Art Fair Insiders

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

Fairhope......Art Fun in the Deep South for some!

It was the 65th year of the  Fairhope Arts Festival this past weekend. In a cute suburb of Mobile Alabama, the show hosts 236 artists throughout the town's main cross streets. It's 300 dollars to participate with a prize chest of over 10 thousand dollars. The show is a three day event that starts at ten each day and ends at 6 on Friday and Saturday and then on 5 on Sunday.

Load in on Thursday at 6 pm was pretty uneventful and was easy to maneuver as was load out. The show is set up in quads with each participant having two open sides if they prefer. This is a nice touch but they are very strict that no one is anywhere outside the lines drawn for your booth. I got chided for having my pro panel table too far out in the aisle. So you have a ten by twelve spot and you definitely need to stay inside those lines. There is no storage behind your booth so that extra two feet better have all your packaging stacked up tightly.

The committee running the show are very nice and there is breakfast each morning. The first morning they served shrimp and grits- I was in heaven. Anytime I get close to an ocean or a gulf I am on the search to find the best seafood. I grew up a Jersey Shore girl and although I live close to the Smokey Mountains now... anytime I can find good seafood that doesn't get flown in or frozen, I am a happy camper. Coffee and drinks were also available. There was a a nice awards dinner on Friday night. Drinks also were delivered multiple times a day by a great group of volunteers.

So now down to the nitty-gritty. The show says that close to 250 thousand attend this fair. There were a lot of people there, unfortunately, they didn't seem to pull out their wallets too often. I am a contemporary encaustic artist and for me personally, this was not my show. If you were into realism or jewelry or driftwood or anything nautical- you probably did very well. But if you did anything a bit out of the box it wasn't probably going to be good.

I watched the crowd a lot since I had a lot of time to do that... and I saw on the first and second day many prints and flat packages go out. There were not many framed works leaving the show in my area. On the third day I remarked to the girl next me.."the people at this show are just on a hike"...they weren't walking in anywhere or stopping to look. It was a bit surprising.

I did have some last minute sales that helped pay for expenses but basically I worked for nada this weekend. It was a pretty weekend (no tents down this year) which wasn't unpleasant, but when it's an 8 hour drive home and not much to show for's never easy. I realize this business is like that, one show up, the next one might be down, I can handle that by now. I can also handle disparaging comments but this show had more than I have been used to. I need to vent on the website " things people say at art shows" - I have some good ones from Fairhope. When one guy with a strait face said my work looked "like a cat fight in a rain storm"...I just had to shake my head and laugh. Might have to work that into my art next time on purpose- I do have a bunch of cats so that's a distinct possibility. That was only one of the more unusual-smile on your face things said to me- we will leave the rest to your imagination- I am not above taking a good ribbing. Things happen.

There were really wonderful people there too, and great food- the Bistro on Fairhope Street was terrific and we ate the best MahiMahi sandwiches at Merl's - my best suggestion if you decide to do this show. Also, the Fairhope Brewing Company makes three nice brews...try them all. 

One thing I think needs to be said is that there were a lot of "scabs" all over. Many local artist's set up on the sidewalks across from us and stores rented out space to hawk buy/sell. Next to me were two painters with all their work leaning up againt's a storefront and next to them at a store directly in front of me, was a woman painting a tree all day, which brought crowds over consistently. This, I think took a lot away from those of us who paid a booth fee to show. It was all over, in fact there were quite a wide mix of things in the show anyway. I came in off the wait list after not getting into Winter Park this year ( they used the review I did last year for AFI on the Winterpark website- and of course- I didn't even make the cut.)....yea, that's my life just have to laugh.

All in all, Fairhope is  a perfect show for some..... with great food, mostly nice people and great weather. It just wasn't the show for me and now I know. But if golf shirts, kaki pants with the occasional Auburn or Alabama hats are your demographic.....this is your show... and I wish you, and the Fairhope Art Festival  much success. 

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Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on March 21, 2017 at 12:13pm

Marge, I always enjoy your reviews for the candor, information, and your easy writing style.  I'm sorry that you didn't do well at this show, and that Winter Park didn't take you this time. It reminded me of a show where I received a first place award, then later received a letter asking me not to apply because they were trying to upgrade the art for their show.  Go figure! :)

Comment by Len Jagoda on March 21, 2017 at 11:50am

Cindy, I am sure that they did but without the show the people wouldn't be there in those numbers at all.  If they allowed the scabs and show moved, they would have nothing. The problem is having the guts to tell them allowing the scabs by any merchant means no show. Enforcement could come from the Chamber and/or a merchants association if there is one. 

Another would be the city council.  The scabs should be stopped and there are ways. Failure to get them stopped just means failure of the show to have courage.  Without the show - no influx of people. The merchants are showing stupidity and greed and need to cooperate with the show for the benefit of all.  

Comment by Cindy Welch on March 21, 2017 at 10:51am

Len, I don't know but maybe the merchants had something to do with this?  As a draw to get people in front of their business?

Comment by Len Jagoda on March 21, 2017 at 10:38am

Candid reviews like this one are very helpful - so thank you Margaret. Your review included a hint of something that I wish was included in more reviews. You mentioned your medium and some clues about your style as well as what you saw that seemed successful (jewelry, driftwood, nautical and realism). I have been considering applying for this show for some time. I am a realist but I don't do beach or nautical scenes so I guessed that I would not fit well. The alarming comment to me was about the "scabs".  That alone as a major distraction would prevent me from even considering this event. The show should be able to prevent this from going on because the show is what attracts the people to area and area businesses benefit from the attendance drawn to the area. If the merchants in the vicinity can't respect that, the show should relocate or artists boycott.  

Comment by Kendra Bennett on March 20, 2017 at 11:30pm

It's ok I do understand and I am truely sorry you didn't have a better show. You really didn't offend me it's just something people from our side of the bay contend with on a daily basis trying not to be "Mobile". I grew up in Mobile but have lived in Baldwin county for 19 years. We pride ourselves in having the best schools, a super low crime rate and where everybody knows each other. Stopping to watch the sunset over the bay is a daily event. I love my town. Hope to see you soon. I love your work.

Comment by margaret luttrell on March 20, 2017 at 11:15pm

I am such an out of towner, Kendra...I just didn't know...never meant to offend. I am so glad you had a great show. Sometimes it takes a few years to create a following and maybe this show is like that. I give lots of shows second chances and I truly like the people running the Fairhope show. It's just awfully far away for me to travel and not do well. 

Comment by Kendra Bennett on March 20, 2017 at 11:10pm

Sorry Margaret that you didn't have a good show. This year was my best of 3 years at Fairhope, as always up for some and not others. I only have 1 thing to say about your review and I say this with a bit of tongue and cheek please DO NOT refer to any part of Baldwin county as " a suburb of Mobile" as the largest county in the state we are very proud that we ARE NOT a part of Mobile. See you soon at another show.

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