Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
In the spirit of better late than never, here are some observations from this year’s Broad Ripple Art Fair held on May 21 and 22 on the grounds of the Indianapolis Art Center.
First and foremost, the staff and many, many volunteers were absolutely awesome. Smiling good mornings. Yummy donuts and coffee. Express line passes for artists to use at the food trucks and very friendly food workers. Volunteers coming by your booth during the day asking “do you need a booth sitter?”… “how about some water?”… “is there anything I can do you?” Yes, you can come home with me and be my mother.
The show layout is unusual. The artists are in four separate locations grouped around the art center building, and after acceptance you’re given a numbered map to make booth requests. Having not been to the show before, I chose the area with the most artists, figuring that the customers would be least likely to skip the area where the majority of artists are (I believe it cost $13 to get in the gate). I got a space in exactly the area I asked for (!!) and it turned out to be a good choice.
There are two entrances, and the big Artist Field and cozy, tree-filled Artist Green are both easy to see. The Field is a big, bare baseball field with unattractive stuff around the perimeter but it is the place all the customers go. The third area is Artist Terrace, a line of booths next to the Green and stretching behind the back wall of the art center, a pretty area but impossible to see unless you stumble upon it while visiting the Green. The fourth location was the Artist Lot, with a lovely arbor stretching down the length of the lot. Trouble is, it’s on the far side of the building, out of sight from the rest of the show, with no booths or food trucks going down the street toward that lot, so unless you know it’s there you’d never see it or expect it. Maybe this is such a well-known show in the area that it’s not a problem, but I thanked god for small favors and scurried back to my booth, where the friendly volunteer said “oh, you’re back so fast! Is there anything else you need?” Yes, you can go home with me and …
Load-in was all day Friday and at least on the baseball field you could drive directly to your booth space. Artist parking was an “on your own” affair, however the adjoining neighborhoods with the exception of one were fine with our vehicles and trailers clogging up their streets for the weekend. It was a distance of maybe two blocks between my tent and my van, and I made it a point to arrive early in the mornings so my van could be parked in the same zip code. I did wonder, though, where the patrons parked since we had snagged all the close spaces.
Another big plus was the attendees. Almost to a person they were friendly and polite, interested in seeing your work, they oohed and ahhed and asked questions, etc. You felt like they were really there to see the art. Novel. I could count on one hand the people I saw who were so busy talking that they weren’t looking in the booths they passed.
Okay, so here’s the part that gets a sideways thumb. Money. All weekend I fretted because I saw few bags walking around. As I said, the people were nice but I don’t need more friends. What I need is more money.
By the end of the weekend I had squeezed out about $2500 in sales, and others around me were mostly in the mid-2s as well. Not so great, considering the booth plus jury fee is $400 and my travel expenses by the time it was all said and done were almost $800. Some did poorly and failed to cover booth. Several artists had told me beforehand that this is a “really good” show and, yes, the quality of art was mostly very good. But in terms of dollars and cents it just didn’t feel like a $400 show and the amount of buying going on wasn’t a $400 show.
Except for one artist who mentioned to me on his way out that he had an 11-hour drive home. I asked incredulously, “11 hours? Is it worth it?” He smiled and said “For $5,500 it is.”
Oh. Well that puts a different spin on things.