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

Years ago I had done shows hosted by Downtown Boulder, Inc. on the Pearl Street pedestrian mall but gave them up due to the fact that they were underwhelming. The last time I did one was 7 years ago. In the interim, 4 years ago, the OpenArts people decided to expand on their mission and held a show that no one attended. It was held in a nice open area adjacent to a shopping mall in Boulder but apparently the word didn't get out.

OpenArts is known, at least in part, for hosting the annual open studios tour in Boulder every Oct. They partnered with Downtown Boulder, Inc. to breath life back into a show that had gone down hill quality wise. I'd say from the little bit that I was able to see of the show that they did their homework. The quality was as good as most shows I participate in.

Now for the Facts:

Show Hours and Dates: Open Arts Fest, Boulder, CO July 19, 10-7, July 20, 10-5

Logistics:

The show is set up on the pedestrian Pearl Street Mall and also on 14th street. If you opt for the 14th St. option (which costs less) you get to set up Friday night. The bad news is that setting up on the mall means getting there at 6 AM on Sat. The good news is you can drive right up to your booth space if it isn't blocked by someone else down the line.

Amenities:

LOTS of water,  snacks and volunteer booth sitters for the occasional break. Additionally, Alfalfa's sponsored a great Sunday morning awards breakfast. Clean (sorta) regular restrooms on the mall as-well-as some porta potties around the corner. The staff came around quite often to ask if you need a break and they make a special note at check in if you are doing the show alone.

Storage, Booth Space, Load-In/Out:

Depending on your location, most booths had some storage space behind, not a lot of space but it was there! No space between booths to speak of on 14th, they were shoulder to shoulder. There didn't look as though there was much storage behind booths on 14th. Some booths on Pearl St. have more storage available then others on the mall. These booths are scattered throughout the mall so some are stand alones with flower beds next to them and some are 3-4 next to each other. Just depends on where you are located.

Demographics/Buying Trends:

This was a show of two faces. Saturday, all day, there were a lot of strollers and lookers and not much purchasing energy. I felt as though I were just a backdrop to a day of visitors on the mall and I was ready to write the show off as another bad encounter with the Boulder market. Sunday, however, was a different animal. Serious buyers were looking at the show and were making purchases. Although there were dead zones in the day there were sales throughout the day, enough for me to reconsider throwing in the towel.

Quality/Range of Art:

This was a mid to high end FA show rather than a craft show with some FA thrown in. The work that was there was well done and as good a quality as most shows I choose to go to. I've seen some of the artists at such shows as: Omaha, Oklahoma City, Park City, etc. Many of the artists at this show are going to be at the Affordable Arts Show in Littleton, CO at the end of August.

Food:

Boulder is a town with plenty of restaurants within spitting distance on the mall and there were some fine food wagons between 13th and 14th just for the show. Lindsey's Deli would deliver and Lindsey herself came around with % off coupons for the artists.

Reflections:

As I said it has been 7 years since I did my last Boulder Mall show. I gave up on them as I never saw any significant sales out of any of the shows I did there. I took a chance on this show as I had nothing else scheduled and nothing much to lose. I'm glad I did the show as it turned out to be profitable for me and worth the time. My neighbors (ceramic artists) said they've done the Boulder mall show for years and it has always been good to them.

Okay, now for the Dave Piper star rating! I'd give this show ✩✩✩ out of 5 and that is because of the nice job of logistics by the volunteers of Open Arts, great amenities, booth sitting, etc. Why only 3 out of 5? I think this show has room for improvement and I want to give this show another try and see if buying energy improves.

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Comment by Connie Mettler on July 31, 2014 at 6:55pm

I hope Dave will be your neighbor soon, Kay. It is always great to have interesting, experienced storytellers in the next booth.

Comment by Kay Cummins on July 30, 2014 at 8:12pm

Thanks Connie and S Brian for the skinny.  I know I would like Dave Piper!  Here's hoping everyone has a show this week that  is 5 stars and cartwheels to the bank!

Comment by S Brian Berkun on July 29, 2014 at 10:56pm

RE: The Dave Piper reference...Dave has a story for everything and kept me in stitches at last fall's Bayou show (considering not much else was happening). Anyway, he told the story of someone who had written a show review for a magazine and went on and on with details about the show and that it wasn't really all that good after all BUT they would still would go back to it! He was beside himself over that. So, by way of the story he told I decided to develop the Dave Piper Star Rating. A would probably be "fahgetabotit" and obviously would be I will definately be there (assuming they invite me back!).

Comment by Connie Mettler on July 29, 2014 at 9:24pm

(Kay - see Dave Piper rating system in Brian's original post). Dave is a leather worker from Texas who has been in the business forever and occasionally pops up here.

Comment by Kay Cummins on July 29, 2014 at 8:23pm

Connie - Dave Piper reference?  I must have missed something or don't know who that is.

As far as interacting with customers at Boulder...I am pretty shocked that anyone might have felt ignored or not greeted, however; I will say that many artists shut down a bit when sales are very very slow.  We are all human after all.  It was a professional group of artists and we are all there to sell and many of us worked really hard for the sales that happened.  I know I did and even tho I had a really weak show I still enjoyed being there.

Comment by Connie Mettler on July 29, 2014 at 4:51pm

So pleased to see this review show up here, Brian. Thanks for the thorough details.

Can't help but mention the Dave Piper reference. Hmmm ... Dave doesn't show up here much. Does he have a rating system I should know about? I think I'd trust it.

As to the sitting around, I found a link that I posted in the Ann Arbor section that talks about this, written by someone who was trying to buy some work and no one would talk to her. Here it is again: http://blog.entrepreneurthearts.com/2010/06/13/trouble-and-joy-at-t...

It is a worthwhile read.

Comment by Steve Mitchell on July 29, 2014 at 1:46pm

Stephen is a very hands on guy, he was around during set up and came around at least once both days if not more.  He is there for the artists. 

I agree with your point of artists setting around, many are too busy reading to even look up.  Customers need to know you are interested in them.  But even greeting them didn't help, I am a long way from being hard sell.

Comment by Weldon Lee on July 29, 2014 at 9:51am

Lori and I did the Boulder Open Arts Fest this year. Our booth was on the east end of the Mall between 14th and 15th. Although we had sales both days, there were definitely more people in our booth on Saturday. Didn't knock it out of the park, but we did turn a profit and plan on being there next year . . . assuming we get juried in.

I like what Stephen DeNorscia is doing to turn this into a really good show.

One thing I notice at every show we do are artists that set around and never say a word to customers. No wonder they never sell anything. I've got a lot to learn when it comes to selling, but there are many artists that never even try. A few week ago at the Steamboat Springs show, one of our customers told my wife that I was the only artist that had even spoken to her.

It's only our second year of doing shows, but one thing that we're noticing is sales are down compared to our first year.

Comment by Kay Cummins on July 25, 2014 at 8:34pm
Steve as a jeweler I totally agree.
Comment by Steve Mitchell on July 25, 2014 at 12:44pm

I did the show in Boulder, the homeless were not a problem.  The show was one of the best we have seen as far a good original art was concerned, coming from Chicago where most of the jewelry is buy/sell stuff.  I didn't sell enough to go back and there was a lot of complaining among jewelers and others about lack of sales.  I agree that there seemed to be money wandering around, but many were tourists that happened upon the show, not coming for the show and therefor weren't prepared to part with the money.  The Open Art people did a great job making sure we were all taken care of.

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