2020 FotoFocus Biennial Participating Venue Guidelines

FotoFocus is excited to announce Participating Venue Applications are now available for the 2020 FotoFocus Biennial. Applicants need to include a confirmed exhibition venue and proposed project to be presented during October 2020. Application will be reviewed by the FotoFocus Curatorial Team and awarded acceptance and grants based on artistic merit, excellence, and alignment with the FotoFocus mission, response to the 2020 FotoFocus Biennial theme: light &, and adherence to these Participating Venue Guidelines.

Please note that if you were a Participating Venue in the 2018 FotoFocus Biennial, you must have completed the FotoFocus Participating Venue 2018 Biennial Questionnaire Form to be eligible for the 2020 FotoFocus Biennial.


Official Application Submission Deadline: September 30, 2019

Applications must be submitted by Monday, September 30, 2019 to ensure consideration for inclusion and funding as a 2020 FotoFocus Biennial Participating Venue.

Letters & Contracts Notification: December 1, 2019

Applicants will receive notifications and contracts, if accepted, the first week in December. A copy of the contract is to be signed and emailed/mailed back to FotoFocus by January 10, 2020.

By completing the 2020 Participating Venue Application, Applicant agrees to:

  • Respond to the 2020 FotoFocus Biennial theme: light & 
  • Promote the 2020 FotoFocus Biennial on site at venue, in social media, on website, and in all promotional and educational materials related to the FotoFocus project
  • Include education/community outreach initiatives as part of the proposed programming
  • Include free open exhibition hours for FotoFocus Passport Holders during the month of October 2020. Venue should offer a selection of weekdays and weekend-days throughout the month
  • Include examples of artists(s) work for the proposed exhibition/program
  • Follow guidelines set forth for FotoFocus and Biennial brand and logo usage. (Guidelines will be provided by FotoFocus at a later date)
  • NOT host special events and programing related to FotoFocus (other than exhibition hours) between October 1-4, 2020 (FotoFocus Biennial Program Week)
  • Complete a final report following the close of the exhibition, which will include attendance figures, as well as venue and visitor feedback. (Report will be provided by FotoFocus at a later date)

Funding Structure

Select funding is available for Participating Venues that fulfill the criteria, but not all venues will receive funding and not all requests will be met at 100%. All venues awarded funding will receive 50% of the grant with the acceptance notification and contract in December 2019. The remaining 50% will be received following successful execution of the project and submission of the final report.

FotoFocus Biennial Grant Regulations

FotoFocus granted funds can support the following: artists & curator honorariums & fees, artist lecture/curatorial travel expenses, shipping/installation/deinstallation/packing of the exhibition, reception/opening/special event hospitality, and education and/or community engagement programs. FotoFocus funds are NOT to be used for any indirect expenses. These include personnel expenses, including salaries, taxes, and benefits (that includes staff curators, security guards, educators), facility expenses including utilities, maintenance, lease, or rental fees, insurance, and office supplies. In addition, FotoFocus funds are NOT be used for marketing and promotional expenses, such as paid advertisements.

Promotional Materials

All confirmed FotoFocus Participating Venues will need to submit promotional materials for inclusion in the Biennial website and printed materials by March 6, 2020. Specifications for this request, as well as FotoFocus brand and logo guidelines, will be included in future correspondence from FotoFocus.

New Application & Image Submission Process

FotoFocus has partnered with Submittable for the new online 2020 Biennial Participating Venue Application. The application is available on the FotoFocus website. Each venue applicant will need to create a free account, if one does not already exist through Submittable. This application allows the venue applicant to save, edit, and review the application at any time before submitting the final application. Venue applicant will be instructed via Submittable to upload images or video of artist(s) work to be included in the proposed project, or examples of artist(s) work if new work is being proposed.

PLEASE NOTE: Each proposed exhibition must complete an individual application. If venue proposes more than one exhibition at the same location, each exhibition must be submitted as a separate application.

Participating Venue Meetings

Meetings are held quarterly by FotoFocus for Participating Venues as informative sessions related to the application process. These meetings provide an opportunity for FotoFocus to share updates on the upcoming Biennial and for venues to share lens-based programming in the community. Participation is required for new applicants but is not required for returning venues, but recommended. Meetings take place at noon at FotoFocus in Lightborne Studios (212 E 14th Street).

