While it has been a trying year for everyone in this industry in particular, I know I would be having this same discussion if there was no Covid19. I believe my level of frustration with art fair organizers is reaching new heights regarding arbitrary rulemaking and exclusionary policies.
I am a part-time artist in Charlotte County, Florida, working in multiple mediums and in the last year I have been focusing solely on digital projects. Lately, I have a series of travel poster themed images, some serious and some humorous/tongue-in-cheek. I never intended this project to be under the domain of Fine Art. Are they art? Absolutely. I do consider them to be interesting designs that folks would like to purchase a print and hang on a wall. I also like that they have further applications for consumers, such as t-shirts, mugs, etc. I have sold several blowup posters and smaller prints locally and online. While I feel that these images won't necessarily win any awards, I do feel that I put a lot of work into them and people have proven they are interested by plunking down cash.
I understand art shows/festivals that are well known to be or advertise themselves as "Fine Art," have certain expectations with the artistic medium and presentation.
These are shows seeking artists who produce one-of-a-kind or limited production products which sell for moderate to high values and possibly could end up in a gallery or win an award. I would not try to enter my travel project in a show like this because I feel it's in a different category altogether. My ire is directed and lower to mid tier art/craft shows which don't explicitly advertise for fine art. Shows which occur all over the country throughout the year.
Here's the rub:
I absolutely do not agree with art shows and craft shows putting unnecessary restrictions on the the print mediums which 2D artists choose to market their work.(Especially shows that do not advertise themselves as fine art.) My project is well suited to be sold to the masses on high quality poster print blow-ups, rolled into a tube for protection and sold to the customer for $20-40. While I could have it printed as a giclee, canvas, or other high grade/limited production method, then mounted on board or in a frame, I feel this would be onerous or needlessly complex and expensive for what I characterize as an artistic travel poster.
What I found:
I just looked on Zapplication at the application for the Punta Gorda Holly Jolly Holiday Craft Fair and was dismayed to read through the rules. Digital Art must be "limited editions, signed and numbered on archival quality materials." This very same event has categories for Soap/Bath products. If a vendor can produce a vat of soap, package it, and sell as many as they want to, why would you restrict the delivery process of someone else's medium?
In another example, the Punta Gorda Sullivan Street Craft Fair (which is Howard Alan btw), states, "PRINT POLICY: American Craft Endeavors will allow a limited quantity of offset prints, giclees, and reproduced work that must be clearly labeled as such." I would undoubtedly be penalized in some way if my entire inventory consisted of poster prints and other reproductions. However, this is a craft show with categories such as Candles, Soaps, and even Dips/Sauces. Really? You're going to put some restrictions on a guy trying to sell some artistic prints while the guy across the aisle is hocking bottles of Barbeque Sauce? What-the-He**?
It gets worse. For the April "Bloom in Art" event here, also on Zapp, the rules state, "Digital Art includes any original work for which the original image or the manipulation of a source material is executed by the artist using a computer. Work in this category must be limited editions, signed and numbered on archival quality materials. This gem includes categories for CBD Oil producers, Plant Growers, and Soaps/Lotions. Here's what the plant people have for their instructions: Plants/Garden: Any and all plants and garden art. That's it. Why so many restrictions on certain other categories? If there is a standard that they are trying to meet, how do they reconcile that with allowing booths selling CBD brownies? The logic is missing something.
The devil's advocate would argue that having prints available in all sizes which aren't limited edition could be seen as not being "hand-made", which is usually understood to be a component of these shows. I would argue that for all photography based mediums this definition is subjective. All photographic works must be replicated onto something in order for another person to acquire a copy of it. Whether the photographer prints it at home on his Epson wide format printer or sends it off to a lab, the results are essentially identical.
I disagree with another argument that these rules are necessary to eliminate buy/sell. So a guy shows up with photography work and a truckload of mass-produced prints. They can't be certain that this person actually took the photo or worked on it. Okay. Does this really matter in the context of a lower or mid-tier art/craft show? Like all the other white tents out there, here is a another person with interesting artsy/craftsy things to sell. They also can't be certain the barbeque guy didn't just repackage Sweet Baby Ray's either.
It is incredibly disconcerting that there are so many artificial roadblocks in the way to try to find buyers. Other avenues such as flea markets are next to useless, with the average shopper looking for a phone case or cowboy boots. The value in art and craft fairs is that shoppers here are a "targeted audience", potential customers who are already interested in looking for things to hang on the wall.
I think that it's time for artists to band together, democratically, and create our own shows. We could all pay a nominal fee (the true costs) to rent a city space, pay for the permits and portable toilets, and advertise through word of mouth. No juries, no application fees, no restrictions. Just art.
Ok, enough ranting for a Monday. How is your Monday going so far AFI?
Frustrated in Florida