Art Fair Insiders

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

Downtown Boulder (CO) ArtFair July 17 & 18

This is an annual event held primarily on the Pearl Street pedestrian mall in Boulder, Colorado. This was my second festival ever and the second in Boulder. Set-up & tear-down were a dream for me because I was on the non-mall end of Pearl Street where I could just drive in next to my booth without having to jockey around anyone else. I expect folks who were on the mall had to maneuver around trees, trash cans and each other, making things slightly more complicated. And easy in and out was needed with temperatures around 104 degrees on Saturday. I had been warned that it could be hot, but even us locals were on the brink of heat stroke. (A quick note to the ladies - it does matter what type of underwear you put on in that kind of heat.) Management came around with juice and scones in the AM, and made just 1 trip daily for water. I had to call for a booth sitter on Saturday as the one who said she would be by in an hour or two for a potty break showed up 2 hours late. The Sunday booth sitter was much better. As for the potty, there were public restrooms down at the east end of the mall, but down on the west end where I was there was one lone porta-potty. I was glad that I had brought disinfecting hand wipes and my own roll of TP. And thanks to my toilet maneuvering I discovered that I can do yoga.

Saturday was a long day. Set-up started at 6AM and the show went to 8PM, and we were advised to remove our work for the night, so I rolled out of town at about 9PM. Sunday was better - I got in around 9AM, show started at 10AM and went until 5PM. I managed to tear down and get on the road by 6:30.

Sales were mixed. I had only one sale and that came on Sunday afternoon. The metal artist across from me was selling like hotcakes, but the potter and the digital artist adjacent to me had poor sales as well. The potter just barely made her booth fee and the digital artist only had a couple of sales as well. The three of us are all local, and it seemed to us that shoppers had a "I can always catch up with you later" attitude towards the local artists and were more likely to buy form the out-of-towners. And the mall booths are the prime real estate at this show. You can't request a booth location and if you get stuck at either of the far ends your traffic is way down.

Will I go back to this show? Not likely. Despite the reasonable booth fee, the hours, heat and lack of sales will keep me away next year, and it sounded like my neighbor wasn't interested in coming back, either. The late show hours were good for the metal artist (big, heavy things people bought just before going home), but otherwise the dinner crowd was just that - interested in the bars and restaurants. I would recommend this show to artists from outside Colorado with mid-range work only.

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Comment by Jan Raven on July 21, 2010 at 5:42pm
This was my second year doing this show, and I will definitely apply again. I am from out-of-state (Minnesota) and have unusual jewelry (and therefore it stands out), so I tend to do well even at "bad" shows. I was located at the far east end, in the sun on the asphalt, and I saw plenty of foot traffic. Can't say whether it was less than on the mall. I actually like being in the bright sun so that people can see my work, and would not want to be on the pedestrian mall. My sales last year were good and this year were up nearly 1K from last year. I had several customers come back to my booth after having gone through the entire fair.
Comment by mark zurek on July 21, 2010 at 10:28am
jacqueline: I have done this show for 7 years straight and will agree with you about the support and ease of in and out. Pearl Street is a tourist destination first, and the high temp's keep whatever art buyers there might be left home in the hills. The area ,like most others, has become over saturated with shows trying to take advantage of the amount of people that do show up. Problem is, they are looking for entertainment.
The Boulder show is on it's third director in three years, and seems to be struggling for an idenity, but the current director seems to be interested to make things better with an attempt at feedback from the participants. We are always on the mall, the $100 additional fee for specified spaces well worth it for the shade, the crowd knows this as well and the sales are far better on the bricks rather than the asphalt. I think the show would be better without extending it down there, but pretty sure the store owners demand the show be there.
Sales for us have ranged from over 5K, but the heat kills things, this year we were at 3K. There was stuff walking out of the mall, the neighbors around me did OK. This is a show where you have to accept sales will be affected by the weather, and are primarily impulse (you have to note the you will ship!). I'm anxious to see what happens next year, allow this director to put her stamp on things.
Comment by Amy Schulz on July 21, 2010 at 12:12am
Yes, TP should be standard equipment! Entertaining read, but sorry it did not go well. Heat is a tough one to deal with.

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