Art Fair Insiders

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There has been a lot of discussion over the years here, and among artists that I meet about how artists interact with potential customers as they wander into a booth.  My feeling has always been that you have to play it by ear, but a quick, friendly greeting is my default.  If a group enters in an intense discussion, or an individual on the phone I just position myself so they know I'm there.   Otherwise a quick hello and then I go from their reaction.

At the lovely 57th Street this past weekend the weather was good, the crowds were plentiful, the Squares were in use and I was in my usual chatty mode.  A family came in, mom, dad and older teen (maybe 18) son so I just looked up from my what I was doing and said "Hi, how are you guys doing today?".  They cracked up and told me that they had been debating whether there was some sort of rule prohibiting artists from speaking to patrons unless spoken to first, and they were serious.  Based on location and the direction they were going I was probably the 10th booth they'd been in and apparently everyone else had just stared at them, leaving them a little creeped out and disconcerted.  

While they didn't buy anything they stayed a few minutes and we had a lovely chat.  Of course the presence of people in my booth drew others and I was soon bringing out the Square for another patron.  

I know a lot of artists are shy (although it has never been my issue) but maybe this will give them a little more incentive to at least say hello to those kind folks who have chosen to spend their day soaking up the art.

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You handle it just like we do. It amazes me that some artists don't try to interact with people who enter their booths. My favorites are the ones have their noses buried in a book and a scowl on their faces. Don't see that too often anymore since we started doing better shows....

Great to see you here, Don.

I am a low key person, so my tendency is towards a soft sell. But I can’t understand not at least greeting a person who walks into your booth. The way I see it, they are “in my house”, even if for just a few moments. The laws of hospitality, to me, require a greeting to anyone who is under my roof. Anything less is like saying to the visitor, “get out, you are trespassing.”  What I say next depends on their reaction. Some are obviously looking to chat more, and some want to look in peace. I take my next cue from them.

 

But if we as artists are not happy to be out there presenting our work to the public, we should find galleries to serve as a protective layer between us, and not be out there at all.

They could be so many other places that day, especially on a lovely weekend. Everyone who chooses to come to a show is a prospective client for someone, if not you. Why not chat them up? Why not meet some nice people? Why not encourage them to continue to enjoy the fair and return and come to more shows. Surely sounds like you are doing the right thing.

One of my favorite openers (which sounds kind of cheesy though) is "what brings you here today." Amazing answers... come your way.

Yeah, you're right, you never know where the conversation will lead.... Most of them are in your booth because they like your work and they are almost always complimentary and just fun to talk to.

My daughter and I have started counting the artists who talk to us. At Laumeier there were 3. At Webster groves there were 2. The one that really cracked me up was the one that didn't bother to stand up when a judge entered the booth and introduced himself. Seriously, people, you are selling.

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