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

Des Moines Art Festival--the big one, not the a/c one

I have been derelict. I am trying to crawl back into your good graces.
The siren of the golf course yearns seductively. I often heed its call. Writing is left behind.
Well, enough for noble sentiments. On with the show.

There are two shows at Des Moines, last weekend of June
This is about the big one downtown.
More than 1200 artists vie for about 160 open spots.
As the old biblical saying goes, "Many are called, few are chosen."
It is a killer show for most artists. It was my best show in the last two years, even eclipsing the Fort Worth show.
I have been doing art shows for 32 years now. I am almost 72 years now. If Iam lucky, I get into one to three biggies each year. I do 36 shows a year. It is called making a living, at least for me. Do not feel sorry for me, I play golf three to four days a week, wear shorts year round, take one hour naps after cocktails at lunch either in Saugatuck or Ybor City.
Whenever I get into a biggie I always kill them. I have a unique photographic product without a lot of competition.
It just ain't easy getting into the biggies. It is even harder now than ten years ago.
So when I got the good news I was going to DSM, I celebrated, I gave the nine feral cats in the back yard wet food instead of dry. They looked at me quizzically and meowed, " Oh dumb fuck photographer must have got into a biggie."
I promptly called a patron who put us up last time we got in(about five years earlier) and asked Dean if he had room for me again. He said, "Yes" I was in there.
Here is some meat about the show for those of you who have not got in yet.

It is a three day show on concrete right in the heart of downtown. Hours are long, past 10 pm.
Restaurants everywhere. Coffee shops too.
It is one of the best run shows anywhere in the country. The director, Stephen King, is a pro. They think of everything.
Example. Oh, it has to do with alcohol. "imagine that?"
At the artist oasis where they give you breakfast, water and snacks--they also give you free
Bloody Mary's. Awesome, dudes!
You need strong weights, winds are real strong here. Cheapie EZ Ups are not allowed here.
Plenty storage room behind, tight on the sides.
Setup day before, very mellow.
Tear down. Everything down on the booth, then get a pass. Still pretty mellow.
OK that is the meat.
What happened this year?
I thought you would never ask
This year it was blistering hot Sat. And Sun--plus 90 degrees.
This affected sales. Crowds were down. But there were still tons of people. Not all of them bought anything.
People are very polite and well dressed. This is their one big show and they are proud of it. They are also very proud of you for being here. And some reward you very nicely, monetarily.
I sold well at all levels, low end to high end, matted to framed.
They are conservative and traditional, but, they are open to real new work. You just gotta try it at least once, to see if it is your market.
Damn! A jalapeño just fell out of a Bloody Mary onto my IPad where I am typing this. I am doing lunch at the Wild Dog Tavern in Douglas while typing this blog. I am also watching the British Open. I guess I am really multi-tasking.
I had a killer show. So good that I had to cancel Boston Mills the next weekend because I had nothing left to sell. And, I love Boston Mills.
All said, if you want to make serious money at a show then you gotta try Des Moines.

Views: 912

Comment by Nels Johnson on July 15, 2016 at 2:35pm
Plus, this is a beautifully treed town with lots of great restaurants, and it is so easy to get around it.
Comment by Debbie Smith on July 18, 2016 at 10:04am
Love, love, love the humor!
Comment by Jane Shaffer on July 18, 2016 at 10:54am

If you don't get into the biggie, is it worth doing the alternate show?

Comment by Nels Johnson on July 18, 2016 at 11:25am
It is marginal at best, you do not see the same quality of people like downtown.
Comment by Jane Shaffer on July 18, 2016 at 12:05pm


Comment by Paula Decker Haynes on July 18, 2016 at 12:54pm

St James is my first biggie. We will see how it goes and then maybe venture out of my comfort zone more. Thanks for the feedback on this show. Sounds interesting. 

Comment by Barry Bernstein on July 18, 2016 at 2:29pm

Doing the indoor show, thinking that the same people would show up, was my biggest mistake of the year. They always get a few really good people thinking they will still do well who only do that show once. The bulk of the exhibitors are strictly low end. I thought I was at a flea market.

Comment by Robert Wallis on July 18, 2016 at 3:06pm

Barry, I did a one and done in Des Moines a few years ago, the Metro Arts Two Rivers Expo, that was an indoor show in November. Terrible, terrible show is how I recall it. Good quality work there for the most part, but the place was deader than a door nail with very little traffic. One of the horrible mistakes they made was hanging a large banner on a back wall that proclaimed children's art was back there. Guess what that did for about 20 artists who had booths underneath the banner? I was one of them. The load in was a terrible SNAFU and I had a near fatal heart attack the following weekend after that show, so I don't have a warm place in my heart for that show. I declined an invite the following year (I didn't apply for it), and when asked why I told them. That ended the correspondence from the show director ;-) You got me curious about that show and I see it has mercifully been discontinued. 

Comment by Paul Flack on July 18, 2016 at 5:00pm

The indoor show is like Jekell and Hyde. Beautiful setting but the town seems to have a beef with it. Barry was on target. Flea market. Nels, think of my while your napping...I am too.


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