Art Fair Insiders

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Downtown Sarasota Craft Festival (Oct. 28-29, 2017): "Soft Launch" to FL season is DOA

Review: Downtown Sarasota Craft Show
Promoter: American Craft Endeavors (ACE; part of Howard Alan events)
Dates: Sat/Sun, Oct 28-29
Location: Five Points Park, downtown Sarasota
Booth Fee; $275
Setup: 5:30 AM Saturday
My medium: Fine art bird and "cloudscape"/seascape scenic photography on canvas and metal ($350-$1200); matted prints ($35-149)


I don't normally review craft shows, but among South Florida artists, this event serves as a "soft launch" for the Florida season. So there were a fair amount of art show veterans among the beaders, toe-ring specialists, and potion pushers that so often make up Alan's ACE summertime ACE shows
And it's well-timed: Decades of climate data tell you that the transition from muggy summer to cool winter happens, statistically, around Oct. 18-20. Sure enough, a cold front swept through early on Saturday afternoon, bringing steady rain and closing the show around 3 PM. Sunday was windy and much cooler, but if you were in the tree-lined park (as opposed to on the streets, which fell victim to the "wind-tunnel effect" in Sarasota's high-rise downtown) it was pretty pleasant.


The early morning setup was a bit chaotic, as it's always difficult to find booth spots marked with silver duct tape in near-pitch darkness. If you were lucky enough to be along a street, parking was close to your booth. If not, a dolly was a great idea.


Crowds aren't the high-season high rollers, but Sarasota has a pretty good number of full-time residents so attendance was OK before the rains came on Saturday afternoon. I wasn't the beneficiary of much consumer spending, however; notching just one sale on the day. Sunday was cool and breezy, definitely not a beachy water day. If you were on the streets, especially the ones trending NW-SE, it was a cold and windy day until the winds calmed temporarily in mid-afternoon.


At least one tent was overturned, hammering a painter's and sculptor's inventory. and another purveyor of large metal sculpture on the upwind side of the show got a large piece tossed, but luckily no customers were standing next to it, and (being steel) the sculpture was easily reassembled.


There was a spurt of buying energy elsewhere, but again, it escaped me. I didn't even come close to making the (relatively paltry) booth fee, although my customers were free with oohs, ahhs, and compliments, none of which (my accountant assures me) is valid currency. However, it gave me the opportunity to be introduced to a few very nice couples who are in the midst of closing/redecorating, so there may be (emphasis on "may") future business transacted at one of the two Sarasota shows looming on November's schedule.


A couple of folks near me did OK, notably the PVC yard art guy, who sold out of his $25 egrets, herons, and flamingoes.


My fine art photographs of egrets, herons, and flamingoes escaped unscathed, to be sold in Venice this weekend. So it's a week to order raw materials, do a little shooting, and make sure I've got next week's mortgage covered. As a friend of mine memorably said, "It's a great life, but not always a great living." And so it goes. . .

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Comment by Christina L. Towell on November 13, 2017 at 9:08am

I'm a fan of your critiques, Geoff, wonderful to hear from you and to read all the responses that your blog generated as well...thanks!

Comment by Geoff Coe on November 2, 2017 at 9:47am

I don't do $25 prints, no. Because when I did, they didn't sell.

Comment by Brenda Flynn on November 2, 2017 at 5:38am

I agree! I have done both, craft and art, with Howard Alan. Consumers on the whole don't differentiate, though. I think the fine art collectors will attend the craft shows, because they run across folk art there in most cases. And I use them for filler shows as well, although the Virginia show, the Las Olas shows, Hobe Sound and St. Pete have been good for me, as good as any other shows. You don't create any low price point prints? You might be surprised at how they sell.

Comment by Geoff Coe on November 1, 2017 at 4:50pm

Brenda, thanks.  I hold the HAE--that is, the fine art--shows to a much higher standard in every respect than the ACE shows...and I try to differentiate between them.  Howard has tended to "blur the lines" with a few shows, combining both fine art and craft (usually, although not always with a booth fee that's somewhere between $475 and $275. For the most part, these hybrid shows are during the Florida "shoulder season"--September-October or April-June.  

Occasionally I have a decently profitable ACE show, but in general they are last-resort filler shows for me, in which I'm hoping for one or two big buyers.  It's pointless for me to create a lot of $25 inventory for these shows that I can't sell anywhere else.  

Comment by Nels johnson on November 1, 2017 at 4:04pm
Connie you got a call from Howard about the Melbourne show, which was not a craft show but a art show.
I blogged about the craft show at Dunedin.
And yes, how could I ever forget “what’s-her-name.”
Comment by Brenda Flynn on November 1, 2017 at 9:47am

There's a lot to be said about Howard Alan shows, some bad and some good. I've had a couple of incidents, but on the whole, I'm pleased about the shows I've done through HAE. I choose them as carefully as I can, trying to stick with the ones I've done well at, and adding one or two throughout the year that I haven't done, just to get my feet wet in the area. HAE has a wonderfully diverse location setup, which is really what we all want, not water or breakfast. We want a great location, at a great time of the year, and for that we'll pay our $275-$475. All promoters have to pay higher costs for denser and more affluent areas to secure locations, permits, etc. so getting a consistent good show in a consistently good area is nice and stable. However, when an artist does not do well at a show, it's important to know that, too - not just the "good" shows. I read reviews CONSTANTLY. So, I appreciate yours, Geoff. Sarasota is such a good area for art sales, I was surprised. I'm racking that one up to weather and weather. Hope you do better in Venice.

Comment by Connie Mettler on October 31, 2017 at 9:26pm

How could I forget anything you do, Nels? Right, seems I got a phone call direct from Howard on the blog. You haven't forgotten either, have you?

Comment by Nels johnson on October 31, 2017 at 1:00pm
Gee, Connie I blogged about the ACE Dunedin show in Feb, this year, or did you forget.
Comment by Richard L. Sherer on October 30, 2017 at 4:10pm

Very happy to see a review among all the tents and panels for sale. Thanks for taking the time Geoff.

Comment by Geoff Coe on October 30, 2017 at 3:22pm

And yes, the ACE shows are much lower in price point, and they are not juried, per se. This show tends to attract artists who are coming into the state a bit earlier...it can give northern artists a canary-in-a-coal-mine idea of what's going to sell, or not. The mix of 2-D artists and high-end craft was pretty good.

But my $35 11x14 matted prints went nearly untouched--by which I mean, very few folks even looked through them, let alone bought any.

I'm carrying more metal prints and relatively few matted paper prints this year. Sales of the latter dropped precipitously this past year in FL. (They sell much better in the Northeast.)

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