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

I'm the Director of a first year Festival (The Cotton South) and want to get some opinions on the disbursement of Festival prize money from AFI members. Currently, our plan is to award $10,000 in 3 checks: $5000 Best of Show: $2500 Best of 2D, and $2500 Best of 3D, with Category winners receiving Festival ribbons.

What are the pros and cons of this arrangement from the artists perspective?


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Personally speaking, I'd either spread the award money out to all winners. Category winners should get at least $100. Or deduct it from booth fees and save everyone some money.

Larry Berman

I like your idea Larry.  With escalating booth fees and declining sales, deducting award money from everyones booth fee makes alot of sense.  We wouldn't need judges that know nothing about some of the work.  Sales are what really counts.  We would all benefit.

very generous... would love to see category winners receive monetary prizes too.... spread the love!

Award money was a recent discussion of a committee that I am on.  The previous show director made a good point.  If someone's work is worth awarding a ribbon, then there should be money attached to it.  The award should be at least as much as the entry fee to the show. 

I find awards at shows are a distraction. I'm not really sure the point of them. Isn't the point of the shows to sell art? I wish more money would be put into advertising the show to the public.

Dan. I gotta disagree with ya on that point.

Awards have been given out as  recognition for work that stands out from the rest.  They are equally as valid as sales of art work.

Awards should IMO be given in all categories if they are given. The money is nice and they look good on your artist's statement. More significant to me would be being grandfathered into the next year's show. One less question mark to deal with.

I like awards to be not related to category -- sometimes some categories are very strong and others only have a few participants, so "Award of Distinction" or "Award of Excellence" to top exhibitors. As Richard says though one of the best parts of winning an award is the knowledge that you will be re-invited for the following year. There are pros and cons of big prizes or more equal prizes. The big money prizes may bring you some stellar participants who feel they have a chance to pick up the award and every show likes to have fine work. The smaller prizes can bring you a group of people who believe they can sell and don't depend on prizes to earn their living. It can also give you a solid group of fine work to return for the following year. Totally believe that a ribbon should have a check with it.

Pretty much agree with Connie's comments. In rethinking categories, a first place award does not have to be given if the number of participants or quality of work merits it. A third might be more appropriate if the judges are that knowledgeable. Example: the Colorado Saddlemakers Association put on eight judged saddle shows at the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo in the early 1990s. We were really on the learning curve about classes of saddles, judging score sheets and the like. There were significant cash awards and in kind materials donated by suppliers to the trade(values in the $500 range). The first year we had a Novice Class there was one entry, and the saddle was a real wreck. The judge gave it first place as he had no instructions to do otherwise. That one got put waaaayyyyy back in the display that year, and we learned a lesson.
Like the others, money from sales is what is important. If I didn't make my minimum I wouldn't return, award or no award. A balance between cash awards of up to $500 and the rest going to lower fees and promotion would be my recommendation.
Self promotion: I have a business management CD out mainly for leatherwork, but an article "Was It a Good Show?" analyzes real world shows with and without awards.

I'm with Dan and David. Spend the money on getting people to attend the show and buy from everyone.

That is generous prize money for a small festival. I agree it should be spread out a little more than just the 3 "Best of's". Lower the top prizes to 4,000/2,000 and give at least a couple of hundred each to category winners or maybe enough to cover the booth fee + automatic entry to next years show.

Thanks everyone for your thoughts! I think I've got a plan figured out that's going to look like "All the above".



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