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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I was more interested in the general picture, not a specific show. But I agree, most of the money that isn't spent directly on jury expenses ought to go to advertising.

If they weren't turning a decent profit, they wouldn't be having them. For our little show, we make a small profit but we aren't doing it for the money. This is a labor of love for me. I don't think that's the case with most shows. But expenses keep rising quickly. The rent on our indoor location goes up over $1000 each year. Next year we have to hire parking lot people because the crowds are so large. We may have to take out some booths because of the crowds as well. Our jury fee is $20. That covers our ZAPP costs and lunch during the jury and not much else. Booth fee is $145 which hasn't changed for a couple of years. We do charge $5 to get in which helps keep the booth fees down (and pays for Friday night pizza for the artists) but it's hard since I want to spend everything I can on advertising. The rising jury fees drive me nuts as an artist because it's just a huge source of income for most shows and many times not even used for the jurying...

Here is an excerpt from the State College, PA Festival of the Arts, newsletter -- just in case you are forgetting any of the efforts put forth by staff:

Behind the Scenes:  Choosing the Sidewalk Sale & Exhibition Artists 

The winter is a busy time at the Arts Festival office. We've scarcely put away First Night State College when the application deadline for the Sidewalk Sale and Exhibition comes along.

Our five person jury spent two days in February evaluating over 4,500 images submitted by more than 900 applicants for the 308 spots in the Sidewalk Sale. In addition, they also evaluated the work of about 30 local artists on a "hands on" basis. It's an exhausting process.
After the jury is over, the Festival staff assigns each accepted artist a booth location. Some artists--veteran exhibitors, for the most part--request a specific spot, while others may indicate a preferred street, or a preference for a spot in the shade or sun. Some artists don't make any location request at all. Assigning spots is a time consuming process since staff endeavors to give everyone their first choice while trying to insure that we don't put artists in the same genre next to each other. By the third week of March, when the acceptance, wait list, and rejection letters are emailed to all of the applicants, each artist has been assigned a spot.

During this time, we also prepare an online acceptance packet for artists. It contains maps of the festival, a list of hotels for artists, on-site rules, and local tax information. Did you know that each exhibitor purchases a temporary retail permit from the Borough of State College? This fee, which is in addition to the booth fee that artists pay us, is $25 for artists with a single booth and $50 for artists with a double booth.

When the jury results arrive in artists' email boxes, accepted artists have about a month to tell us if they want to come to the Festival. Many artists apply to multiple shows on the same weekend so that if they're rejected by one, they still have other options. Artists who are invited to more than one show on a given weekend must decide which one they want to attend. Factors in this decision include how far the show is from their home; what it will cost to do the show, and the length of the show. Artists are business owners and have lots of decisions to make before deciding to do a festival.

As artists tell us they're coming and pay their booth fees, we add them to our website so that the public has a good idea of what to expect in the Sidewalk Sale. Our site helps give avid shoppers a head start on scoping out potential Festival purchases.

If it's hard to wait for May, please go online to see our 2016 Invited Artists. These men and women either won a prize at last year's festival or did especially well in the on-site scoring. They'll be easy to spot at the Festival.  Each will have a blue Invited Artist ribbon hanging in their booth.

This is off the top of my head for a smallish indoor show at a city-owned auditorium in a prime location.  There were about 50 vendors.  Amounts are approximate.  The grand total of costs was close to $9,000.  

Facility rental:  3 days (includes load-in day Friday) $6,000

Advertising:  $400 

Two off-duty police officers during show hours (amount unknown)

All the other stuff the facility charges for:  around $2,500.  (each table, each dolly, each chair, each electricity "hook-up",* parking lot attendant,**  having the indoor concession stand open, microphone and speaker, and probably other things.   

* The facility demanded to see our floor plan with the spaces using electricity marked.  It charged $60 for each separate space using electricity.  Nobody was allowed to plug into a neighbor's electricity.  The facility manager came through and checked all the electricity usage.  

** If we wanted vendor parking in the loading dock area, we had to pay upwards of $20 per hour for the attendant who guarded that entrance.  There were two other events concurrent with ours who also had vendor parking in the loading dock.  

There was no pipe-and-drape and each vendor carted his/her stuff in and out. 

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