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Re: On Open A&S Competitions

Poster: SNSpies@aol.com

MOAS Genevieve has addresses several concerns she has with, I assume, last 
year's Kingdom A & S Festival.  I would like to respond to some of these, if 
I may please.

<< My reasons for not having Open Competitions are as follows:
<< From a judges' standpoint, it is extremely difficult to compare (or even
 determine a winner) when the category is so broad.  How do you compare
 apples to oranges?  This is why categories can make judging a bit
 easier, at least on the judges.  
I'm sorry, but I don't remember any wide-open categories from last year's 
"festival"  If I do remember correctly, apples were compared with apples, 
oranges with oranges.  If there were some categories that were too broad 
(perhaps in the music area?), then narrow them down a bit so that a harpist 
isn't being compared with a singer. 

<<Another reason from the judges' standpoint is finding judges to cover
 the competition.  Ideally, judges are found beforehand to reduce last
 minute gathering at the event.  In this case you are not likely, nor
 certain to get a judge who can cover many categories well.  In this
 case, the entrant may receive either uninformed comments or sources from
 the unprepared judge.  It would be best to have Needlelace judged by
 someone who at least does fiber arts, as opposed to someone whose
 specialty is in cooking.  You also want to have consistent judging
 throughout a competition, but no one could possibly know well the
 subjects of the wide variety of arts entered.  I feel that in addition
 to perhaps not being helpful, it could hurt the artisan.
Anyone who has attained a laurel should be very familiar with the processes 
of documentation, research, the steps behind making a modern item in a 
medieval re-creation group, etc.  It is not necessary to be au fait with the 
documentation of every category to be judged.  I have been told by numerous 
laurels that part of their job is to judge competitions, to oversee the 
kingdom's attainments in the arts and sciences.  Comments made on judging 
forms should always be constructive which does not necessarily mean that 
someone's feelings will not be hurt.  Can one say that all the fighters at 
crown tourneys who do not win go away happy and satisfied with the 
marshalling?  But have they also learned something, perhaps a better way to 
make a blow or a better method for attaching a piece of armor?  

<<The SCA has often been charged with not being fair.  Now the SCA is not
 designed to be fair, but it does strive to offer a level playing field. 
 I do not feel that Open A&S competitions offer this level playing
 field.  At least when a novice costumer is pitted against an expert,
 comparisons can be made.  However, when a novice armourer is pitted
 against an expert illuminator, where does comparison come in, and what
 is the likelihood of getting judges who can fairly judge and be
 knowledgeable in these two fields.
Again, I don't really understand what is meant here.  There was not "open 
competition" last year, that I remember.  Armor was judged against armor;  
illuminations were all in one room in one category.  This makes a level 
playing field for each of those types of art.

<< Also, I believe that many artisans enter their works in competitions of
 all types to gain insight as well as perhaps recognition.  Recognition
 can be gained in other manners such as doing the art for the Kingdom,
 Barony or other group, or putting together a great display illustrating
 the art created by the artisan.  Winning a competition does not
 necessarily carry the recognition that most would like to achieve. 

That is quite true, but then, the winners were not really recognized last 
year, were they?  After all that hard work, not one of the category winners 
was called up in front of the throne to be recognized.  The names of the 
winners were announced and they got to go to the back of the room to pick up 
their prizes.  I personally would have loved to see and know who won what so 
that I could compliment them in person as well as know who to see later 
should I have questions, etc. concerning their area of expertise.

I have been in four SCA kingdoms, and in every one but this one, the yearly 
arts and science competition was a Big Event.  The entries were wonderful and 
many, and the attendance at the event was large.  The winners of each 
competition were called in front of the throne during court, recognized, and 
given a scroll/gift/whatever.  Then usually an over-all winner was announced, 
that person who had accued the most points overall.  That person was declared 
the kingdom champion for the year, and in once case, that person's shire was 
declared the kingdom patron for the arts and sciences and expected to be at 
the forefront in that area for the year.  In other words, this was the 
equivalent of Crown Tourney for the kingdom artisans and meant to be on the 
same level as Crown Tourney.  As an artisan, I think this is absolutely 
essential to a well-balanced kingdom.

 addition to the recognition level, I do not see how the Open
 Competitions can offer the best insight to an artisan.  If the judges,
 once again, are not experts, then they may not be able to offer the best
 insight.  To get really helpful and constructive criticism, one is
 better off entering a themed competition that matches their category, or
 simply asking an expert.  I am a big fan of asking an expert their
 opinion instead of hoping for input from judges.  The A&S community is
 bigger than any A&S competition can illustrate.
But how do we know who the experts are unless we all get together 
occasionally to meet them?  Doing arts and sciences by the bits-and-pieces 
method at different events is a great idea, but you don't get the majority of 
your kingdom artisans at those events, and the likelihood of meeting those 
you want to meet can be rather small.  A big, yearly event tends to bring 
them all together, and you can then find the people you are looking for.  
Another way for the kingdom to know who the experts are would be for them to 
be writing articles for "The Acorn" frequently or at least identifying 
themselves ... "Hi, my name is Bob.  I would be happy to help anyone with 
medieval methods of smoking fish." ... sort of thing.

<< So in short I am against Open Competitions since they do not offer the
 best of comments to the artisan, they do not resemble an even playing
 field, and can prove harmful to the artisan's ego and by default their
 enthusiasm.  Instead, to those who would like to show off their works, I
 suggest putting together a fabulous display.  Then one does not have to
 worry about if it fits the category or not.  One does not have to be
 concerned with the other various arts entered.  One can include more
 detailed documentation for the piece since competition documentation
 should be relatively brief.  One can also show progress with different
 pieces or photos/examples of stages to reach the finished project.  All
 of this can be the benefits of Display.
These are all valid arguments, but one of the most basic of human traits is 
being totally neglected here - people like to compete.  Competition brings 
out the best in people (and the worst, of course!).  Competition gives you 
something to strive for, a goal to work toward.  Competition closely focuses 
attention on those things being competed for/about.  For example, it is 
wonderful to make some new garb and wear it to an event where several people 
may feel brave enough to come up and look at your seams.  It is a different 
matter entirely to have that garb in competition where it can be studied 
closely, discussed as to its fabric, stitching, pattern, etc.  It can be 
analysed closely by everyone attending that competition, and hopefully 
stimulate others to try some of the techniques it shows. 

The displays at last year's "festival" were wonderful, by the way, but they 
added to, not replaced, the competitions that were taking place.

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