Art Fair Insiders

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

As this COVID-19 pandemic has swept through the country, we've all found ourselves with a lot on our plates and very little cash in our wallets.  With many of the art shows canceling or rescheduling, we find that trying to juggle time and distance with energy expended and profits lost. But, in actuality, this situation could work towards our advantage.

Over the last few years, most of you have been aware of the rising cost of doing these shows. Not only have the booth and application fees gone up, but the artist's amenities are disappearing. I think that this may be the time for all of us, in this industry, to take a long, hard look at what we want and begin to form ourselves into an organization. An amalgamation, of artists that will work together protect the artist, their money, as well as their intellectual property rights

And, it is to that end, I feel that we need to have an Artists Bill of Rights!

This is where you all come in, take the time to state what's on your mind, speak directly to an issue. Which shows either wouldn't give you a refund or offered to forward your booth fees to next year. With the average age of an artist doing these shows being over 62, it becomes harder to envision that after a year like this, we would want, or be able to do their show next year. Anyone that's been doing these shows for years can attest to the amount of work, effort, planning, packing, making hotel reservations in January, for July. This is before you figure the driving, gasoline, and other expenses that go into this. All it takes is one bad show and, you are playing catch-up for the rest of the season.

As we all get older, is this how we want to proceed? If one of our kids said that they were getting ready to do something like this, wouldn't we ask them about all of the things that I mentioned before? I'm not saying that we need armed insurrection but, I am saying that we need better communication and organizational skills.  I can understand that some of you feel as though there may be reprisals from various shows and events. Isn't that only more of a reason for the artists to come together and unite!?

Below, you will find a few of my ideas, why not take the time and, start by adding some of your own?

 

(1)  Artists should be put together by talent, 2D artists, jewelry, sculptures, pottery, etc. No more of this helter-skelter method that has a painter or potter next to someone selling plants, or worse yet, vinyl siding.

(2)  If a show is canceled for whatever reason, all booth fees should be returned.  If a show is canceled at the last minute due to weather, a minimum of 60% of the booth fees should be remitted back to the artist.

(The days of promoters canceling a show and keeping the money needs to end.)

(3)  The amount of time for an art jury to deliberate needs to be shortened. In accordance to when the application was submitted, there should be a three-tier judging process. If we submit our applications early (first tier), we should be notified within weeks, not months.  This would allow us ample time to apply to another show if we are waitlisted or rejected.

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I have been on podcasts and Zoom meetings with show directors around the country and received innumerable emails from event personnel who have had to cancel their events. Phone calls too. As a small business person myself I expected to hear along the way concern from them about the financial hits their (mostly 501c3) festivals have received and concern that they are in financial trouble. Amazingly, I have not heard one person talk about their fiscal problems. Every one, from the big show people to the smaller event staff, never even mentions this. They are all concerned about you and your loss of business. They talk with one another and compare notes on how best they can be there for the artists. Impressive. My takeaway: this is how our world would be if it was run by women.

I have to agree that most of the show organizers seem to be looking around as to what they can do to help us; some coming to us and asking for our feedback and suggestions. It's sweet and it feels really good. 

Rick Bryant, who is with the PA Festival of the Arts is also working for us artists. (Thought I would add a man into the women mix. smile)

As to how to proceed, Raoul, you are right. For those of us who are older, this IS a good time to assess. It may change many of our future plans.


A couple of weeks ago the director for Krasl Art on the Bluff sent out this correspondence. 
1. They refunded 100% of paid booth fees for invited artists
2. They are waiving 2021 application/jury fees for 2020 invited artists
3. 2020 invited artist are automatically accepted to 2021 show
4. THEY ARE COMMITTED TO LETTING PROSPECTIVE APPLICANTS KNOW HOW MANY BOOTH SPACES WILL BE AVAILABLE FOR 2021 SHOW.

There may be shows that don't live up to one's expectations, however, there are those shows that need to be commended for their exceptional treatment of the artists.  I could list a few more.  Suffice it to say 
Thank you Krasl Art on the Bluff for being an extraordinary example for how to do it right under unprecedented circumstances.

