Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Last weekend we were in Florence, Alabama for Arts Alive. It was a positive experience for us and our sales exceeded our expectations going in. Florence is a city of about 40,000 in the northwest corner of the state. It is located on the Tennessee River and is adjacent to Muscle Shoals. There is a rich musical heritage here. This show was recommended to us by a couple of artists friends familiar with our work. We were somewhat skeptical since it is a relatively small city and we tend to do better in larger venues. But, it was close to home and expenses were low ( booth was $170.00) so we decided to give it a try.
The site is Wilson Park which is located in the center of the downtown area surrounded by large stately homes. The arts center runs the show and overall did a good job. The arts center is located adjacent to the park in three large former homes. Load in started at 9am on Friday. There was no set schedule, just show up whenever. Two of the streets adjacent to the park were blocked off and the other two had street parking. We were able to pull up with our trailer and park about 50 feet from our booth. We stayed there for the four hours it took us to set up. Some were able to drive into the park on the sidewalks but most had to dolly. It was hot and humid during set up but luckily we had shade all day. Nevertheless, we were both spent by the end of the day.
The show opened at 9am but it is a free event so we got there at 8am to tie up some loose ends and be ready for any early birds. This is the big art event of the year so while the crowd was not overwhelming it seemed OK. Others who have done the show in the past said the crowd was down perhaps due to the weather. We had a pretty good morning with print bin sales. Then a former customer from another show came by and bought a piece off the wall and ordered some prints. It was shaping up to be a really good day....then the rain hit. It was about 2pm when the clouds cut loose. The show shut down early and everyone zipped up for the night.
There is a very nice reception for the artists on Saturday night. All the tables and chairs were set up in the backyard of the arts center. The rain ended the outdoor plans and everything was moved inside. There was a beer and wine bar in the art gallery. The drinks were accompanied by a jazz trio who were very good by the way. Next door was a buffet set up with BBQ. Awards were announced while we were eating dinner and we missed that we won third place. Despite the weather we had a good time.
By Sunday morning the weather had partially cleared and although rain was forecast for later in the day, it looked like we would get the entire day in. The morning was slow but picked up in the afternoon. Our sales were not very good until one customer came in and bought two large pieces. We sold a few other things and by 5pm when the show ended we were feeling pretty good about the weekend. Load out was OK and again we were able to park close to our booth. Unfortunately with about 30 minutes left before we were completely loaded it started raining again. For the second show in a row we were soaked.
We did not understand this when we applied but there are two shows. The first is the Gallery Show (separate application on Zapp). If accepted, you can submit up to three works for gallery display before and after the show. We checked out the gallery submissions during the reception and many of them had sold. The outdoor show is the Park Show. You can do both as long as you submit two applications.
The only negative about this show was security. In previous years there was on site security. This year security was limited to drive bys by on duty police. Four booths were broken into. It appeared that the thieves cased the booths during the show and determined what they wanted. Items stolen were parts of a set or related to each other in some way. In other words, it was not some random theft. There were substantial losses for those victimized.
While we were very pleased with our sales, we did not check around with others for their experiences. Security needs to be improved. None of us can afford to lose inventory to thieves. We will apply to this show next year as it worked out well for us and is close to home. The downtown is nice with several new restaurants and accommodations are reasonable. Despite our GPS taking us on an unwanted tour of backwoods Alabama in the rain after the show it was a good weekend. I am not sure we would have felt the same way if the thieves and hit us.