admit participants, and shares their screen with each preloaded presentation.

“Scribe” takes notes, documents attendance, and keeps time. Remember, in this format, it can be hard to get attention for timing or introductions without interrupting. 

 

Coordinate with each artist presenting.

During testing, decide with the artist who will share the screen and “drive” the presentation. Pick a word/cue with the artist to initiate page-turning, like “next.” Test all intended file types (PPT, PDF, JPG, MP4) with screen sharing to make sure pages change on cue and videos play. This is also a good time to remind the artist of the presentation schedule and timing. 

Artwork by Nobuho Nagasawa. Image credit: Heidi Zeller (LA Metro)

 

Have contingency plans in place for any unexpected issues.

To anticipate internet issues, have a method to dial in via phone and follow along. 

For software issues, have an alternative option tested. 

For scheduling issues, have a list of direct phone and email numbers of participants. 

And make sure to communicate the contingency plans to the participants. 

 

Consider these features for your panel. 

If anonymity is important between panelists and/or artists, research privacy and sharing controls in the online platform. Consider setting up separate calendar appointments with the meeting information to hide attendee emails. 

Enable “lobby” or “waiting room” features to control when artists enter. This way you can avoid any overheard discussion and unwanted guests. 

Establish an alternate channel for discussion between those running the panel, such as a group text or other chat software (such as Slack), for private logistical communications without interrupting the panel. 

 

Prepare in advance of the meeting. 

Create scoring sheets and test formulas for any weighted calculations. 

Distribute proposal files to panelists. This allows them the opportunity to see the images in high(er) resolution than the shared screen, especially for video. And if you have to resort to a call-in method, everyone will have a copy to follow along with. This also helps set a clear, strict deadline for final versions of artist proposal files.

You can easily create a PDF within Artwork Archive. Simply select the works and information you’d like to share. High-res images are included, and it can be distributed from your Artwork Archive account. You can learn more here.

Decide on policy on recording the meeting and, as a courtesy, notify the participants. 

LA Metro recommends not recording since distribution can be hard to control, and it may cause unease among the participants. 

Send out a reminder and etiquette email that includes the agenda and sets expectations, such as how one should enter/exit the room, when to deliberate, when there will be breaks, muting or other settings, and if there will be any observers (who will be in the room). 

 

On the day of the panel consider these steps. 

  1. Distribute a contact list within the internal team so you easily connect in the event of technical or scheduling issues. 

  2. Turn off all notifications, calendar reminders, and alerts on the day of the panel. This is also a good reminder for all attendees to avoid background noise. 

  3. The facilitator should check that all the files are properly sorted in generic folders on the desktop (Artist 1, 2, 3), for easy access and to keep anonymity. You can also use Collections within your Artwork Archive account. 

  4. Make sure that none of the software programs run new updates during the panel presentations. 

  5. In lieu of a sign-in sheet, periodic screen captures can document attendance. 

  6. Remind attendees of the etiquette guidelines. This might include: to not use the shared chat and meeting notes (to avoid overshared/overseen proposal deliberations), to turn on cameras for introductions (as a comforting courtesy), to turn off microphones when not speaking (to cut down background noise), to use headphones if they are creating an echo, and to provide their name again when asking questions. 

  7. Provide the panel a brief refresher to the site, project, and artwork goals. There is likely a lot on everyone’s mind, so a reorientation can be very helpful and provides a forum for panelists to ask clarifying questions before beginning. 

  8. Let the panelists know when a new person/artist enters/leaves the room. Prompt them to introduce themselves to the new artist. Notify everyone when they can begin discussing a presentation. 

  9. Speak slowly and calmly. The digital format can lead to a faster pace. 

  10. Be careful that screen sharing is turned off between presentations. Allow a bit of time to switch between files and let panelists stretch before admitting the next artist into the digital room. 

  11. For scoring, remind panelists to take notes on their scoresheet as they go. After presentations, panelists can discuss and read aloud their scores, and the facilitator can add the scores on a master tally spreadsheet over screen share. This allows panelists to see the scores auto-calculate and negotiate until there is consensus. 

Work by Daniel J. Martinez. Photo credit: Heidi Zeller (LA Metro)

Here are some tips for wrapping up the panel. 

Send out a thank you. This process often requires additional patience and testing for all. And, provide any wrap-up instructions, such as invoicing. 

Panelists should submit their final, signed, and dated scoresheet within 24 hours. 

Format notes and documentation while the information is still fresh, ideally within 24 hours. 

Provide an opportunity for feedback from participants for future improvements on the process.

You may experience unexpected benefits with this new process.  

The LA Metro panel team enjoyed the “inside peek” into artist studios instead of a formal presentation room. Some artists even took advantage of their background and included pinups of concept sketches. 

According to Maya, "the virtual format also allowed newer or nervous artists to present more confidently since they were in their own setting. They also weren’t fully visible so it made fidgeting less obvious, and they had the opportunity to read notes."

Looking for more information to help in these COVID-19 times? Check out our Artwork Archive COVID-19 Resource page.