Art Fair Insiders

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

3 Art Fairs in Transition: Good, Better, Best

Making art fairs happen (and profitable) seems to get tougher all the time. That is why I am pretty pleased to bring you updates on three art fairs that are moving ahead for changes with plans to strengthen their events for themselves, their cities, artists and their sponsors.

1. Good. Jonathan Witz, producer of Arts, Beats & Eats in Pontiac, MI, is in talks with the City of Royal Oak, MI, to bring the huge event to downtown Royal Oak. After twelve years of working with the city officials in Pontiac a contract has not been signed for 2010. Witz, an organizer of many huge Detroit area events (Super Bowl XV operations, Final Four activities, Winter Blast and River Days) knows his region well and wants to keep his flagship event viable.

Here's a link to the story in the Detroit Free Press, and another in the Royal Oak Tribune.

What do you think? Is this a good idea?

2. Better.
Corning, New York, for many years has hosted an arts and crafts festival in its Gaffer District in late July. "For the sixth time since 1976, Corning was host to the Glass Art Society's international conference in the summer of 2009. During this event, glass enthusiasts and artists from around the globe converged in Corning for a four-day celebration of glass that included technical demonstrations, artist exhibits, and lectures from world-renown members of the international glass community," says Scott Nichols in the WETM-TV website.

Building on the success of this event and the Corning's renown as "Crystal City" the Gaffer District has decided to replace the festival with GlassFest, an event that will include "all artists of the fire arts (artists that use heat or an open flame), including glass, ceramics and metal," says Michael Melaro, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Gaffer District.

"The GlassFest event takes place May 27-30, 2010 and celebrates what is easily the most well-known piece of our city's history. From outdoor glassblowing demonstrations and neon displays to glass artists and local exhibits, this event truly captures the essence of Corning in a four-day event."

Read more here:

3. Best. The Guild of Artists and Artisans
in Ann Arbor is in the final stages of putting together an agreement with both the Birmingham-Bloomfield Art Association and Common Ground to provide the operations and staging for the two non-profits popular art fairs that take place respectively in May and September in Shain Park in downtown Birmingham, Michigan.

As anyone in this business knows the once thriving art fair business in Michigan has been severely challenged in recent years, yet the enthusiasm for art fairs has not flagged among the affluent in the Birmingham/Oakland County area of metro Detroit. This fall Shain Park was closed because of new construction and the fall Birmingham art fair moved to a parking lot. This was a stopgap alternative at best.

Enter the Michigan Guild who runs the popular Ann Arbor Summer Fair and several other art fairs in the Midwest. With their year round seasoned staff they are in a strong position to take over the management of the events and leave the non-profits to do what they do best. In the case of the BBAC to bring cultural activities to their community and for Common Ground providing a mental health sanctuary that provides a lifeline for individuals and families in crisis.

When all the paperwork is approved an announcement will be made and the fair will move from the Park to Old Woodward, in the heart of downtown Birmingham's shopping district. The dates of mid-May and mid-September will remain the same.

I like this location and the partnership. What do you think?

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Comment by Barry Bernstein on November 18, 2009 at 2:12pm
I would reverse the order of those events. I think moving Arts, Beats, and Eats will have to most impact on improving a great concept that only suffers because of location. The "Glass Fest" already adds to a great celebration of glass. I used to go to the GAS conferences in the '90's. I was always envious of how the glass artists, collectors, and galleries were on the same page, which results in higher prices and greater demand for glass.

There's been some talk about the lowering the quality of shows by allowing buy/sell vendors in. One good thing about the Birmingham shows is that the quality level of the art has remained high. I sure hope the Michigan Guild maintains that high level. Personally, I like Shain Park better as a location for the show. I don't think moving it to the street will have an impact on sales or attendance. And, moving it to the street will, I am assuming, make load and setup times shorter.

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