Having a concise, up-to-date CV is important when applying for residencies, exhibitions or other professional opportunities.
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 other elements to be left out or toned down.
Your CV is like a calling card – how it is laid out, organised and what it contains will provide unspoken information to the people you are sending it to.
It is important to remember that a CV for arts opportunities is very different from a CV used for applying for jobs. Although presentation is important for either, an art CV has different requirements. This document is only concerned with arts-related CVs.
Include a selection of the following sections where relevant, including website and social network links where appropriate.
Name and contact details
As well as your name, include where and when you were born and where you live and work, as well as your contact details and website.
Details of your educational history with most recent first. Only go as far as qualifications attained after secondary school.
Solo and group exhibitions
State if an exhibitions was solo or group, and include year of exhibition, exhibition name, gallery and geographic location. Include the name of the curator if s/he is well known. If you have had a lot of exhibitions, make the heading ‘Selected Exhibitions’ and only include the most interesting and impressive.
List any private or public collections your work has been bought for, and include year of purchase first, name of collector / foundation / company etc.
Give details of any awards you have you won or been shortlisted for.
Publications – articles, books, academic papers etc – that have written about you or your work, or that you have written for. Include the name of essay / article, name of publication, Issue / Volume number and date so it can be looked up. Include a web link if possible.
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)
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, where this is important for this version of your CV.
Length and tips
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.
Things to remember:
- Keep the design and layout of your CV very simple. Avoid elaborate fonts or designs
- Use black ink only – CVs may be photocopied or printed, and colour printouts might not turn out as well as plain black and white
- Tailor your CV for the opportunity. Read the guidelines 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.
Things to avoid:
- 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.
- 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.
- Long CVs. 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.
- Squashed or small text. 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.
- Prose or narrative CVs – only use headings or bullet points for ease and speed of reading.
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?