It's been said that we are about 2 months behind China in dealing with COVID-19. People in China are slowly getting back to normalcy. They are being cautious because of the possibility that the virus could come back if they interact in public too soon. We have finished the second week of sequestering with 6 weeks to go, meaning sequestering would end around May 15th. A number of shows around the middle of May have not cancelled, hoping that they will still be able to have their event. My question is: Even if the rate of infection of COVID-19 approached 0, would you do a show around the second weekend in May? The second part of this question is how long before the all clear would you feel comfortable taking a chance doing a show? I definitely not do a show in the next 6 weeks and I'm thinking I would not do a show until at least June 1st. There is going to be a lot of pressure to do something in the later half of May because of the needed cash flow.

Would it ever be worth the risk? I set up my schedule to do shows from the end of April through May and then use June to make work. With all the cancellations, I won't have a show until 4th of July weekend. That's 3 months from now. However, the temptation to do something before then is great just to have some money. What do you all think? There is also the possibility that no customer is going to attend any shows for a while. 

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  • I do hope that shows that do happen, if any, will change some things to make it safer for us.  I'm really apprehensive about pole to pole setups and short setup times with everyone setting up at once.  There was an interesting discussion on Facebook about changing the way things are done as far as setup.  One interesting idea was to set up your booth with just a small opening in the front and then display on all the outside walls and keep your stock inside the tent.  I'd need two more awnings but other that that it is an interesting idea.


  • I currently have four shows on my schedule plus one application outstanding and one wait list.  In 2019 I started to move away from doing a lot of shows.  I got my work into two galleries and a gift shop and did a solo show at my art center.  My plan which worked well in 2019 was to do only the big deal shows and smaller shows in my home and surrounding states.  I have asthma which is well contolled until it isn't so I have to be very careful. Problem is ony one of the shows I have on my schedule (and one application outstanding) is what I would call a big deal show where I can be pretty sure I can make money.  The others are "make contacts" kind of shows where I may or may not make money right away and I don't want to take a chance on doing a losing show.  I had a real good winter with gallery sales, a solo show, and a nice commercial sale so finances are not great but okay right now.  My first show that hasn't been cancelled is the end of July so a lot can happen between now and then.

  • I'm only looking at shows where I will get a full refund in the event it is cancelled. I'm also looking at smaller recurring events that allow arts and crafts like farmers markets. Those might start up sooner than full fledged festivals, can be handled on a weekly basis, and they are considered "essential businesses" in Illinois. Something is better than nothing.

    Right now I don't know if I'll have any festivals until at least the 4th of July. Most of my income comes from festivals so this is not going to be a good year. Sucks because 2019 was one of my best years, and I would've loved to continue touring the Midwest selling my work at festivals in different cities every weekend.

    Complicating matters is keeping track of all the cancellations and festivals that have been rescheduled to the late summer/fall.

    I really hope a breakthrough comes soon for COVID 19. I've already thought of ways to set up my booth with social distancing rules. Funny how this thread was originally posted in mid March, when thought I still would likely be able to start my festival season in May like I normally do. Well look where we are now...

  • Just got email from an Oct show.  They have had a lot of cancellations worried about a "second wave" of sickness . They have offered full refunds if they do have to cancel but are now very concerned they might not have enough artists to have a show.  Situation is hard on all concerned.

    • Oh my, JoAnn. Thanks for sharing that. This is so complicated. I'm thinking about shows who have rescheduled to fall and then existing fall shows losing prospective exhibitors. The rest of the year is going to require a lot of deep breathing and long term perspective while day to day life shifts under our feet. But, you wouldn't be in this business unless you were resourceful, so we'll just polish off those old tools.

  • I have thought about writing a BLOG post about shows with the title of SCOTT FOX IS RIGHT, but I didn't start thinking about writing this article during COVID-19. I first thought about it five years ago when my wife went into respiratory failure after doing three panhandle Florida shows and four days before 4 Bridges in Chattanooga. Although my wife recovered somewhat within a week, I had to cancel our remaining four shows on the tour, lose every bit of those booth fees and limp back home to Wyoming to begin life anew.

    Scott and Connie did a podcast a long time ago wherein he gave the advice to use shows as a way to find and establish relationships with new customers and then to serve those customers without the need of the show in the future. The objective being to make your time at shows the way to find customers and then transfer them to a less costly mode such as a website and/or direct mail marketing without the need of the show in the future. Theoretically, using this model would eventually lead an artist to no longer needing shows at all.

    Recovering from our 2015 crisis has been difficult and life changing. The three years after the near death experience were pretty dismal as far as doing shows was concerned. It wasn't possible to return to our Florida and Southeast US market where we had done so well for so long due to my wife's condition. We finally began showing in the West and Southwest, but all of the shows cost much more to do as well as travel expenses were much higher than in Florida. Not to mention the shows in the West have very few awards, and half our income had been coming from winning awards in Florida and the Southeast.

