Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

I know this has been discussed here before, but I can't seem to find it. There's always a lot of talk about how jury fees are out of hand, and that shows are making money hand over fist with the record number of artists who apply. But what does it REALLY cost to plan, organize and hold an art show? Where do the jury fees and the sponsor money and all the booth fees go when it's all over?

Curious, that's all. Are art shows turning a profit, or are they a zero-sum game?

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Thanks Terry! That was a well thought out and timely reply, we appreciate it!!!

Hey Jim! Hows it going?  Thought I'd chime in - though i am relatively new to directing shows.

The financials of any show depend on so many variables.  I can only speak for myself.  I run the Evergreen Fine Arts Festival in a small town just outside of Denver - very different than a huge show like Bayou or Madison, etc.  We do get a lot of people that buy art and visit the show, but we don't have huge corporate sponsors or anything.  Not a lot of money being made, but as a non-profit, we do make a little that we can use towards scholarships, grants for local artists, supporting a local gallery in town, etc.

Our expenses are large - from permit fees, equipment lease, porta-potties, trash, recycling, 24-hr security ($$$), catering for 200 artist dinner, publicity & marketing  (last year we spent thousands on newspaper, magazine, and signage), to printing, etc.

We also try to spoil the artists that come and bring their beautiful work to our community.  We love artists.  We are artists.  We spent a lot of money on amenities like a catered dinner, t-shirts, etc.

I imagine the larger shows that have sponsors giving them 6-figure donations do much better - they also have higher costs. When you do a show in a large city and close streets, you pay by the hour for the closure and the police resources to secure it.  No doubt that it is not cheap. I would love to have that challenge, but not yet.

I do know that the directors of large shows can make some good money.  The CEO position of the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver was posted last year and was said to pay $150k.....I'm clearly not doing something right, lol.

And thanks a bunch for your great reply, too, JT. My wife and I live in Wyoming and have considered the August event in Evergreen, and we just might apply this year. We've been exhibitors in Florida and the Southeast mostly since there's gobs of award money down there, the booth fees are lower, and there's a show every weekend somewhere very close by so scheduling a tour is simple and less costly. But we cannot travel to that area any longer due to health reasons.

Award money would be another expense often covered by sponsorship.

I just noticed that there's another show in Evergreen just six weeks prior to Evergreen Fine Arts Festival. SO another expense might involve trumping the competition.

If we decide to apply and then get accepted, I'll make sure to introduce myself to you at the show.

Thanks Barrie - deadline is in 1 week - so get your app in if you are interested. :)

Our show is the better show - many people apply for the other show by accident and are disappointed...

And another competitive event happening in Denver THE SAME WEEKEND as your August show is the Affordable Art Fair, the show where artists price their work for $100 or less. Theirs is a one day on August 28.

I mentioned AWARDS EXPENSE in my previous post. JT, what are the monetary awards for Evergreen Fine Arts Festival? The application mentions ribbons and monetary awards, but no amounts. Does this fluctuate each year? Why not state the details in the prospectus?

Hi Barrie -

This is my second year managing this show - so can't say if there is any fluctuation.  However, I will consider publishing the award amounts next year.

I have done the affordable show a few times as an artist - it is good - Jim is doing a great job at growing that show.

Well, we applied for Evergreen.

We may see you in Fairhope this weekend Barrie.

Jim, I'm not going to be in Fairhope this year despite having such a great show last year. We can no longer travel to the South, because my wife got very sick and nearly died in a Macon, GA hospital critical care unit just two weeks after Fairhope. It took us until early September to figure out what really happened to her in the spring, and that was discovering her allergy to mold and the southern allergens in general. Quite a surprise and disappointment.

She is listed in the current artists... oh well. Sorry to hear that the liquid air down here is bad for her. :-(

We were award winners last year and that means auto-in. But when the show doesn't get our application, seems they would realize we're not coming back. We certainly would have, but we can't. They were slow last year updating their website. It might have been only a few days before the show. So they're slacking in that department. YOu'll have to let me know if we're in the show program. I HOPE NOT! YIKES!

Josh, interesting point on Cherry Creek. I just glanced at their 2013 form 990 and it shows Artist Application Exhibitor Fees $436,494 with total Income: $2,011,021 Expenses: $2,220,395. The big difference in the numbers appears to be due to grants and donations.

Jim, if you are looking for a specific show and they are a 501c3, you can request the past 3 years of their form 990's since they are required to file them and be publicly available. I know of one show that effectively ignores your 990 requests (and lost status with the feds since they were not filing these I think). Unlike cherry creek, there is one "promoter" here in Colorado that runs 5 shows and does not appear to invest much in many of the expenses that Josh lists out in my opinion (there have been discussions on this "promoter" on AFI). In my opinion EFFECTIVE marketing should be at the top of the expense line items.

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