Art Fair Insiders

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


Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa, where I've recently arrived after exhibiting at the Geneva (Illinois) Fine Arts Fair.

Do you remember a month or so ago, when on these very pages, I posted a blog article titled A Walk Through At The Des Moines Summer Arts Festival?  No?  Well, here's a link:

Basically, I gave the good folk at the Des Moines Arts Festival a bit of grief for the carnival-like atmosphere I encountered there, just as a visitor.  Maybe you thought I was targeting them, but no, they were just a convenient example.  In fact, in that very blog post, I contrasted the Des Moines Arts Festival with events like Krasl Art Fair On The Bluff, and Geneva Fine Arts Fair.  I said both Krasl and Geneva seem to be successful art events focused strictly on visual art.  No two blocks of food court, no Habitat For Humanity House being built at the art fair, no beer garden, no big stage music venues.

In that same blog post, I said I was concerned that too many art fairs are turning into carnival settings where the artists are just another facet of the entertainment collected to treat people who no longer come to buy art.  But rather just to be entertained.

One commentor on the post said that we have to "educate the next generation of art buyers".  Another commentor called Krasl and Geneva "regional shows".  (Did I detect scoffing?  Yes.)  

And now you are all pumped and primed for the afore promised review, eh?

The Geneva Fine Arts Fair, ably managed by Erin Melloy, and crew, was professionally organized from check in until check out.  Load in and out was simple - drive right up to the booth, drive out, and park in closely located (1 block from my booth) free parking.  The normal artist breakfast of bagels and coffee, an ample supply of artist awards.  Booth sitters available, although I did have a time mid afternoon on Saturday where I struggled to find one.  One came just before I resorted to calling one of the numbers included in the check in info.  For all painters, note that Geneva is an all originals event, no reproductions, giclees, none of that stuff.  (thank you Erin, I truly appreciate that factor - it's how you first got my attention, back when)  There are several cafes/restaurants on the street where the event happen.  Probably a few more dogs in attendance than necessary.

Should we talk about patrons now?  You know, they were pretty focused on seeing the art.  Lots of good conversations, some people wanted to talk art styles, some people wanted to ask questions about what they were seeing, how it was done, why it was done that way.  A nice mix.  Lots of adults/parents/grandparents with kids in tow, taking time to point out interesting tidbits to said kiddos.

Did I mention that art was being sold?  Much art.  Large paintings walked out, both days, and yes, thank you, several of them mine.  I was pleased with sales for the first time all summer.

For the commentor on the original Des Moines art festival review insisting that we needed to entertain people, draw a crowd, to educate young art buyers, I would like to say there were young people in good attendance.  In my booth at least, they seemingly came to buy art rather than drink beer.  Surprise, surprise.  And it causes me to ask, what better way to educate future art patrons than to give them good art to look at, rather a food court or a big stage music event?

Time to close.  Thank you Erin for a well run art fair.  I hope to exhibit with you again next summer.  To art fair directors elsewhere, please take a good hard look at your events.  Are you running a carnival, or an art fair?  Maybe next year, pare down the size of that food court.  Remove that lottery wheel corporate sponsor.  Yay for sponsoring a Habitat For Humanity House build, but do it where it belongs.  Think about it.   And thanks for reading.



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Comment by Amy Ikenn on August 5, 2013 at 3:03pm

Karen, thank you for the band aid!  Your paintings are awesome.  Hope to see you next year!

Comment by Connie Mettler on August 5, 2013 at 2:31pm

Sometimes the "collectors" send me messages about the shows they've been visiting. Here is the one on Geneva:

Geneva was a great show and packed.  The weather was perfect and we saw many old friends and a number of new artists.  Quality was high and the media was traditional and contemporary in both 2D and 3D.

Comment by Annette Piper on August 2, 2013 at 6:21pm

Great review Karen and so wonderful to hear of a show that appears to have consistent good feedback from visitors and artists alike :)  I hope to hear of more of them!

Comment by Judy Zeddies on August 2, 2013 at 1:16pm

I also commend Erin Melloy for this show & Karen for her review. My personal marketing worked as my postcards brought some of my previous customers from near & not so near, & some magically found more of my work to buy, yay. This year the weather really helped us at this show which has seen more than it's share of torrential rains (2010 & 2011). The crowds were out & people were buying, a true relief to me after some tough shows this year.

Comment by Stephen Petroschek on August 2, 2013 at 11:04am


Your writing is as good as your art, and they are both outstanding, IMO.

We don't travel out-of-state just yet, but your review gives us something to consider.

Thank you!

Comment by Gloria Isackson on August 2, 2013 at 9:40am

Great review! Thank you for sharing!

Comment by karen cooper on August 1, 2013 at 10:37pm

Hi Amy!  - so funny - Amy, I just went an looked at your art to see if I by chance had seen you at Geneva.  Yes, THAT Amy, as in, my neighbor to the north :)  Love when that happens :)

Comment by Amy Ikenn on August 1, 2013 at 9:20pm

Karen, great review.  I was there too and I think you described it perfectly.  

Comment by geri a. wegner on August 1, 2013 at 9:06pm

I have to second everything that Karen said.   This show is wonderful.  It is a bit of a drive but so worth it.  One area where I disagree with Karen is about the dogs.  This was the Noah's ark of art festivals.  Never have I seen so many people with two dogs and the pairs were the same breed.  And these were gorgeous dogs.  They were better than Highland Park's dogs!!

But this show is anything but a dog.  I can attest that Karen had people in her booth.  Each time I walked by there were people in there.  The weather was very cool and it brought out the crowds.  The last couple of years it has been unbearably hot but this year we got to wear jackets.  It really made a difference in the number of people there.  Because the booths are backed up to the curb, there was plenty of street room to get around.

The quality of the art is always excellent and artists show up there that don't show up at other festivals.  (love to see new art).  It is such a well run show that all the artists seem to start out stress free and are happier than usual.  

I managed to buy many things while not having to hurry past sponsor booths where they yell out at you.  I somehow was able to get my wallet out without music in the background, sometimes drowning out the ability to have a conversation with an artist.  I survived without the pervasive smell of kettle corn or fried dough.  All I had to do was enjoy art and buy it.

Too bad this is becoming a novel concept.

Comment by Elle Heiligenstein on August 1, 2013 at 8:25pm
Great review and glad you had a successful show!!!! I was wait listed for this one and didn't get called, I will try again next year for sure!!!

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