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

Or maybe the title of this post should have been “Is this any way to treat your artists?”


It’s kind of sad, a wonderful little community show, in an absolutely perfect location on Whidbey Island, one of the most artistic communities in the Pacific Northwest.  The locals support this festival and they have great volunteer support.  Whidbey Island is very supportive of the arts, Langley is listed in John Villani’s “The 100 best Art Towns in America”. 


You know, there are things we always look for in an art show, good sales, good attendance, low hassle factor, reasonable organization, etc.  A few items in the “plus column” include wonderful location, reconnecting with artist friends, shorter hours than many of the summer shows we do, this show used to have most of these factors going for it.  That started changing last year, below are my previous 2 blogs about this show and you’ll see there’s a definite difference between 2013 and 2012.


We just finished our 5th  year of participation in Langley WA’s Choochokam Art Festival.  We love this location, actually came up a week early and spent 10 days on the Island including time before and after the show, working, bicycling, exploring some of the towns on the island, etc.  Next year we might just back as visitors, not artists participating in a show.  We went into the local chamber of commerce to pick up a bicycle map and were chatting with the lady working there, they had just got their posters for the event, 8 days before the show. She said normally they are out 3 weeks ahead of time.  Not good for marketing efforts.


Previous blogs giving more logistics, info on the island, show, etc.


So, what happened in 2014? 

  • Application deadline was extended 6 weeks
  • Calls for artists went out more than once, giving us a strong signal that they weren’t getting enough artists
  • Notifications did not go out on time to anyone
  • Notification placed on their website that if you were in last year’s show and had applied by the original deadline, you were automatically accepted in 2014, however no individual notices went out to anyone
  • Lost applications
  • Lost images
  • No answers to emails / phone calls through all of March, April and May
  • Finally notified near the end of May that yes we were accepted, but could we please resend images and application?
  • By the time they notified, deadline for fees and cancellation had passed, no booth refund if you wanted out at that time
  • For new artists or artists who did not participate last year but applied this year, they were notified on May 28 and then on June 3rd sent a note saying they owed a $25 late fee because booth fees had been received on the deadline which was prior to when acceptance notices were sent


A few positives:

  • In 2014 they reverted to the quad booth arrangements on Front street instead of the groups of 6 booths they put in last year that created “deadzones” for the artists in the middle, in line booths
  • They finally got a volunteer who actually answered emails throughout the entire month of June


As we were checking in we were informed that booth fees are going up $50 next year, but if you prepay this year before the end of the festival, you lock in the current rate for future years?  What? You want me to pay 1 year in advance for a show I haven’t even been juried into yet, meaning once accepted, always accepted as long as you keep paying?  So, why are we having to pay a jury fee?  That didn’t quite feel right.  So, their solution for not getting enough artists this year is to raise the fees for future years?  Part of their explanation was that the increase was for more marketing.


Many times over the 5 years I’ve participated in this show we’ve heard the phrase, “we’re an all volunteer organization, be patient with us”.  Guess what? It’s not the only show with an all volunteer organization, but it’s by far the worst when it comes to being in contact with the artists, keeping us informed, even answering or returning a phone call, email, etc.  They just don’t seem to get the fact that we have other options, this weekend alone there were at least 5 other festivals in the Greater Seattle area going on that I knew of, probably more if you include the smaller festivals that are centered on art.  This is how we make our living, understand they are all volunteer run, but it’s not a hobby for most of us.


This year, due to when the 4th of July fell, this show was a week later than usual which meant it was one of 9 or 10 shows in the Puget Sound region, there were several empty spots as some artists just didn’t show up.   For artists based in Seattle, this is an expensive show to do, ferry fees are expensive if you tow a trailer, hotels are very expensive, thank goodness for inexpensive Fairground camping.  We had a few other artists join us for dinner Saturday night, BBQ potluck style of meal, we were all happy to have an inexpensive dining option.


This was also the “HOT” weekend of the year, we usually get 1 or 2 weekends a year when the temps climb over 90. Usually Whidbey Island will be about 10 degrees cooler than the Seattle area, but the heat killed the crowds on Saturday.  It looked like a ghost town about 3 PM, very few attendees.    So, lots of shows this weekend, hot temps and the crowds were very light.  Sales on Saturday for most artists were mediocre to awful.  We had our worst day of sales ever at this show.  Sunday was a little cooler, the crowd that came out early came to shop and we picked up a few sales and finally got into the black after booth fee and travel expenses.  Sunday was about a “normal” sales day for us at this show, but just didn’t make up for a lackluster Saturday.  Overall we did end the show with a profit, but much lower than years before.  On Sunday the mayor came through and spoke to a few of the artists, soliciting feedback and thanking us for being there, that was a first “mayor encounter” in our almost 10 years of shows. However, they have a lot of things to fix and we let him know a few areas that really need attention.  This is a long running show, next year is their 40 year anniversary and I only know a few artists who were sure they were coming back, mostly the ones who were local.  Very few of us were willing to commit booth fees now for a show that is a year away.


Is it a show we’ll do again?  I think the jury is still out on that.  We actually talked about potentially making this a show we try to do every other year or every 3 years.  I know this year’s sales were slow due to the heat, but the hassle factor and disorganization of this show has many of the artists frustrated.


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Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on July 25, 2014 at 4:47pm

Hey Tamara - I'll see you in Couer d'Alene next weekend for Art on the Green, looks like your booth isn't too far away from ours.  Would love to hear more about Wedgewood as we're thinking about switching our normal schedule up for next year.

Comment by Tamara Kelly on July 15, 2014 at 9:23am

First year I did this show !!! Has been around but switched locations this year, just to be clear

Comment by Tamara Kelly on July 15, 2014 at 9:22am

I'm sorry to hear that I liked that show, it seemed to be going down last year when I attended the show looked disorganized ...... I did the Wedgewood Show in Seattle WA instead this is the first year for this show 2 days from 10-5 very nice hours easy move in and sales ok considering the extreme heat for Seattle last weekend....

Comment by Christina L. Towell on July 15, 2014 at 8:43am

It sounds like a lovely setting and what should be a long-running, well attended show if it weren't for its many problems.  Sad to hear about what was once a good one, going down due to mis-management.  Thanks for your insightful critique...

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