Name of organisation

The Royal Ulster Academy of Arts

Tell us about the history of the Academy

The Academy is an artist-led organisation which aims to celebrate, enrich and expand contemporary approaches to the visual arts.  It was originally founded in 1879 as the Belfast Ramblers’ Sketching Club, became the Ulster Academy of Arts in 1930 and became the Royal Ulster Academy in 1950.

What makes your open call different from others in this space?

Our call is different because it not only encourages artists from all disciplines, including video, to submit their work but it also restricts space available to members.  This allows more hanging space for submitting artists and a maximum opportunity for success through the selection process.  The exhibition is an excellent opportunity for successful artists to showcase their work in a National Museum (the Ulster Museum) over a three-month period, with both good footfall (90,000 visitors last year) and high sales.

Is there a particular type of artist you would like to encourage to enter your calls?  Why do you think this is important?

One of the fundamental objectives of the Academy is education through the visual arts.  Hence, we want to encourage all artists from all disciplines, amateur and professional to join with the members of the academy to create a stunning annual exhibition.

Filming The Secret Artists

What would you say is the value of entering open calls? Do you have a message for artists who are thinking about entering your call? 

I would say to anyone thinking of entering that this is an excellent opportunity to showcase your work in a National Museum over a three-month period, to an audience of 90,000 visitors with great sales opportunities.  The RUA is not only, by far, the biggest platform for the visual arts in Northern Ireland but also a premier exhibition in Ireland and the UK.  Any artist thinking about entering (maybe for the first time) will find Hilary Fennell’s documentary “The Secret Artists” helpful. You can find it online.

Inside the UK on BBC iplayer

or – outside the UK on vimeo

Do entrants have to live in a specific area:

We accept entries from artists worldwide.

If your open call includes prizes and awards, tell us if any are new, or very attractive to prospective participants.  

The exhibition offers many prizes including cash prizes and exhibition opportunities and both.  We are constantly seeking new prizes and a full list of this year’s prizes and awards will be published on OESS.

PRIZE GIVING L to R: President Dan Dowling with Jack Pakenham; President Dan Dowling with Craig Donald (photos by P O’Hara)

How many selectors do you typically invite to judge your open calls?

This year we have seven selectors with a separate team for video.

Are your selectors from your organisation or do you use selectors from outside your membership pool?

One selector is a senior curator from the Ulster Museum.  The others are members as well as being professional artists from a range of disciplines. The video selectors are a mixture of members and a curator from the Ulster Museum who are all highly experienced in this particular field.

How many rounds of selection do you hold? Are any of them in person?

We have one selection online over a period of months and one in-person physical selection over several days.

Open call details:

  • Deadline for entries: 17 July 2023, 4pm
  • Selection notification: 1 August 2023
  • Artwork delivery: 6 August 2023
  • Exhibition open to the public: 13 October 2023 – 2 January 2024
  • Enter via the OLIST