Art Fair Insiders

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

AS YOU MAY KNOW, I DO 36 SHOWS A YEAR FOR 37 YEARS.  I AM A PHOTOGRAPHER.  I LIVE IN YBOR CITY, TAMPA, ACROSS THE BAY FROM THE SHOW.

MY WIFE  AND I ATTENDED THE SHOW AND FARMERS MARKET THERE LAST SATURDAY.

HERE ARE MY OBSERVATIONS, FIRST ABOUT THE COLOR RUN AND ITS EFFECT ON BOTH EVENTS.  (OK, I will use lowercase now.)

First, about the color run.  It was advertised weeks ahead of the show, if you lived locally, like the director of the art show, you would have to have heard of it, let alone know it would collide with your event.

Yes, these cornstarch color runs have become the recent hot trends in running.  Anything to get runners fork out $45 for a single event.

On Saturday, Ellen and I first visited my sister who sells plants at the farmers market which was located about four blocks south of the art show.

When we approached her area we noticed everything was covered in this pukey orange hue.  Canopies.  Trucks.  Food.  Plants.  It was everywhere. They would end up hosing everything down that night because they had a plant show to do in Tampa on Sunday.  Then they came over to Ybor to have dinner with us.  Mitch, my sis's partner, told me how difficult it was to get rid of the color.  When you hosed it off, a certain amount flew into the air as a cloud, only to resettle again on different adjacent surfaces.  It took many hosings to rid the color.

Nobody gave the farmers market a prior warning about this and its proximity to the market.  Everything was this rustic orange.  I did not buy any food at the market.

Now, we went on to the art show.  

I will describe the impact of the color run there.  Then I will get into a report of the show.

Where the show was held, on grounds north of the museum on Bayside Drive, the runners got sprayed in pukey PINK!  Yipee, I yeah!

It too, was everywhere.  Even the port-potties, inside, were totally infiltrated by the stuff.  I have never seen such gross port-potties before.  I looked for a friendly tree.

Canopies were sprayed in pink, art and craft was covered too.  It was nasty.

I just cant imagine running and breathing this stuff, it can't be all that healthful.

So yeah, the organizers of the run hd to be a little oblivious to effects of their colors going into the air and then eventually settling hither and yon.  Thankfully, not my yon.

Now about the show.

I stayed away.  Could have slept in my own bed and had minimum expenses.

I felt the $350 booth fee was way to high for a first time show, especially   ten days before Christmas.

I did the promoters show last year that was on Central Avenue in November.  It had nice awards, shitty sales, and minimal advertising.

Before this year's show, I had several email conversations with the director about this particular show.  Also about how he had tried to do the same November show and had no luck.  I gave him insights about that.  He asked my opinion bout a well-known promoters show in Florida.  I gave him some helpful insights.

Back in July I asked him if he would give me a lower rate for the booth fee because, after all, I had given him some helpful consult info.  He said, "No way, Jose."  I told him $350 was too high of a fee.  I told him most people were going to die at that show.  The timing was not right.  Luckily for me, he didn't relent and give me a hundred dollars off, because I would have been $250 out of pocket with very little. return.

So there.  Total transparency.  I asked for a lower booth fee, because of consult advice and was turned down.  Amen!

So, Ellen and I attended, Saturday, sometime after noon.

The show is in lovely location, under shaded trees, by the museum, next to the water.  All it needs is happy buyers.  Were not many of them.

I saw at least a dozen seasoned pros that I know on the circuit who were there.  The promoter got about 90 artists to do it.  Among the dozen I talked to, there was not one success story.  BTW, the show started Friday afternoon. So you had to be there two-and-a-half days which was two-and-a-half days too long.

Easy parking for customers is an issue.  Buying art for Christmas presents is an issue.  The real wealthy do not usually attend these events.  He sent out missives to supposedly every person in Pinellas County who had  house valued at $800K or higher.

It was a nice layout, good art but not many buyers.

Personally, St. Petersburg is a tough art sell any time of the year and especially before Christmas.

Personally, I was cheering for this event to be a success. I desperately need a show on the third weekend in December.  This is not it.

I told Ellen in advance that the fee was too high and most people would die.

Unfortunately, I was right.

So, there is my report.  I went there as a local, with no bias, and that was what I observed.  With 35 years of experience in the biz, I trust my instincts, they very rarely ever let me down.

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Short, sweet, fair, and to the point.  Nice writeup, Nels!

I had talked to Mr. Frutko at least once about this show, maybe twice.  Didn't think to ask for a discount/consulting fee.  See, Nels, I am always learning something new from you.  ;-)

His mailing to homes "$800K and above" has me scratching my head.  I will bet that less than 20 percent of my art winds up in homes at that price point, and I do skew to a little higher end of the market.  I think $400K and up would have been more helpful. 

I have wondered for several years why there are no art shows in December.  Certainly, shopping malls don't need a marketing gimmick to lure customers; in fact, every parking space is precious this time of year, so tents, begone!  An even simpler answer may be: because no one gives art for gifts, and so no one goes to art fairs.

David is a very nice guy, a fine artist, and for all I know a great gallery owner.  But as a promoter, his two-year track record suggests that he is green, green, green. 

