review (54)

Can you spare 7 minutes of your life to help the art fair community?  Let me convince you.

Below you will find some very interesting facts about   I have spent some time evaluating the information from the website from 2018 that I would like to share with you.   Take a look.  I think you will find some very interesting facts.   Please consider giving back to the Art Fair Community with a review or two ( about 7 minutes per review).


Fact #1:  We now have 643 Art and Craft Shows listed on our site.  We have shows throughout the entire country.  

Fact #2:  We have 7 states that do not have any art and craft shows listed at all.  The states of Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Vermont, and West Virginia have never had a show review submitted for them, thus those states have not been added.  We sure would appreciate having some reviews for those states.  

Fact #3:  The state with the largest amount of shows listed on our website is Florida.  That probably isn't a big surprise.  We have 84 shows listed on our site in Florida.  Coming in send place is Illinois with 49 shows.

Fact #4:  We have 25 states with 10 or less art and craft shows listed. 

Fact #5:  We have three states with only one art or craft show listed for them.  Those states are Arkansas, Rhode Island, and South Dakota.  Anybody have a show they can submit for these states? 

Fact #6:  We have one show listed for Canada.  We know they have shows up there.  Does anyone have a show and a review that they could add to that page to make it more valuable?

Fact #7:  We actually have a European page with one show listed.  Has anyone done an European shows yet?  We would love to add a couple shows to that page.

Fact #8:  Since our website went live we have had 1,155,274 page views.  That is amazing!  We know artists are using our website.  We need new reviews so that our site remains useful and needed.

Fact #9:  In the last 30 days, 12/12/18 - 1/12/19, we have had 11,964 page views.  Of course, this is a time when many artists are using our site to put the finishing touches on their show schedules. 

Fact #10:  We usually average about 381 page views per day.  In fact, we had had 111 page views by 11am today.  Artists were up early and working today. 

Fact #11:  Ninety two reviews or comments were left on ASR during 2018.  Of course, many people use our website without ever leaving a comment or writing a review.  Of the 92 comments left, 58 of those were actual show reviews using our list of questions to answer for the shows.  Those 58 reviews are more useful to artists.

Fact #12:  In the last year we had 143,568 page views.  Of those over 143 thousand visitors only 58 times did artists leave a review.  Certainly we can give back to the art community better than that.  

Fact #13:  The average show review probably takes about 7 minutes to write.  The form is right there on our website and you just fill it in.  Easy peasy!

Fact #14:  To submit a show review click on this link:

Fact #:  To submit a show that is not on our website click this link:

One person who visited our website left this comment:

How come so many of the posted show reviews are from 2-5 years old? Can't you supply some more updated review information from artists that have done the shows. After all, many shows go through changes from year to year.

My answer back to this person was sure, we would love to add more current and up to date reviews for each show.  However, if the artists don't submit the reviews I can't add them.  Our website will be as useful to artists if everyone does their part.  It is only 7 minutes!

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Uptown Art Fair, Minneapolis, MN, Aug. 5-7

Jury fee: $40; Booth fee: $550; 350 artists

Friday, 12-8; Saturday, 10-8; Sunday, 10-5 T

his was my first year at Uptown, and it was a long way for me to go for a single show (I live in Virginia). But it was a beautiful show, well-organized and structured, and I had a successful show, well worth my time and the expense.

I'm an oil painter, with pieces ranging from $100 to $4500. Many of my paintings are large. Not knowing anything about Minneapolis or the set-up of the show, I didn't know what to choose when the organizers asked for our location preference. I asked for a street location first, and ended up getting a location on the mall.

At first, I was bummed, but as the show played out, I was really glad that I ended up there. The street part of the show is on Hennepin Avenue, a busy street in the center of Uptown. I believe booths there were set up cheek to jowl, and I don't know if they faced the sidewalk or the street, which was closed to traffic. I do know that set-up on Hennepin was Friday morning, with the show opening Friday at noon. On the mall, set-up was Thursday afternoon.

The mall is a grassy strip between two one-way streets. Hennepin Avenue is at one end of the mall; the other ends at a road that circles a lake. I was near that end. Set-up was easy, storage was pretty much unlimited.

Registration is inside a building on Hennepin, and registration times are assigned. I was there early, and they did let me register early. The organizers were very nice, and had already helped me with a series of question.

