Art Fair Insiders

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

OK Artists! Time to speak up. Besides booth pricing (because we all know you would want it to be free!) what would you like to see in your "Dream Art Fair." Let's also try to do this with as little complaining about other fairs as possible - just tell me what would make you the happiest at an Art Fair!

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* All my "be backs" accept my request for a $100 non-refundable deposit to hold their work until they return from (check one): Measuring their wall space; checking with their spouse; thinking about it; browsing the rest of the show first; looking at my website; going to the ATM. :-)
* No one approaches me, looks me soulfully in the eyes, and says "Thank you so much for sharing your work with the world."
* I win best of show: first prize is a Cadillac Escalade with Jennifer Connelley riding shotgun.
Thank you so much for asking! I will get started with a few serious answers.

1. Give some thought to the actual load-in procedures, especially if it will be logistically complicated. Then make CERTAIN that all your volunteers know about the procedures! If an issue arises, then the volunteers need a reliable way to reach someone who knows how to deal with the issue.

2. Communicate every detail to attending artists, and do not assume that everyone is a returning artist who already knows where things are and how they work. Send us MAPS of the show location and a detailed map of the show, including the location of registration. Make sure we know where to park both after unloading and during the show. Make sure your volunteers know this information too.

3. When placing an advertisement for the show, for goodness sakes list the damn CITY AND STATE. It seems that many shows just take a print ad meant for the local media (where the city doesn't need to be listed!) and just send it in to national print magazines.

4. Provide booth sitters. As a jewelry artist who is ALWAYS alone, this is my most treasured service! The best system I've encountered was for the artist to tie a long length of florescent flagging to their tent leg signaling roaming volunteers to stop by. Worked great!

5. If you think that it is a good idea to have a show open until 8 or 9 pm, please verify with the artists that the sales are worth it! I know one show where it has consistently NOT been worth it for several years. It may have made sense once, but as times change, shows need to reevaluate.

6. Have someone monitoring the weather, if that is appropriate, and give the artists enough warning of an approaching storm to pack up/close up. I now carry a NOAA weather radio because of two dangerous storms. One show gave us 15 minutes warning (just enough) and one gave us nothing, even though I found out later that the local tv channels were tracking the dangerous super-cell that hit us for 40 minutes.

7. Feeding us is nice, but not as critical as the other items I listed. If the weather at the show is likely to be hot and sunny, come by with bottles of water and salty snacks. If you'd like to offer us a nice perk, a picnic dinner on Saturday evening right after the close of the show would be most appreciated.

8. Be flexible! Having rules and guidelines is necessary, but sometimes issues arise that require altering the rules.

That is it for now, but I may add more later!
"Early to bed, early to rise. Advertise! Advertise! Advertise!" I actually work with a promoter who has that as her motto.

Select a site where load in/out does not include stairs.

Try to be understanding during setup. Many exhibitors have driven a distance and are still wound from the drive and are stressed as it is.

Don't lie to the exhibitors by saying no B/S is allowed when it has been in the show for years. Enforce your own rules, or change them.

Update your brochures on a regular basis.

Booth sitters are nice for those who want them. But I do a show where the promoter lets you know he has SINGLES if you need them.

And I agree about monitoring the weather. Keep us informed!
Chester, NJ one year had an 800 number set up as the weather was breaking down as the show approached. They updated the info on a regular basis on both their 800 line and constant emails. After a certain time on Friday, they told those who hadn't set up yet to stay home. On Saturday he came around at 2:00 and told us to "Batten down the hatches" and get outta there as the storm was due to hit in 30 minutes. We came back Sunday morning to find we all survived. Because Jim warned us. And customers came Sunday too!

Try to work with local hotels for a discounted rate for the exhibitors.
Sounds like you were at Gasparilla Jan.

Yes load in and load out procedures need to be clearly defined and enforced. Shows generally do a pretty good job at load in procedures but so often load out is every person for themselves general choas. And make sure, if the police and fire department are going to be involved, that they agree to and know your load in and load out plan. And tell me the plan at application time.

Remember that many artists are coming from out of town. Give me an address I can GPS, not a park name or a building name, an actual address. And it would be really nice to have an actual street address on the website for the patrons as well.

Define digital art vs. photography. I know it is a difficult line to draw with many different opinions but draw it somewhere and let me know. And while you're at it, make sure your judges have an open mind about digital photography and Photoshop.

Understand your market and don't try to be something you are not. I've seen one show go from my favorite to the never again file in two years because they got greedy and tried to go from being a nice local show to a big extravaganza.

At least 12' wide spaces with room in the back. A nice understandable layout. And since most of us, when presented with 12' will negotiate with our neighbors to set up in a way to give us each display room on the side, why not plan it that way like Melbourne.

Understand that artists by necessity apply to more than one show in a given weekend. Give me the chance to decline without taking my booth fee.

Follow your own rules. If registration is supposed to open at 1:00, don't let people in at 11:30. If we are supposed to break down before bringing the van in, enforce it. However, that whole breaking down completely before bringing the van in (and its corrollary, unloading completely and moving the van) should be scrapped. Some of us have work that can't get wet. Setup the show so that we can all get in and setup and breakdown. Or better yet - Parking behind the booth during the show. Eliminates all of the setup and breakdown issues plus alleviates a lot of the worry about weather. If I need to secure my work because of impending weather I can do it quickly and easily.


And as a non-drinker my own personal rant. If you're going to provide free beer and wine at the artist dinner, how about some soda.

A corner is not a large space between booths, a corner is well, a corner. Give everyone enough space so that they can display work on the outside it they choose and sell corners that are actually corners.

Have reliable helpers available for tips.

