Art Fair Insiders

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

The Indian Wells Art Festival (IWAF) is held at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens at the corner of Washington Street and Miles Avenue in Indian Wells, CA. The venue is superb, very upscale.

The artwork at the festival is among the best of the best. Large scale stone sculptures, monumental steel sculptures, and fine art paintings are the "standard" at IWAF.

There are approximately 200 artists from all over the world who come to this show.

Load in is on a Thursday (it is a three day show). Load in is staggered into 3 groups, 11:00 to 1:00, 1:00 to 3:30, 3:30 to 6:00.

This year at 3:00 pm on setup day (Thursday) the wind began to come up, and by 6:00 pm it was pushing 50 mph. Some artists, I heard, lost some work when their tent buckled and died. If you are planning on doing a desert show, you'd better know how to secure your booth - desert weather is ALWAYS unpredictable. The tennis stadium deflects a lot of the wind from the show, IF you are in the "right" part of the venue - I was.

I set up on Thursday at 3:30 and am very happy that I don't use a tent. I put in eight 18" long stakes made from 3/8" rebar. I set up my propanels and cinched them down. No problem with wind now.

The show opened on Friday at 10 am and it was immediately busy with art buyers. At 10:05 I sold one of my large "Peace Bells" to a couple who had come to the show specifically looking for bells. That was a quick $800. The buying did not stop there. I was busy ALL DAY Friday. Saturday was even busier but not better sales wise. Sunday was the slowest of the weekend. I'm not saying it is like this at every IWAF, just this one. My first year doing this festival (2011) I sold four large metal sculptures on Sunday afternoon (go figure) but nothing on Friday or Saturday worth mentioning. My buyers at that show had to think about it before then came back and bought.

Advertising is done very well to promote the show with TV spots, magazine articles, blurbs in local guides, podcasts and more. I was actually interviewed for a podcast - fun!

Dianne Funk Enterprises produces the show and she runs a tight ship - thank goodness. All sales are conducted by the artists and every sale is written in a 'supplied' sales book. Four copies; one for you, one for the buyer to hand to the gate as they take out the artwork, one for the client to take home, and the last for the festival to tally up your sales and take their 12%.

At close of the festival you can get your van / car / trailer and await entry so you can pack up and go. You can get in at 5:30 (or so) and drive up and pack up. When you are ready to leave, you take your sales book(s) to IWAF accounting and they scan you out. Then you are given an EXIT PASS. Without your exit pass, you don't get to leave. Even if you sold nothing, you still need to give your books back to accounting.

The festival charges $14 to patrons for entry and offers free plentiful parking.

This is the last "Fine Art" festival that I know of in the California desert regions - the weather is beginning to heat up and the snowbirds are headed home. 60% of my clients were from the area and the remainder were either from LA, San Diego, or from Canada (snowbirds).

I would recommend the IWAF to any artist with high end fine art that goes with the desert scene, along with mid-century modern look and feel. Me? well I make Native American inspired Spirit Shamans that hang on the wall, and they are the perfect fit for many of the homes in the area with a south west theme. 1/4 of my Shamans fly to their new homes in their client's checked bags.

Not sure how others did at the show, but I saw at least four very large paintings walking out. The exceptional sale was to my neighbor who paints desert scenes from the area using only a palette knife. He went home very happy.

Good luck out there.

Oh, and Nels, very nice shoes showed up.

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Comment by Christina L. Towell on April 8, 2017 at 9:59am

I enjoyed your review, Jeff, it sounds like a wonderful venue (if not too windy) and the 'good shoes' are definitely a bonus...thanks.

Comment by Barrie Lynn Bryant on April 6, 2017 at 5:04pm

Thanks for the update. We'll keep this show in mind for next year. WOOHOO!

Comment by Jeff Owen on April 6, 2017 at 3:51pm

Hi Connie and Barrie. I don't think there is any money involved in the awards, only kudos, bummer. I received a 2nd place for sculpture about 5 years ago, but that has eluded me since. Connie, I wish I had a chance to meet you at the festival - that would have made it even more awesome.

Comment by Barrie Lynn Bryant on April 5, 2017 at 7:21pm

Thanks a million for another great review, Jeff. It looks like they give out awards. So what do you know about that part of the show? Any cash awards? WOOHOO!

Comment by Connie Mettler on April 5, 2017 at 8:58am

I was vacationing the area on this date a few years ago, Jeff, and saw the advertising in the hotel lobby where we were staying so, of course we headed out. What a beautiful setting with the mountains in the background, gourmet food and the fancy cars in the parking lot. I knew it was positioned for the good shoes people. One aspect I hadn't seen at an art fair before was there was even valet parking! 

Since I'm from Michigan I didn't expect to see anyone I knew, but I did -- a couple of artists from Michigan, plus the "travelers" who come to the Florida shows and the big Midwest shows. It was a treat for me. 

Thanks for this review. Do you do many shows in this part of the country?

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