Art Fair Insiders

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

Winter Art Fairs for a Michigan Artist

I'm from Saugatuck, Michigan. Needless to say, there is not a lot of opportunity to exhibit and sell in the cold North country during the winter months. Since we make our living selling art, and we can't make it through the winter without some sales, Marcia and I have been traveling to Florida every winter to exhibit and to reinforce the bank account. OK... it's not only the bank account, it's also a nice perk to get out of the cold and the snow. 

Some artists from the Midwest, who I admire, try their best to minimize expenses. They book rooms in extended stay hotels or find campgrounds or use campers to avoid those high hotel bills. Marcia and I are not among this frugal lot. The older I get, the more I depend on the help and support of my beautiful wife, Marcia. I have to admit, she is (sometimes) a reluctant participant. It's important for us to stay in comfortable and beautiful surroundings to counteract the grueling routine of set-up and breakdown (activities that also get more difficult as we get older). And we like the beach so our expenses are not on the low side.

This year we did six Florida art fairs: Images in New Smyrna Beach, Artfest Fort Myers, ArtiGras in Jupiter, Naples National, Gasparilla in Tampa and Art Under the Oaks in Vero Beach. Incredibly, we had great weather for all six shows (which I feel is one of the biggest factors for success at an art fair) My goal was to average $5K per show and I'm delighted to say that we met that goal. I'm a digital artist and I sell prints of surrealistic imagery on environmental topics. My prices are low, ranging from $28 for a small unframed print to $895 for a large framed print on canvas. Our "business plan" is to make lots of sales. We average about $80 per sale. I admired the sculptor next to us in Fort Myers who grossed $30K in that one show. But I felt bad for the oil painter down the way who had zero sales for the weekend. Volume is our friend and consistency keeps us in the game. All six shows for us were between $4200 to $6200.

So, the Florida shows this year did not make us rich, but sales were sufficient to finance our two months in Florida, pay the mortgage and taxes back home, and to leave us with a little profit as we head for home.   

Views: 479

Comment by R. C. Fulwiler on March 15, 2018 at 9:07am

Glad to hear it, John. I love your show reviews.  Would you consider writing one on "Under the Oaks".  You asked me about it and I'm wondering how it went for you. 

See you in May....

Comment by Connie Mettler on March 15, 2018 at 11:27am

This is so helpful, John. Thanks for reporting again. Plus, others really like to hear sales figures. We used to go to Florida from Michigan for many of the same reasons. Sometimes blockbusters came our way but there was lots of keeping the bills paid, staying in decent hotels, winter sun and the sheer variety it provided. We also like you had medium range work with some small and ranging only as high as $600. Volume, consistency and being in the right place, right show, helped keep us going.

Were any of these shows new for you this year?

Btw, great to see you and R.C. at Artigras in February. I hope to do a little photo review of that show soon. Taxes first.

Comment by Mary Strope on April 9, 2018 at 11:02am

Here's an attendee's perspective of the FL show circuit. This is the first time I spent the winter in FL.  I had the opportunity to escape the MI winter so I took it. Plus the main office for my job with Juried Art Services is in West Palm Beach. 

As an avid art fairgoer, I was quite pleased to find so many wonderful art fairs to visit.  I've always heard there is an art fair on every corner in FL - not true.  It is true that there are quality art fairs nearly every weekend somewhere. My bank account can attest to that!  I bought some wonderful art.

One of the things I didn't like about the shows I attended was the parking. By the time the show opened, the lots were full.  I know audience parking is difficult for most events whether in MI or FL.  Most artists were willing to hold my purchase until I was ready to leave.  I wish shows would have a drop-off/pick up location where I could leave my purchases, go get my car, then load up without being in a major traffic lane. Maybe they do and I missed it.

At one show, I spoke with some older artist who said they were ready to give up shows because the setup and tear down was too hard for them.  So now they only do a group of shows managed by one producer who has 10x10 tent rentals.  When they arrive at their space, a white canopy is all set up for them, properly weighted down, and they can just move in their display and art. They said it was worth the cost.  

I'm happy I finally got to experience FL art fairs and plan to do it again next year.

Comment by John Leben on April 9, 2018 at 11:21am

Thank you, Mary, for that perspective. The two big negatives to doing art fairs are the set-up and breakdown, and the anxiety of weather. The older I get, the more these two factors affect my experience. Of course, there are a ton of positives too, that outweigh the negatives.

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