You are so right, Judy, about Rick Bryant, one of my heroes. Not to forget Stephen King at the Des Moines Art Festival, Rick Faulkner at Long's Park and Mark Loeb in Detroit who is building useful resources for artists. They all would get above average marks for "works well with others." However, in the main art fairs have a lot of women in the decision making process, seems to me. 

I haven't had such good luck with a few of the shows.  One of the events in Ohio kept sending me emails, stating that I needed to get my booth fees in.  I thought this was odd because this happened in April, I hesitated and the following week they canceled.  The next email that I received said that they would return your money minus 20%. A similar thing happened with another show. Why ask for the booth fees when the show was bound to be canceled anyway.

It just seemed odd.

James, if you are not getting refunds there is an artists Facebook group that is sending emails to these shows. Reach out to them -- NAIA FB Forum. Carroll Swayze is doing the letters.

Addressing number 1 - I don't want to be right next to other photographers, especially if all the photographers in the show are together.  It becomes a race to the bottom price wise.  I do agree that plants and vinyl siding belong elsewhere.  But mix up the artists.  Very few people come to a show to specifically buy photography or painting or jewelry.

I hear you, Alison but, I've done shows that were advertised as fine art shows, only to find myself situated, as the only painter, in a group of jewelry, tin can airplane novelties, and hand-painted nameplate artisans.  There's a major difference in price points between the four of us.  I would prefer to be amongst painters at similar prices, $500 and up, rather than having the average sales around me being far less.

Thanks for speaking directly to one of the ideas that I posted.  Now, anything that you'd like to offer on the other two, or perhaps you have one of your own that you wish to add?

I don't mind being next to jewelers or painters but if I'm next to tin can airplanes and hand painted name plates I'm in the wrong show.  I don't mind being next to an artist with a lower price point as long as it is unique and good quality.

Until this horrible year, shows were rarely cancelled.  I believe it was Neptune festival that actually got insurance that if the show was cancelled it covered booth fee refunds.  I believe that if I cancel I should get my booth fee back if the space is resold.  I have had to cancel out of a show four times, twice for a family emergency, once for illness and once for weather.  In each case I cancelled very late and as far as I know my booth space wasn't resold.  I think it was fair for me to lose the booth fee.  For the weather one I think the show should have been cancelled.  My work would have been in danger and it would have cost me more in lost inventory than losing the booth fee.  I've not been back to that show.

Every year my list of shows to apply to is like a house of cards.  One will notify before the other one closes applications so if I don't get in the first one I have an application ready to go to the second.  Or if one that I really want to do notifies after my second choice the first one does not require me to accept until I hear from the first one.  However a lot of shows assign booth spaces in order of acceptance and paying the booth fee and I don't want to get a sucky booth space because I was one of the last to accept.  It would be nice if shows at the same level that are competing for the same weekend notified on the same date.  Unless some kind of emergency shows should adhere to their notification date.  I hate when I have my house of cards arranged perfectly and a show show decides to extend the deadline or just doesn't notify when they said they would.

So, you don't agree with the idea of artists being grouped by talent.  

You pointed out that if a show decides to cancel due to weather is exactly what I'm talking about.  I've had several shows cancel because of predicted weather, conditions, which, as it turned out, didn't occur, and yet they kept all the money. 

I stated in my idea (2) if such events should occur that bring about or causes a show to be canceled, the show in question should be required to return a portion of the booth fee.  I believe that 60% of the booth fees are reasonable and should be returned to the artist. 

If a show wishes to claim that it still had to pay various expenses, that there should be a greater deal of transparency into what these expenses and to show what these expenses are.  The shows should be held to the same standards that we ourselves are when we need to document our income, losses, and expenses.

I was reading about this "Artist Bill of Rights." I have only had one show refund just half back.  The rest were quite compassionate in either giving credit toward another show or our money back in full, so no complaints there. Actually, looking at BOTH sides, the Promoters TOO have invested advertising & time into upcoming shows, so depending on WHEN they cancel or postpone them, they can be in the red just like us...to a point. I see both sides of this one. Connie, as far as how our world would be if it were run by Women...I guess & I always have believed that no matter Women OR Men...the best QUALIFIED should be running our World-not a certain SEX. There are great leaders in BOTH sexes.

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