Art Fair Insiders

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

At a show in Charlotte, NC, a couple weekends ago, promoter Patty Narozny pointed out that there are very few young artists at the shows. And as I looked around that weekend and this past one, I began to see that she has a point. 

I'm 56. Most of the artists I see at shows are in their 50s or older. Is this the way it has always been? Is it a symptom of changing economic times - young artists putting art aside to earn a steady paycheck? Or is it something about Gen Whatever It Would Be - Gen Zsquared? 

When I do see a young artist at a show, he or she is often doing something really innovative, really cool, really interesting - and inspiring to me. So what's going on here? 

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Is E. Lansing your first art fair? It is a nice show with people attending who love to be there.

It's my first one this year. It was my first EVER last year. People were great. 

Where are the young artists?  My experience (I'm 62) would tell me they are overwhelmingly being re-absorbed into the cultural plasma that used to be normal for any and all artists, with very very few exceptions, throughout most of history.  In other words, today most don't stand a snowball's chance in hell to survive as full time independent artists because even in the best of times most don't.  The street shows were born and grew in a perfect storm of demographics and wealth creation that won't happen again for generations, if ever.  Even with such fortunate timing I saw most experiments in artists survival come and go in the matter of years.  NYC's East Village scene lasted less than ten years.  In Philly, where we were based, the gallery and co-op scene was where we cut our teeth, and I know nobody who survived as a full-time artist in that milieu. Nobody.  A longtime artist friend, a painter born and raised in Philly, who's been around the block many times, went to Yale for his MFA, has been in many museum shows, exhibited in galleries in NYC and Philly for decades, knows artist from around the world, recently told me I'm the ONLY artist he knows who's made a real living as an artist. Now what does this say? Count your blessings if you even know our community exists and if you are young carefully manage risk, vote with your feet when the shows expense/profit ratio goes to hell, and look sideways at your peers, for support and try to make your own good luck.  I've done a few shows in our old neighborhood in Philly that have been cheap and unorthodox and overwhelmingly sponsored by young artists.  Nobody is getting rich but the air smells of optimism born from youth and realism blended in a way that suggests these people will still be doing this long after I'm pushing daisies.  

Great advice. On the podcast I did recently with Michael Zavison about vehicles he made several points about frugality, prioritizing income, taking care of the assets one has and leveraging those to continue to create and enjoy this lifestyle, much value in that.

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