Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
So, I just got home from a weekend show in New Buffalo, MI called "Artigras." The show itself is only 4 years old and Amy Amdur ran it for the first 2 years. Last year (2014) she couldn't find enough artists willing to pay her booth fee, so she just bailed on the show, leaving the New Buffalo Business Association (NBBA) and the artists in the lurch. A veteran artist was finally able to pull a small show together on the main street in this beach town and saved the NBBA a great deal of embarrassment by collecting only $25 from each artist for a booth fee. By all comments I collected, the show wasn't terrible and there was great foot traffic all weekend and fairly good sales for the artists.
Unfortunately, the 2015 Artigras has a far darker story. The NBBA took over the show and moved it off Whitaker St. to a small park by the beach. The application process was easy enough and the booth fee was reasonable at $100. What we were not aware of, was that parking was very limited and the lucky few who got a spot in the beach lot paid $10 to park. There was also a $5/head fee to get into the art fair. This was a 'suggested donation' but the people at the front gate shamed people into paying and many chose not to come in.
At the back gate, there was a state owned parking lot for the boat launch, but you couldn't park there unless you had a boat trailer. The lot was huge and all but empty. I was told by the NBBA that they couldn't let people park there because the state wouldn't allow it.....that was a real shame. To make things worse, when people came to that gate on foot, the police told them they had to walk all the way around to the front gate and they "had to pay," which simply wasn't true. So, a family of 4 got suckered into paying $30 before they even looked at a single piece of art.
The artists had plenty of time to kibbitz because there was NO traffic. We tried talking to the guard at the back gate to let him know that he shouldn't be turning people away; that he was there to monitor the parking, not to keep our customers away. Right after that conversation, I had a visit from the NBBA person, who told me she had instructed the guard. When I continued my protest (on behalf of every other artist I spoke with,) I was met with, "yeah, but we're a non-profit...." I simply said that we all would have been happy to pay a little more for our booth fee in exchange for free admission and better traffic.... more arguing from her and not a drop of empathy. I finally got really angry and dismissed her with a 'talk to the hand' gesture.
Part of my anger was born of frustration...lack of traffic, terrible sales, rude people, disappointed artists and finally, the very organization that is supposed to be helping us achieve a good show, is the very entity that thwarted our efforts. And, to add insult to injury, we were ALL lied to...they touted their pre-show marketing (there was none,) they made no mention of the entry fee in their pre-show info, and finally, late Sunday, the organizer lied about the attendance and said they had 2,500 head count for the weekend. ALL of us agreed that it felt more like 500, if that.
Oh....but they gave us lunch vouchers. Pretty expensive $100 lunch, I'd say. I also told people who came into my booth that I would pay for their parking if they spent over $100 in my booth. I think that's the only reason I had 2 customers on Sunday.
ALL the artists I spoke to had an awful show. We ALL agreed that the show was in the wrong location without any parking. We ALL agreed that pressuring people to pay at the gate was hurting the attendance. We ALL believe the show should've stayed on Whitaker St. where foot traffic is non-stop. NONE of the artists I talked with are coming back next year.
No! This is really too bad. Thanks for publishing it here -- and I hope you all gave a lot of information back to the organizers. Perhaps the NBBA could use a consultant on how to put a show together!
Do you have some names to suggest of folks who provide this kind of service?
I MAY be missing something here & if I am, PLEASE TELL ME! WHY isn't there some kind of shuttle for the Patrons?!!! School Parking Lots, shopping center parking lots with spaces on the outskirts of the lot, a parking lot somewhere!~I know where this is, but not familiar with what this city has in it. Also, I have found on this West side of Michigan probably more than ANYWHERE ELSE I have done shows in 30+ yrs., the Hotels (I have heard) do NOT give a decent rate to the Promoters to block rooms-at least I have not heard of one yet. PLEASE let me know if I am wrong. YES, this is a tourist area, but this is NOT the only tourist area out there~I have been to many where the Promoter is able to block some rooms, but is seems the Hotels on this side will not budge...am I wrong? I would LOVE to know if there are reasonable hotels, motels-I do not mean staying at someones house (don't like that). If it is JUST PARKING, there should be a way to find a shuttle somewhere~my thoughts anyway!
