Art Fair Insiders

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

Allow me this opportunity to vent. I applied to 4 shows already and have been declined by each one. It happens, I get that. Of course going to some of these, I see the same artists year in and year out. What really galls me is the blatant and I think sickening money grab that is the jury process. I am now out $200 for "jury fees". For what? To look at pictures and say thanks but no thanks. That $200 could have been put to good use like supplies to create more art. Instead it sits in a pocket of a promoter. This whole process is ridiculous!! Its an unnecessary gamble with no upside even for the artist who is lucky enough to get in. He or she is out upwards of $35 before they even sell a single piece! That's highway robbery and needs to stop. When casino riverboats first started, they charged $10 to get on the boat to gamble. Then they realized that was stupid and now its free. 

In my rejection letter, the Marion Arts Festival stated "We received 333 applications for 50 spots" THAT IS $9,900 BEFORE ONE PIECE IS SOLD!!! That is robbery with out firing a shot!!!

I think this experience has totally soured me on the outdoor art show. I have about $300 dollars outstanding in "JURY FEES". I am gonna take my $500 theft, lick my wounds and leave the circuit to the rest of you suckers.

Peter

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There are a lot of us "suckers" who are not quitters and failures. There is something to be said about the old saying "Quitters never Win & Winners Never Quit"...

Greg, 

Fair point. Im bitter. However, consider this situation. I see you on the street, I ask you for $30. You'll maybe have the right to give me $400 more for the right to make a lot more than that. Oops, sorry I will send you a form letter with no explanation what you did right or wrong. Just a sorry we are great and you arent as good. Plus even though I have your $30, you'll never hear from me again. The good news is that I get to do this to 300 more people. Does this sound like a good idea? If it does get 299 of your friends together and i will take $30+ dollars willingly from each of them. Sounds like a good living ?

Peter

What would you propose as an alternative? Did you know that many times, jurors are paid? So, the fee does not always 'stay in the pocket' of promoters. This is a competition. As we know, all good shows have large numbers of applicants. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose, like all competitions. And yes, it is frustrating to see the same people over and over - I agree. Results are mixed for most of us. I'm a jeweler and jewelry is by far the most applied for category for most shows and as such it's the hardest category in which to be accepted. This is a frustrating business for sure. I think one thing that could help is a budget for all major shows made public so that we know exactly how much is spent and where. Other than that, I don't know what else would improve this situation and make it more palatable. Are you suggesting that there be no jury fee? Or that all jury fees should be capped at say $20?

A little transparency would help. A little information would help too. Wouldnt you like to know why you didnt get in rather than no info at all. Shouldn't you get something other than a form letter for $30 or $60 dollars? I'm not sure why it is necessary for $10,000 for judging 333 artists? Seems a little steep doesn't it. 

That is how this business has been since I started in it years ago. We all have had numerous rejection letters and there might be 1 or 2 show promoters that actually make the effort to explain their reasons for the rejections.

The promoters could all make a bigger effort to communicate and explain their rejection letters but they also do not explain their acceptance letters. I seriously doubt they make a good living from the excess application fees since it is all thrown into the pot to cover the massive expenses of absolutely everything associated with putting on and promoting a show. Show promoters could explain their expenses much better.

I agree Greg. To not explain why or how an artist got in, is wrong and lazy. I guess keeping the artist guessing gets the artist to keep throwing good money after bad year in and year out hoping they know how to get in? I don't know if on the right side of this equation? 100 artists at $375 a pop, plus $35+from countless artists who either have no chance of getting in or do get in. I just think the process could be more transparent and helpful rather than just "pocketing the money" without explanation.

Peter
It sounds like you are for the first time realizing that the art business is a gamble. In everything, it takes money to make money. Check with every business on Main Street and ask them all the upfront fees they paid, licensing, permits, building remodels, inventory, staffing hires etc before they even sold their first item....

What if they used your stance? “He or she is out an upwards of 35 dollars before selling a single piece! This is highway robbery and needs to stop.”

I understand your frustration about not receiving feedback from jurors, but let’s cut to the chase... They don’t think your art is good enough. That’s it. They think you are boring and unoriginal. Feel better? Do you want them to say that? That’s what they are thinking. (I have not looked you or your art up. I don’t even know your medium so don’t take it personal.). But this is pretty much what they feel. Tell me, would you be satisfied with that response or would you just send back an angry email arguing why you don’t suck and why you are really good. What’s the point?

