Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
I'm a Michigan artist working digitally. I sell limited edition prints. Gasparilla was my fifth show of my annual two month swing through Florida. I know a lot of artists who have winter homes down here and summer homes up north, but there are not that many of us who do it like we do. It's the tourist season down here and it is pretty expensive to rent rooms. That's especially true for us. My wife, Marcia is my most valuable resource. She helps in every way, rain or shine. But she has also make it clear that if I want to pursue this crazy lifestyle, she will be the one to pick the accommodations and restaurants. And some of those accommodations have to be on the beach. She's not the sleep in the car type.
So, in order to make this annual trip south profitable, we have to do pretty well at the art fairs. This year, Gasparilla in Tampa delivered. We started out our Florida adventure at ArtFest Ft Myers in early February. We did very well there, taking the edge off our anxiety. Next was ArtiGras in Jupiter where we also had some success. Naples National was OK, but rather disappointing, then Lake Wales (didn't get in to Key West), where we were, again. disappointed. Finally, Gasparilla: a big town art fair with 100,000 expected attendance. We had a great show there, putting our trip firmly in the black, financially.
This is our third time at Gasparilla, and we have always done well there. Last year we didn't get in. Lake Wales was the same weekend last year, so we did that one instead. Although it also poured buckets at Lake Wales, the show closed early and we got out of there without too much damage. Hearing the reports from Tampa last year, we considered ourselves fortunate that we missed that one.
Gasparilla is set up in a spacious park next to the Tampa Art Museum along the river. It's a beautiful location, gently sloping down to the river. Last year the slope turned into a waterfall and mudslide. This year the park was improved with drainage sewers that drain into the river underground instead of over the grass... a great idea. Although we didn't need that this year, it will certainly be appreciated the next time it rains at Gasparilla. The show gives a whopping $75,000 in awards and another $20,000 in purchase awards. It seemed as if there were enough awards to give at least one to each of us artists. We didn't win one, but we saw lots of ribbons around. We did, however, see lots of customers. It seemed as if the crowds were trying to make up for last year. The buying energy was high. I didn't talk to any artists who were disappointed. The weather was perfect, in the low 70s.
Because of the narrow aisles and walkways, loading in and out of this show is a challenge. The committee tries hard to organize it to the Nth degree. Artists have the option of setting up on Thursday with a two hour allotment to unload, or on Friday with a 75 minute allotment to unload. Each booth is assigned the times for unloading (either Thursday of Friday) and the time for packing up on Sunday. They caravan 30 or so vans into the fair at a tyime, organized in such a way as to avoid congestion. Not sure how well that worked, but we choose Thursday setup, and it went pretty well. Our booth had an assigned time of 8:30 on Sunday evening to bring our van into the park to load up. Since the show closed at 5pm, we started looking for an alternative. There is an underground parking garage right next to the park. Although artist parking is free about three blocks away, we decided to pay the $20 for the day on Sunday, with the intention of dollying our stuff to our van at closing. That worked well. Although it took a lot of trips back and forth, it was only about a half a block from our booth to the van. I'm a little stiff in the joints this morning from all the extra work (but, then again I always am after an art fair), but we were out of there by 7:30.
Marcia rented a condo on the beach at Indian Rocks Beach, about 45 minutes from Tampa. This is the vacation part of our trip. Watching the pelicans fish this morning and a sailboat ghost by on the gulf makes all the work we do seem worthwhile. We plan to relax and eat a lot of seafood this week, but we have one more show to do before heading back north. Leesburg is next. We wanted to do Vero Beach next week, but we didn't get in. And, we wanted to do Winter Park the following week, but, didn't get into that one either. We're hoping for a surprise at Leesburg, but we certainly don't expect a windfall. Our success last weekend at Gasparilla makes a successful show at Leesburg less urgent.