Why aren't there many high end art festivals in New England?  Besides Bill from Paragon, who's fairly new, and Denise Morris Curt, why no biggies like a CocoGro or the South Florida string?  I'm originally from Long Island, and I know the demographics are there, all the way up the coast.  So why???  Is it because all the art collectors think "good art" only comes from a gallery?  Is it that the real estate is limited for a show (then how come the monster truck venues, hmmm...)?  There's tons of craft shows, fairs, and then there's the NY Expo which out of reach for me.  I'm just scratching my head here because I would dearly love to do a prodigal daughter returns home kind of trip.

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  • I live 7 miles north of Boston and I can attest to the fact that people here do buy art ... but not at shows because there aren't any good shows for art other than Paradise City.  Part of the problem is that there are a plethora of mid-level and low-level shows that, shall we say, "juried" is very loosely defined, if at all.  Over the years the affluent, art and craft buying patrons have abandoned these venues in droves.  Truely a case of the self fulfilling prophecy of dumbing down the show and totally devaluing fine art and craft.  The chickens have come home to roost on this.


    Why do I know that people buy art here, well there are an abundance of Artist live/work spaces and along with that regular "open house" weekends.  Two this weekend alone.  These are very well attended events, well publicized and have to be somewhat lucrative for artists to go to the work involved to prepare their spaces for an open house every year.  Some of these weekends are over 25 years old and going strong.  This area is home to RISD, Massachusetts College of Art and Design, UMass-Dartmouth (the old Boston University Program in Artisanry), The Museum Shool of Art,  The Society of Arts and Crafts (oldest non for profit craft organization in the United States) and the Fuller Museum of Craft.  We support our artists ... not necessarily at art shows - but then, other than Paradise City, you've seen the quality that on offer.


    There are some stellar shows here but these are few and far between and the competition to get into them is pretty fierce, you've got to be floating around at the top of the cream in the milk bottle to get juried in and these are real juries with good art and craft credentials.



    • Martha, i'm sure there is lots of wonderful art buying going on up here, but I'd like to point out that shows like Paradise City cost $900 for a 10x10 booth. I have been familiar with that show forever but that's three times the price of most art shows. Even the good ones. I wonder if the promoters of such shows think the high price will keep out the riff raff...

      That's what it sounds like as you describe how fierce the competition is in these really good shows. I understand that certain amazing venues do cost a lot of money for the promoters, but not all artists, even the really top of the cream, as you say, can afford to take a risk like that. And certainly not when they're starting out in the biz.

    • Martha, you nailed it about open studios.  Part of the charm of New England is driving on a dirt road to find a studio in a 200 year old barn on an autumn weekend, so the Vermont Arts Council hosts the Open Weekend tour throughout the state, complete with maps to the participating artist's places. Even Warren Kimble has gotten involved. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9X4HovgaE0 

    • Martha, do you know anything about the Gloucester Art Colony?  When I visited there in July, it seemed like a wonderful idea.  However, I don't know if people come out to actually buy there or not.  I would love to be in one spot for a couple of months rather than ten shows in 2 months!


      • Caroline - I'm sorry I don't know anything about the Gloucester Art Colony.  I do have friends participate in a Cape Ann Studio Tour every Spring and late Autumn but that is different than the colony out near Eastern Point.  But like all things if it didn't thrive it would have died out a long time ago. 



  • OK, before we get to stepping all over each others' toes...my original question was...Why the scarcity of Fine Art shows in New England?  Why no CocoGrove equivalent up north?  I don't agree that New Englanders are more practical, since all those people in FL and AZ go back to their summer homes up north.  Michigan's got 'em, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio...why not NY, CT, NJ?  After getting back from 14 shows this summer up in New England, I'm still stymied.  New England is not a culturally devoid area.  Just sayin'.

    • I have tried to answer this in a shorter manner, but can't seem to truncate my thoughts. So, if you will indulge me, I'd like to try and answer your question from my own experiences. I have lived in Florida for many years and now I live in Rhode Island. In Florida, I made a living as an artist. I weaned myself off of my day jobs and never looked back. I loved it.

      But here, not at all. I have often asked myself this question that you are asking because in Florida, I sold my work to many New Englanders, so when I moved here I thought these same people, generally, would buy my work here. I am a ceramic sculptor and my work has never been functional, nor has it included manatees, and I sold regularly in Florida galleries, art shows and in a wonderful artists community where they had open walks every month year round.