Meeting Schedule (subject to change)
  1. May 10, 2019, Friday
  2. August 30, 2019, Friday
  3. Winter TBD, 2020, Friday
  4. Summer TBD, 2020, Friday

FotoFocus 2020 Biennial: light &

FotoFocus 2020 Biennial: October 1–31, 2020
FotoFocus 2020 Biennial Program Week: October 1–4, 2020

FotoFocus Biennial Spotlight Dates

FotoFocus encourages Participating Venues to provide a programmed event (lecture, artist talk, reception, workshop, curator tour, etc.) during or outside the venue’s normal open gallery hours on the associated neighborhood date(s) below, if feasible. In addition, FotoFocus encourages each venue applicant to work with other surrounding venues to coordinate their proposed reception and/or program dates. This will help FotoFocus to better promote your programming and the surrounding venues involved with the Biennial.

2020 Neighborhood Spotlight Dates
  1. Downtown/OTR: September 25 and October 30, Final Fridays
  2. West: October 10, Saturday
  3. Dayton: October 16, Friday
  4. Northern Kentucky: October 17, Saturday
  5. East: October 24, Saturday
  6. Columbus: TBD

PLEASE NOTE: If venue isn’t “normally” open for the above Spotlight dates, FotoFocus can work with venue on a case by case basis to support this endeavor.


2020 Biennial Theme Description

Light is a fundamental aspect of photography. Though not perceptible itself, it is the substance that makes objects in the world visible and in color, and capable of being transcribed onto a two-dimensional surface resulting in a photograph or film. Light has many metaphorical nuances—it conjures hope as well as clarity, rational thought, and is central to many popular phrases, such as “see the light of day” and “bring to light”—but ultimately light is the one essential physical property that makes lens-based art possible.

Historically, light suggests an epic struggle between forces of good and evil, with dark playing the villain to light’s hero. The Enlightenment versus the Dark Ages: humankind’s quest for rational thought, fair governance, and empathetic kindness over dimness, oppression, and brutality. Throughout human history, societies have blossomed into enlightened periods and regressed into disorder. Let’s not assume a pattern of linear progression, that the darkness recedes and the sun rises. The sun sets too, and darkness falls.

Light has many poetic resonances—“light verse” being the most institutionalized—and is a word that anchors many other words, easily invented through the addition of a single letter or fragment, fore or aft. There are such airy and lofty words as alight, flight, lighten, and enlighten, but also grimmer words, such as blight, plight, and slight. The word light is central to human thought, to our grasp of reality (as well as fantasy), just as light the physical phenomenon is essential to photography. And as these examples show, light is something that is fluid, adaptable, generous, and mysterious. Light is cast and summons reason, beauty, but it is hard to explain exactly why. Like the rising sun, light is something we tend to take for granted yet it can induce sublime feeling when we stop for a moment to acknowledge it.

FotoFocus invites venues to submit projects that consider light and its myriad meanings in relation to lens-based projects. The 2020 Biennial theme, light &, suggests a specific point of departure: consider the phrase “light &” with what comes after. But other, less mechanical lines of thought are encouraged as well. More generally, Light & asks for the spectrum from interpretive analyses to flights of fancy on light and the many ways light informs and inspires our understanding of both photography and contemporary life.

About FotoFocus

Founded in 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio, FotoFocus is a nonprofit organization created to celebrate and champion photography as the medium of our time through programming that ignites a dialogue between contemporary lens-based art and the history of photography. This programming includes the FotoFocus Biennial, FotoFocus Symposium, and FotoFocus Lecture and Visiting Artist Series. FotoFocus supports programs throughout the region and has awarded over 500 grants to regional artists and institutions since 2010 for the production and presentation of photography and lens-based art.

FotoFocus Biennials

Launched in October 2012, the FotoFocus Biennial is a regional, month-long celebration of photography and lens-based art held throughout the Greater Cincinnati, Northern Kentucky, Dayton and Columbus region. FotoFocus was built around the idea of collaboration––a collective experience developed through a unique cooperation between art museums, artists, curators, and educators in the exploration of the photographic art form. The Biennial brings together the community to celebrate October as the Month of Photography and Lens-Based Art. Visit www.FotoFocus.org/Biennial for more information.

Download a PDF of these Guidelines.