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

Okay, now that I've gotten some sleep I can think more clearly. Just finished the 3rd time around in Tempe. The first time I did this show was probably over 25 years ago, I was parked on the side of 6th Ave where hardly anyone showed up to see my work. I remember the streets being so crowded you could hardly move around. As it was the first time I had done a big show I was fairly starry eyed and on overwhelm. Last year was the second time I did the show and had moved up the street to 3rd Ave which was better visited but still crowded but only because the street was narrower. This year I was on 5th avenue, much wider, better lighting, the sun actually hit the street, and room to wiggle around when you got restless. The crowds didn't seem as overwhelming to me, maybe that is a function of time, memory or there just weren't as many people out as the first time I did this show? 

The show is very well run logistically speaking, you check in on Thursday down the street from the fair but you've already gotten so many communications from the staff in advance that they hardly have anything more to add to your knowledge of what to do, maybe last minute details, and then you can purchase off site parking for $25 for the three days (much less then the city lots which are $10-12 per day and large vehicles can't get into the high rise lots anyway). As for load-in...you wait till after 9 p.m. there are three load-in time segments, the further away you are from the entry the earlier you get in. I had to wait till after 10 and then, because I didn't scout out the numbers like I usually do, I drove past my booth area and had to drive all the way out and around just to come back in again and start all over again. All said I still was able to  park not too far from my booth space along the curb for set up. A lot of vendors waited till the next morning to come in, maybe a better strategy but I needed the extra time for my set-up as did my neighbor.

Show amenities? There is an artist hospitality booth with drinks and treats throughout the three days and they run around on a golf cart in the morning with coffee and the afternoon with water. Very thoughtful!

We arrived in Tempe a little later than anticipated. Winds were high through eastern AZ and driving into Flagstaff on I-40 we ran into the storm that had flattened much of southern CA with high Santa Ana winds. It was snowing hard and southbound, as-well-as north bound I-17 were at a standstill with ice and snow covered roads. A little patience and slow driving were required. Those that were driving a little too fast found out how icy it was! After they had shoveled the tipped over vehicles off the road and pulled people out of the medians who were going too fast for driving conditions we were once again on our way. I was anticipating 70 degrees at lower elevations! Oh, what fools we mortals be. What I heard from a visitor to the show is weather in Tempe always seems to conspire against the show though last year it was mild (trying to lull me into a false sense of euphoria!) this year the storm that blew in from CA turned the thermostat down considerably and threatened rain on Fri and Sat. Sunday the sun was out all day but it never got to 60. (It's snowing at the 3000 ft. level as I write!)

Despite the cloudy and cold weather the crowds did show up. Maybe, because it was still part of the work week, Friday seemed like everyone was asleep trudging along the rows of artists with no sales for me and most others around us but my neighbor whose creative woodwork was very compelling sold a few pieces. Saturday was the coldest with nary a sign of the sun but the people came out, sales turned up a bit. Sunday the sun was out all day and the crowds seemed more enthusiastic and engaging but sales were still dismal. Meanwhile my neighbor had a steady stream of sales, though he reported being off about 50% from last year. Other artists he talked with reported few or no sales as well.As a reflection of the level of buying at this show there was a lot of popcorn and yard art things that you poke in the ground walking around (not that there is anything wrong with popcorn!)

People were very appreciative of my work and I earned the show prize for photography, the acknowledgment, plus the cash prize, helped salve the disappointing sales from this show. Parenthetically, the awards were hand-made by a fiber artist and very impressive, not the usual trophy store variety! I've heard harsh reviews from other artists about this show and I noticed it was quite a mixed bag in terms of quality. There seemed to be a good mix and balance of media of the fine art type, whereas in some shows there may have been too many of one type vs other types. Many artists that I've seen at other shows with high end art were there mixed in with more crafty novelty type items (walking puppets on sticks and dog hats).

All-in-all, the show is well run, the crowds were there despite the weather and the sales were disappointing. What else is new lately? We move on down the road...

Views: 720

Comment by Dennis Brady on December 7, 2011 at 10:57am
I too just finished doing this festival. Your report on weather conditions were spot on and found this show the coldest one I can remember doing in my 8 years there. I think it was even colder than the rainy event of 4 years ago. That said, the buying energy was good for me. After having the honor of being selected as the 2010 Featured Artist, my customer base expanded into collectors that in previous years, might not have even walked into my booth. Other artist friends I talked to had record shows but some too were off from 2010. All in all, great venue, great staff and cool patrons.
Comment by Connie Mettler on December 7, 2011 at 11:09am

Excellent report, Brian. I really appreciate your writing and filling in all this information. Solid details and analysis. Cool about your award. That does help a person's attitude. Getting to the show did sound harrowing. Do you live near? Is this kind of travel typical in Arizona in the winter? 