The jurors change every year, right? So you can’t just “write off” that show based on that years jury anyway. Once again, who cares what the jury thinks because they won’t even be there next year.

If you are getting rejected from every show, time to have that awkward conversation that maybe your art does suck. I’m not mean for pointing that out. Best way to know is to look at art shows you want to get into, look at the accepted artists, type each name in yahoo and scan their websites for their art. Compare. Look at price points, look at frames, look at it all. Send Larry your booth shot and let him look. If you aren’t willing to do that then I don’t believe you really even want to do the art fair circuit.

In all transparency, I get accepted to about 1 out of every 5 applications.

Years ago, I got a form letter rejection letter that said-

 " Your work was rejected because of the reason checked:"

1. Poor quality of work.

2. Poor quality of slides. ( Yes, that long ago)

3. Your work was fine, but too many applicants in your medium.

Mine had number 3 checked. 

Never saw this type of rejection letter again, ever, but I thought it was a good idea, it was at least something.

exactly. At least you knew you were on the right track. Also, applying next year makes sense. If you were blind and had no idea why you were rejected, you could spend hundreds over the next few years and make no changes.

Dori, explain to me what $10,000 goes towards 3 people looking at 5 images? You think that's the right price for that and a form letter? What other business does that? Its not a situation where you present your art to the public and they dont buy. Oh by the way that can happen to for an additional $400? If you can afford to throw away $400 just in jury fees, cause remember they cash it, in or out congrats!! Like they say in the Godfather "If you consider a million dollars in cash, just finance then salute Don Corleone"

Good thing there are still people willing to fork over $25 or $50 in two mediums for a meaningless piece of paper that says nothing. What a country

I'm not going to get into your not understanding how this business works, others already have. But I will suggest going to the ZAPP conference where the largest number of art show directors will be in one location and make your case to them. And since the ZAPP principals will be there, you can discuss enabling the system for shows to offer feedback on submissions.

There are a few shows that give feedback. Carla Fox of Art in the High Desert and Cindy Lerick of Sausalito (formally of St.Louis). I'm assuming the St Louis art fair will continue what Cindy started and The Broad Ripple Art Fair all give some form of feedback on your submission. They are able to do that despite the fact that the ZAPP system doesn't make it easy.

There are mock juries and open juries where you can see how your images project and also see the images of your competition projected. I've worked with thousands of artists and always have given free evaluations on how well your images will jury.

Lots of options if you know where to look.

Larry Berman
http://BermanGraphics.com
412-401-8100

Larry, just because I understand a system, doesnt mean I agree with it. Thanks for the insult anyway. I guess thats how things never change I guess. In fact, you do a good job of proving my point. You have spent many years and a ton of your time providing invaluable information on photos for the low, low price of absolutely free!! Is that too much to ask from someone who you blindly give $35 to? Is it too much to ask in a rejection letter as to why you didn't accept me? Despite all of the insults towards me, I have yet to get an answer to What do I get for my $35? 

Its kind of ironic that a group that moans and bitches constantly (no coffee and doughnuts, bad booth placement, no buyers, too many jewelers, no up and coming artists, etc, etc) is so silent when it comes to some major monetary issues. Jury fees are way out of control, booth fees are constantly on the rise, less buyers etc. 

Look despite everyones negativity towards me regarding looking at a system that is financially crazy for artists, I think artists need to grow a spine. Its a tough business, financially rewarding for some and not for others, I challenge anyone to show me another business where 1.you put up $35 or more, get a thumbs up or down with no explanation and non refundable win or lose. 2, You pay $350+ up front months before the actual event and then receive a piece of open ground where you get to bring everything yourself to setup. 3, Even if mother nature has it out for you and rain and wind comes calling after you spent $ and effort to sell your wears, you get 000 money back if there are no people due to weather and you sell $0. 

So to sum up, If you are lucky to join their show, you pay $435 months in advance or are just out $35 like a bad lottery that never pays out. Then pray for good weather or get beat out of the $435 of thousands outstanding you paid months ago. That's a really big gamble with no downside for the show promoter. Landlord contracts arent that one sided and those are the worst deals on the planet. 

If you are wealthy and can afford to lose that, this system is for you. Thats why casinos are full. Some people can afford to put their money out in the wind. Artists I dont believe are either that wealthy or that desperate to put up with such a risky system.

Insult away, I will still be on the side of change to help artists who don't sell $10,000 paintings and have unlimited money. I have greater respect for those who travel from town to town and need sales to make a living. If that offends, I apologize.

Peter

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