Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Traveling the show circuit you soon become aware that some shows are managed extremely well. Francisco's Farm Arts Festival is one of those shows. The show takes place on the grassy grounds of Midway College in Midway, KY, a very nice setting. This is one of those community shows, run by volunteers, where the entire community embraces it... there are other gems like this: Medina, OH; Williamsburg, VA; or Belleville, IL come to mind. Many of these shows hover under the radar of the big rating sites so word about them is passed on like folklore from artist to artist.
It was the 7th year for the show. Local sponsorship by area businesses was solid, which kept the cost down for artists (booth fee is $150). I was impressed with this show... knowing all the thought and planning that had gone into making the experience positive and hopefully enterprising for the artists. Seldom do you meet a group of volunteers who are as friendly and hospitable. There
must have been 50 volunteers working this show and each knew their role and worked hard to make the show as pleasant as they could for the artists and patrons who visited. There was a sense of pride on the part of the volunteers from Marcie Christensen (show director) on down ... it was their show.
So where is Midway, KY? Well, it's in the middle, midway between Lexington, KY (20 min.) and Louisville, KY (60 min.)...pretty country but it's out there. Because of its location, the show has the challenge of developing a marketing strategy and reputation that can draw folks from outlying
towns and cities. Surprisingly, most of the folks who visited my booth were from outlying areas and yes, several came from as far Louisville and Cincinnati.
About 150 artists attended and many like myself had returned; it was my 2nd year. The quality of the art was solid and mediums were balanced. I would say, most of the artists I met were local, an hour or two away but the show's web site indicates that artist came from 14 different states. I had traveled some distance to get to the show and my neighbor (fabric artist) came up from North Carolina, about 8 hours away. My other neighbor was local. There is a fun group of artists from the Lexington and Louisville area who participate in this show. It's a treat to be around artists that are so positive.
So how were the sales? The weather was hot...I mean, real hot (90 -95degrees!) A good number of the booths were out in the direct sun and I'm sure sales were affected. This made for slow sales, especially on Sunday. However, most of the southern artists seems to take the heat in stride and have created elaborate cooling systems in their booths... multiple fans that run off a marine battery. By the end of the weekend, I had battery envy.
The artists around me seemed pleased with sales and finished in the 2 to 3K range. For me, my expensive items, in the 300 to 600 range, sold again and again. I had a good strong show and finished in the 3 to 5K range (up from last year). Though money was spent by patrons, folks were cautious about their spending. I'll get a better sense on how other artists did, later. This is one of the few shows that I've participated in that aggressively collects financial data and comments from artists and then generates a report a few months later back to the artists showing the sale ranges for different mediums.
Amenities: You could stay in college housing for $45 per night and many artists enjoyed convenience of on the grounds housing and free breakfast..a big breakfast but you're staying in a dorm. Sorry Nels, this is an alcohol free campus... but there are some good places in town. You can get Sam Adams on tap at Duggans and it went down real smooth after a hot set up on Friday. Dinner was provided to all artists on setup day, catered by a local restaurant. On Saturday, artists were encouraged to head into town and enjoy the local cuisine... a smart strategy for bringing business to local establishments. Six other artist and myself enjoyed a fantastic meal at Bistro La Bella (a little pricey but YUM). The show had music, GOOD music, a nice mix and not too loud.
Things that need changing: Layout was confusing. It was modified this year because of construction on campus. You had to pay attention to make it to every nook and cranny and a few booths somehow got lopped off the main flow of the show to an outlying area... those artists did not do well. I suspect that next year the construction will be over and the flow of the show will return to its previous flow.
Attendance could be better. It was light, especially in the afternoon and went down to a trickle by 4PM each day. That said, my largest sales came at the closing bell on each day.
From my perspective, this is a show to pay attention to. Would I do the show again? Hell yes! It is well organized, has community backing, and an increasing and faithful following.
If you were there, tell us how things went from your perspective?