      Yet when I moved here, no matter what i tried, I had to go back to day jobs to earn a living. And the older I get, the harder that gets. There are many differences. I do think the tourists bought my work because they were away from home and wanted something to remember the trip by. Yet, as i said, my work has never been palm tree-laden souvenir craft but an actual piece of art they just happened to fall in love with.

      Yes, i did make little ceramic fish, too, but, c'mon, could you blame me? They were very cute. And an inexpensive price point for those who couldn't afford my more expensive sculptures. I loved those buyers. Sometimes when I show my fish here in New England people say "OH LOOK! That would go great next to the one I bought in Florida!" but they don't stop to buy. It makes me so sad.

      Why those same people wouldn't buy my work in their own back yard has stymied me for years. They seem afraid at these shows, and at galleries as well, to buy from an "unknown" or from someone who is not somehow connected to the universities and famous art schools here. I find most artists here have pages of credentials, long winded bios and artists statements that sound more like a masters thesis. I value my education too, but have not really maintained that academic speak about my work. I am always at a loss when asked to submit one of these sorts of things. But everyone here does it.

      Buyers in New England seem to feel more comfortable buying from artists with credentials up the wazoo. It's like they can put you safely in a category that way. "Oh, she's a RISD artist, you know, so she must be good." As if they can't decide for themselves if the art is actually Good Art without knowing the artist's educational background. Perhaps when they are in Florida, they throw caution to the wind and just buy what appeals to them. Life is just different in warmer climates.

      And I also find that in these live/work spaces someone mentioned below, many of the artists keep their doors closed to the public. I know because I have had a number of studios in these places and people attend the open studio nights as a social thing, but a lot of the artists are loathe to let strangers wander around in their space. They don't even like other artists visiting them. Even though that is one of the reasons for being in that sort of space. I lost count of the number of artists I have asked "Why don't you open your doors during the open studios?" who have looked at me and said "Why would I want to do that?" To sell your work? "Oh, well, i work with a gallery in Arizona" or "I don't really care about that."


      Maybe that's just RI. 

      Many artists here have full time jobs, mostly teaching at university or private schools. I have learned that most artists here are not trying to earn their living with their fine artwork. Although, the economy being what it is, perhaps that is changing. this may be why craft shows do so well here. People are finding their way through the craft show circuit here with seemingly great results.

      I would like to read about your experiences in the New England shows. Which shows did you do? There is indeed a difference between New England and Florida and after reading some of these discussions I am more determined than ever to become a traveling artist and head back to Florida whenever i am once again able.  Cause as crazy a place as Florida can be, I think artists like me just fit in there better. And I really miss that.

      thanks for the forum.

    • I just did the Westfield Armory Show (Rose Squared) in Westifield, NJ.  It was Fine Art & Craft, a terrific mix of wonderful artists.  It was the 2nd year for this show and I believe more people came this year.  My sales improved.  I saw many people with bags of purchases.  I didn't get around much so I can't say how others did but overall I think many were happy with the show.  I will certainly be back.  I believe the quality of this show is much higher than that of the outdoor shows. 

      I wouldn't consider NJ as New England but it's close.  I gave up on New England shows.  I never did that well there and I usually do well at most shows, weather permitting.

  • Have you guys tried CastleBerry Fairs? They organize quite a few New England Shows, I visited the Bar Harbor one, but have been unable to book it yet, as I have always had more local shows, when they have those scheduled.  They seem to be fairly on the ball, and have a decent schedule of shows.
    • Oh my, that's a flash in the past.  What a bunch of ####.  If you have high quality art, you will be disappointed, unless most of the stuff has been juried out. At the show that was billed to be the best,  I was placed next to a woman who made, with her 13 year old daughter, hair barrettes with ribbons glued to them.  The guy across from me made "wall art".  It was wall paper sections glued to a board and then put in a shrink wrap.  It was just one piece of wall paper, he didn't even bother to make a collage out of it.  At one show, I had a woman across from me hacking her wares and would actually call to my customers to come look at her mirror, because it was larger than mine.  She made things (maybe) that competed with mine.  I would never do those shows, again.

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