Art Fair Insiders

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

Howard Alan Arlington Festival of the Arts 2015 - Event Review

This was my first Howard Alan event. I had previously juried into at least two previous HA events which were cancelled by the organizers - Baltimore Inner Harbor and Georgetown... One killed by the Gran Prix and the other by apparent inability to reach agreements with the local govt...

Location, Location, Location: I think location had a great deal to do with whether your sales that weekend were successful. I was located way out on the end of the event and positioned across from event sponsor vendors. Not an optimal location-since we were not on a popular ingress/egress route... Only people determined to walk the entire show were the most likely to see our booths. Thankfully, on day 2 of the event, we saw more foot traffic  

We did have a small amount of back storage b/c there were two lanes of traffic directly behind our booths which were open all weekend. Noisy? Well, yes.

I think the event vendor/sponsors should also have had the opportunity for prime central locations, given they were paying for the opportunity to offer their goods and services.

This would have also allowed some sharing of the pain of being located next to or adjacent to a vendor as a fine art exhibitor. Surely the event organizers and promoters might have considered this when laying out the event. That would at least have made being stuck out on the lonesome end of the event a bit more palatable. I have to think that the organizers surely understand that fine art shoppers are less likely to linger near replacement window vendors... regardless of whether they are giving away a fine art print...

Advance Booth Location Requests: The event paperwork indicated that one could request a space location preference over a week in advance. However, since there was no event map showing booth locations, how could one request a location? It is my understanding, however, that some/many exhibitors were able to request a location. I cannot confirm this information. There was no set-up map. This is a new one on me. It was the first time I have ever encountered an upscale fine art event with no booth layout map with numbers.

The booth location information I downloaded from the event site the day before the event was a spreadsheet which, despite some sort of set of landmark references with geographic map references, was incomprehensible unless you were it's author.

When I called the central office for some clarification, the office was unable to provide any information which helped. They tried their best, but said not all events got maps made before the event.

So, how were advance booth requests made and granted? The only maps I saw charted parking locations for exhibitors on a tiny thumbnail map which was not optimal for exhibitors trying to figure out where to park or how to get there.

Set-up: The event staff onsite at 4+A.M., when I arrived, had their act together and were very cheerful/helpful in getting folks to their locations. But it was disappointing to note as it became light, just where I was located - which was far, far, away from the center of the event and adjacent to the vendor event sponsors. I have to imagine the vendors were just as excited at being strung out on the end of the event as those exhibitors were who also ended up on the tail end of the event. The hand-turned writing exhibitor was able to arrive just before wait-list calls were made and get set up in timely fashion. But if you had a sophisticated display, with lighting and a one person set-up, you were glad that they allowed for an early-bird arrival

Big Plus: Event staff were very supportive throughout the entire event.

Big question mark: were there booth sitters available? Out on the frontier where we were at, we spotted each other on the booth sitting so that those who were on meters could feed them or run for the potty. Having a booth assistant would have been very helpful, but wasn't an option for me on this weekend.

Parking: I paid for parking in a nearby bank lot. $35 covered parking for both days and was worth the price, as I had no one to booth sit, and was not close to any of the meters you could credit/debit card pay for the whole day. Unfortunately, I was unable to collect a receipt for the parking charge. This allowed for me to dolly my work out on Saturday and back in on Sunday.

Sales:  I had no sales on Day 1. Zip, Zero, Nada. A talented blown glass artist sold one piece on day 1 (to my knowledge) and an encaustic painter also sold one nice piece (maybe more). An abstract painter appeared to sell a few pieces, while a photographer who sold prints on canvas seemed to do OK. A nearby moderately-priced jeweler didn't seem very busy. And she indicated that location and the number of jewelers in the event made for a very competitive sales environment. But, that seems to be the constant in most of the better shows. I wonder what these events would look like without the usual 20-40% women's wearable population...

The hand-turned pen guys were a cipher and I couldn't get a feel if they did OK or not on Day 1, but later conversation seemed to indicate they did OK

In conversation with a passing vendor, he suggested that if you weren't netting weekend total sales in the range of 3-5k$, you were losing money in such an expensive venue to travel to and exhibit.

On day 2, there seemed to be a different customer population at the event and I managed three modest original painting sales, each under $200.00. But I sell no prints. Many painters and photographers say that without print sales, they would have difficulty making expenses or a profit. So despite the upscale market and blank walls, many a customer didn't know that there was a difference between a print and an original.

