Art Fair Insiders

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

Ann Arbor--Put a fork in it, it is done!

This post is mainly for those of you who have never done the summer art fairs here.
I have done the Guild show here since 1985.
This year was the worst show ever in all the years I have done it.
It was the worst for about 90 per cent of all exhibitors. There were a few lucky ones--very few.
The failure can be summed up succinctly.
Too many booths for too little buyers.
This year the heat was a big factor.
Over 95 degrees almost every day. It killed attendance.
But, even in good weather, this is a failed show.
Most art patrons who want uniquely crafted items do not show up here anymore. The ones that do are very few. There are not enough of them to satisfy all the good artists there.
This is a show with too many "toos."

Too long. Four days plus a day before setup.
Too long on hours til 9:30 pm. A total waste.
Too expensive booth fees. Over $700 for a single booth. It is a ripoff.
Too many greedy merchants. Hotel rooms usually in the $60 range are over $100.
Too many exhibitors. Over 2000 including all the scab artists.
Too little sales. The average artist here is lucky if they sell $3500 in four days. A lousy return on your investment.

You are better off doing two small shows on successive weekends. You will spend less time and money and get an equal return on sales as AA.
I am now retired from AA. Thankfully, I can get rid of all those electric fans, lights and shims.
Free at last. Free at last.
I am telling ya go anywhere, but do not go to Ann Arbor, it is a Fool's Errand.

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Comment by Sheri Kowalski on August 6, 2016 at 8:36am

You summed this up perfectly. I agree 100 percent. They need to change the dates and size it down.

Comment by margaret luttrell on July 30, 2016 at 2:59pm

Did the "Original" last year.....and I think once was enough...even though the weather was cool part of the time......Thanks Nels....tight and right on target as usual.

Comment by Craig Roderick and Sara Beck on July 29, 2016 at 12:22pm

That kind of throws my location theory out the window. Yikes!

Comment by Liana Delgado on July 29, 2016 at 11:46am
Hi, Craig & Sara. I was in The Original on Ingalls Mall right in front of clock tower.
Comment by David S. Hoornstra on July 29, 2016 at 11:33am

Christina, I am sure the fair will go on without us. As a veteran of many non-profit "demos" I had to take the attitude that "it's a festival with a financial underpinning for OTHER people and I'm just the volunteer entertainment." I am now applying that to the AnnArbor Art Fair, but can no longer pay to play at my hobby. I intended it to be a business, but some businesses just don't turn the corner in the prescribed four years.

Comment by Craig Roderick and Sara Beck on July 29, 2016 at 10:52am


Where was your booth.

Comment by Christina L. Towell on July 29, 2016 at 9:37am

It certainly sounds like the death knell for A2, sorry to hear it...

Comment by Liana Delgado on July 28, 2016 at 5:13pm
Hi, AA Artists. I'm new to showing my work at art fairs. I feel as though, "I sure do know how to pick em." Bayou City was my first, Ann Arbor is #2. Overall, Ann Arbor was a good experience for me EXCEPT cost, and no sales. I had wonderful local hosts that opened up their home to me. Also, a volunteer helped me set up my frame for the, "dreaded 8' Trimline with all the bells and whistles...just no tall weightlifter included, ha-ha." Both of these shows lacked the huge crowds of art enthusiasts and collectors. Most of the passersby didn't turn a 1/4" to look at the booths, artists,or works...too busy slurping ice cream, AND they didn't pick up their feet while "art strolling." The people that entered my booth did give me a lot of accolades for my work. I also had (2) I'll be back to buy that." (1) tentative framed Giclée canvas order. I applied to these shows because of the high-attendance history. I can't go by this anymore.
Comment by Wallace Fuller on July 27, 2016 at 1:27pm

Nels, You are a slow learner. Lu gave Ann Arbor up over ten years ago. Our last year we stayed at a Days Inn that was scheduled to be demolished as soon as Ann Arbor was over. We got a knock on our door about 8:00 in the morning the day after the show (which I think was on Sunday) to tell us we had one hour to be out of the room as they were in the process of removing all of the furniture from the rooms because the motel was being demolished.

When we left there were stacks of furniture all over the parking lot. We never went back and we never have missed being there.

It was always on of the hardest shows that we ever did. Set up and take down were always hard and the people from the guild were always a little power hungry.

I do not remember if it was the last year or not, but the people in the booth across from us said that they were missing two chairs from their booth when they opened up in the morning. We found the chairs in a merchants booth a couple of booth down from their booth. The merchants booth was never manned that day and some how during the day over a hundred watches were set on their counter 10 at a time while bets were being taken on how long they would remain on the counter.



Comment by Nels Johnson on July 27, 2016 at 1:18pm
Look forward to your perspectives, Craig and Sara

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