letters of recommendation for artists

Letters of Recommendation

You will likely need many letters of recommendation during your art career. Here are some helpful hints to help you make the process easy and rewarding for both you and the person writing your letter of support.

1. It is a good idea to maintain a relationship with someone who can write you a letter of support. Don’t ask someone you have not seen or talked to for 10 years to write you a letter. First of all, she/he doesn’t know about your recent work and your current activities and interests. If you have a favorite teacher, keep in contact with her/him and let her/him know about your exhibitions and accomplishments.

2. If at all possible, never ask someone to write a letter at the last minute. You should give at least two weeks to write a letter. Many people get asked to write letters all the time, and they may have their own deadlines to consider.

3. Always ask the recommender if she/he has time to write a letter. If so, send her/him all the pertinent information to write the letter successfully, including:

The name of the person the letter needs to be addressed to, along with the organization and address.

Instructions from the recipient. Many institutions and organizations have specific guidelines when submitting letters of recommendations. Some recipients require emailed letters only while others want a hard copy send directly from the author. Do your research and provide all pertinent information to recommender.

Information about what you are applying for (grant, teaching position, curatorial job, etc.).

Background information about your connections with the organization.

The deadline the letter must be received by or postmarked.

A pre-addressed envelope and postage. 

A current, up-to-date artist statement and résumé.

Include Lo Res images or a link to your website so that she/he can familiarize yourself with your most recent work. 

 A description of your project or application.

 Your sincere gratitude. Writing letters of recommendation takes a lot of work to do it right, and you want to be sure your recommender knows how appreciative you are. 

4. Always send a thank you card within a week of getting your letter of recommendation. If your recommender went out of her/his way to help you, consider doing something special for him/her as a thank you, such as sending flowers or a gift certificate, or a nice card. Anything other than an email will be especially noticed and appreciated.

5. Spread your letters around to various people, to minimize the risk of burning out your recommenders with too many requests.

Often persons in positions of authority—teachers, managers, gallery and museum directors, are inundated with requests for letters of recommendation. They may request that you write your own letter of recommendation and send it to them for approval, at which time they will review it, perhaps edit or add to it, and sign and send it off. This is a normal and accepted practice in the art world. If you find yourself in this situation write as professional a letter as possible. Don’t over inflate your accomplishments, but don’t be shy either. As always, write many drafts of your letter before you send it off to make sure that you haven’t included any grammatical or spelling errors.

If you find yourself applying to too many opportunities that require a letter of recommendation, save copies of previous letters. Ask permission from a frequently requested recommender to use the same letter for various applications. If given permission, you may alter the letter yourself to fit the organization’s requests. This will not only save your recommender time, but will save you time as well. Although a fresh and direct letter to your recipient is always the best approach, it is understandable to be prepared for that last minute application.


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You can also get our popular book for artists, Getting Your Sh*t Together: The Ultimate Business Manual for Every Practicing Artist, which includes all of this information and more here.