Art Fair Insiders

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

The artists have spoken and the Art Fair SourceBook has announced its Top art fairs for 2010 chosen on the basis of reported artist sales at the year's art festivals. Hundreds of art fairs receive from Art Fair Sourcebook pre paid green postcards that the event organizers pass out to their participating artists. In turn, if an artist feels like reporting their sales they can fill it out and mail it in. Some artists make it a practice to fill them out and others never do this.

When you are trying to determine whether or not to apply to an art fair what is your main criteria? I hope it is MAKING MONEY. Therefore, Greg Lawler, originator and owner of AFSB, decided that would be the main criteria of his list. Smart thinking.

Here are Greg Lawler's 2011 Art Fair SourceBook Top Shows:

Congratulations to these excellent events. These ten events range from the excellently well-run small town event in Belleville, IL, run by an entirely volunteer base to some lollapalooza big deal events such as the NO Jazz and Heritage Festival (a truly destination event that attracts international visitors) with a few other goodies thrown in. La Quinta is in a lovely setting in a wealthy area of Palm Springs with a $12 gate fee; Arts, Beats & Eats has resurrected the art fair business in Michigan with last year's blockbuster attendance; Long's Park is a favorite Labor Day weekend destination for people near the East Coast; Fort Worth's event is a big deal four day festival that brings visitors from seemingly recession-proof Texas; St. Louis is a purely art affair set in an affluent neighborhood "owned" by its community partners; Sausalito is a professionally run four-day event with $20 admission; Bonita Springs is set in an affluent neighborhood where the locals know they "need" to attend and collect the goods presented there.

Hmmm...three of these shows are on the same weekend! Five of the events are four days long giving artists longer to gather sales. Only two of them are two day events--got to make those days just lovely!

Art fairs love to boast about their ratings from AFSB. Here are a few recent articles:

Salem Art Fair, Salem, OR:


Oklahoma City:


Salt Lake City:


Long's Park:


La Quinta:|head



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Comment by Connie Mettler on February 15, 2012 at 9:43am

I believe there is, Geri. However, I am not a subscriber to the AFSB site and it is hard to find this information. I posted the info above a year ago and had access to it because one of the events I was working on was a top ten event. 

Comment by geri a. wegner on February 15, 2012 at 9:04am

Is there a separate listing for fine crafts?  I noticed that half the top ten in art didn't make the top ten in crafts.

Comment by Kelly Crosser Alge on February 14, 2012 at 8:44pm

I think it is very difficult to judge shows by reported sales, even when you consider results by categories. Jewelry, for example is usually a top selling category at most shows.  Someone with $10k sales may have 8k in production costs, where someone selling $4k may only have $500 in production costs.  The percentage of artists returning info. slips is never terribly high either.  The numbers really should be considered with these things in mind.  It only seems right that we as artists would help each other out. We all started out needing good advice.

Comment by Connie Mettler on February 23, 2011 at 10:21am

Here is another list of top shows, the American Style magazine's annual listing of the top ten art fairs. I think it is pretty accurate, in reality, with only a few slips of shows I've never heard of:


Comment by Michelle Sholund on February 15, 2011 at 10:08pm

If someone took the time to fill out a card, I think most likely I would believe them.  Granted I do think some of the numbers are hard to swallow, but I do hear good reviews of Longs Park Arts and Craft Festival - I had customers ask me if I do it and then tell me how amazing it is, and that is just customers.  I can't say anything about the others as I have never been to them nor know folks who do it. 


I am amazed how some posted that they would never tell their competition about a good show.  Hello!!!  There are so many awful shows that why wouldn't you praise a show whose organizers are doing a good job and finally someone is earning money.  Sure there's competition, but there is competition anywhere you go!  It just sounds like some are just insecure - if your work is good and you do all the right things when it comes to the jury process you have nothing to fear, right?  As a matter of fact I was apart of a group of art fair friends (10 of us) and we'd gather at shows sometimes after and share our thoughts on past, present and future shows and sometimes grab extra applications in case one another would like to apply too.   We don't see each other as often now, but when we see each other it is a delight because we would welcome that art fair friend as a neighbor any day as opposed to re-sellers or anything like that.   That's just my thought I guess....  - Michelle, By the Bay Botanicals -

Comment by Victoria Ryan on February 14, 2011 at 5:09pm
AFSB gives pretty detailed reporting.  It also tells the percentage of artists replying.  In the results, the high earners mediums are listed so it does give you a good idea of what is selling at a particular show and you can see the trends of whether the high earners are jewelers and painters versus ceramics and metal for example  and and an overall ranking.   As for truth telling.....I don't know how some people were raised but I like to believe that at least the majority of others who report their sales are telling the truth, as I do.  Its about the common good, not about securing my place in a good show.    Call me an optimist but I think if you think that one through, most people will either tell the truth or not participate.    The same with the conspiracy theory of planting positive reports - it sounds like a plausible notion but the thought of people actually doing it seems unlikely.   Anyway, AFSB has been very helpful over the years and the information is credible.
Comment by Mark Loeb on February 14, 2011 at 11:41am

I  get very good results on the surveys for the Art Fairs that I run, but I still have some concerns with how fairs are rated- not just for artists but also for sponsors.  The most important point to me is that general spending at a fair may not equate to higher sales for everyone.  My suggestion would be to find artists who's work sells well at the same shows as yours especially if they are in a different medium.  Then work together to determine which shows are best for your work. 


I sometime wonder if all of the surveys are completed by artists, or if some people who are invested in raising their shows grade may add a few of their own.  I don't think that a show could make it to the top tier by doing that- it would be too many surveys to get away with.  It would not surprise me though if some of the shows were adding a few surveys of their own. 


I think that the only way that we will ever have completely honest and accurate numbers about attendance and sales figures is if there is a non-involved survey company doing on-site and follow up research.  The trade show industry now has standardized criteria.  If you see certified attendance results from a trade show it means something.  I fear that the same cannot yet be said for festivals.

Comment by Christine Heisler on February 14, 2011 at 11:14am
Can anyone explain how they arrive at the net sales figure?  I understand deducting the entrance and application fees, but what per diem expenses are they including?  Wouldn't those vary greatly?
Comment by lisa ark on February 12, 2011 at 4:26pm
I agree with you Paul!

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