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.


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“Just the Facts Maam”

For us numbers people, no judgment, opinion or decision:

Here is a basic spreadsheet:

Scenarios a typical well rated and respected show:


Applicants: 2,100

Application Fee: $40

Jurors: 5

Rounds of Jurying: 4

Some exemptions:

Other costs not calculated:

A) Does show pay for Jury lodging?

B) Does show give / pay for food?

C) Does show provide transportation?

D) Zapplication share – how to calculate App fee from Booth fee share, without zapp no show.

E) Admin costs to notify Applicants.

F) Director / Promoter oversight of Jury fees.

Remember, to try and separate out the Jury / Application fee, from the rest. As the show is still going to get income and expenses from the Booth fees and running the show, etc. Zapp is still needed to get the Booth fees etc. Therefore CC fees, advertising etc are not accounted for, here.

I'm sure there are many other, minor expenses, not listed here. Just some broad strokes.

***See attached Spreadsheet - "Jury calculations.xls" *****


Not a show I would consider in hall rented for $200/day. Sounds like dealing with a slum lord IMO. I remember paying that much for VFW building in Palisade, CO for weekend saddle makers association meeting. Better look at cost of renting something like conference center at a Hilton. 

The "hall rental at $200/day" was an example of a room large enough for 5 jurors, support staff  and computers. That is sufficient. you don't need a Conference center at a Hilton for a small venue such as that.

Costs could be $50 - $1200 per day, depending on location. Hilton in Manhattan would be expensive but Holiday Inn in Bartonsville would be cheap.

This is not a fancy catered affair. It is a working Jury room. Maybe 7 to 12 people and equipment. 

It might be less. If the organization putting on the Art show, has their own facility. there might be no "room cost"

Upfront jury fees, upfront booth fees, housing deposits, travel expenses before making a single sale are the facts of life of doing arts shows locally, regionally or on the road.  The first and second quarters of every year are tight for me before summer resort area shows start in Colorado.  You must wait for the snow to melt.  I get so tired of reading about artist complaining about the “system”, or business model or art shows.  Every business has its “costs of doing business”.  Consider this.  I was in mining and mineral exploration for over 20 years while doing my art party time.  I had a gold project in Montana.  To get the claim owners on board, the company signed up their property for $10K on the table.  This was in June, and because of winter snows, we needed to get a drill rig in and test the ground before September.  Two people filed a protest with the Forest Service and tied up the project until winter.  To renew the lease for next summer was another $20K on the table.  We dropped it, but Pegasus Gold picked it up and drilled it.  They didn’t find anything.  Therefore, I don’t think $35 jury fees and $400 booth fees are unreasonable considering the cost of business of producing shows for artists.  I study, analyze, apply selectively and get a 60% to 70% ROI from art shows.  I am busy the rest of the year with studio work.  Art is a business folks, besides being fun.

A thought many who comment may not be considering.

It may be easier for some to claim "just tough it up" about laying out money in advance for a high risk endeavor. With little to no knowledge, insight or lessons gained. Nor feedback to help them grow.

However, a separation in thought must be assumed... Not all have other income to provide for them. Some have the Art show as a second career, a side income, a retirement job, a significant other with earnings. Some had started the Art show business while having other income and transitioned over, after making it in this business.

For others, the Art show is all they do, their only income and it has been from it's start. Building from nothing where the only monetary layout is from the income stream of this business.

Now try to decide if you would want changes, if this was your only source of putting food on the table.

It is not a perfect business. As any business it can improve. Discussions, critiques, debates and venting of things we may deem flawed is how we improve things in this world.

Nothing gets fixed if we don't realize and acknowledge something is wrong. 

Excellent commentary.  Thank you.


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