I've heard on and off reports on this show for years -- including such things as "too large", "too much buy/sell", but never all this good info about how well run the show is. It puts a lot of it into perspective.  Do you think you'll be there again?

Here's a report from azcentral.com: Tempe fall arts festival a hit despite rain, cold

P.S. I am thrilled to be getting more Western reviews on the site. Many thanks, Brian.

Comment by steve appel on December 7, 2011 at 11:18am

Glad someone reviewed the show.  Setup at show was typical tempe.  they tell you one thing and then 2 hours later you  finally get in.  my setup was real easy.  and tear down was even easier.   Did learn from some customers that Cutco knives were there, Direct TV had probably 4 booths,  Where is the art in Cutco knives and direct tv.  I have been doing show for probably 15 + years and thought the crowds were way down.  Fri barely made booth fee.  Sat and Sun sales were about the same for me.  Actually i did better than most of the people i spoke with.   I have a clientele that have been buying from me for years.

Parking at this show is always a bitch,  my usual lot was closed fri but did find free parking next to the 25.00 lot.    I do have to give credit to them for the hospitality,  was near the tent for that so it was convenient.  did come around with coffee in morning and water in afternoon.   Yes i was very cold at this show.  Sun or no sun it was COLD The show is well run but the buy sell still is getting in.   I think they should get rid of the cash prizes and lower the fees, but that will never happen.  I spoke with some of my other piers and they were all down.  I am just happy it is over.   I sure hope the spring is warmer than this one.   I did see that there were a lot of out of state artists there,  Montana, Georgia, Texas, Washington.   But i suppose they will all go on to do the 4th Ave. show that i stopped doing 3 years ago and i am glad i did, talk about buy/sell.  

Comment by Alexandra Kube on December 7, 2011 at 12:35pm

Thank you. I was considering this show, maybe will give it a whirl next round. Congrats on the award.

Comment by sandhi schimmel gold on December 7, 2011 at 2:27pm

I did this show a few years ago. It is a big deal in Phoenix...but now there are SO MANY events all over the Valley, so many things to choose from. The audience is varied - lots of college kids, lots of stroller-families, and the rest...

Set up is a little challenging: There is NO space behind you and NO space beside you - everything has to fit in your booth.

Thousands of people come - and walk the show, but it's more a destination event than a shopping one... I was next to bread dough ornaments on one side, a photographer with 2 for $20 prints on the other. Can't compete with them selling original fine art... compared to my neighbors, my prices were way outta line.

I don't get how this is a juried show? I have friends that do yard art, t-shirts and get into this show...and I also know that some artists who were invited and got space on Mill Ave for free.

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on December 7, 2011 at 4:35pm

I've heard mixed reviews on this show, can anyone comment on the best selling price points?  It's on our potential list for 2012.

Comment by AL NEWLIN on December 7, 2011 at 5:38pm

We did this show twice a year for several years. the sales declined steadily instead of increasing as is usual for our repeat shows. I noticed that there were more booths with non art items (cutlery, soaps, chili peppers etc. I reported several notorious b/s dealers with no effect. The show is about 30% larger than it should be to hold the junk. They should keep the really fine artists that are there and dump the non-art.

Comment by S Brian Berkun on December 7, 2011 at 9:24pm

I agree, or, at the very least segregate it to a specific area so that those that are just looking for spaghetti can find it like they do now or those that are looking for christmas ornaments can find them in a "craft" area.

Comment by S Brian Berkun on December 7, 2011 at 9:52pm

Where are we driving from? I drive in from Denver, as did my neighbor Rick and his wife Linda though I stopped in Farmington, NM to pick up the wif. It's two days for me with the stop-over. Price points? I sold several in the $25 range and people choked at $90 for limited edition photos and kept looking for "smaller" pieces, My neighbor was selling work on and off in the $135 arena. I guess it just depends on what you have to sell and whether people will buy. I too cannot compete with the $20 a print photo guys. I guess if people like the same old same old, Landscape Arch, Delicate Arch, Antelope Canyon yada yada thing more power to'm.

The show promoters encourage an anonymous request to turn in B/S but it seemed like it was more crafty items there that I saw a lot of not so much B/S but then who knows where the stuff comes from.

Comment by steve appel on December 8, 2011 at 9:11pm

I have been doing the show a long time, and my sales are beginning to come back,  not to where they were orginally but increasing steadily.  And yes there are a variety of work at the show.   The pre packaged food is always on Maple.  As far as space behind the booth  you have to pay for it.  It is right on the application.  If you want a corner you pay for that.  I would say this is one of the better shows in the phx area.  My price points are starting at 20 and going up to 200.  Mostly what i sold was in the 40 range.  But again all my work is originals.  As far as free booths i doubt that.  I think it is a well run show and maybe one day the buy/sell will be gone.  I believe the person next to me selling jewelry was mostly buy/sell, but who knows.   It was just they way that they treated their product.  

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