Quote Originally Posted by gbenaim View Post
....there's an overarching sense of the unfairness of the system (justified or not) on the part of most people I was in touch with, a perception that should at least be addressed openly by the people running these events.
Not sure where the "unfairness" is. These people (venue operators) offer a service (exposure, promotion, exhibition space) for a price, which service can be purchased at the discretion of the individual photographer. It's only unfair if you view this service as an entitlement for all that is beyond the means of some.

...there's definitely a need for a low-cost alternative to the current options, ideally funded by government...
Greaaat. Aside from the fact that the constitution nowhere specifically authorizes the federal government to write checks to photographers (not that constitutional niceties should give us pause after a trillion dollars of "stimulus"), is it really wise to make art funding dependent on the whims of whomever is in charge at the time? And do we want to substitute admissions jurors for a panel of government appointees who'll have to wade through the piles of submissions to determine who gets the grants?

...or non-profit supporters of the arts, to cover the needs of those left out for financial reasons.
At least this notion has the virtue of being a private-sector solution, though no less arbitrary and subject to bias and jealousy for it.