I also noticed that parents with children in tow, who would likely willingly buy their children a 400$ playstation or x-box, had difficulty in seeing the value in purchasing their child a work of art at a fraction of the price-despite watching their children light up when they saw a brightly colored or textured work which obviously intrigued them. Perhaps it's because they didn't come with spare games or internet connections.......

Perhaps that is a failing of the gen x,y and millennials to understand the value of art in a child's education - because they were without art in their educations during the 80's, 90's and 00's.. It certainly wasn't because I failed to mention the advantages of instilling an appreciation of art to the parents of the children who wanted to rush in and touch my work or try to pull mom and dad into my booth. The parents just don't get spending money on art for kids despite easily being able to afford it in such an affluent location

Sales - Long and Short of It: I covered booth costs and application fee and most of my mileage. I had no hotel or food costs to speak of. No hotel, because of friends in the area and no food expenses b/c I was able to help an exhibitor out of a dead vehicle battery jam (in the dark) during set-up. They offered to buy me lunch on both days as a way of saying thanks. I was very grateful for their kindness.

Teardown: The weather threatened for the latter half of Day 2 and rain had been forecast.

There were a couple of blatant early packdowns and escapes that likely impacted the traffic out on our lonely end of the event empire. It wasn't obvious that they were family emergency issues or anything else. I couldn't tell if management made note of this unprofessional behavior or not. There was plenty of typical sneaky tear-down that only exhibitors would spot.

Event staff were trying to communicate to the exhibitors what the weather window would be after close. Many of those without smart phones found this very useful.

Sadly, an hour after close, it started to rain and if your weren't packed and gone, you got wet. I managed to get my panels, lighting and art packed and loaded without getting wet. But my carpet took a minor hit and my tent and sand-bags got wet. Out on our end, there was no imperative to be packed down in an hour to re-open streets.

Event staff were great. Logistics like maps and shared vendor pain - not so much. The police and emergency personnel did a fine professional job and mostly had a decent sense of humor for the antics associated with an art show. I did not hear of anyone losing work or having their set-up vandalized during or after the event..

Would I do another HA event?: HA events have a good reputation and perhaps my positioning was luck of the draw or show balancing - this being despite a very early entry and early acceptance. But you'd think that those who made the effort to get their entries in early and pay in a timely fashion might have some preference in their location.

But you cannot allow folks to request a location prior to an event unless you offer a map of the lay-out. Otherwise, it might seem to some that preferential treatment was being provided to some over others. Again, I have no way of knowing how location requests were handled.

I had no way to ask for a location, because there was no map of the event available.

I would give their events a few more tries if accepted... just as I would most other promoter's events... to see if results changed based on chance and location. I usually don't say never again unless something heinous goes down or there is obvious malfeasance on the part of the promoter.. So, I'll gladly post another review of their events if I get the opportunity. The event itself was well run and staffed by seasoned professionals who obviously did not see this as their first rodeo...

Views: 1229

Comment

You need to be a member of Art Fair Insiders to add comments!

Join Art Fair Insiders

Comment by Michael Bryant on May 6, 2015 at 12:56pm

You can't make a booth request for a Howard Alan show. Well, technically you can, but there is no point because they do not pay any attention to them. The best locations go to those who regularly do their shows. (I can't fault them for rewarding loyalty-I would do the same thing) They lay out the show so that they are happy with how it looks. No maps or programs, or breakfast. No booth sitters either. Often no booth signs. This is a promoter show with absolutely no frills. They aren't concerned with how famous or accomplished we think we are, only how they want the show to look. They do, however usually have massive crowds. That is the reason to do Howard Alan shows. If you need amenities, look elsewhere.

Comment by Alison Thomas on May 4, 2015 at 7:53am

I did not ask for a special location for this show but often I ask for a generic type of location.  My work doesn't do well in full sun so often I will ask for a north facing booth or a corner or, if I am working alone at the show, an easy breakdown location.  One thing you may not understand about Howard Alan shows Mark is that there are quite a few artists who do nothing but Howard Alan shows and follow his shows from Florida to Colorado to Virginia.  I don't know for sure but I suspect and would completely understand giving these people preferred treatment on booth space over someone who is brand new to Howard Alan.  They are his repeat customers just like I have some collectors who buy from me year after year and they get a better price.

After this past weekends show where I had so many people come and tell me how much they love the piece they bought last year and didn't buy anything this year I will apply to the Arlington show next year.

Comment by Mark V. Turner on May 1, 2015 at 4:20pm

I have always said that every event is a total crapshoot. But sometimes the dice can be loaded for or against you. In this case I felt fortunate to sell 3 pieces of my work and cover booth/app fee and  part of my mileage.