Set-up on the mall was in shifts. The first shift, which included me, was for people who had tents on the grassy area between the two streets. I had a spot that ended up as a de facto corner, as I was beside a tree. I pulled up, and found that my neighbor had parked in the spot directly across from my van, so I'd have to haul my crap farther, and probably dolly. I decided to turn the van around, and at least get the back doors closer to my spot. My neighbor, seeing me do this, volunteered to trade spots with me, if I'd help her back up. I am a believer in omens and took Stephanie's generosity to be a good one.

Because of what I'd heard about vandalism at this show, I set up my tent but didn't put any of my art in it. I got my van out in time for the second shift, which was artists setting up booths in the street (where we had parked), facing the grassy strip.

Friday morning, I arrived early, set up my art and went off to find my parking spot in the Sons of Norway lot. I'd paid $55 for this; it was about a half a mile away. I am 60, am lazy and have bad knees, and while it was an OK walk in the morning, by 8 p.m., it felt like a long, long walk. My day started well with a couple who had found my art on the show's website (, found me on the mall, came in and bought a $1,000 painting. Yay!

I sold four more paintings during the show and also got a commission, so it was a profitable weekend for me.

In spite of everything I'd heard about vandalism at the show, I decided to leave my work overnight. I spoke to painter friends who had done the show before. I spoke to police officers, who assured me that there were more officers on patrol, and showed me that they'd brought in huge lights to illuminate the mall.

I took my paintings off the outside walls, ziptied all my tent zippers, and then ziptied everything to uprights or stabars, and moved furniture to make it harder for someone to slip underneath. I had no problems, and heard of no problems. One officer said that the year that there had been the most vandalism was the year that a bridge collapsed, and all police were attending that disaster. Also he told me that he had approached the show organizers and helped them restructure the security plan.

On Saturday morning, I was able to get a very good parking space within dollying distance from my tent. Parking is a real problem with this show, and I felt like I'd been given a gift. I left my van there Saturday night, and took an Uber car to and from my Air B&B. This parking place was a real blessing when it came to take-down.


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Artigras And Stuart Arts Fest

Hello Art Show Family! This intrepid artist is back from Florida and ready to review my second set of shows for the Florida winter season. First, I'll dish about Artigras in Jupiter and then Suart's Arts Fest. 

I decided to try Artigras vice Coconut Grove for several reasons, but primarily my personal objection to outrageous booth fees (CG) and the desire to try something new. The set up at Artigras was deliciously unscripted- but it worked. The wide lanes for traffic and parking and an all day window put me in a relaxed frame of mind before I even drove up to my check in gate. The signage getting to the different gates were plentiful and easy to follow, btw, adding to the relaxation. So when I need to move my rental minivan a little to the left, a little to the right, front a bit, back a bit for the artists around me, I really didn't mind!

I found the check in packet good (I always read the materials) with only one confusing part-- artist parking. I must admit, I followed the lead of a few old timers near me and parked nearer to my booth than the mysteriously hard to find artist lot.

I was disappointed the trailer bathrooms were not reserved for artists only, and as I was alone at the show, I loved the "text for a booth sitter" feature. Morning breakfast staff were gracious, even if I think they had the same bagels out each successive morning. Hey-- free food is better than no food! (I have to give Beaux Arts better points for breakfast overall, maybe the best breakfast in the winter Florida season. #forReal)

I absolutely loved that the volunteers delivered lunch to the booth daily-- Thank you Jersey Mike's subs!!! I did not win an award, but the trumpeting and fan fare made it obvious that awards were being given out. Bravo! The show rained out on Monday, but I made $300 for the day- so I guess I had an excellent day based on other reviews. Load out was easy and it was a pleasant experience for the show overall. 

Ok, Ok, thanks for the logistics chat-- but "how were sales???" you'd like to know. I'm a jewelry artist and find my normal price lately has been $150-$225, but average sales tickets at Artigras were $100-$115, most frequent price point being around $85. For me, the magic multiplier price point is the $200 & up sale and those were few and far between. I worked hard for sales and have hope that exposure to my work will drive eshop sales later in the year.

Overall, it was a solid show and maybe in the long term it would average higher than normal. I was able to keep lodging costs low and the booth fee was lower than CG. There seemed a lesser degree of sophistication in the buying population overall, not to mention the excitement factor of Jupiter vs Miami. In my secret artist's heart I missed Miami. 

Stuart Arts Fest was my two-fer show. With teenagers at home, I cannot make a 7 week Florida swing, so I plan tactical two-fer strikes allowing me to spread travel costs across two shows and limit the unpredictable weather factor we deal with every weekend.

