Art Fair Insiders

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

Cape Coral Rotary Art Festival— My first one this year—YAWN!

Well, this is my 46th year in the biz.

I have done more than 1500 of these art soirées.

This one I have done off and on since the 1980s.  Usually this is a decent show, can usually turn $1500-$2K but not this year.

I will say right up front that this is a perfect show for Lowend crafters and art on the stick people.

Fine artists will struggle here because the crowd does not give a rats ass about it.

That said, I will dwell further on the particulars as only Nels does.

BTW, for our newbies, I am a photographer who does mostly handcolored black and white images of iconic people, think Christopher Walken. I do some color too.  But I stand out from the herd with my work and I always make money.  Been doing it 46 years.  Not many artists out there can claim that.

So pay attention, I may give you some very valuable data, or I will at least make you laugh.

How I spent a fun filled weekend in scenic Cape Coral Florida.

CC is located across the water from Ft. Myers.  It is nothing like Ft. Myers.

I bet Thomas Edison never set one foot there. He was too busy flitting with fireflies at his estate.

This is a long running show put on by the local Rotary.

They have their act together and do their best to make this well oiled machine that works for the artists.

There are 300 booths in the juried area.  Then there are another 100 plus booths in an area deemed fit for buy sell and commercial.

Juried artists pay $450 for a booth, the commercial pay $600.

Those Rotarians know how to make money.

This is what you get for your investment.  

A two day festival with booth setup after 8pm on Friday.  Bring flashlights.

Otherwise, do as many do and show up early Sat. Morn and setup before show start at 10am.

You get a 10x10 spot with ample rear storage.

They give you a free feed at checkin—meatballs, corn dogs and sweet stuff plus a really cheap bar for drinks.  Not bad.

They have security and boothsitters, they give out good awards.

They are polite and actually listen to artists and their needs.

They deliver huge dog-walking crowds, some actually spend money on what we display.

I know lots of artists who do very well here, they come back year after year and have $5K shows.

I am not one of them.

The people that come love art on the stick, they go nuts over it.

They love paintings with seashells on them— and more so,love the paintings where the seashells are glued onto them.

They love cliches up the yingyang.

Any work with water, fish and, or birds is a winner.

OK Nels, how did the show go this year?

Well, it sucked for me, I almost fell asleep in my booth both afternoons.

But, my neighbor to the left, who sells stained glass items that have nautical theme was wrapping work all day Saturday and half the day on Sunday. 

My neighbor to the right sells watercolor scenes, Many with mermaids. She had a strong Sat. Morn. Got lots of return customers thru her mail list.

All day long I saw ceramic butterflys on a stick go flying by me.  Usually, three at a time.

Stuff made of white vinyl crap flew by me.

So let me tell you about Cape Coral.  We are talking geographics and demographics.

In the 1950s, people like the Mackle Brothers got to develope whole low cost communities around water,saltwater.

This was before environmental regs were in effect.

They would buy up acres of land near the gulf, then dredge and make canals in the land that ran out to the gulf. They sold a two bedroom house with a carport on a canal for $12,000.

They made a killing.

Cale Coral was one of these places.

For people from New York And Jersey who could not afford to join their buddies down in Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale this was the perfect place.

Then, when the Recession hit, this was a prime spot that a lot of Germans invested, land on water, cheap.

The ultimate American dream.

Most who live here are not concerned with good art.  I saw plenty of women at the show wearing Michael Kors bags who would not spend $30 for a photo that they said they absolutely loved.

So in summation, this is what you have to ask yourself if you are thinking of doing this show.

I am going to have at least $1000 in expenses to do it(booth, gas, food lodging).

Do I have low price points, is my work relevant.

If so, then I will give you one more Nels benefit.

The first Tequila Report of 2020 and it is in Cape Coral.

For newbies, my Tequila Report is always a review of my favorite bar or restaurant at the show.

So first TR 2020– The Redfish Point Garden And Grille Restaurant.

This place is right behind the Holiday Inn.

Finally, somebody brought a little bit of class to Cape Coral.

They have ample outside dining areas under umbrellas and oak trees.  They have an outside bar

The main building is divided with a courtyard seating area around two walled areas, one ha the main bar and the kitchen.

They serve delicious food priced reasonably, and they give a liberal pour at the bar.

The first nite I had a petite Delmonico steak withs vegs and a salad for $22.  It melted in your mouth.

