Art Fair Insiders

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

Ft MYERS Art Festival—Roll Over Thomas Edison, you are not the only guy making mucho moola here.

Both Thomas Edison and Henry Ford made FM their winter homes, and they were two rich bitches, so to say.

Well, me and the little blonde, “Ellen the Cowpainter”, got in this year We were not next to each other at the show, but nighttime made up for it.

Last year I was numero uno on the waitlist and did not get in.


I am at Berninis, our Ybor lunch spot, writing this blog.  I had to swallow some of this delicious martini before it overflowed upon my IPad. The dangerous obstacles we bloggers have to endure.

I am back.

Boy, I sure am glad I got in this year, it was a killer show for all of us.  Some people had very empty looking booths by late Sunday afternoon.

I will give you the essentials of the show.

Basically a two day show held right downtown on the water.  There is a Friday nite preview event which you and about 75 other artists can do. It is ok if you want to spend four hours there and maybe make $500 in sales. Frankly, You will make that in the first hour on Saturday.

Me, I would rather mellow out after an exhausting setup with some nice victuals and some yummy sushi.

It is a very well run show. Their booth fee is too high (about $450 plus jury fee and also you have to buy insurance, basically you are looking at $500).

This year most artists did between $3K-$10K. Some did $7K on Saturday alone.

They feed you, if you like untoasted bagels, cream cheese, oj and the rest of yada ya da stuff. Oh there is some peach flavored yogurt. Personally bring your own, you will be better off.

Booths are back to back with about four foot of common space between ya.  Work with your neighbor and usually you can get it all stored back there.

They give you three feet on both sides tween your neighbor.

What a concept, too bad Howard and Amy will not ever do it.

Setup is staggered, so every body gets to park near their booth.  It is pretty mellow.

Thank God, because teardown is another matter.

I will not go into the details, but it is pretty much every artist going for it.  No passes are given to you for having the booth torn down, although they encourage that.

A crucial Main Street into the show, which we were able to use at setup, was not going to be open for teardown. This was going to cause one massive clusterfuck.

Luckily the show director, Sharon McAllister, prevailed on local politicians to reopen the street.

Thank you very much.

I got out out in a hour and one half.  I schelpped my stuff out to a nearby lot, not bad for a 73 year old man, did it in five mag line trips.

So there are the details, now, I will give you insights gleaned from being a 43 year old veteran in the biz.

Newbies please take notes, old timers, you already know, but maybe you want to have useful reinforcement.

Please Nels give us some Insider stuff.

Thought you would never ask.

Well, I am a Cracker (that is a person born in Florida, and. I am proud of it, in spite of the successive dumb ass politicians who have run this state.).

That said , I have a unique analysis of how FM has become what it is.

In 1985, I remember coming down to downtown to find a good lunch restaurant.  Good luck. I had come here to buy my brand new Newton Canopy, the one that revolutionized the whole canopy biz.  I bought their their third one.

A little aside.

In the early FM was an easy Five hour drive from Tampa. Now you make it in two hours.

I used to drive down there to see a little honey and we had  a furious burning sexual relationship.  Had to drive five hours. Egads!

So what I am saying FM was nowhere’s-village. Basically a cow town near the water.

About a decade ago, maybe a little more, the city got wise and transformed downtown, they took advantage of being on the water, they started having events to bring people downtown.City elders knew this was a big growing area for retirees who could not live in Naples or Boca.

They went through a Renaissance like St. Petersburg.  They took advantage of their geography, namely a city sitting on water with beautiful beaches and islands nearby.

They scored.

Winters, FM is clogged to the hilt with traffic.  New golf course communities going up all the time.

Majority of them are mid westerners, with a hint of New England and lots of affluent Germans thrown in.

This committee wisely set upon taking this to a must-see event.

This year, I had people standing three deep waiting to give me money.  I usually see this at Ft. Worth or Des Moines, But FM?

I regret I lost a thirty dollar sale, which would have covered my sake bill.  The guy was standing back two-deep with $30 in hand.  I was too busy and could not get to him in time.  After five minutes he disappeared.  Drat.

They buy very conservative, very cliche, but they buy and in a big way.

I would do this show over Mt. Dora any day.  More disposable income here.

Well, this weekend is my one rare weekend off for the month.  ArtiGras next in two weeks.

I can play golf for the next seven days.

Oh, then I get hit with a rare double, but beautiful, dilemma.

Ellen’s birthday is two days after Valentines Day.

Thank God, I had a great January.

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Comment by margaret luttrell on February 25, 2018 at 10:31pm

Man, Are you ever right about Mt. Dora....where everyone doesn't have "one more inch of space" on their walls......When you hear that 30 times in a show you know it's bad.

Comment by Andrea Olson on February 9, 2018 at 7:12am

You described it well Nels,  I was next to your bride and did very well.  Thanks for your great blogs, love them! 

Comment by Barrie Lynn Bryant on February 8, 2018 at 8:02am

I have been in shows where being in the less trafficed areas paid off big time. Or at least I think they did. One time at Maitland Rotary we were on the street along with several other seasoned folks. My neighbors complained about the lack of traffic, and then a man walked into our booth and started buying. He did it all week while we were staying in the Lake Mary La Qinta Inn. I delivered three more paintings to his office down I-4. He would email me and ask if I still had this or that, then he'd say deliver today, and then he'd say his assistant would have a check. And she did!

All I can say is this collector didn't even see us at Winter Park in the spring. Why? I guess it was too busy at Winter Park. But I don't remember him even coming into the booth at Winter Park. And I like to think I pay attention. But I had the painting at Winter Park that he first bought in Maitland.

Comment by Barry Bernstein on February 7, 2018 at 11:28am

I didn't do so well. i didn't lose money but I didn't make much. I did the Friday night thing and got off to a great start. I made my expenses Friday night and then it piddled in. I have had great FM in the past. The only people on our end who did any good were the photographers. I'm going to pass on the Friday night thing next year. It still could end up being great. I had a lot of people wanting things later on. We'll see. I think we got less traffic on our end.

Comment by Nels johnson on February 6, 2018 at 11:34am

Was just giving a little perspective of how life was in the old days in FM.

Comment by Barrie Lynn Bryant on February 6, 2018 at 11:25am

I am a sucker and would hope to do Friday night in the art booth.

Have you written about your sex life on AFI before today, Moe Pho?

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