It was a pretty small show; although staff refused to answer exactly how many booths were in the show. I'm guessing 100 booths. There was some great work there-- it makes sense on a Florida swing. However, there were 27+ jewelers. YUCK! Most of the work was nice, but please limit your categories, Stuart, it doesn't work out with more than 15%-20% of any one category. There were 5 potters, maybe 3 sculptors, a few mixed media-- get the picture?

Load in was confusing and I had an issue with the gates not being open on Sunday morning, but the greatest success they had as a show was the LOAD OUT PASS. I love it when a show does that!! Come on-- we're professionals, right? Break your booth down THEN get your car and if we can't be trusted to do it that way, then the show needs to step in and take in on board.

Breakfast was donated by a bagel shop down the street and we got to go in and pick out the bagels and what we wanted on them-- with a drink-- almost a princess moment. It was a small town touch and extremely nice. Sales were low with less than mediocre buying energy, but I tripled expenses and I had wholesale business at the show (it's always a nice surprise when that happens).

I enjoyed being able to spend time with customers as only a small, slower paced show allows. I would not plan the Stuart show as a stand alone show-- it is definitely not worth it, but it's an ok, non big promoter show for the time frame for a traveling artist. 

That wraps Florida up for me-- Scottsdale, AZ is next and I'll post a blog/review about it in March. Good luck out there, everyone! 

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Estes Park is the gateway to the east side of Rocky Mountain Park and this year was its 100th anniversary.  There are many summer homes in the area and it is a destination for a broad spectrum of nationalities, income levels, and interests.  I started doing this show in 2010, and I have done it every year since then.  I also do the Memorial Day show in Estes Park.  Gross sales at the September Labor Day show since 2010 have been in the $3-$5K range, and I have considered it a good solid show.  The show is produced by the Estes Valley Sunrise Rotary, Inc. and they do an all-around EXCELLENT job!!!!  The town is packed for the weekend, and leading up to the show there was a lot of promotion on Facebook.  The show is setup with 103 booths set up around the perimeter of Bond Park and in the parking lot for the town hall.  Clean, indoor, accessible restrooms are in the town hall.

SETUP AND TAKE DOWN.  Set up officially begins at 9:00am on Friday but Rotarians are present to check you in as early as 7:30am.  If you are early you can park at your site to unload.  Street parking is available within a block of the show, but oversize vehicle and trailers have to park at the fairgrounds.  Free shuttle service is available from there, and in town.  Volunteers are available to assist with unloading and set up.

     Takedown begins at 3:00pm on Monday and volunteers were there to help.  Like set up, traffic was controlled and vehicles were not allowed in until you were ready to load.  After paying your sales tax, you get a yellow ticket.  When your booth is knocked down and you are ready to load you get a blue pass to bring your vehicle in.  We loaded around 7:30pm.

WEATHER.  Temperatures were in the 70’s.  There were brief showers Sunday.  An unweighted booth went over in a gust of wind Friday night and another had breakage knocked off a wall. 

 THE SHOW.  The town was packed with people and thousands went through the art show.  There was seldom a time when people were not in my booth, and I had several repeat clients.  Belts were my top seller, with holsters, suspenders, spur straps, and several custom orders thrown in.  My sales were in the $4-5K range, and my largest sale was $475 for a silver mounted headstall and two breast collars (horse gear).  There was a good balance of all art/craft mediums including edibles like jellies and salsas.  There is no buy/sell at this show.  Nuts and bolts for the show are in  The Rotarians have coffee and goodies in the morning, and booth sitters. All taxes are paid to the Rotary at the end of the show.

ANALYSIS.  I have come close to hitting the “home run” of $5K gross sales at this show a couple times.  My inventory of flasks and checkbooks was pretty lean by this, the last shown of the season.  Most of the belts sold were plain, and only a few were the more expensive carved with or without silver buckles.  I sold out of some sizes and some styles of buckles but didn’t loose and sales because of that.  The Estes crowd is definitely middle class and families visiting the park.  It is also a destination for Denver motorcycle clubs making the run up Big Thompson Canyon and over Trail Ridge Road.

THE OTHER FUN STUFF.  There were lots of different dog breeds and babies at the show.  Interacting with both was fun.  We were able to rent our favorite cabin that is just up the hill from Bond Park.  It was built in 1898 but it is modern and cozy. The hot tub is great after a day on the street.  Our son and his family came up for a cook out Saturday and we got to visit with our college and high school age grandsons.  Tuesday after the show we headed to the park and drove up Fall River Road (one lane dirt one way) up to Trail Ridge Road.  We saw elk and mountain sheep.

