Art Fair Insiders

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This was my first time doing Uptown. I had visited it one other time about 8 years ago when it was so hot we only walked about 1/4 of the fair. I had been told mixed things about uptown, "it's not what it used to be", "It is hard to sell anything high priced", "you should do well there", "don't have high expectations", "I wouldn't travel that far for that show","it is a good pottery town",so I really didn't know what to expect.

Set up: I was on Hennepin Ave at the South end. Set up was a bit tricky, because they werent going to close the street till 9, and the fair started at 12. We could drop off things at the curb before hand, but that only gives 3 hours to set up. Luckily they closed the street a half hour early, and I had my dad, who lives close by, to help me set up. If I were by myself, which I often am for out of town shows, I could not have gotten everything ready in just 3 hours, it usually takes me almost 4 start to finish by myself.

  The people on the mall area could set up the day before, but I heard that getting in and out of that area was not easy.

Exhibitors: Uptown is a very large fair, I think there were 350 artists there. It was a broader level of quality than other top tier shows, but still overall pretty good. I didn't see any buy/sell or artists that were of low quality. There was definitely some that were on the crafty side, like one guy had artistic bird houses, but it was still of good quality. I know some will shun that kind of thing, but I also think having some like that for that show helps draw the really big crowds. I know Minnesota people and they like that kind of thing.

  There were quite a few commercial booths. For the most part they were pretty benign. I didn't see anyone chasing down people, and very little barking. They had a food/cooking stage down from me that did a few events during the fair. They were kind of loud at times, it would have been hard to be close to them when they had something going on.

Crowd/weather: It was a little on the hot side on Friday, but Saturday was better, and Sunday it was gorgeous. As a result the crowds were very good. They do show up early, I was surprised, even at 12 on Friday the crowd was already good sized. And on Sunday, when it usually doesn't get busy till afternoon at other fairs, people were showing up at 10am. The crowds were definitely strongest during the day, once it hit about 6:30 it really died down, and after 7 it was mostly people walking though to get somewhere else. The fair lasts till 8 on Friday and Saturday, but I think it could have stopped at 7 and been fine. There is no power for booths so there is not a lot of light from 7-8, even up north.

Sales: For me it was my best show of the year, I am sure part of that was the "Best of Show for Ceramics" banner hanging on my booth, that definitely draws people in. But even on Friday before they had announced the winners I had really strong sales, way above what I normally do on a Friday. Other artists I talked to either had a good show or an OK show, I didn't talk to anyone who had a bad show, although I am sure there were some. I also didn't talk to anyone else who had a really great show either though. I even noticed that a painter that had been doing a lot of the same shows as me, who did really poorly at Madison, seemed to do much better here.

  I know Minneapolis can be a strong market for pottery, which is what I do, and so I am sure that also played a factor for me.

Promoters: Uptown seemed to be very well organized. Communication was great before and during the show. The people were very helpful and friendly. There were plenty of booth sitters available, although I never needed one. They even gave you a number to call to request a sitter, which is very nice. They had an awards breakfast on Saturday morning at a nice restaurant in the middle of the fair. The food was awesome, so if you were there and didn't go you missed out. I really had no complaints about the promoters.

Tear down: Were I was it went pretty smoothly, but I cannot speak for other areas.

Overall it was a great fair to do, I will definitely be back next year.

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Thanks for the report. Was this fair relatively easy to be accepted into?  And did you notice painters doing well?  I do paintings and have never applied to do this one, but this is a far better report than those I have read for the Edina art fair, (bad reviews) so I might try for this one instead.  What other fairs in MN are you normally a part of?  I'm in St. Cloud and new to art fairs, I just started last year.

I am doing Uptown again as well as the Craft Council show in St. Paul in the spring.

The landscape painter next to me did well, he comes every year and likes it. I can't speak much to painting overall, only talked to a couple painters, but they seemed to be doing well.
I don't want to paint too rosey a picture, i know this fair has fallen out of favor with many due to declining sales and mixed quality of presenters. There were artists there that I see at the biggest national shows, but also ones that I would expect to see at a smaller local show. I even heard many comments from patrons saying that they stopped coming to uptown because of declining quality. It is not at the level of a cherry creek or St. Louis. However I think it is possible to do quite well, the crowds were huge, and seem to be every year.
I would think that if you have good stuff you should be able to get into Uptown, many artists aren't willing to travel far for it anymore. A large percentage of artists were from Minnesota or close by.
The only other fair I have been to in Minneapolis is the Autumn Festival: an Arts and Crafts Affair, which is NOT an art fair, but a craft event, full of piece work, buy/sell, and cheap crap, with a few decent things sprinkled in.

Thanks for the information, I had no idea the fair had fallen out of favor with people.  I have only heard good things from it from people who go to it, but they are not buyers, they are "lookers".  I live in central Minnesota so it would not be far for me to go to, but it's very expensive, so I wondered if it was worth it. I'm trying to decide whether to try to participate in this one or the Edina art fair because I can't afford at this time to do both!

On another note, I think Minneapolis is a great art loving city. This is still the best fair in town, and I think the economy played a part in it's decline in the past few years. I hope that when the economy bounces back that sales will start to go up for everyone at Uptown and it will start to attract more national artists to come back.

I think you're right about the economy, it is affecting every art fair I was a part of last year and a big topic of discussion, so hopefully things will improve this year.  I love Minneapolis and you're right, they are art lovers. I wish I lived there!

Another reason that this fair has fallen out of favor with some is issues with theft and vandalism. There was a case last year, and a few years ago, where several tents got broken into and things stolen or broken. Many artists were not satisfied with the response from the director about these events, and feel that security is still a big issue.


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