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.

Views: 1856

Comment by Barry Bernstein on July 26, 2016 at 12:47pm

Did you dredge this review up from 2011? I finally dropped Ann Arbor this year and I am happy about that.

Here's my review from that year:

Comment by Barry Bernstein on July 26, 2016 at 2:57pm

Comment by Barry Bernstein on July 26, 2016 at 2:59pm

10 years ago, you would not be able to see the booths because there would have been so many people.

Comment by Nels Johnson on July 26, 2016 at 3:47pm
Thanx for high-jacking my blog, Barry.
Comment by Connie Mettler on July 26, 2016 at 6:30pm

Sorry to hear, Nels, that your new booth space was not the magic bullet. Hope you had some fun anyway and are on the golf course today. I do believe the weather was not so good, but we both remember the days when the weather was just part of the business and there were almost dueling umbrellas despite the weather.

Comment by David S. Hoornstra on July 27, 2016 at 10:06am

Even for an Ann Arbor resident where hotel was not a factor and a friend saved me the $100 parking cost by driving me in each day, it's too expensive for my level of sales appeal. I hoped for more from a show where the jurors praised my work effusively. Too many trinkets and too many vendors. 

Comment by Craig Roderick and Sara Beck on July 27, 2016 at 10:32am

We were there for the first time.  I think we are a little depressed at this point. We did not cover expenses even though we stayed with family.  I think I will write a separate post about our experience from a newbies perspective once I have had some time to collect my thoughts. Thanks for your frank assessment Nels.  We were down the street from you.  I wanted to stop in and introduce myself but I was not in a very social mood given the way things went. 

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


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