I cannot emphasize enough the need to be in top physical condition for doing shows.  I will be 72 in a couple weeks and Jean is 68.  Set up takes us 7 1/2 hours of steady work and take down is 4 1/2 hours.  We don’t diddle around, but we have lots of inventory.  At the end of the days we are still energized and not exhausted.  We do yoga 1-2 times a week and work out with a personal trainer once a week.




8869164700?profile=original8869165055?profile=original8869165263?profile=original8869165097?profile=original8869165456?profile=originalPhotos:  1. Setup Friday morning, Longs Peak. 14,259’

             2. Saturday crowd

             3. A pampered dog with green paws, pink and purple tail and ears.

             4. Fall River Road

             5. Longs Peak from Trail Ridge Road

             6. Bull elk 

             7. Bear Bottom Cabin  

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I have a new favorite show!  I did the Rotary Club Sanibel-Captiva Art Festival (Sanibel Island, FL) in February and it was beyond my expectations!  It was easy to set up and break down due to excellent management.  Attendance was brisk the whole weekend, and people were buying.  I am one of those people who always bring more than I need, but I nearly ran out of inventory, and I did run out of business cards and receipts.  My sales more than made up for the travel and hotel expenses.  The weather was perfect and the setting for the show was charming.  Yes, there is a toll of $6 on the bridge, but I got a very reasonable hotel only 6 miles from the bridge in Ft Myers.  I plan to apply for next year's show and hope that (1) I get accepted and (2) it is a good as this year.

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Overall, this was an excellent well run show and an excellent weekend for us. 

We applied to this show in 2013 and were rejected.  We usually have our best shows in the mid-Atlantic so we decided to try again. Happily, we were accepted.

Bethesda is just inside the DC Beltway and traffic in and around the area is usually a nightmare.  But, that also means lots of people in the area.

The show stretches over portions of two streets that make up part of the Woodmont Triangle area.  The show is produced by the Bethesda Urban Partnership (non-profit) and is not affiliated with the also well-known/respected Bethesda Row festival in the fall.

We arrived on Friday to scope out the layout and look for our spot.  We park the van, turned the corner onto the closest festival street, and started looking for space numbers.  After staring at the curb for a few seconds, we looked up toward the middle of the street and discovered we were standing in front of our space!

And a perfect space it was.  We were a few feet from the entrance to a parking garage that had plenty of clearance for the van, a few more feet to a building that had really clean, artist-friendly bathrooms, and a few more feet to the breakfast/lunch/show info desk. 

We also noticed that the space next to us near a fire hydrant was not marked.  A miracle – a free corner booth.  The next day when the tents were all up, we realized the practically every booth was a corner with the tents set in pairs and empty space on each side.  What a great way to set up a show.  (The booth fee was on the high side - $425 – so I guess that corner wasn’t really free.)

Each artist was given a set-up time.  Ours was 7AM, which meant we would have to hustle to get ready for the folks that showed up before the official 10AM start.  We decided to test the waters and arrived at the site at 6:40.  We were promptly told that 7AM meant 7AM.  Good for them.

Observant folks that we were having noticed that fine parking garage, we asked if we could park and dolly in.  The volunteers were thrilled that we were willing to do that.  One less van on the street.

We got a prime parking spot at the top of the ramp into the garage and rolled it all downhill to our space just a few feet away.

We setup pretty quickly and were ready to go.  Unfortunately, it was a slow start for us.  The painter next to us had a $2500 sale in just minutes after 10AM and other large pieces started walking out as well.  We had a lot of lookers and the promise of the never to be seen again be-backs.

As the day wore on, the crowd was steady but not overwhelming.  All week the weather forecasters were predicting rain from dawn Saturday until late Saturday night.  As it turned out, it didn’t rain at all until late afternoon and then only for about an hour.  Still, I think a lot of patrons were holding out for Sunday, which was forecast (and correctly so) to be gorgeous.

This is an "originals only on the walls" show and people were clearly buying 2D. The matted prints/repros that were carried out seemed pretty big too.  There was a glass artist across from us who seemed happy as well.

We were not happy on Saturday but the Sunday crowd was thick and buying and saved the weekend.  We sold a couple of decent size canvases and a bunch of small ($125) framed pieces.  We also had success with small repros (8x10 matted to 11x14).  No one complained about tax and no one pushed back on prices.

