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Working, Exhibiting & Studying Abroad

Answers to your questions regarding traveling abroad for professional visual art purposes.

I'm interested in exhibiting my work abroad. Where do I start?

Beginning is always daunting because you have so many options. Narrow down the field. Consider the international contacts you already have: do you know artists, gallery staff, museum staff, or others overseas? Have you done an artists' residency abroad? Have you sold work to buyers in another country? Contact these people and let them know that you're considering taking your work abroad. They may be able to give you informed suggestions and connect you with the people who can best appreciate your work.

Also, consider the environment that you think would be most appropriate: is there a gallery, international festival, or other event in which your work would fit well? Is there a community of artists in a particular region doing work similar to your own? Does your work feature a theme, concern or technique that people in a certain community may find interesting? Research the art being produced in different communities and think about where your work would have the greatest impact.

Check out the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade: they publish market reports for various locations, to help you identify foreign opportunities and learn more about your target market.

Always do your research before seriously pursuing an exhibition with an international gallery: unfortunately, there are some non-legitimate international exhibitions which promote themselves to Canadian artists. Beware of galleries or art events which ask for large registrations upfront, or which take large commissions.

How can I find out about opportunities to exhibit internationally?

Again, start with your existing contacts: artists, gallery staff, museum staff, and others involved in the community where you would like to show your work. Find out if there are any artists visiting from the region where you'd like to exhibit: ask if you can meet with them to get their suggestions as an insider. Consider doing an artists' residency or taking classes in another country, and use some of that time to connect with local artists and galleries.

You can find out about opportunities to exhibit internationally through the Department of Canadian Heritage, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, various Canadian embassies worldwide, and e-mail bulletins such as CARFAC ONline, which is available exclusively to CARFAC Ontario members.

Many cities have arts listservs like Instant Coffee or Akimbo. By subscribing, you'll find out about exhibition opportunities and also familiarize yourself with the city's activities. Also, a city's tourism office will often have a list of the top local galleries and links to their sites.

I'd like to do an international residency; how do I find out about them?

The Canada Council can connect you with residencies: check out their International Residency Program in the Visual Arts and their Grants to New Media and Audio Artists: New Media Residencies. Email bulletins such as CARFAC ONline often post residencies with upcoming deadlines.

If you can't seem to find the type of residency you're looking for, contact a local residency and ask their advice: often they will be able to refer you to a program that can suit your needs. If you are looking for a very specific type of residency - i.e. one which could provide you with a specific type of equipment, or one where you could work in an obscure medium - try contacting a gallery or artist who also works with that medium or equipment; they may be able to refer you to an appropriate residency.

I'd like to continue my art education abroad; what do I need to know?

There are a number of sites which feature searchable databases of art schools in the United States and internationally: check out (American and Canadian schools), (American and international schools) and (international schools). The Association of Independent Colleges of Art & Design lists 35 of the United States' top schools. The Council on International Educational Exchange creates and administers programs that allow students to study, work and teach abroad; this site only lists the schools they can connect you with, but there are a fair number.

I'll be taking some of my works out of the country; what do I need to know if I am bringing them back into Canada?

Before leaving Canada, stop in at Canada Customs with a list detailing what you'll be taking abroad: any equipment, supplies, and artworks. Include a description and list the value of all items. Get this list stamped by Canada Customs; this should make your re-entry into Canada easier and faster.

Also, fill out Certificates of Canadian Origin and for all the works you are transporting: download the form here, fill it out, and send it to CARFAC National in Ottawa for certification. Mark all works clearly and permanently with the words "Made in Canada". The CARFAC Advisory Note 'Exhibiting / Selling Outside Canada' goes into detail about the bureaucratic hoops you will be expected to jump through. This note is free for all members, contact CARFAC Ontario for your copy. Also contact the Canadian Border Services Agency for more information.

I am travelling to the United States. What do I need to know?

If you are exhibiting your work or traveling to the US for your art career, visit Artists from Abroad. This website provides a complete guide to Immigration and Tax requirements for foreign guest artists in the United States.

Are there any grants available to artists exhibiting abroad?

Yes, the Canada Council has two types of travel grants: one for visual artists and another for media artists. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade also offers grants for international exhibition.

What do I need to know about shipping and transporting my work abroad?

The CARFAC Advisory Note 'Exhibiting / Selling Outside Canada' goes into detail on questions of shipping and transportation; this note is free for all members. Contact us to get your copy.

CARFAC Ontario also publishes and sells Information for Artists: A practical guide for visual artists, which includes information on: what you need to know about the different types of transport, tips on making sure your work is shipped with minimum damage, and illustrated instructions on how to properly pack and crate different types of work.

The Packing, Art Handling, and Crating Information Network (PACIN) and the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) are two other great resources: they can advise you on what types of packing and crating you will need, and in some cases how you can do this yourself. PACIN has developed three publications on packing and crating methods and materials -- "Soft Packing, Methods and Methodology for the Packing and Transport of Art and Artifacts", "The Crate Itself, Proven Design Techniques and Alternative Ideas" and "Technical Drawing Handbook of Packing and Crating Methods." CCI, a division of Heritage Canada, sells CCI Notes, which offer practical advice about issues and questions related to the care, handling, and storage of cultural objects. Some CCI Notes of interest include publications on how to care for paintings, ceramics, glass, bookworks, textiles, photographs and equipment, and industrial equipment, as well as general information on the different types of storage and shipping, and tips.

What do I need to know about insurance on works exported abroad?

The CARFAC Advisory Notes 'Exhibiting / Selling Outside Canada' and 'Insuring Your Artwork' go into detail on questions of insurance; these notes are free for all members. Contact us to get your copy.

Will my copyright be respected when my work is shown outside of Canada?

There is always the chance that your copyrights will not be respected, in Canada or abroad. Make sure to mark the copyright symbol clearly on your work - permanently and in a location visible upon a reasonable inspection - along with your name and the year you produced the work: for example, © Jane Artist, 2004. If you find yourself in a dispute over a copyright issue, contact the local Canadian Embassy. If you are a CARCC member, you can also contact them.

There are international standards for copyright: contact the World Intellectual Property Organization for details. They are the United Nations organization governing international norms for copyrights, and 180 member countries have signed on to their convention. Also see the UNESCO site, which has information on the Universal Copyright Convention.

What do I do if I get into a legal dispute with a gallery, dealer or art buyer outside of the country?

This issue can become complicated if your contract with the gallery, dealer or buyer does not address the issue of jurisdiction: which country's laws govern the agreement. Ideally, your contract should state clearly which country has jurisdiction. If not, contact the local Canadian Embassy, CARFAC Ontario, and, if you are a member, CARCC.


CARFAC Ontario is the association of visual and media artists in Ontario. Our vision is for vibrant, equitable, and sustainable communities in which we as artists are properly recognized for the role we play.


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