Art Fair Insiders

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

I’ve seen a lot of posts lately from artists with the same concerns as mine.  Extended deadlines after artists have already been rejected.  Exorbitant late application fees.  Calls for Artists issued after certain categories are full without disclosure of the categories that are open, if any sometimes.  The number of available spaces and applications per medium not fully disclosed.  Unknown jury members.  Shows trolling artist websites prior to ‘blind’ jurying.  Sneaky Buy/Sell crap.  Application and booth payment deadlines almost a year before the show date.  Advertised award amounts that are never given out.  Unfair refund policies.  Rising booth costs, rising application fees, rising expenses, dwindling returns.   Shows that are all about the spectacle of a festival not about the art.  Blacklisting artists because of their outspokenness.  And the many other dirty little secrets that prevent artists from reaching their full potential.


Many artists wring their hands and lament there is nothing that can be done about any of this, it’s always been this way, you have to learn to fight within the system, blahblahblah.  Not me.  I want to make a difference.  I PLAN to make a difference.  It is my future and I will fight for it.  If you want to make a difference also, The Corner Booth ( is a good place to start.  Don’t come there looking for advice on tents or weights or good photos.  Don’t come to hear Cumbaya and violins playing while a show’s selection of bagels is lauded around a website.  Come for spirited dialogue about the really important stuff I mentioned above.   Call out the shows for their behavior, good and bad, and be specific in your examples.  Strong opinions are needed, both pro and con.  Your opposition will be just as valued as your approval.  Don’t miss out on the companion site if you haven’t gone there yet.  Lots of amazing ideas there.


One concept formulated on TCB is if artists know more about the shows themselves, they can make more educated decisions about which shows to participate in.  TCB has undertaken its first project to gather and analyze statistical show information obtained from polling a number of prominent shows.  Much of the information requested is currently available somewhere already, either on the shows’ sites or one of the online entry systems.  But the heart of the survey, how many spots are really available and how many applications are received per medium, is what artists really need to see.  And what many shows don’t want the artists to see.  Broad Ripple and Krasl are two known shows that already share this information with their applicants.  TCB just wants to make it available for everybody, and about as many shows as possible, hopefully all of them. 


The goal of this first survey is not to pass judgment, not to organize a boycott, not to embarrass or humiliate an organization.  It’s simply an attempt to get valuable information into the hands of the artists.  Knowledge is power.  Let’s get some.  No more just blindly throwing jury fees at a show hoping they’ll stick.  To be sure, we should all have the confidence to think our art is the best and we can beat out 21 other applicants for a show’s 5 spots.  But what if there were really only two spots?  Now how about 10 spots?  Don’t you just want to KNOW what you’re up against?  More surveys are in the works.   There are just too many issues to try to address all of them in one poll. 


I’m hoping what comes out of this effort is a little more disclosure and transparency from the shows.  I don’t care if a show has 300 booths, and gives 298 of them to its preferred artists.  AS. LONG. AS. THEY. TELL. ME.  I don’t care if a deadline is extended, but I do want to know why, what categories might already be filled, and how many applications they’ve already received in my category.  I want to know who their jury members are, and what other shows share those same jurors.  I want to know they jury out and/or kick out buy/sell crap because they are knowledgeable enough to do so.  I want them to value my art, not feel so threatened by my opinion that they blackball me.  I want all of these things and more.  I want it to be about the art, not the side-show.

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Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on February 26, 2012 at 9:21pm

Becky, are some artists really being black balled from shows?  I must be out of the loop.  I haven't heard anything about that before.

Comment by Sheila Wissner on February 24, 2012 at 11:44am

If a show advertises itself as an art fair with handmade work, and the show does nothing about buy/sell, then it is engaging in false advertising.  False advertising is illegal. That's all I'm going to say right now about that.

Comment by Kim Smith on February 24, 2012 at 11:17am

How refreshing would it be for an organizer to eject a buy/sell vendor at a handmade show?  When confronted about it, many organizers just shrug their shoulders.  Seems as though they hold all the cards.  If organizers have a reputation for integrity and enforcing show standards and requirements, wouldn't that discourage future infractions?  Oh there I go again, being rational :)

Comment by Cindi Hendrickson on February 24, 2012 at 11:09am

I'm with you, Ruth!  Going over in a moment!

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on February 23, 2012 at 2:34pm

So, I guess I'm in the one third that will read what was posted over there.  I like where TCB is going and what they are trying to do.   I'd like to know more about how shows allocate booth spaces, how much is arbitrary vs. based on jury results, etc.

Comment by Becky Bibro on February 22, 2012 at 1:05pm

I think it's okay to lurk awhile.  Read, read, READ everything on the site, soak up all that knowledge!  Unlike other organizations, the information is free to all.  The changes being advanced will benefit all, not just the paid members. 

Comment by Barry Bernstein on February 22, 2012 at 12:14pm

This is just my opinion, but, don't come to TCB unless you are willing to participate which may mean sticking your neck out.  Lurkers can go elsewhere. We're trying to make things better for all of us by asking for information that some shows may be unwilling to give us, or, changing how they do things to make conditions better for all art fair artists.

Comment by Sheila Wissner on February 22, 2012 at 10:50am

That would give you an idea of how many spots you would have in each media, but would not tell you how many artists who did the show the year before were pre-juried into this year's show.  That is a big problem for me in figuring out which shows to apply to.  There are some shows I would like to do but I suspect that most of the jewelry slots already are filled before the calls for artists go out.

Comment by Richard P Sullivan on February 22, 2012 at 10:40am

One thing that can be helpful is to get the shows previous year festival guide. The guides, which include maps of the layouts, usually have the artists names booth numbers and media. Most shows normally keep similar ratios from year to year so you can actually count the number of participants total and the number in each category. 

Comment by Sheila Wissner on February 22, 2012 at 10:17am
Knowing the number of show spots is extremely important, particularly if you are in a crowded category like jewelry. I'm hoping shows will step up to the plate and provide this information. It could mean less applications for them, but it's the right thing to do.
I'm glad to be involved in this data gathering process and hope to see more artists joining the cause for truth and transparency in the art fair world.

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