I agree, Kathleen! A shuttle would have solved the parking issue AND it probably would've brought more people to the fair. Large banners advertising the shuttle stop in town might have attracted people who didn't even know the show was happening.
And, yes, Connie...the organizers were ill-prepared to take on this event. If they had done anything more than think about lining their own coffers to boost New Buffalo businesses (at the expense of 54 artists) it might have been a better event. The weather was decent on Saturday (a little blustery and chilly, but not anything that would keep people away,) and Sunday was gorgeous. So, I guess what I'm trying to say is that there was no excuse for this show being so awful.
I am positive that regardless of any fixes, I won't be going back. First, I really don't want to, and second, I'm sure the NBBA hates me after reading this review (I sent a copy.)
Thanks for today's laugh, Gayle! Oh, just in case they don't read it, I'm going to do a little follow up myself. No excuse -- great town, and you are saying even nice weather ... this should be a sweetie.
A shuttle would solve this problem? Seriously? Lolololo!!!!!
Who says every little podunk town has to have an art fair? Why would anyone sign up for this in the first place? Try being a little more discerning. If you can't get into better shows, try and make better work. If I can do it, so can any of you. Meanwhile, stop supporting these poorly run, poorly attended shows. Let them all go away.
YES~A shuttle REALLY. This isn't rocket science. This is a tourist town~a quaint, lovely Michigan town that would be a very good venue if a GOOD promoter had it & used the shuttle system, so there would NOT be this parking problem! IF a DIFFERENT promoter directed an Art Fair in this tourist town, & used a shuttle, I would apply in a heartbeat. Hotels are a problem here, but, if the show is run well, then perhaps the profit would be worthwhile. There are many more GOOD ARTISTS looking for good shows in this & the Chicago area, but not enough good shows to accommodate them & this is very sad! Hey, Michigan promoters or Michigan Artists~ out there~here is an opportunity~put on your OWN FAIR!
Atta Girl, Kathleen!! You tell him.
Barry, I have been doing art fairs for 14 years. Kathleen is right, New Buffalo, MI is hopping with vacationers who come from all over the tri-state area. It's a beautiful Lake Michigan resort area.
The ONLY reason this art fair was a flop was the logistics. I grossed ~$650, my usual gross for a weekend show is between $2000 and $2500. There were really good artists there; we all are experienced enough to know what the problem was and it wasn't being un-"discerning".
You were sounding a little high and mighty there, Barry....
Atta girl, Gayle!! You tell him.
It is very interesting to hear the experiences that you and other artists had at the 2015 Artigras in New Buffalo, MI. It is so unfortunate to hear of the losses of for you and others.
As the former director of the Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff, in St. Joseph, MI, I am interested in consulting with municipalities to help impove and or grow their art fairs. I plan to contact NBBA to see if there is any interest on their part in working with me.
Hope the rest of your summer is full of good sales and experiences.
Thanks, Sara! I'm sure that you will get a very interesting response....I'd be interested in hearing about the outcome of your conversation. I think Kathleen had a great idea in providing a shuttle from other area parking. It would be a non stop customer flow if that were done.
Well, well, well...there IS a GOD!!! Thanks to all you~Connie, Gayle, & Sara) as there is alot of potential here & it should be a very successful event! It is a beautiful tourist area & there are alot of Chicago tourists~tourists love to pick up something handmade from their travels. As far as the shuttle guy who does not believe it will work, has his head still stuck in the sand from the 70's.(LOL). Sara~Gayle& Connie~a WEALTH of information! If I could get a Wyndam Hotel for $80.00 in Glenview (for my Old Orchard Skokie Show), full-service w/tons amenities & 2 full-hot buffet breakfasts each day & a suite that can be split with another couple making it only $40.00 night + tax, then this West side should be able to accommodate the Artists having the promoter blocking some rooms. This will keep the Artists expenses down as I know Artists who will not go to this area just because the hotels are too. Thanks Gayle for bringing this to our attention, & thanks to Sara for taking an interest in this with your wonderful consulting experience. I would think that the NBBA would be thrilled to work with you!