    Being headstrong and full of some doctor advice, we did two Florida shows in fall 2018 and then two in spring 2019, but that created another very serious health problem for my wife and we've had to revert back to staying closer to home in the West. In fact, we aren't doing much of anything with shows now. COVID-19 will probably end the desire to travel very much at all for any reason. Least of which would be to do an art fair despite that routine being so indelibly stamped in our blood. We miss our artist friends and show lifestyle.

    Scott's advice is some of the best I've ever heard. We've managed to heed it only a little. We still enjoyed the shows, not to mention gleaning half our income from awards. You can't win awards without being at the shows. And in some cases, we would make sales to our best few customers online and then deliver to them during a show. So we still thought that we needed the shows to make contact with the customers who were going to be our customers anyway, because they liked the show culture as well and wanted to participate in it, too.

    We've cancelled everything and aren't seeking art fair opportunities at this time. Health and staying alive is more important. Not being a virus vector is also in our minds and hope that it will be in other's minds as well. The more exposure everyone has to each other, the wider this thing will spread. We're staying home and away from people, so my answer is WE WOULD NOT DO THE SHOW UNTIL SOMETIME NEXT YEAR.

    • Oh, Barrie, that is so nice (about Scott -- not the rest of it). I am in this business because of Scott Fox (my son). He told me to start these websites -- and he and I -- have been true believers in not relying on art fairs as sole income. We did that podcast about eight years ago and a few more along the line emphasizing the idea that you might not always be able to meet your clients at the art fair, circumstances could intervene. His most important marketing tip: Build your email list. That list is an artist's best retirement plan.

      And now, thanks for this update, so timely. Please keep me up to date on your activities. Your continued searching and building new opportunities for yourselves, despite health problems and your geographically undesirable location exhibit not only the tenacity necessary to stay true to yourselves but  an ability to learn and change with each seeming roadblock. It's always a new day at your house. 

      • Thank you for linking our website to my name, Connie, and for the kind words. Not much is changing and updating on our website right now since after returning home from the Winter Park and Gulf Breeze trip last spring. My wife was really sick from April to August and didn't get back to studio work until mid-September. She began feeling much better by December.

        During that time I wasn't able to be in my studio to make frames and whatever, so I used my iPad mini to make photographs around the house and studio. I could make images for 20 minutes or so, spend a few hours at a time working with the images in PhotoShop and then printing them on my 17-inch Epson printer. I developed an entire new body of photographic work, my Domestic Arrangements, during 2019. And I improved my PhotoShop skills tremendously.

        While doing these I also became enamored with Instagram which has led to some really meaningful connections, including two that are over seas. One of these international connections became the basis for an article I wrote about an exhibition in Berlin called UNZERTRENNLICH. My article was slated to be published in May, but it has been stalled due to COVID-19. When magazines lose advertisers, they can't publish and pay authors. Hopefully they'll recover in June or July and my article will see print and distribution.

        I started writing about art, gilding, and picture frames for magazines after our 2015 health disaster. I volunteered to be on a board of directors and that opened plenty of doors. And I also began teaching gilding at a national conference in Las Vegas and did this for the third time that past January. All this has led to new opportunities and I'm trying to pay attention to all the details so I can make the most of it. I'm always shaking the bushes!

      • I've seen so many businesses leave money on the table by not building or utilizing their mailing lists. This applies to all industries.

        It's not about hounding people to buy your stuff. It's not about filling people's email inbox until they're sick of you and unsubscribe or cry "Spam."

        It's about maintaining contact and building relationships in a way that can't be done in nine minutes at an art fair. It's making your art available to those who are eager to consume it when the time is right for them, not necessarily when those potential customers happen upon your booth.

        It's not a stretch when marketing experts claim a mailing list is the most important part of any business.

        The number one reason to have a website? To build a list.

        My number one reason to do an art fair? Build a list.

        Also note the term "mailing list" as opposed to "email list." To many people not familiar with marketing, email brings up notions of spam. While email marketing is critical, the power of postal mail is often overlooked in our modern, electronic world. If I had to choose only one method, I'd choose postal mail.

        So, would I do the show? I don't know. But I do know that I can keep my art in front of people without the show.

        • Hi, Jay. Great comments. Maintaining contact seems to be the key. It certainly lets others know we are thinking of them in some way and that they are an important part of our process.

          Direct mail marketing always works better for me, especially when it's tailored to the specific patron. But several factors have changed even how I work with that. What used to cost me about 75 cents to produce now costs several dollars. And the last 6 years have proven fatal for my lower end limited edition repros customers, which I attribute to the costs everyone pays to get and upkeep smart phones and tablets and then maintain their presence on social media. And that's changing how people look at art altogether.

          I have not kept up with the email marketing as well as I could. And I've only in the last two years begun using social media tools for art business. I don't think anyone can survive as well without social media. So Instagram factors in big time for me these days. How about you?

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