Art Fair Insiders

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

And, Now the Review...Tempe Festival of the Arts Fall Addition

I know that just about everyone, with some exception, has had a down year and, for some, Tempe was just a continuation of that trend. For me, thankfully, it was "okay". The bottom line is I didn't lose money but didn't make much either. I made about the same at the spring show. Read between the lines, this show is not making a lot of money for some artist/attendees.

The administration of this show has changed hands since spring. Kate Borders, President / Executive Director of Downtown Tempe Authority, is the new director of the show. Didn't she come from the Peoria, IL show? As is the case, when there is new leadership there are changes and so was the case with the fall show. Most of the changes were barely imperceptible especially to the audience. For those of us who are veterans of this show some of the changes were very noticeable. The artist hospitality was moved to the shows headquarters about a block and a half north of their previous location, what was wrong with the old place? Not too bad for those of us at 5th and above. I felt bad for anyone wanting to have coffee or a snack from 5th south as they had a much further hike. The arrows that were chalked onto the sidewalk from the old location showing where the new location was seemed to go on forever! I hope Linda wasn't too lonely.

Next, and certainly not least in importance, Porta Potties! There used to be at least 4 of them located near the old artist hospitality area. This year there were only two, until Sunday morning when there was only one and this one was over full and seemed not to have been serviced over night as they usually have been. I wonder what it was like at other areas where they usually stage these things?

Artists reception. Okay, it's not required that a show have one, it's a perk for the artists. Usually this reception was held in a large open area near the beer and wine garden so there is a lot of room for the artists as-well-as good eats and 2 free drinks. This year the reception/awards reveal was held at 5th and Mill, upstairs, in the already overly-crowded-with-regular-diners restaurant. There were still the tickets for 2 free drinks but alas, there was no nicely catered dinner as was usually the case for this show. The "bites" that were served turned out to be herb spiced french fries and maybe something else that looked like pizza stuff on pita bread, was there anything else? Needless to say, by the time I found out they were being served and got there all was gone, you know artists + free food= nothing if yer late!

The awards reveal was probably about the same, too loud to hear anything so wait till the next day to find out in the daily newsletter. Oh, no newsletter. Okay, most of the time it didn't include much more than was already known but it did include load out info. This last item was covered in an email which, if I didn't just happen to be checking my phone for who-knows-what I would have missed it. Included in it was info on load out which, by the way, seemed to be better organized than in previous years and made for a fairly orderly departure with it taking no more time than I usually take to depart similar venues and the aforementioned awards winners (see separate post for that info).

Speaking of too loud. The "music" was too loud and there was too much of it concentrated in one area. I've not been in this particular location of the show before so I don't know if this is what usually takes place here. Was it a new thing that they had a music stage in an amphitheatre like location that amplified the music and sent it out through canyons of buildings to drowned out conversation? In addition to the end cap musician and the children's banging on instruments area nearby. Some adjustment to this seems in order.

It's not a big deal but wouldn't a show organizer want to meet and greet? It just seems like a nice thing to do. Okay, I'll admit that there is a lot to do with organizing these events. The previous administrator got out and said hello to the artists and knew their names! I didn't meet Kate but one of the staff members described what she looked like to me.

Speaking of staff...this is not new to this show just ongoing. Booth sitters were nowhere to be seen but in all fairness you were given a phone number to call if you needed one. I saw a few young people with red T-Shirts that said "Volunteer" on the back, were they the booth sitters? Hard to know because they were just roaming the streets with no apparent agenda. What were they volunteering to do? I've got an issue with all shows that say you can call for a booth sitter. Sometimes, the need to evacuate your booth comes on quickly, calling and waiting for a booth sitter is just not practical. I've had to rely on my fellow artist/neighbors for quick comfort and fortunately had nice neighbors for this show. Thank you, you know who you are.

This falls show must have had a gazillion jewelers, well, I exaggerate some but it did seem as though  and in some cases actually was, a jewelry booth every other booth no lie!( two categories; fine (37), and ornamental (38), what's the difference it's all ornamental!)  So out of approximately 350 artists 21% were jewelers, I'm sure they were not happy with those kinds of odds. I had two different jewelers on either side of me. Let it be known that high end was not selling anywhere near me. The "fine" jeweler next to me 0/out with high end stuff and the jeweler to my east who had more variety and price points wasn't very happy either but was selling...some. 

