Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

I have sold some art online, but my network is relatively small on social media and I'm not getting the visibility and sales that I would like. I live in Pittsburgh, although I am relatively new here and don't have any local contacts. I have looked at participating in local festivals, but a full tent setup is required just to apply! Do I invest in all of the equipment just to take a photo and then apply, hoping to get in, which will require further financial investment?

I've searched for answers on this but haven't come across any answers for those in my situation, who are trying to enter the art scene and wondering if this is the best way as an emerging artist. Sorry if this has been discussed and I've missed it! I would greatly appreciate any wisdom and experience. Thanks!

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I, too, am an emerging artist.  Your situation sounds very similar to mine.  I just started creating art after moving to the Cleveland area three years ago.  I started out just doing local art and craft shows, because they were all indoors and table fees were low.  But while I had tons of people stop to compliment me on my works, very few bought because of the price point for original work.  These types of venues just don’t attract the right types of customers and the amount of traffic necessary to succeed financially.  So this year, I finally purchased a tent and some flourish mesh walls, and will be trying to get into some more serious art shows.  My first application was rejected, but I think it was because I tried to take my booth shot on a relatively warm day in January! and it wasn’t very good.  But, was trying to meet an application deadline and had no other choice.  That said, if you take the plunge, do concentrate on trying to get a good booth shot!  I participated in a mock jury earlier this year, and it was most helpful in learning what criteria the judges use for both the artwork and the booth shots...and booth shots are important!

I'm learning that getting an excellent booth shot is key! I've done craft fairs in the past (not with my art) and I agree that they aren't great venues for those purchasing fine art. Did you buy the Flourish tent as well? I'm looking at getting the mesh walls. 

If you don't want to wait for a good emerging artist program, just go to Sams Club and get a cheap EZ Up.  Runs about $250.  Look on Pinterest for different ways to display your art in your booth without buying Propanels or mesh walls.

Give it a go for 3 or 4 shows, and if you like it, invest all your profit back into your booth.  Before you know it, you'll have an amazing booth!  Or you'll decide art shows aren't for you and you'll only be out a few hundred dollars.

It took me 7 years to get my booth to where it is now (about a $6K investment) and its still not 100% where I want it to be.

I've looked at low-budget tents at Costco, but it seems that the options for hanging the art is where the big expense is. I've seen the metal grids and such, but I don't think they look good for displaying art, but I'll do some more digging. 

$6000 investment--yikes! I need to get selling some art. Thanks for your comments and suggestions!

Hi Tara. I am in a very similar situation. I am not really an emerging artist as I am very well established in my specific art industry. But I have never done an art fair, so, emerging art fair artist I guess. I am doing my first art fair this weekend (actually it's just one day, Sunday).

I had the same concerns as you about investing the money. Got a lot of advice about buying a cheap set up just to get started. But I am the kind of person that just cannot present my work in a "cheap" way. I think the presentation is just as important as the actual art. I think a good presentation will sell more art. The overall presentation will give the potential buyers their first impression of me. 

Like others have said, it is a business. If I was starting any other type of business, I would invest the money it would take to be successful. So why not here?

I went out and got a Showoff canopy with solid walls and a gallery hanging system. Set it up and took my booth shot. I have applied for 4 shows and am still waiting for results. My show this weekend is a very small local show that I did not need a booth shot for and I got in just by emailing a few pics to the promoter. I am using it as a dry run to work out the kinks before any bigger shows. 

If it does not work out, I will just sell the tent.

Hi Eric, thanks for your response! How did your dry run go? I hope it was lucrative. I am the same with being concerned with presentation and I don't want it to look cheap and take away from my art. I'd love to hear more about your experiences in future fairs.

Another thought, if you want to hold off making the larger investment until you know you've been accepted into shows, is to rent your tent setup so you can get the booth photo. A cursory Google search for "gridwall rental" and "tradeshow rentals" seemed to produce good results

Good luck!!

Thank you, I have wondered if that would be a good way to go. I'll Google that now!

I'm not 100% sure but I think Larry Berman is in the Pittsburgh area, you may have seen his name mentioned in other posts. He would be your go to guy to help with booth photos, he may even be able to set up your work in a tent he has? His ad is on these pages.

Thank you, I was just checking out his website. Cheers

I’m not sure how it happened, but I got into 12 of the 14 shows I applied to, all with a “booth” shot of a mock setup in a corner of my living room of how the booth would be set up within the canopy. Just a couple shows emailed me questions and I mentioned I was waiting in the canopy to arrive, plus I’d taken the shot in the middle of a snowy winter in Michigan. 

Then once instarted getting the invitations, I went ahead and invested in a used Flourish canopy. :)

Wow, that's great that you got accepted with the mock up, and congrats on 12 out of 14! Best of luck to you!

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