I also firmly believe that a different location would have caused a positive benefit to my sales. I was on that busy road with the cones and traffic....just in almost the worst possible location. 

It is also said that all publicity is good.. but that too has it's drawbacks as in that sometimes you get the bear and sometimes he gets you.

I'd do the show again if I ended up in a location closer to the bulk of the exhibitors or along the main drag... But to ask for a spot, you still have to have a map to know what to ask for. I would copy the booth number spreadsheet with the cryptic location references, but code breaking isn't my best talent

Comment by Bill McLauchlan on May 1, 2015 at 3:59pm
Let me just say this and then I'll let it go. We actually requested the same space that we had in the fall show. We didn't get it. The space we requested was down on the busy road with orange cones separating us from the whizzing traffic. Why did we ask for that space again? We had a good show there. The reality is that we were ultimately assigned a space just as you were. Ours turned out to be a good one. You didn't like yours. It could have turned out the opposite way.

We did a show once where the word Siberia came to mind when we saw our spot. It turned out to be an excellent show. You never know.
Comment by Mark V. Turner on May 1, 2015 at 3:33pm

Hi Bill, Thanks for your comments.

My point on the awards and ribbons reference - If you, as an exhibitor, have a bunch of awards, wouldn't you want the promoter to use recognized/honored artists as a draw and place them where they get decent exposure? As a promoter, you might want to trade on your recognized exhibitor talent to draw attendance. You might also want to keep these artists coming to your events as this might be an audience pull, too. 

But you wouldn't want to economically disadvantage them by placing them in one of the, if not the most, marginal locations in their first event with your firm. Note that I didn't say you place them at the proverbial corner of Hollywood and Vine with a couple mobile light trucks and a sideshow barker. Does that answer your sense of entitlement question? 

Relative to the space request issue - or trading on information not available to all exhibitors: As a promoter, it isn't fair to new exhibitors to allow for space requests if you don't make a layout available to all exhibitors or even define the boundaries of the event...That's a fairness issue-plain and simple. A new exhibitor doesn't know what to ask for.

And because we couldn't make an intelligent space request:

1) Some of us got stuck with two lanes of traffic behind us (which affects sales potentials with all the noise).

2) Some of us got stuck looking at multiple vendors instead of other artists (which hurts sales potentials b/c many potential clients avoid areas with vendors at an art show, just like they do at home or over the phone or in junk mail)

3) Some of us got stuck in an event dead end area which was A) neither a major ingress or egress point; and B) was not easy to access from outside the show boundaries because of the 4 or 5-way intersection just outside the show boundaries, with the traffic snarls from the road closures (which surely affects sales potentials).

4) Some of us got all of the above. I have to suggest that where myself and a few others were located, was truly the worst in the show...It was the triple whammy. It absolutely affected our sales opportunities compared to those closer to the center of the show.

So only those customers who were determined to walk the entire show were the most likely to find us out on the end of the event layout. And if you are in the last 4 booths in the furthest reach of an event with traffic behind you, and vendors across from you...well a customer is more likely to turn and walk away regardless of your products, skills, and great price points.

And again I compare this to another promoter who has in the past two weeks called me personally, e-mailed me, got publicity materials from me to promote on his event website and made sure I knew where to book a hotel room in close walking distance to the event at a good rate. I compare this to other promoters who ask me to be present for their press conferences and photo opportunities in advance of the event. They recognize my work as good for their event.

Again, the event staff at the show were great. I want to emphasize that. But my location seriously impacted my sales potentials. 

We all get stuck out on the end of an event from time to time, but if it was you in my place, you would certainly understand and likely agree about the economic effects these issues caused.

You can solve part of this by not clumping vendors together at the ends of events, but mixing them in with the main part of the show and giving them event sponsor signage.

Comment by Claudia & Sergio Olivos on May 1, 2015 at 11:27am

I have read this thread with interest as we are artists who do a few art fairs a year- but we have never done this one (I think its on its third year?)-- although we are Arlington residents! One of the primary reasons we have not done it is because it is HAE and we have not had good luck with two of their other events in the area. We were unable to visit it this year to decide about next year....

Comment by Bill McLauchlan on May 1, 2015 at 7:20am

Mark, this was our third time at Arlington.  We were across the street from Melanie this year but we have been in a different location each time.  (The show layout also changed significantly from Year 1 to Year 2).  Our sales have increased nicely each time but I don't think there is any correlation with our location as the crowd size seemed pretty consistent throughout the show.