Okay, so it's easy to point out flaws and, in all fairness, the show went along fairly smoothly. In the morning the usual coffee/water cart came by, which I appreciate. There were goodies in the aforementioned artist hospitality area. Load in and out went smoothly, we can only wish it would do the same at all shows. The crowds were actually crowds but alas were spending frugally that part is NOT the job of the promoter/organizer.

If your looking for the nuts and bolts about this show please see my previous reviews as not much has changed.

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Comment by Kate Borders on December 10, 2016 at 4:39pm

Glad we had somewhat of an improvement from 2010.  Yes - always room for improvement.  If I am here 10 years, there will still be room for improvement.  And I will still screw something up.  Keep the feedback coming!  Our list for Spring is pages long.  Thanks all!

Oh - and yes - the music was too loud in certain spots.  I can only imagine how that detracts from your experience and your ability to make sales.  It's on the list.

Comment by S Brian Berkun on December 10, 2016 at 3:41pm

@Kate, I like to use the analogy of an art show, or anything else in the public eye, being like a train, you get it on the tracks, start it up and do the best you can with what you know at the time. It is almost impossible to stop or redirect once it gets going but you learn and adjust for the next trip! Altogether it was not bad, just needs some adjusting! Based on your response to my article I am impressed with your sincerity and desire to make the show work as-well-as it can. Thank you.

It could have been way worse...2010 did the Fall show, load-in was supposed to be at 9:30 so off we went however...someone still had their car parked on Mill! Amidst all the artists trying to get in on Mill a tow truck was trying to get in also, consequently jamming up all the streets! It wasn't until 11 that we actually got to our spot! That was a train wreck!

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on December 10, 2016 at 12:10pm

Thanks for the reviews / comments. This was our first time not being in the fall show since we started doing shows in AZ, didn't get accepted this year. But, since we would have been yet another jewelry booth, not sure we missed too much.

Comment by Marc Lamm on December 10, 2016 at 11:53am

I'm doing the Spring show and, I appreciate your responses, Kate. You have a tough job and you sound like someone who is working to do the best for all concerned.

There was one issue you did not address which is very important to me. Loud music which overwhelms conversation creates an environment which makes it very hard to sell and even spend a day around. I did a show in Minneapolis which was a disaster for me and torture for my ears. I hope you don't create that environment for your artists this Spring.

Be aware that at the Stone Arch show in Minneapolis every artist I talked to said they would not do that show again because of the loud music. I felt the same. I don't want to subject myself to days of loud music and the frustration of trying to talk over it. I hope you will solve this problem for the Spring show.

Comment by Richard L. Sherer on December 10, 2016 at 9:48am
Even though I don't do this show, I think this producer needs lots of kudos for responding to artist concerns/ criticisms on the site. So here is one.
Comment by Kate Borders on December 9, 2016 at 4:25pm

Hi everyone, this is Kate Borders.  I'm glad that one event is behind our new team.  Appreciate all the comments and we care deeply about making this the best show it can be.  We made a lot of mistakes and will most definitely make more in the future, but hopefully less with each show.  Just a couple of points of clarification: 

Load in and Load out - Here we are somewhat at the mercy of the police and getting the OK to move in.  We do our best and will keep trying to improve this.  I know it's frustrating.  Hopefully next time it will get smoother.  I watched the entire load out and it seemed fairly hassle-free.  

Jewelry:  I maintained the same exact ratio of jewelry as had been in the past.  Will review and reduce for next Fall.  One of the challenges - and this is on me to fix - is the artists that aren't juried in under jewelry but bring a line of jewelry.  We caught some and will catch more and be more strict in the future.

Buy/Sell:  I am very bothered by this.  @Kay Cummins - the only comment that I disagree with is that we producers don't care as long as there are crowds.  I don't want buy/sell and low quality works in this show.   I want original works that offer an aesthetic that isn't available elsewhere.  I was raised by an artist and I have been around the arts my entire life and this isn't just about the money - it's about setting a standard and letting people know that they can expect quality from this show.  It may take time to weed it out, but this is important to us.  Always open to advice! 

