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I need help with this question from my inbox:

We produce a few local artisan shows at ___ _______ in __________, __. We have been producing them for 15 years. I need help with how to go about incorporating NEW artists while saying good-bye to artists who have been with us for many years. Is there a nice way to do that?

All of us have been in this situation, the new artist who can't get into an established event at a show that has a solid invitational list, and being the old dude who has kept it on her calendar for a long time. But I do understand the dilemma. Any suggestions we can pass on?

Please help. 

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First thing that comes to mind is make sure the new artists have creations that are very impressive. You do not want to downgrade the quality of the show for the sake of new faces. We have all seen shows that made us wonder how some people managed to get accepted..

If the work of new artists is impressive and the juries that supposedly are different each year are indeed different and not biased or influenced by anything other than creativeness then the process should take care of itself.

On the other hand, if the promoters or jurors have a preferred list or "Good Old Boys & Gals" list then things will remain the same until someone either retires or goes belly up.

Excellent response.

Thank you, Greg! Such good advice.

Do it very gradually. Has someone's work gone stale, they're using the same jury shots for the last five years, and their booth is still the same? Those are the ones that you gradually remove. Dump all the loyal artists who return every year in favor of all new ones is also a recipe for a show to crash and burn. Any new replacements have to be good, not just a new face.

So right, Robert. There will be shoppers who will be dismayed when their favorites are suddenly gone, and the artists who have built up that clientele will be unhappy and both groups could be pretty vocal and hurt the event.

In a way it seems that changing of artists should happen naturally.  If an artist has built up a following and sells well, they will apply to return. If they don't, they probaby won't return.  I am not so naive as think this is what always occurs.

State up front you change 1/3 or 1/4 of your artists every year: Thats the maximum term you have to exhibit. You can reexhibit after a year off. People do get tired of seeing the same old faces every year and even the best of us get lazy at times and fall short of having fresh new stuff every year,

Very good rules.

Barry I love your suggestions even for crafts shows, vintages shows, etc.

There is a one day show I did for about 3 years, spring and fall.  Eventually I quit it because dh requested no more one day shows due to our extensive set up.  The one thing I have heard from those I ran into who shop this event is it’s the same booths/sellers every year with the same stuff they’ve had the last 20 years. 

Bringing in fresh faces with quality work on a rotating basis just may be the answer.

If a show states that a certain number of artists change every year, it doesn't mean that those artists that have exhibited for many years will be the ones that change.  I like the idea of a show stating up front that an artist is only allowed to exhibit for say 3 years and then 2 years off.  That way we as artists wouldn't waste our time and jury fees. The question now is how to get the shows to do this?

agree w commenters, in addition to engaging a jury (or at least people other than yourself!) to select artists.  Also, consider a re-brand for the show itself, this will reinforce the notion to both the patrons and artists that change is afoot.  The rebrand changes would include the X (insert your goal here) number of new artists, and some fresh graphics in online and other promotional materials.  

Clearly and repeatedly state that X number of artists will be new in the upcoming year on the applications, and on any artist FAQ / info associated with the show.

Any show will eventually die a slow and painful death without offering new artists to patrons.  And artists have a responsibility to bring new work if they expect sales, or repeat customers.

And before you do all this, consider the rationale for why you're changing the "demographics" (not an ideal word choice for what we presume is fresh artists, maybe better quality of work, etc?)  Is attendance down? are the retailers proximal to the show asking for change?  are current artists complaining?  are artists not invited complaining?  are your costs increasing?

Inviting fresh artists may help, but I would really encourage this promoter to spell out (amongst themselves) why they need to get new artists, and determine if this is the solution to whatever their problem is.  I think people tend to forget that a successful show is a system:  organizers, artists, community, patrons, budgets, and an overarching rationale for why you're doing this show. 

I agree with both Barry Shandler and Beth Clark; all good points. Especially about needing to have a reason to offer that is [nearly] indisputable by your Artists. What that’ll be is up to you; you know the show best. 

But to get the ball rolling you’ll need a completely transparent selection system to pick those to go the first year, second year, etc. Perhaps a lottery of some sort… 

During your next jury, have artists pick a number between 1 and [however many spots you have]. After your app deadline passes, announce that the ‘target’ number will be the daily high temperature in some random town on a random day in the future. That way everyone will know you couldn’t have picked a number based on your own preferences, and artists won’t have any ‘clue’ about the basis by which they should calculate their number… everything will be truly random and un-predictable. 

The apps furthest from — or closest to — this number ‘win’, they are the first to rotate, then the second to rotate, etc. No one will be happy about ‘winning’, but they will also know that is was completely fair. Oh, and refund in full the app fee of those who did ‘win’. 

Good Luck. 

—Chris Fedderson


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