We have done a lot of HAE shows over the last four years.  Some have been amazingly great for almost everyone; others turned out not be be the right market for us.  Regardless of our personal sales, we have always seen large crowds at HAE shows.

The first time we do any particular event that doesn't provide event maps we just head where they tell us to go.  Sometimes you get a great spot; sometimes you don't.

I guess what is confusing to me is your objection to people who have done an event before having so-called "inside information" while at the same time seeming to express a sense of entitlement to a great spot because you have 13 ribbons.

In case you are not familiar with it, there is a Facebook group called Art Fair Booth Maps where you can request/post/search for event maps.  The more people who post there, the better for everyone.

Comment by Mark V. Turner on April 30, 2015 at 9:51pm

No, this was an event organizer failure for people new to the event. It sounds like you did ask for a specific area and got it. I called and asked for info, but how do you ask for a spot if there is no booth map and no event map showing the limits of the event.

Does it even make sense to call and ask for a spot somewhere in the middle if you don't know where the middle is?

Does it make sense to clump event sponsors on the lonesome ends of events? They probably paid a lot more than you and I to participate and then get dumped out on the end of an event to watch and listen to two lanes of traffic rolling past you on a direct line of sight behind fine art exhibitors? If I were them, I'd be beyond furious based on the sponsor dollars I paid

Comment by Melanie Rolfes on April 30, 2015 at 9:39pm
Well I did the show in September so I was familiar with the show. I did a review of that show. Did you contact HAe and ask them for more info? I would also suggest reaching out to other artists that have done a show you are Interested in doing and asking for advice. Most of us are willing to help.

I know it is frustrating for you and I am sorry your space didn't work. Sometimes we have to go the extra step for some shows. There were people in my area who didn't do well.
Comment by Mark V. Turner on April 30, 2015 at 9:19pm

Alison & Melanie,

Did you have access to a booth map and did you request a specific or general location? If so, I likely took an economic hit in order to satisfy your and others location request - which is decidedly unfair to those who don't know. You would think that the HA folks would have a set of good spots throughout a given event that they would spot newbies to their events in to keep them coming back for more.

Yes everyone gets strung out on the lonesome end of an event from time to time.

And yes, everyone gets stuck looking at a sponsor booth from time to time when you have paying sponsors.

But if you jury in early and pay timely and then get strung out on the end of an event AND spend your weekend looking at VENDORS while others who might have applied later and paid later get the plum spots because they had what would basically be considered inside information (?)....well, how would that make you feel as a new exhibitor in what is considered to be an upscale promotion?....

Are you supposed to be paying some sort of ethereal dues as a newbie to HA events despite being having 13 juried event ribbons under your belt, including 7 blue ribbons? That might leave a bad taste in your mouth....

And yes, this is the first fine art event I have ever paid good money for that didn't publish a booth map with my spot on it.  I was hoping that when there wasn't a map there would at least be an egalitarian show booth location balancing. If you want to be a first class event promoter, act like it, regardless of the venue. Treat all artists and artisans fairly. Being strung out on the lonesome end of an event with vendors cost me valuable sales opportunities.. Frankly, I am disillusioned after hearing for many years how good this event promoter is and how fairly they treat their exhibitors

Even most craft shows I do in my other business have maps of table spaces and will allow you to ask for a spot or list a preference for a location..

But if there are no maps and others are still getting space requests fulfilled....and they are clumping the paying event vendor sponsors together out on the distal ends of an event - along with fine artists...well wouldn't you feel like you might have been treated less then fairly?

HAE has been in business a very long time. You might wonder how this could happen if they want to recruit and keep talent that keeps people coming to their events.

Here's an example in contrast:I just booked a show on the eastern shore of MD with a known promoter; a name I recognized. He has both called me and e-mailed me to make sure he could promote me with imagery and text in his event; and to personally make sure that I got the best hotel rate possible within walking distance of the event in a beach area where hotels fill fast and room rates are astronomical. THAT is personal service and I am assured of a corner spot to boot.

If this is how HAE treats new exhibitors and handles their events in a region where they were once the only top notch promoter, then they will soon earn themselves an articulate dissenter or three in influential blogs and event reviews.

Fiber artists -- use this resource to find new buyers:  Advertise with Sweaterbabe.com. Reach over 60,000 fiber arts lovers.

Our 50 Best Art Fairs


Look Inside the 2018 Art Fair Survey:
Who Won and Why

Join the MasterMinds Group for personalized coaching on your Internet Lifestyle Business! 

60 Page Report - Best US Art Fairs

Click Here to
Learn More

Photos

  • Add Photos
  • View All

© 2020   Created by Connie Mettler.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service