Art Fair Insiders

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

Brooksville: Nice Venue, but Dismal Sales

Brooksville was the sixth and final art fair in our winter swing through Florida. It is a small art fair and I didn't expect much when I signed up. And, guess what? I didn't get much either.

This is a laid back art fair which assigns you a space and pretty much leaves you alone. We set up on Friday and were able to keep our van right in back of our booth for the entire setup. In fact, on Sunday we parked in the same place, in back of our booth, all day, so break down was also a breeze. The show is in a grassy park with lots of trees. Booths are set up along a paved path. All booths are in the grass. Our booth was between some trees giving us side walls on both sides to exhibit art on. The ground at our location was very uneven giving us a challenge to keep everything level. The high point was a good foot higher than the low point. Other artists had more even terrain.

Last week I was disappointed by my sales at Bonita Springs, making that show our worse in five years. This show beat that record. So, overall, we had a great start with four successful shows at the front end of our "tour." The last two shows at the back end were disappointing.

I saw a few pretty good artists at this show, but not many. There were a lot of inexpensive jewelers and a lot of buy/sell. There was a fine art section and a craft section. Saturday started out pretty good with people responding very well to my work (I'm a digital artist showing surrealistic prints). Its common for people to see my work and come back later to purchase. That didn't happen this time.

This show was also asking artists to donate a piece of their work for a fundraiser. In fact, the woman who came around to collect donated artwork assumed I would be donating and was surprised and insulted when I declined (politely). The work was to go in a tent at the show and be sold to patrons. I generally have a problem with donating my work unless I really have a connection to the cause. In this case, my donated work would directly compete with the work in my booth. Not sure why us artists, who struggle to make a living with our art, have to subsidize these "causes." Why can't they solicit a donation with the stipulation that a sale of our work will be shared with the artist? I would probably donate a bigger, more expensive piece if I knew that I would receive 50% of the sale.

Anyway, this was a pretty venue for a show, and it was easy to do, and not too expensive. But it wasn't a good show. I'd be surprised if any artists at this show grossed more that $1K.

One more thing. I just heard from Carolyn Edlund and her excellent website: Artsyshark. She just published a great piece on her website about me and my work. She made me look very impressive! HA! You can see the piece at this web address: 

Views: 568

Comment by Carol Larsen on March 14, 2017 at 8:29am
Thank you for the comment about donations and direct competition with yourself. I have never understood this train of thought from show organizers. There seems to be a total disconnect that an artist's is working for a living. When I have brought it up with organizers what they are in essence doing...I get met with all different responses and not one well thought as to what effect it has on the artists.
Comment by John Leben on March 14, 2017 at 9:27am

Yes, Carol. The woman who approached me was totally clueless. She came to my booth and saud she was there to collect my donation. She didn't even ask if I was going to donate. She assumed I would donate and was surprised and angry that I would not.

Comment by Carol Larsen on March 14, 2017 at 10:43am
Now, if the event had contacted me previously, explained how my donation was going to be used, such as one does a silent auction and all proceeds goes towards college scholarships, and I am listed in marketing/website etc as a donor, that's different. It's symbiotic....and now, if I don't receive a thank you from the recipient, I don't bother next time I am asked. I keep my list of who, where, how much and the marketing, receipt and if any acknowledgement. It's all right on my iPad so I can pull it up and show when asked why I am saying no.
Comment by Carol Larsen on March 14, 2017 at 10:50am
But the majority of people are volunteers and are trying to do the task someone told them to do, they most likely have no idea the business side of what is going on. And they are upset because they failed. It's a double edged sword.
Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on March 20, 2017 at 11:19pm

That was a nice write up on you John in Artsyshark.  I love your work.  I don't think I've seen an image yet that I haven't liked.  Good luck with your gallery opening.

Comment by Terri Einer on March 31, 2017 at 9:16am

So we're not the only ones...Art Fair here in Wisconsin last weekend, also with dismal sales.  2 day set up and I barely made back my booth fee AND a donation was requested.  Last year I was asked for a donation and I requested only 20% of the sale back.  After that, they never contacted me again.  Fine with me! 


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