Art Fair Insiders

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

In art fair circles for years there has been talk about buy/sell and reps showing up with someone else's work. I found this meeting mention in The Orlando Sentinel:

Artists participating in the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival are set to meet Friday evening to discuss forming a commission that would set standards for work displayed at art festivals. The purpose of the commission would be to certify that work in an artist's booth was in fact created by the artist, according to photographer Les Slesnick, who is organizing the gathering. The meeting will happen in the Rotary Beer Garden just south of Morse Boulevard just after the festival closes at 6 p.m.

Does anyone know anything about this? Or have any suggestions we could share with Les?

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Been following this discussion, here and at NAIA's member forum. Since you seem to be the public voice for this issue, I'll reply here.  I also am mostly retired from 30+ years of exhibiting in art shows. 

When showing at an arts fair, the show and I have a contractual agreement, which ethically and legally obligates each of us to the other.

I have another obligation to myself, and my buyer, when I make a sale. 

My buyer has a responsibility to themselves, and it involves trust, and knowledge.

To you, Les and all:  My business is none of your business, period.


You are 100% right.

Let me ask you a question on this. If the shows are not honoring their own contract with you, what next. I have been doing this since the mid 70's and artists with your perspective seem to be disappearing. It is not meant to be in your business, it is an attempt to corrrect a back slide that has gone on far too long by our industry.

How would you deal with it as a full time artist whose livelyhood depends on the shows?


This issue of buy/sell is a non-starter for me, as was the booth shot issue.  I think the shows are doing a pretty good job of enforcing their rules.  Perfectly….no.  But I am not going to sue a show for a contract breach, or point my finger at other exhibitors. I was once accused by another artist of importing my paintings, and I have seen it happen to others, with no proof.  I have always believed that the jury room is the key for shows, and artists. More time, more images, more discussion, but like many things, faster and money-saving is king, and, there are many artists who don't agree on an expanded jury process either.

I don't like to be told what to do.  I don't want a supervisor.  This sounds like you are viewing yourself as a victim; victimized by the shows, victimized by the rule breakers.  I believe there is plenty out there for everybody.

These words don't mean that I won't speak out for injustice, or help people when I can, or have not acted to improve the art show world, or the world in general.  I do not support more rules, or more burden on most artists because of the few.   

More of us than you think are doing something more than posting on internet forums.  We are voting with our jury dollars, we are gathering information to be used by all artists not just the elites, and we are quietly filing actions against the offenders. I think you’ll soon see our bite is much worse than our bark.  The difference is we aren’t trying to shove a plaque down somebody’s throat as we line our own pockets.


I hope shows that fail to demonstrate transparency and good faith see a large decline in application volume.  And I hope the ones that do demonstrate those things see a huge influx.  My chances of getting in to Lakefront Festival or Belleville are probably about the same, slim and none, but guess who will get my jury dollars next year - Lakefront, solely for responding to a poll seeking the number of applicants and artists accepted per medium for their show, the first and ONLY show out of 50 to respond. 


I think the reason more artists are not willing to do anything more concrete is money.  Artists at Winter Park won’t say anything about the reputed buy/sell artist that won an award, because they’re still so giddy about their own awards and sales that they won’t risk not getting in next year with such a complaint.  And I don’t blame them.  Monetary motivation is a powerful factor.  Not unlike Mr. Slesnick’s motives, he seems to maintained a lucrative career in judging and jurying, and stands to gain the most from his own agenda.  Do I blame him for pushing it?  Of course not, but I don’t have to like it. 

Larry I agree execution of the plan could have been better but it has the community talking and that is good. I am sure among all artist ,promoters and show directors we can come up with something to address this issue. But since we (artists ,show directors and promoters) are all in this together we should all come up with the solutions. I know it's probably alittle rose colored glasses attitude but I always hope that integrity can win in the end.

I am sorry to have to explain this harsh reality but we are not all in this together.  There is a very specific power imbalance in the relationship between artists and show directors.  Artist have NO power other than to walk away from the application - which we cannot do if we intend to make any money in this business.  Shows can do everything to hurt us  - fireworks, stiltwalkers, clowns, kiddy cars, beer gardens, rock music, and onerous rules and we have no recourse.   It is a fallacy that we are in this together.  You should not be propagating that falsehood. 

A number of us who hang out at the corner booth are working on the buy/sell and other issues but from the standpoint of having art fairs live up to their ethical and legal obligations.  I've personally contacted the Federal Trade Commission and the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts.  We need to clean up the industry, but not at the expense of artists.

Carroll Swayze at NAIA was supposedly working on this. I have not heard anything lately, however. It is called "FYI: An Informative Booklet for Show Directors and Artists".

There was an article in the Fall 2011 edition of the Independent Artist newsletter. Access it here:

The Independent Artist Newletter

Scroll down when you hit the page. Her contact info is at the bottom of the article.

Caroll recently had a post on the NAIA forum about the booklet she has been working on for two years regarding various problems including buy/sell. She's been in the biz for 40 years so has likely seen it all. She is actively seeking additional input and information from any and all. Her email is:

SwayzeArt (aaat) msn (ddott) com

: DA :

It would be really nice if Ms. Carroll could personally post an update on her book here on the forum.  Then that information could be distributed to everyone since NAIA only gives up the goods to people who pay to view.   She could also tell us her personal opinion on certification. No official response from NAIA needed as we know they will be in discussion about it for quite some time. 

Nice posts Holly.I appreciate your passion and efforts.

How long before you get banned for thinking and speaking the truth this time?


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