We could have snared a very big sale if we only had the piece available.  The customer wanted a specific size of one of our digital works.  Sadly, they weren’t willing to wait and we saw them later walking out with somebody else’s very nice piece.

There are also decent prospects for after show sales once some measurements are taken.

Load-out was a very easy dolly.  We thought that the garage ramp would have been a real strain uphill so we got to the venue early Sunday and got a prime spot on the street just about 100 feet from our space.  We were loaded up and out by 6:15PM

The “Nels” data:

About 130-140 booths.  Spaces are 10x10 but each has an open side.  On our block there was plenty of sidewalk storage behind.

Breakfast (bagels/coffee) was provided both days, as was lunch (pizza, chili, BBQ).

Boothsitters checked in regularly.

Overall quality was excellent and the competition for patron dollars was tough.

There was music but we never heard much of it where our booth was.  No stiltwalkers and no kettle corn that I could see.

There were three judges and some nice awards.  Pet peeve – two of the judges were very interested in talking about our work.  The third opened with “Do you make your own batiks?”  When we said no, any interest disappeared.  We use purchased fabrics the same way that other artists use purchased materials (paint, metal, etc.) to create their art yet we seem to get dinged for doing so.

Bottom line, we loved doing this show and will certainly apply again next year.  We’re hoping to get Bethesda Row too as this is clearly a great market for quality art. 

Nothing but the highest praise for the Urban Partnership, the show director, staff and volunteers. 

We also got to meet AFIer Courtney Gillen who stopped by and practically guaranteed a great show!

Final unrelated self-initiated blog-jacking:  I know some AFIers did Rockville a couple of weeks ago.  We were waitlisted and never called.  How about a review of this second year show???





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(I reviewed this show last year and Nels Johnson gave an entertaining recap of the local restaurants here
Not much has changed, so I'm keeping this one short!)

Englewood, FL's unofficial nickname might as well be: "The town that Time--and US 41--Forgot."  It's a sleepy, Old Florida-style hamlet nearly 20 miles west of the highway that serves, from Tampa to downtown Naples--as Southwest Florida's main retail drag.  But as far as the locals are concerned, that 20 mile stretch might as well be 20 years.  For this is a show like art shows used to be, run by  Rotarians know how to put on a community event.

Easy setup, starting at 5 PM Friday.  Two-minute check in--tops. Pull up to your booth, unload and set up.  Pull behind your booth on a grassy lot if you can.  Otherwise, unload next to your space, park when you can, and we'll trust you to make things easy for the next van pulling in. 

Dearborn Street--along which this show stretches for maybe five casual blocks--is chock-full of small businesses and a few mom n' pop eateries with live music. It stays closed all weekend so the visitors, who come from the surrounding towns, including the moneyed but laid back Gasparilla and Rotunda, can browse the show (beer in hand if they want).  What makes it a happy occurrence from the artists' perspective is: they come to buy. 

They're far enough from the glut of shows in Sarasota and points south that this event doesn't represent just another jaded, same ol' art show weekend for them.  It's a community event, run by local Rotarians with a commitment to keep it that way.  So they look forward to the show and they hit it early.  Despite a threatening weather forecast for rain all day Saturday, the rains held off until 2 PM or so, and the crowds were decent until skies darkened after lunch.  A little rain was tolerated, and tent flaps stayed open until the first crack of lightning around 2:15 sent everyone scurrying for shelter.  A few artists stayed around and attended the Rotary's artist dinner and award presentation, but most headed home, hoping that at least the forecast for sunny skies on Sunday would be accurate.

It was.  Crowds again browsed the show before the opening bell (in contrast to so many shows I've done this winter, where no one shows up until noontime, and maybe not even then...after all, there's another next week).  And although Saturday's sales were decent considering the weather, Sunday's were just off the charts: I sold six or seven canvases, including my biggest pieces, making this easily my best show of the season.  Nearly everyone I spoke with in the 2-D arena had at least a decent show, regardless of price point, though a high-end potter near me lamented at check-in that there were a dozen other potters in the show.  His fears proved to be well-founded; he nearly zeroed, but he was a real gentleman as he discussed it at load-out.  He and his work were both classy, and he deserved better. 

