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Is there a discussion of the good, bad, and ugly art fair practices?

I've been occasionally reading in here for a while, but I don't recall seeing any specific place that talks about practices by art fair organizers that are appreciated, and those that are problematic...  My searching didn't turn up a specific topic, but I figure that just means I'm not searching correctly.

I've done a couple small, local shows, and am looking at branching out a little bit, so I'd like to know more about things that should cause a red flag when looking at applying to shows (or when speaking to a show organizer), and things that would indicate a particular show may be a good one.  Are there specific things people look for, or specific questions you ask, or other methods to help determine which shows to apply to?

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Hi, David, and welcome to the site.  You probably haven't visited enough to know that your question is a really broad one.  Probably half of the topics on the site deal with some aspect of these things.

Here's what I'd suggest: Richard L Scherer wrote a wonderful three-part discussion on the subject of researching shows.  I would start with Part 1, and then visit Part 2 and Part 3.  The information is recent, well-written, and very helpful.  Good luck!

Thanks Geoff. Probably should update my comments about first year shows. I'm doing three this year but there were special circumstances, and so far two of the three were cheap and easy to do, plus profitable. Hilltop , CO (my church ladies put it on), Castle Rock, CO (local art guild put it on and June shows are needed locally), Sloan's Lake, Denver, CO (last gasp for show in September before weather changes). Bottom line,just research as much as you can, then roll the dice. Reviews of the ones done have been posted.

Thanks Geoff.  Yeah, I've read a number of topics that dealt with particular oddities of specific shows (like the one that want(ed) to charge for the empty space BEHIND the tent), and a LOT of things about email scams.  I'll read Richard's notes.....

In my case, being pretty new at this, I usually try to talk to someone involved in putting on the art fair.  I've gotten some rather odd replies to questions, which is why I finally got curious enough to ask in here.  For example:

I spoke to one of the office people for one fair, who told me there was no jury.  It was just a way to get money up front to pay the up-front costs.  And "whoever was in the office" just looked at the entries when they came in and decided.  I recall reading a topic in here once about organizers sending out flyers and emails to get FAR more applications (and thus jury fees) than there are slots, just as a way to get a lot of up-front money.  So, I'm trying to learn what questions to ask to avoid this (and other) scams...

One new (at least I never saw it in the few shows I've done until this year) thing they've come up with locally is the "administrative" fee for shows...  This is in addition to the space fee AND the jury fee.  When I asked one show manager, she told me it's because "it's really expensive to have one of our volunteers put your name in our database."  I"m not sure she was hearing what she said.

I'm still trying to learn exactly what questions I should be asking 'cause I clearly don't always get it right.  I spoke to a show manager who extolled the wonders of their "hundred artist" fair, which is labeled as an Art Fair, not a craft fair.  I'm currently on the waiting list because it turns out there are only SIX slots for photographers, fewer than a third as many are there are for jewelry, fewer than for wood workers, etc.  Next time I'll know to ask how many of those 100 artists can be photographers.  And how many of THOSE are grandfathered in or are on the jury...

Anyhow, off to read Richard's stuff.

Whoops, sorry for misspelling your name (no wonder I was having trouble with the search!). That's what I get for typing without first grabbing my reading glasses ;-)

BTW, if you could go in to each of your 3-parters and add links to each of the others (either at the top or the bottom of the post) that would help folks to navigate quickly from one to the next. 

I think I'm probably just having an extraordinarily stupid day, but I read all 3 parts of Richard's post, and I didn't find the research.  Is it just supposed to be the comments at the bottom of Parts 2 and 3?

I also went out and looked for any of the local shows on a couple of the show review sites and nothing around here is listed on either of the ones I checked.  The only one that's reasonably close, I was going to do last year, and was told by the show organizer that it was fine if I paid and participated, but "photography has never sold well at our show."  So, I figured I'd save the $180 plus jury fee and find somewhere else.

I also just spoke to the show organizer for the one that only has six slots for photographers.  And found out where I was on the waiting list.  Essentially, every photographer that's IN the show would have to cancel for me to get in.  She wouldn't tell me why they had more than 3X as many slots for jewelry and 2D artists, and all that, so I have no idea who or how they set those, but it sounds like applying was a waste of a jury fee.  She did admit that the jury "puts a lot of weight on your display".  Which, although I've read that in here, surprised me since I've stupidly been believing that the quality of the artwork was more important than how white the tent was.

Methinks I have a lot to learn.....

Hm...  This has gotten real quiet...  I read all the parts of the research thing, but I'm still hoping to find more specifics...  Unfortunately, none of the shows around here even exist in the art fair reviews I've found so far.  Back to lurking...

David, there are lots and lots of shows out there. Some are very poorly run and artists should be running in the opposite direction. There are some wonderful ones also and we all want to be in those. You've got to do your research. Read all you can on this site. The tips and info are amazing, then ask exact questions.

Yes, some shows decide ahead of time how many people they want in each category. This is not cheating it is just how they want to administrate their show. It isn't about white tents, it is about how your booth looks to the jury -- in addition to the presentation of your work in the other images. Have you scoured this site to see all the discussions about booth images? Have you studied the befores and afters?

If you want to be in this business you have to do the reading and research. Then ask specific questions. Such as, "has anyone done any of the shows run by so and so, has anyone done this show, why does a show limit the people in categories ... all the answers are here and so are the people who can answer them, but you have to do some of the work. Geoff pointed you to Richard Sherer's fine info. It should have been pretty helpful.

In addition, Robert Wallis, wrote an extensive review of a jury review he attended this Spring... check that out.

Have you read the show reviews? Every one of those tells you the good, bad and the ugly.

You might benefit from a subscription to Art Fair Source Book.  The information there will tell you the number of artists in each medium and the number of applicants vs. the number of accepted artists.  It even does the math for you to tell you your percentage chance of getting in.  It doesn't list all shows only the top 200 in your region which is a good starting point.  My list of red flags (not necessarily don't do the show, just research more carefully)

Shows with food in the name, strawberry festivals, wine festivals, etc.

Shows with a booth fee less that $150

Shows with a booth fee more than $400

Shows that email me to death with 10 more days to apply, 9 more days to apply, etc.  

Shows with top name musical acts with sit down space for patrons.

Shows that jury by check.

Great tips, Alison. I like those red flags.

Thanks Allison.  That seems like a handy starting point.  And it's the kind of specifics I haven't found elsewhere.  One question.  What does "shows that jury by check" mean?

It means if your check clears the bank you're accepted. It's a joke, we never know for sure. Some shows (a lot, frankly) that claim to be juried look like that's how they're doing it.

One way to tell is if your check is cashed well before the deadline.


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