Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
I've been doing this show for many years. Its a show that many of us midwest artists want to succeed. Why? Because its the first show of the season for many of us in these parts. Its indoors, so weather is not a factor. Its in a great venue and its easy to do. By this time of the year a lot of us artists are running on empty. We need some money to pay the next batch of booth fees and an early April show that can pay some of the bills is very welcome.
It turned out that way for me, but, unfortunately, not for everyone. In a casual audit of artists around me, it seemed that about half did well, or OK, and the other half were disappointed. I sold a bunch of artwork, and also came away with best of show ($400 plus a free $400 booth for nest year). And I really needed a good show after two bad ones in a row at the end of my Florida stint. I've also got a crew renovating my new gallery space in Douglas, Michigan (opening on May 6) and, darn it, they want to get paid. So, I came home, relieved, with a nice paycheck.
The show takes place in the Suburban Collection Showplace, a big convention center in Novi, Michigan (near Detroit). Yes, its an odd name for a convention center, but its a big place and its growing. There's a big hotel attached, and this year, there was a circus happening in another part of the Center. Some exhibitors were surprised to see elephants and horses going in and out of the building.
Setup was scheduled for all day on Thursday. There were no set times for each artist, but the place is big, so we were able to drive our vans or trailers right into the center to unload right at our booth. A 10-foot deep by 12-foot wide booth costs $400, but a double booth is only another $200, so I took advantage of that discount and had a space 10-feet deep by 24-feet wide. There is an 8-foot tall black curtain separating the rows and there was a lot of space in back of the curtain for storage. I unloaded my van and parked in the free parking right outside the doors. I took my time setting up, and I needed it. I never use a double booth and I really don't have enough propanels to fill up that space, so it took some creative arranging to make the space work. It always takes me a long time to set up. Normally five hours will do it, but this one took me eight hours. Marcia stayed home, so I was on my own on this one... one of the reasons it took so long.
The show opened at 1pm on Friday so many artists set up on Friday morning. The only problem with Friday setup is that vehicles are not allowed in the building on Friday, so artists had to dolly in. In the center of the show the convention center had a full bar and a food concession. Soups, sandwich wraps and a nice salad bar were available. The show ran until 8pm on Friday. As usual (for Friday) the turnout wasn't very big, but lots of people were walking around with wine or mixed drinks in their hands. I just made my booth fee on Friday and hoped for better results Saturday.
For patrons, parking was free but there was a $7 entry fee for each day. I did have one buyer who saw my work on Saturday, then talked her way back in on Sunday for free just to buy my work. The staff here is good that way... flexible and responsive.
Saturday was a good day for me. The show went from 10-6 and I sold lots of stuff, including three large canvas prints (I'm a digital artist showing surrealistic imagery on environmental themes on canvas and paper). There was a free artist's dinner and cocktail party right after closing on Saturday evening. It was well attended and exhibitors had good things to say about the food and drinks (I didn't stay for the party).
Sunday was open from 11-5. I had a nice surprise when I arrived when I heard that I had won best of show. I kicked myself for missing the Saturday party, but happily accepted the award. Sales were OK on Sunday but not great. Looking at past years, my sales for this show have gone up every year for the past three years. In 2015 sales were $2100. 2016 sales were $3600. This year sales were $4800, making me glad that I've stuck with this show.
I'm not sure if this show is for everyone. Like I mentioned earlier, some artists were disappointed. But the show can produce results, and it can sure use more fine artists. Like all shows, if there is good art, the people will come, but its a chicken and egg kind of thing. The artists won't come if the people aren't there. But, anyway, I recommend this show to artists looking for an early spring paycheck. No guarantees, but I think its a risk worth taking. And the staff and management here are terrific!