Art Fair Insiders

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

This one of those shows that used to be a biggie for a lot of us. Now, it can be a decent show for many, or a half decent show. The sales here are not like they used to be. That said, many exhibitors come here and do better than $5K for a three day show with nearly a $600 booth fee. This year we had heavy heat on Saturday, 90 degrees plus, and it affected the crowd and our sales.

First, a little meat:
The whole show is on the streets in downtown Columbus. Booths are on both the bridges that span the Scioto River. Then there are booths on the other side of the river. Also one street goes off the flow of the show, do not go there, you do not see the whole crowd. Being on concrete you will need weights. Ample storage behind most booths unless you are unlucky and get one of the electrical. Storage bins behind you. Side to side is tight unless you have a corner booth.

A staggered setup is on Thursday. Tear it all down on Sunday and then get a pass to come in. Hours are long til at least 10:30 on Friday and Saturday. For most of us this is a waste. They have artist oasis and serve the usual stuff, most of it fattening. There is a good restaurant right in the center of the show. They are pricey, they serve good drinks and the A/C is heavenly on a hot day. In the old days the well heeled people from the suburbs showed up and bought here. Then you would see them in Naples in the winter. We do not see much of them anymore. Lots of tattooed kids with piercings and very little money to spend. High end sales are few and far between. Low end reigns here, especially from print bins and art on the stick.

I have done the show since the eighties so I have a strong following here. One funny thing about this show. They require you to have a fire extinguisher at your booth. I have yet to see a single fire marshal check us out for compliance in four years. Plus, in 42 years I have yet to see a single flame at an art show except when we sat in our vans and smoked good doobies. Those were the days.

One of the show's biggest drawbacks is that it is so long to walk it, and you do not get many be-backs. Although one Colorado photographer I know, said he had a customer walk the show three times trying to find him. When he did, he spent over a grand on a nice piece. Lucky Dick.

As you may have read on other Facebook forums the director of the show caught some bad shit over a show sponsor who was selling cheap pillows at the show. The sponsors pay big bucks to be there. But it is one thing to be there promoting your line, and another, to be there selling. Hell, otherwise we might as well call ourselves being at a trade show where art is irrelevant. I heard the director was let go. Sorry Scott.

I would gladly do the show anytime. I just wish they would end it earlier and not have it so spread out.
Later, gators.

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Comment by Ed Collins on August 5, 2016 at 11:08am

I concur with Nels observations about this show. I was on Rich Street east of the river; sold very few bigger ticket items-thank God I sold a good many yo-yos.  If I didn't live in Columbus (OH, not IN) I would have second thoughts about doing this show, but no lodging expense sure helps.

Talking to neighbors who attended the festival, about 1/3 of them did not see my booth. I feel the booths are spread out too much. Ages ago (the 90's) a lot of the booths were back to back down the middle of Civic Center Dr. I wonder if show organisers do this to make setup and load out easier

Comment by Connie Mettler on August 5, 2016 at 11:06am

This is a big show. There are large crowds and the hours are long. Balancing a budget is tricky, you think about all those booth fees, but they barely get the event going. I don't want to go into all the expenses, media, equipment, tents, security, offices, publicity, permits, porta-jons, ad infinitum. I was involved in a big show for many years where the show "owner" (not a director as in a 501c3 like the Columbus Arts Council) discovered he could make a lot more money bringing in vendors than he could bringing in more artists. That decision (and some others too) and its implementation led to the demise of what was once a very fine quality event. The temptation to choose to add vendors is great. Some shows do it in a way that it isn't quite so blatant a diversion from the festivals. Sorry to hear that Scott Huntley lost his job over this as otherwise he was a very competent professional.

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on July 19, 2016 at 11:29pm

Nels, the director was let go just because of the bamboo pillows?  There wasn't a second chance or anything?

Comment by Robert Wallis on July 19, 2016 at 8:58pm

Just a comment in passing on the fire extinguisher; the Columbus area is picky about fire extinguishers and electrical code. Upper Arlington is really bad about it and the fire marshal does show up there with a check off list for a flammability tag for the tent top and tarps, proper extension cords if you use AC power and it doesn't matter if you use an inverter as they still want to see grounded outlets, and finally proper ground staking with dog ties and ratchet straps. An artist across from me a few years ago ignored the advice of other artists (and the shop's direction sheet) and used weights. The fire marshal saw it about an hour before the show started and told him he had 45 minutes to correct it or he was out of the show, and a Wal-Mart was about 3 miles away so get moving.

I normally don't apply for the Columbus show as there is a conflict with Talbott Street that same weekend. If the two shows ever shift dates, I'll apply unless they still have a ban on pop-Up style tents. 

Comment by Nels Johnson on July 19, 2016 at 7:30pm
One comment on a show of this size--I am speechless
Comment by Wallace Fuller on July 16, 2016 at 2:17pm

Nels, I basically agree with your review. We were near the corner of Washington and Rich Street Bridge. We were able to have some shade, so heat was not so bad. Sales were mostly low end prints and small originals. We had a returning customer from last year who made a good purchase, but overall it was low end. We would return if we get juried in.

We were close to where the pillows were being sold and it was a hard sale force with a lot of noise. The wife of one of the artist close to use said she counted over 50 pillows going by their booth on Sunday. I think the price was $35 each.

See you down the road and stay safe.

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