Sunday nite, I had the redfish, grilled to perfection with a great sauce and vegs with a salad.  This was $28, and worth it.

Check it out.

Well, there is my first blog of the year.  This weekend I do Sebastian, on my coast. Report coming.

I have a strong schedule.

Next, will be Images, in New Smyrna, then Ft. Myers, then Sanibel, then Gasparilla (Tampa), Then Vero Beach, Then WINTER PARK, then Bayou City, Houston, then Woodlands, Houston, finally, Mainsail, St. Petersburg,Fl.

I could make some serious moola.

Not bad for 46 years, they all have been fun.

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Comment by Dave Piper on February 14, 2020 at 4:49pm

By the way... I may be the only person on earth that has done shows three years longer than Nels.  I love it when I get to visit with Nels at a show.  

Comment by Dave Piper on February 14, 2020 at 4:47pm

I did the Cape Coral show once a few years ago.  Hated everything about it.

Comment by Nels johnson on January 15, 2020 at 5:16pm

Cool beans, Barry!

Comment by Barry Bernstein on January 15, 2020 at 4:58pm

"Fine artists will struggle here because the crowd does not give a rats ass about it."

I've been reading reviews of this show for years on the various social network sites.  This is exactly sums up what I've read about this show on every review. I can't say my work wouldn't sell there because I've never done it. Why take the chance when there are other shows worth doing that I could get in to, like Bonita Springs. I wasn't sure I would be ready to come down last weekend so I didn't apply. I'm leaving this weekend to come down. Today I fired pots in the cold and snow.

I'll see you at Ft Myers. We are near each other.

Comment by Jan Herman on January 15, 2020 at 2:42pm

Thank you, Nels, for your review. I WAS going to apply to this show but decided not to because of distance, hotel costs (although your $99 deal was better than what I found) and large number of booths. I'm glad I did not go. You have confirmed to me that my wildlife and nature work would not likely have been a fit there. I have a few seascapes in my high end pieces. I don't believe that would go over either. Your tequila report is great although hubby and I would substitute gin martinis and manhattans. Eventually, I will wander to Cape Coral and look up Redfish Point. 

Comment by Nels johnson on January 15, 2020 at 12:46pm

Another plus for the show.

Julie, pay attention, I am saying good things about CC.

The Holiday Inn gives a special discount to artists.  $99 a nite.

The hotel is on the street of the show.  So book the hotel, request a spot in front of it, and voila, you can load and unload from their parking lot right to your booth.

Many canny artists do this, makes life so much easier.

Also there is a Perkins right by the hotel, good for all meals, do not need to get into the van.

Whadda ya think Julie?

Comment by Nels johnson on January 15, 2020 at 6:51am

Sorry for the typo in the above comment.  Too many “cans”.

Comment by Nels johnson on January 15, 2020 at 6:49am

Well said Julie.

The point of my blog was to give a balanced, informative discussion about this show.

My blog is targeted towards newbies who do not know a lot about our biz.

I give valuable info that can the new artist can judge whether their work will be a good fit for this show.

This is very helpful and can save somebody a thousand dollars down the tube because their work will not sell there.

Actually, you perfectly personify the kind of individuals I was describing.

You have been very helpful.

Yep! I will not be going back there.

I usually do Bonita Springs on the same date.

A much more bountiful show for me.  I just missed the deadline for it.  That is why I ended up at Cape Coral.

Comment by Julie K Prokop on January 14, 2020 at 8:35pm

Nels - I live in Cape Coral, I am an artist and I love what I do and where I live.  If you don't feel that this is a show worthy of your almighty presence - STAY HOME!  To be perfectly honest - I love sea shells, saltwater, mermaids, seahorses and metal bugs on a stick.  I moved from the Midwest to enjoy my summer weather in January and to enjoy the fact that other artists like to enjoy that weather also.  That's why they come to Cape Coral for this show.  Not ignoring the fact that there are people who spend money for the beautiful seascapes and shell art and all things teal and blue.  Very few people in Cape Coral are Florida natives and probably came from somewhere cold.  None of us want to revisit out Terry Redlin and Larry Zach days of art and want to have fish and mermaids galore on our walls.  Unless you want to change what you've been selling for all of your 46 years to please those of us who choose to live in and love Cape Coral and all that the southwest gulf side of Florida is all about, again, I encourage you to stay home and make way for those fish, mermaids, and metal birds on a stick artists that we like to spend our money with.

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