Judges:  We had three.  They spent two days at the festival.  Three different sets of expertise.

Hospitality:  We moved it because we thought artists would like getting out of the elements and having real bathrooms.  It was only a block away.  But - this is all for you guys - so whatever you want we will try and accommodate.  Goal here was to step it up and maybe we didn't meet the need.

Artist reception:  Yes - this was a disaster.  Our hearts were in the right place but it didn't play out well.  We won't make that mistake again.  Sorry!

Newsletter:  There was a Sunday newsletter - we distributed 350 of them.  Every artist I saw got one.  Not sure how we missed you @S Brian Berkun.  It had the award winners and load out on it.

Meet & Greet:  I believe I met about 150 artists of the 350.  I meant to meet everyone, but some conversations lasted 30 minutes.  With only three days of the show, that math simply doesn't play out. I will do my best to get out and meet more next time.  I even kept walking the show during tear down and chatting with artists then.  I was out the entire time from start to finish.  But, alas, didn't get to all.

Bottom line - we made mistakes and we will do our best to fix for next time.  We love the artists - we want them to enjoy themselves and have good sales.  And we will always take your feedback so feel free to email me.  Onward and upward! 


Comment by S Brian Berkun on December 8, 2016 at 11:30pm

Yes, Kate was from Peoria, way back when, but more recently from Fresno. If you care to know more...

Comment by steve appel on December 8, 2016 at 9:43pm

I guess brian beat me to it.    I followed rules on set up and i put it on fb that the setup of show was the worst it had been in the 20 years i have been doing this show. Lined up at 6:30 and tempe police had us tighten the line. I was suppose to get in to set up at 8:00  finally got into setup at 9:30.  It seems that 5th and 6th were numbered wrong, so they had to redo both streets.  Then they were still marking Mill ave as well at 9 pm  There were a lot of pissed off artist waiting to get into the showat 9:30.  Got in and was suppose to hug the curb with vehicle. Two feet away from the curb is not hugging the curb..  There was an artist that far away from curb and trying to get cars out of the show, THREE of us had to pickup a small trailer to get it closer to the curb.  In my section of the show West side of mill in the 1000 block there were 6 jewelers out of 15 booths.  The reception in a restaurant above starbucks was so crowded, it was a joke.  Crowded and loud with no place to sit, and a small piece of pizza and fries for food.  I left and went and had a good meal.  Bathrooms, they had 3 up by the tempe palms and could not find any by the old hospitality tent.  Saw two judges I think not even sure, maybe they should get rid of the ribbons and lower the cost of the show.(just my opinion)  While some of you did ok, I did very well this year as compared to the past.  Fri was crowded with buyers,  Sat was crowded with buyers, and sunday was a popcorn crowd.  Most of us at my end of the show walked out stuff out to our vans but my end of the show was not allowed to bring our cars in till 7 pm  after 5th loaded out.  But what Brian said in his review was right on.

Comment by Connie Mettler on December 8, 2016 at 9:19pm
Thanks for this solid review, Brian. 3 this week! Yours, Marge Luttrell and John Leben, full of information.

That is a lot of jewelers! When I ran shows it was always a challenge to keep the jewelry category small enough so they all could sell.

I do not recognize Kate's name and don't think she is from the Peoria Art Guild Show, but maybe you just meant plain old Peoria. Right?

I love your tone and find your writing interesting. We're all getting better at writing, aren't we? Wouldn't our teachers be surprised? Going back to Tempe in the Spring?

Best wishes, Kay, on your next stage. Exciting for sure. If you get a few minutes it would be cool to hear what went into this decision and see it develop.
Comment by Kay Cummins on December 8, 2016 at 7:24pm

Thanks Brian!  as the crap shoot rolls...a soap opera presented by artists on the Road!  I still think Scottsdale's show at SMoCA is the place to be in AZ.  Congrats on the invitation.  I was in once and WL the majority.  Perhaps they will invite me with the new work?!  Stay true to yourself!

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