Penrod in Indianapolis and Big Four in Louisville have both invited me. Both are the same weekend and I'm trying to determine which show would be better for me. (I'm aware that one or both of these shows may not happen in 2020.)

As a newbie at the art fair business, I've done only one show to date, so I don't have a good feel for how my work is likely to do in a given venue.

My medium is photography - mostly abstracts and nature details. I do very few landscapes and no wildlife.

I know Robert Wallis is a Penrod regular and I believe he said it's one of his better shows.

Penrod needs a confirmation by July 10, Big Four's decision date is July 15.

Any input that may help me decide which show to accept would be greatly appreciated!

Jay Snively

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  • Thank you ALL for your comments - it's very helpful. Thanks especially to Kathleen for the details - I would find the complicated logistics a little stressful.

  • Weighing in here on the likelihood of sales at both of these events. I hear the worries about high unemployment casting a pall on sales. However, the demographics of attendees at art fairs probably shows that these are the people least likely to being unemployed. I would not let that be part of the consideration on choosing to be part of an art festival.

    • Connie, high unemployment rates aren't strictly about people not having jobs - it's an indicator of the overall health of an economy.  We are in a recession.  People in the demographic you refer to probably had to lay those people off because their business is down - thus their incomes, too.  They likely have 401ks, IRAs etc and may have suffered considerably as the stock market has gone up and down.  Even economically stable people tend to pull back on discretionary purchases because of general uncertainty.  Happened after the 2008 recession, and will likely happen now.  

      Also sales may suffer because some people will just plain stay away from large crowds, even when shows try to abide social distancing rules.  And it's an election year, which tends to have a modest impact -- more about uncertainty, again. 

      It's going to be a while before sales return to 2019 levels.

    • I appreciate the point, Connie. It addresses an item I've been wondering about.

      I'm not too concerned with sales at the art fair, anyway. My primary goal for doing a fair is to find those who express an interest in my work and add them to my list. Then, I can keep my art in front of them year 'round. That gives them an opportunity to buy when the time is right for them. The timing may not be right for them the few minutes they're at my booth.

  • Hi Jay,

    We have only done Penrod, so cannot compare, but logistically, it is a nightmare!  Although it is a one day show, you have to set up the night before.  The museum grounds, while beautiful, are a maze and the artists are assigned to an area designated by color.  You must wait at the entrance until there is room for a place to unload in your color area.  There is no parking on the grounds itself. On the day of the fair, artists park in a completely different area and are brought in by bus, as are customers.  So far, so good.  After the fair is closed, and you tear down you wait for the bus, then are directed back on a specific route and given specific lanes of the street to wait in according to your color, then again you inch forward and are allowed onto the grounds a space opens up.  It is a long and exhausting day.  The organizers make the best of a difficult situation since the museum grounds are bordered by two very busy streets.  They use radios to communicate the space availability and they are very helpful before and after the show, helping to transport items to the nearest pick-up point.  Penrod is one of the major Indianapolis art fairs.  We had it as a goal initially.  Now, we have done it.  For us, sales weren't good enough to warrant the hassle. Our first year, it poured!  We were in standing water all day, so traffic wasn't very good and being a one day show there wasn't a way to recoup.  Good weather definitely makes it a better experience. There are a lot of things going on. There are so many spaces on the grounds that there is room for classical music, jazz, ballet throughout the day and the music doesn't overwhelm.  It is a high class show, but be aware that not everyone is there to buy art.  Best wishes on whichever show you decide on.

  • Never participated in Big Four, but have participated in Penrod several times over the years.  Very well organized and attended, the all-volunteer staff is pretty great and always offering to assist in load out/in, great buying energy, thoughtful, engaged patrons, beautiful setting.  My sales (jewelry) have often exceeded what i would normally sell in a three day show.  

    For a one day show, it's pretty good.  Minimizes hotel expenses, too.

    The invited artists are reduced by 1/3 to accommodate social distancing this year, so they're definitely thinking this through.  Of course, hard to say what will happen.  SLAF is same weekend, and canceled.  Also, with high unemployment, COVID variables nationwide, and the general uncertainty in the air, if any show moves forward, you'll have to expect much lower sales overall. 

  • You have about a month to decide I'v taken a wait and see position. Some shows have already canceled into September while others have taken it right up to the money due date and large gatherings were canceled by local authorities. The decision may not be yours at some point especially this early in the summer. Also, consider the venue. I declined an invitation for one show as I knew the venue was in the "atrium" (still outside) of a business/condo complex, very little room for social distancing, while still considering another show that will be held in a large open field where booths can be spread apart more. 

  • Kentucky COVID cases are climbing at a faster rate than Indiana’s which in my feeble mind means a greater risk of cancellation,

    I do live in Indiana and have also been invited to Penrod but most of the shows in Indiana (At this point in time) are full steam ahead from August to the end of the year. BUT, they are also highlighting the possibility of being canceled. It’s a tough call either way.
  • I did Big Four last year, and it was very good for me. Setup and breakdown was a breeze. Great customers and location. However, there were some artists that said "won't be back". My medium is basketry. I'm going again this year.
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