Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
After the interesting conversation a couple weeks ago about the value of hospitality, I had back-to-back weekend shows with minimal and maximal artist hospitality. I paid attention.
I did Paragon's Houston Fine Arts show, on Discovery Green, and had a good show in terms of sales. I'm a painter, fyi. There was plenty of communication about the show from Paragon, particularly because you have to dolly everything at this site. I had a problem after jurying in that needed attention, and Paragon got back to me swiftly and helped me solve it.
Ron was there at the show to greet the artists, and give us a map of the show. He came around a few times a day, both days of the show, and during set-up and breakdown, to check in. I didn't have any problems, but people around me did, and Ron was available to sort things out for them.
That was it for artist hospitality.
I saw signs up around the show, advertising it, but beyond that, don't know what Paragon did. There were plenty of people at the show, and I sold three small paintings, one medium one and one large one.
The show the following weekend was in Winnsboro, Texas, a town of 3,500. There was good communication from the show organizers before the show. I again had a problem that needed attention, and the Winnsboro people got back to me quickly and helped me.
There are not many main streets in Winnsboro, TX, and there were signs up on each of them advertising the Art Market. Beyond that, I don't know what kind of advertising they did, though more people came to the show than live in town, so I imagine there must have been some.
Sign-in in Winnsboro was at the arts center, on the corner of one of the streets where the site was held. We received a packet with a map of the show, coupons for discounts from local vendors, a wristband for one of the dinners, and some other printed stuff.
You could drive right up to your booth site. Two large men helped me unload. One of the show organizers got in my van with me to help me find the parking area. The guys helped me set up the tent (it was up in 30 mins!). There was a dinner that night for the artists, breakfast on Saturday and Sunday, and another dinner on Saturday. This dinner also included tickets for wine tastings, and a commemorative wine glass. At breakdown, four people helped. I was down and packed in the van and ready to go in One Hour.
Volunteers were plentiful throughout the show. They answered questions, gave us bottles of water, did booth-sitting. The merchants on our streets welcomed us, helped with set-up, and allowed us to use their bathrooms. Boy Scouts gave us signed thank-you cards, and little loaves of banana bread, as a good-bye gesture.
Texas had an arts designation that it awards to certain cities and towns, and Winnsboro is the smallest town to earn this designation. It has an arts district (the two streets where the show was held). The organizers of the show are determined to make the town a true arts center, and the show is a mainstay of that effort. In addition to the artists, they had half a dozen local writers at the arts center on Saturday, meeting people and signing books. There are a couple wineries in the area, a local cheese-maker, a local cigar-maker, and they were there, also. There was live music by local musicians.
I have never felt as welcomed at a show as I did at Winnsboro. But the first day, the long first day, I had no sales. So I spent a lot of time thinking about hospitality and its place and value vs. sales. By the end of the first day in Houston, I had a couple K in the bank. By the end of the first day in Winnsboro, I had zero.
And yet, I have to admit this to you all, I thought that I might still come back in a year. Does that make sense? No, of course not! But it's true. If I got in, if I was in Texas, if it was again a sensible part of a loop, I would at least consider coming back. It felt like there was potential for sales - and I felt like I was part of something exciting.
But by the end of the second day - which was an intelligent 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. - I had $2K-plus in the bank. So my crazy on-the-fly sense of things need not be tested.
I don't really have conclusions about the value of hospitality. Both shows were good for me. I made money at both. I didn't feel treasured at the Paragon show - but I didn't expect to. I expected a solid show, a working show, a smart show with excellent work in a good place, and that's what I got. I didn't know what to expect in Winnsboro - and I was delighted with what I found.
If Winnsboro was a Cadillac, well, Paragon was a Cobra. Excellent vehicles both, just different. What's your experience? What's your feeling?
I don't have any comparisons to make but I did enjoy your reviews...thanks for sharing them with us.
Very good review. It is such an effort to do a show and not make sales. Some of us are cut from a different cloth and the needs are different. If I take the time to create (I am a painter also), inventory, pack up drive, take time away from family, hotel, gas and food. I need to make sales. No fluff. I answer to myself and family so need some validation. (Bet that banana nut bread on the interstate with coffee was the bomb!)
Thanks, Heather. I'm glad you enjoyed the review. We DO need to make sales! Yes, no fluff! And both shows paid off.
Excellent story, Carrie. Thanks for all of this!
One of the interesting things about this business is the variety of events and each one has its own personality. Paragon delivered. They did what they told you they would do. They have an agenda that they fulfill.
Winnsboro, probably run by volunteers, knocked themselves out to make the event a good one for their guests - you! Your post exemplifies what is a truism in this business, that I believe in: not every artist at every show, even at the very best ones, is going to do well -- BUT -- if you make it as pleasant as possible for them, and really treat them as honored guests, slow sales may not hamper your giving them another try. One of the organizers got in the van with you to help! Woot!
Have you done a Paragon show before? Have you been to Texas for a show before? What in the world are you doing wandering so far from home?
Hi, Connie, and thanks for responding, and featuring my review. All you say about Paragon and about he volunteers in Winnsboro is right on the money.
I've done Paragon shows before, and have found them to be well-run and in excellent locations. I've had varying degrees of success in them - but what else is new?
This was my first trip to Texas, and I'd not have done it had I not gotten into back-to-back shows. That's really why I took a flyer on Winnsboro. It sounded small, but fun - and that's exactly what it was.
I loved Texas and would be happy to go back. Just have to turn some of those rejections and wait-listings into acceptances!
I used to love doing Disney Festival of the Masters. I was always treated wonderfully there. Unfortunately I never made much money there but it was refreshing to the spirit. I wouldn't say I feel treasured at Paragon but I do feel respected and that is important to me. I've done quite a few shows where I've never met the director, where no parking is set aside for us, where there aren't enough porta potties to know that the basics aren't always basic.
Yes, absolutely, Alison. Respected is just the right word for how I feel about my treatment at Paragon shows. Respected and treated like a professional.
Show me the money!! I can take care of myself if that is the difference. Also, you are paying for that hospitality. That isn't free. It's added to the booth fee. I'd be willing to bet that the hospitality you experienced gets less and less each year. It's happened at every show I've ever done multiple times.
I have not been to these places to know what is offered or how it feels to be there. However I do agree with Barry that every perk has its cost. Whether it's people coming to check on you, "free" bottles of water or cups of coffee, etc. It's part of doing business. Anyone that has been in business any length of time realizes that not everything that appears to be free is free. Okay, I'll step down off my soapbox now. <see me slinking back to my corner now>
Having said what I said, there are shows I would go back to because the other artists are so much damn fun. I did a show last summer where I only did $120 and I'm thinking about going back just cause I had a really great time. In fact, looking at the past artist list was the motivation for applying in the first place.
Well, tell just me which show it was, Barry. And, did it have an artist lounge and volunteers walking around with bottled water?
Connie, I hate to mention shows where I bombed. However, the show was Sutton's Bay. The show had a lot of artists who do Bonnie's Garage Sale and that was really, really fun hanging out with them. The show was on the water. The customers I talked to were billionaires, but, nobody was buying my work. Rustic was popular. There was a really good breakfast, however. No artist's lounge. Setup at our end was a real effort because you had to dolly in and at our end we had to dolly down a steep hill to get in and then haul the stuff up the same hill at closing. Still, I had a great time.
I forgot to mention that there were high school kids there to help with loading and unloading. That was a big help.