My dream - every show should take their worst location and designate it as a promotor training booth. Anybody who wants to have anything to do with putting on an art show would be required to pass the promotor training. They would be assigned a van, a trimline, a set of propanels, and art (preferably something delicate that can't get wet) and be required to go through the entire setup, show, and breakdown procedure.
Well all of the above plus - how about crediting the jury fee to the booth fee for accepted artists? I mean reallly, I know jury fees are a revenue stream for shows but ... when there are shows like Cherry Creek, Smithsonian, Philadelphia Craft, Evanston, Bayou City that have 1,500 or more applications or close to that. I mean really that's a huge revenue stream of jury fees. Let's take Smithsonian, for example, that would be $75,000 total jury fees and we know that the jury doesn't cost that much. They only admit 125 exhibitors, would it really break the bank to credit a total of $6,250 in jury fees towards booth fees? The good will, priceless.

In the fantasy land of dreams for shows, wouldn't it be great to arrive at a show to find your booth all set up and ready to display work . . . and at the end of the show off you go to have a nice dinner and come back and your booth is all packed up and loaded into your van ready for you to drive away? And then I woke up ...

martha
And after all the artists are happy with the way the show is run, laid out etc. , as a patron, I get to see fabulous art and I can afford anything I want.

A girl can dream can't she?
My number one wish and desire: artists-only INDOOR bathrooms!! (air conditioned, of course)

Barb
Yes to all said, banning porta-potties for ever.
Dream buyer walks into my booth and says...how much for all your pieces.?..I've got too much cash on my hands

And:
no cotton candy stands when there are yellow jackets out

break-down early if there are no more customers

no booth-spaces in slopes

No booth space in muddy slope, ever.

similar show-layout every year with a possibility to request same booth space or request/wait-list for a coveted one

weather hot -(rain) line

plenty of intriguing stuff to do for spouses/children

Promoter has a supply of sunglasses, sunscreen and mosquito oil...just in case
Organizers that don't disappear into the woodwork once the show starts. Be around to enforce the rules, make people pull their displays back into their assigned space and not in front of my booth, turn down their music. Be present at breakdown so that the yahoo that parks his semi in the middle of the street has to move it.

30 days from app to notification. C'mon. How hard can that be? You get the jury scheduled for, say, April 1st. You send out apps in February with a deadline of March 1st. You have a month to get your slideshow/powerpoint/zapp viewer, whatever, ready to go. You do the jury thing and take say a week to get the letters out. I don't get the lag times. We have a schedule to plan and we can't do that until you let us know whether we have been deemed worthy or not.

If you cash my check, I have a spot. Period. DO NOT cash my check and hold my money until you decide whether I bought something or not. Makes me nuts.

If you charge admission, do not charge us for postcards. C'mon. Really? Stop nickel and diming us.

Don't put everyone who was rejected on a wait list. I will plan differently if I know I'm on a wait list with 5 people than if I'm on a wait list with all the rest of the applicants.

I've done lovely shows with organizers that provide load in/load out helpers, that have a loan caddy with duct tape and clamps and extension cords and hammers, that feed you every day and throw a 5 star party one of the nights, that provide clean and private rest rooms just for "us", that solicit criticisms and then follow through the next year. That is great, but the most important thing is to get the buyers out. Advertise a lot and do it classy so that it gets the interest of real spenders.

We are not the backdrop of your Summer "festival". We ARE the festival and, most importantly, what's a fun weekend for you is our livelihood. Treat us that way. Walk a year in our shoes and I bet a lot of things would be different.
I have a list so long but won't post it.

First I would like to know I got into the show early so if not I can look someplace else.

Next would be a booth sitter. Doing shows alone is hard and when ya gotta go, ya gotta go.

Third would be someone to help with set-up and break down. Darn thats hard work.

And the list goes on................
Sorry, first time user and I have no idea how this worked...............I got it now..............
How about providing, well in advance, a DVD of a few artists describing their work, how it's done, how long it takes to do each piece, how long they've been doing this, education, hard knocks school learning etc... to all media outlets in the area. Feed the Media what you want them to present, professional artists making a living.






































Pat Sorbini said:
Organizers that don't disappear into the woodwork once the show starts. Be around to enforce the rules, make people pull their displays back into their assigned space and not in front of my booth, turn down their music. Be present at breakdown so that the yahoo that parks his semi in the middle of the street has to move it.

30 days from app to notification. C'mon. How hard can that be? You get the jury scheduled for, say, April 1st. You send out apps in February with a deadline of March 1st. You have a month to get your slideshow/powerpoint/zapp viewer, whatever, ready to go. You do the jury thing and take say a week to get the letters out. I don't get the lag times. We have a schedule to plan and we can't do that until you let us know whether we have been deemed worthy or not.

If you cash my check, I have a spot. Period. DO NOT cash my check and hold my money until you decide whether I bought something or not. Makes me nuts.

If you charge admission, do not charge us for postcards. C'mon. Really? Stop nickel and diming us.

Don't put everyone who was rejected on a wait list. I will plan differently if I know I'm on a wait list with 5 people than if I'm on a wait list with all the rest of the applicants.

I've done lovely shows with organizers that provide load in/load out helpers, that have a loan caddy with duct tape and clamps and extension cords and hammers, that feed you every day and throw a 5 star party one of the nights, that provide clean and private rest rooms just for "us", that solicit criticisms and then follow through the next year. That is great, but the most important thing is to get the buyers out. Advertise a lot and do it classy so that it gets the interest of real spenders.

We are not the backdrop of your Summer "festival". We ARE the festival and, most importantly, what's a fun weekend for you is our livelihood. Treat us that way. Walk a year in our shoes and I bet a lot of things would be different.

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