Art Fair Insiders

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

Framed wall that says Art Fair Etiquette

Fairs, festivals, shows, and other community arts and crafts events offer an ideal experience for everyone to see and learn more about art. However, as with many public events, there are a few common rules of etiquette that often get overlooked. As a result, the enriching experience of an art event is ruined for those who want to get the most out of it.

Having been to a few art fairs ourselves, we’ve noticed this lack of etiquette and want to share our findings in the form of a quick go-to guide. Listed here are some basic etiquette rules that we believe everyone should follow while attending an art-related community event, comprised into simple do’s and don’ts.

  1. DON'T have your group occupy a high-traffic spot or viewing space needlessly.

    With nearly every large public event, there will inevitably be groups of people who will stop to chat with each other in places where people need to be able to walk freely on. If you plan to attend an art fair with a group of friends, we highly encourage you to be courteous to your fellow fair attendees by not blocking high-traffic walking areas. This also includes viewing spaces in booths where the artist is trying to display their products to passing viewers.

  1. DON'T touch any of the products without the artist’s permission.

    Artists appreciate it when you show interest in their work, but that doesn’t always mean it’s okay to touch it. Artists would like to keep their products in mint condition for all potential customers, so some may not want you to handle their products. Even if you’re considering purchasing the item, be courteous to first ask before touching products.

    Keep this rule in mind especially when you view or are around items like these:

    • Fragile items like glass or pottery
    • Paintings, which includes the frame
    • Any kind of furniture: tables, drawers, couches, etc.
  1. DO be mindful of the food and drink you carry with you to a booth.

    Foods and drinks are not only messy when handled carelessly in a booth, but they can also very easily ruin fine pieces of art. If possible, try to finish or put away your foods and drinks before entering a booth. But if you feel you cannot do this and you have to carry them, be sure you have complete control over its contents so as not to accidentally spill on the artist’s products.

    Additionally, be mindful to not purposely set any of your food or drinks on their tables, especially drinks. Even a small water ring from your cold drink can stain furniture or make a booth table look unappealing. And lastly, out of courtesy, take care of your own garbage. Do not ask the artist of the booth to throw it away for you.

  1. DO be extra mindful of children.

    Children can be enriched by an art fair as much as an adult. However, they naturally tend to move around more actively and be curious enough to want to pick things up. Keep your children close by and under control as you view booths—and better yet, take the experience as an opportunity to teach them to look, not touch.

  1. DON'T visit an art fair simply to critique the art.

    Artists are very unappreciative of people who come to view their products just to tell them that their work is amateur, or that you are able to do better, or other such criticism of the like. One of the purposes of a community art event is to learn about other people’s art, and going around criticizing other people’s work does not meet this purpose. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”

  1. DO make an effort to communicate with the artist, but to also be brief and specific.

    While criticism is frowned upon, artists do appreciate any questions you may have about their work. Feel free to ask them engaging and honest questions about their art, such as their technique, their tools of the trade, how many hours they put into it, etc.

    Understandably, there’s a chance you may end up connecting with the artist and want to talk to them about other topics. Out of courtesy of their business and other shoppers, try to keep your discussion brief and only on their art. The artist is still trying to work, and it would be impolite to keep them from communicating with other shoppers.

  1. DON'T treat the fair like a flea market.

    An art fair isn’t meant to be an opportunity for you to haggle a cheap price on someone’s art. Artists work hard on all of their products, and though they’re aware of what prices people look for, they will do their best to match the price with the amount of work they put into it.

    A small exception to this would be to kindly (and perhaps indirectly) suggest a grouped price for purchasing multiple pieces of their work. It will still earn the artist good business to try and compromise a bargain price for a bundle of their work.

  1. DO be decisive on your purchasing decisions.

    Artists like that you’re interested in their products, but it’s discouraging to hear from someone that they’re not considering buying right away. If you really like their product and can honestly afford it, we encourage you to make that crucial decision to purchase it. The transaction will not just provide profit to the artist, but it will also encourage them to continue their work.

    Similarly, only ask the artist to put a product on hold when you are serious about purchasing it. It’s also discouraging to hold a product for a customer who may or may not return when they can also try to sell it to someone else. Again, if you can afford it, go ahead and buy it.

In short: always be polite, mindful, courteous, and respectful of others and their work. Remember that there are other people wanting to enjoy the event as much as you, and that artists want to do their best to both market their products and engage with all of their customers. By following these etiquette rules, you’ll be able to enhance your experience of a community art event as well as keep it enjoyable for everyone else.

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Comment by S Brian Berkun on October 28, 2019 at 1:16pm

#9, Leave your dogs and small children at home, the dogs can be left alone, I guess the kids need to be with someone ;-)

Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on October 25, 2019 at 5:09pm

I watched, speechless, an art fair dog walker did nothing to stop her dog from doing his business on my front canopy pole and weight.  She just walked on!  !I was a new artist.  At this point, I'd holler.

Comment by Larry Sohn on October 25, 2019 at 5:03pm

At a recent show, while I was breaking down, a lady was walking her dog. She stopped and watched as her dog walked onto my pro panel print bins. Stopped, started smelling and to lift it's leg. I quickly yelled. The lady got mad at me saying the dog would not have done anything. Yup, class, etiquette common decency and respect, are badly needed.

Comment by Larry Sohn on October 25, 2019 at 4:48pm

I LOVE when kids start poking their fingers into and scraping the images in my matted prints. The framed pieces have hard glazing to protect. The matted prints have only clearbags. Some parents are attentive. Others just don't care. No matter what I say I risk alienating the potential customer.

Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on October 25, 2019 at 1:50pm

I'd like to offer another addition.  While I appreciate having people picking up my jewelry and trying things on (and I encourage them to do so), PLEASE make sure that you wipe your hands after eating pizza, french fries, funnel cakes, dough-nuts and the like, and similarly patrol kids' sticky fingers.  Thank you for the chance to express this thought!

Comment by Cindy Welch on October 21, 2019 at 5:29pm

Can this be copied and pasted to our biz Facebook page(s) with proper credit and/or link provided?

Comment by Troy Smith on October 21, 2019 at 2:01pm

Thank you for all of your comments and awesome suggestions. I am going to start adding all your strategies for my next show. 

Comment by David J Teter on October 18, 2019 at 2:22pm

Add photographing artwork. Some artists are fine with it others, like photographers, are not. Ask before taking a photo or if the artist is not in their booth and there is no sign assume you can not.

There should also be a corresponding list for the artists in the show. Believe it or not some things are not obvious to even artists.

Comment by Layl McDill on October 18, 2019 at 9:10am

Here's a trick I have figured out when #1 happens.  If a large group is blocking my booth entrance I go to the front of my booth and "herd" the group away by entering my booth.  You don't even say anything more than "excuse me" and they move off (hopefully not to the front of the next booth).  They don't even notice and you don't come off as a pushy artist. 

And as for #2- I think it's a very good point to "ask".  My work looks delicate but is not so I find it frustrating when people over react about their kids touching my art.  

Comment by Troy Smith on October 16, 2019 at 7:37am

Great feedback Richard, having a promoter provide a flyer with these kinds of guidelines would be helpful for everyone. I wish you the best of success at your next event.

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