Nancy, good for you and those shows.  But, in Florida, with over-proliferation of shows all the time (is that redundant?) and sunny weather people feel less-compelled to buy art.  It is a tough sell down here for Christmas.  Don't forget, up your way, you don't have shows going on all the time.  Also weather, up there it feels like Christmas, things are cool, even snowy at times, puts people in different mood.  Down here the malls rule.  That is where the majority of Christmas buying is done.  Wish I lived up your way--for sales at December shows--but you can keep your weather.  I like being in shorts, no shoes, short-sleeve shirt, sitting out on the porch at night with Ellen drinking a small glass of wine with the AC off.  Oh well, you can't have it all.

A perfect observation Nels.  I wish I had been as smart as you and gone with my instincts.  I got sucked in to doing the show because of the incredible location and the sponsorship of the Museum.  Add to that one of my favorite hotels, The Ponce De Leon and one of my favorite music venues, Jannus Landing and one of my favorite restaurants, Seviche's Tappas Bar.  Silly me, I should have gone for a three day vacation instead.  It would have been cheaper!

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Hope you don't mind, Carroll, that I put your photo into your comment. We all need to see this!

So, is this the same show that I saw on our FB page that you were drinking coffee and maybe going to do the laundry and then suddenly were struck with the idea you were supposed to be at an art fair? LOL. Sounds like you should have done the laundry instead, or perhaps you are doing it now! This is the biggest misstep I've ever heard of at an art fair. What could top the "pinking" of the show?

Your reasoning for doing it was sound though, I have to agree. That is a pretty steep fee for a first year show, but the location sounds lovely. So, do you think sans the coloring this location/venue could work another time of the year?

Smart guy, Nels, seeking a small consulting fee. Most of the artists on this site could be consultants, we learn so much along the way and see shows of all kinds and assimilate who is doing it well or not so well. I'll have to remember this idea.

Yeah, but remember he said, "No way, Jose."

Yes, he did, but "they" won't always say that. Twice when I volunteered help to some shows they offered me a job. You just never know. Surprised me as that wasn't even in my mind.

Good review and insights Nels.   I did a show this past weekend and soon realised my average price point is just too high for last minute/spontaneous gift buying.  Most people already have their gifts bought and wrapped.  And its not the time for them to shop for jewellery.   Apart from a few desperate husbands anyway.   :)

Here's a picture of the artists parking lot at the St. Pete Holiday Show.  My neighbor went out to get something in her van around two and her silver van along with everyone else's was so blue she had a hard time finding it.  Her hands were covered with blue when she got back, the powder was very invasive.  When we all went to the vans after the show there was a big water tank truck refilling after they had washed about half the vehicles off.  Apparently the promoter touted the show as a great experience on his facebook page and then said that the only people grumbling were the ones not making money.  Really?  The guy who got hit with the pink first probably had to throw out his cloth panels, or the guy with the rope furniture who was in the direct line of fire who we all watched attempting to clean his chairs with whatever rags he had with him, I'm sure he had a great experience.  Or the elderly woman who had to leave the show because she couldn't get enough air.  I am thoroughly enjoying having to unframe my work and throw away perfectly good and expensive mats and scrub pink off the glass and frames while I get ready for my studio party this weekend.  Just what I needed to be doing.

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This is not good, Carroll.

I remember being at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival during "pollen season" and everything was covered with yellow. Years later we still had pollen in the crevices of our van's doors -- but that was an act of nature, a totally different story.

I will say one more thing then I'll get off this subject.  The reason I did this show was the location.  It's absolutely fantastic.  The timing is wrong and Mr. Frutko is extremely green when it comes to running a show but he has the backing of a major museum and access to an amazing show property, so he had a great start.  He lacks experience and guidance.  In his facebook post he said that great old line, we artists always say at a bad show, "It only takes One"  which is true in most cases.  I didn't get my one.  He also made reference to the fact that maybe "the people who didn't sell, didn't have the right work".  In another case I might go along with that but I have a huge 35 year following in St. Petersburg.  That was my second reason for doing the show.  Unfortunately I was in Little Cayman and then Europe before the show and didn't send out my mailing list.  I'm sorry about that because my buyers list is extensive and would have helped us all.  I trusted him to do that for me with his publicity.  That didn't happen.  The show was very quiet, some of the people in the restaurants across the street walked over just to see what it was, others happened along because they were walking their dogs, there weren't even any signs to point the way.  His idea to send post cards to wealthy people is cute, but in my 42 year art show experience, wealthy people find it invasive to get random labeled mail from a mailing list they thought was private, aside from the fact that wealthy people support their own and generally buy from galleries or have decorators choose their art.  This is in my experience, it's a generalization I realize but it is my experience growing up in a wealthy family and living and working in a wealthy community. 

Here is my offer to Mr. Frutko:  I would be willing to help him if he decides to do another show there.  With my artist management skills and my intense publicity skills he could have a winner.  We would also have clean bathrooms, garbage cans to throw our trash in and buyers coming out our ears.  If anyone wants to pass this offer along to him, please be my guest.

I also did this show the one thing I heard several times was the patrons  didn't know it was going on they happened to eat at one of the restaurants on Beach dr. and saw us. Next year Amy Amdur is doing her show at Gulfstream on the same weekend which I did very well for a 1st annual this year so won't even have to think about this one next year.I don't think color run will be returning soon  I overheard on one of the clean up crew radio the boat owners weren't to happy either

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