Art Fair Insiders

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

Why is it so hard every year to apply to art shows?  I feel so nervous about it, I find myself doubting everything... my work, my display, my show choices, the money.  My whole career!  Wouldn't it be easier just to go back to the corporate world and get a steady income? 


If any Chicago artists want to compare show choices with me (or tell me what to do!) I'd be so grateful.  It feels like such a crap shoot and facing all that cash out the door panics me.


I'll bet your applications for this year are already figured out.  If so, you can feel smug and read my first blog entry of this year:


Happy applying!



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Comment by Wendy Zumpano on January 17, 2013 at 12:43pm

Buck up is right!  I should tattoo "Buck up" on my forehead so when I'm having a pity party I can look in the mirror and get over myself.  I actually paid my mother to work for me for a few years doing shipping and printing and all sorts of administrative stuff.  Better to keep the family relationship separate from my work in the end.  It's really a matter of having a positive, can-do attitude vs. feeling insecure.  Plus my ADD is in full swing, I just can't stay focused!!!

Comment by Jason Thomas on January 17, 2013 at 12:33pm
Buck up, keep going, with this goal in mind: soon, you will be able to afford to get an admin to apply to shows FOR you. It may seem far off, but if you know someone who would do a good job, you could just pay them $X for each festival on your list that they do your application process for you. Whatever you can afford, lots of folks need a little extra money, and would love to work from home! With training, and a detailed document of your answers to oapplication questions, an intern could do it.
Comment by Wendy Zumpano on January 17, 2013 at 9:54am

Gulp... $20K?  I'm such a hack.

Comment by Connie Mettler on January 16, 2013 at 3:06pm

Well, it seemed like they were. I remember putting money away after every show for the "January payments" and tried to have $20,000 sitting there then. (We did a lot of shows).

Comment by Wendy Zumpano on January 15, 2013 at 8:48am

Dean, I've done the Gold Coast for a few years and it's been pretty good for me.  But the cost just keeps going up and up, so I've decided to try some other downtown shows.  That thunderstorm was a killer last year!  I'm definitely going to apply to all Erin's shows, Connie.  Thanks so much for the suggestion.  Hopefully back when payment was required, the shows weren't so darn expensive!!


Comment by Connie Mettler on January 14, 2013 at 9:27pm

You might check out the events that Erin Melloy runs throughout the Chicago area. She works with business districts and municipalities as a show organizer. She doesn't own the events. Her site:

Not to belittle your angst, Wendy, but once upon a time it was acceptable practice that payment went in with the applications and many shows also had a policy that an application was a commitment to show and your check would be cashed. We have the NAIA to thank for convincing shows that both of these policies were not friendly. 

Comment by Dean Myton on January 14, 2013 at 6:35pm

Wendy, The only show I can recommend you not do is the Gold Coast show.  I did it for the first time last year and the weather and sales were pathetic.  saturday all Lookie Lous and Sunday just as sales started to get good a thunderstorm took all the buyers away.  Set up and teardown was horendous. If it wasn't for a couple we hired that were looking for work tear down would have taken hours.  You have an advantage because you live in Chicago so hotel would be zero, but for me the expenses did not justify the show.  We worked too hard for the $700 in profit we made.  Besides the fact the attendees are mostly tourist and not buyers, thewre are too many commercial tents and they are rude to boot.  Amdur runs nice shows and they seem to care, but no amount of caring makes up for a lack of buyers.  Good luck. 

Comment by Erin-Lynn McAleer on January 14, 2013 at 11:00am

I agree totally, Wendy! Applications is by far the WORSE part about this business! I stress myself out so much every single year! Misery loves company! :-)  GOOD LUCK!

Comment by Greg Little on January 14, 2013 at 10:55am

Wendy...It seems that it is a never-ending-problem when it comes to applying (or rather getting accepted) to descent shows each year. Most people I have talked to at shows and on blogs all have the same story of being in a show for several years and then being waitlisted or flat out declined...and this most certainly includes me. I have also talked to those who have been in a show for many years and always seem to get in even when someone else with some really fantastic work does not get in.


You never know what goes on in the mind of jurors when their personal likes and dislikes of work is involved. If any of us could figure it out the shows would have 1000 artists booth at each show.

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on January 13, 2013 at 1:26pm

Good luck Wendy.  This is a tough part about being in the business.

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