Several patrons mentioned to me that the quality work seemed to be concentrated on the east end of the show, and that the other end was primarily manufactured work or very cheaply made.  I'd like to hear others' take on this; I don't know if the Rotarians do that intentionally or not.  Other than that, though, no complaints.  This was a relaxing and very profitable show, with low booth fee and stress level, and a 4 PM close time that made the commute back to Fort Myers a snap. 

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Mercato: Naples, FL March 2014 Review

When Staci and I decided to try a Naples show this year I first talked to Florida West Coaster Geoff Coe.  

We’ve run into Geoff at a number of shows and he has seen the bright colors that permeate Staci’s work.  While cautioning that of course there were no guarantees, he suggested that Mercato might be the best fit.  The crowd is just as moneyed as the other Naples venues but it is younger (relatively speaking) and probably more interested in bright contemporary and abstract work that at the other Naples locations.

Geoff was absolutely right.  Unfortunately, the attendance at the show was way, way down (according to a number of repeat exhibitors that I spoke to.  Of those who did attend on Saturday (the best day), there was real buying interest but sadly even with some enthusiastic buyers, there weren’t enough to go around.

If the crowd had been of normal size, I think most would have had a great show.  As it was, while the painter on one side of us probably did $4K, the painter on the other side had to rely on a previous customer’s repeat purchase to make expenses.   Most of the bags we saw were from the high-end retailers that make-up the Mercato shopping plaza.

What went wrong?  At least 10 locals we spoke to said they had no idea there was a show this weekend.  They had seen no signs, billboards, or TV ads.  When the crowd is small and what I would call “coincidental”, there is not enough to go around even if they are the “right” people.  Where did our booth fee go???

Repeat exhibitors described wistfully the elbow-to-elbow throngs that have characterized Mercato in the recent past.  We could have had a great show if they were there.  As it was, we didn’t make mediocre.  Geoff had it right – this was our crowd; sadly, “crowd” is a misnomer.



Weather - Perfect!

Venue – upscale shopping plaza with many restaurants, movie theaters, shops

Easy set-up starting at 3AM.  We showed up at 5AM and parked in our space to unload.

Teardown was easy too.  We parked fairly near the booth and rolled it out over flat terrain.

Good storage behind the tent. 

Artist parking was in a big field behind the venue and a fairly short walk.

Artist amenities were okay. – Coffee/muffins in the morning and access to the volunteer center bathroom.  (There were also clean public restrooms throughout the venue.)

Booth sitters aplenty and very friendly volunteer group.

Quality of the art was excellent – a lot of work that we would love to have on our walls (if we had walls that is).  Very contemporary with just a touch of the traditional Florida beachy stuff


Looking West - Midday Sunday


Looking East - Midday Sunday


Our Space





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Got Show Help Here?: Pay It Forward!

It occurred to me (while reading a very nice 'thank-you' response from an AFI member who found one of my comments helpful) to make a request of the AFI community.  Here it is:

The vast majority of readers on this site are "lurkers": Folks who visit and read, but don't write.  And God bless ya, I'm not here to criticize this: It's true of just about every other blog site on the Internet (including the ones that specialize in serving writers and bloggers!).

But I do have a friendly proposition for those of you who get help from something you read here:
Pay it forward!

That means (pick one!):
* Post a comment saying, "Thanks, that was helpful!"
* Ask a follow-up question
* Comment on another topic

And if you ask a question about a particular show that hasn't been formally reviewed, and you get information that helps you decide to actually DO the show, how 'about writing a short review of your experience afterward?

Doesn't have to be complicated; just cover the same questions you had when you asked about it in the first place.  Here are the most frequent questions asked about shows:
* How were sales?  Attendance?  Were packages being carried around, or were folks sight-seeing?
* Is it worth the trip for an out of towner?
* How is the setup? Was it "day before show", "morning of show", or both? 

* How far away was the artist parking?
* Were there amenities/awards?
* What did the crowd seem most/least interested in: 2D? 3D? Or dogs, music, wine?
* Is there a particular type of art/ craft that would do well/poorly?
* All things being equal, would you do the show again?

BONUS POINTS if you do any of the above RIGHT AFTER YOU REALIZE YOU GOT HELP HERE.  To wait, is to be like one of those show visitors who says, "I really like this.  Let me think about it!"  ;-)

Thanks--in advance!

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Boca Fest, Boca Raton, FL - 2014 Review

We were at the Howard Alan Boca Fest show this past weekend.  The show has been mentioned/reviewed on AFI a number of times so I’ll just hit the highlights of the logisitics.

As with most HAE shows, it’s a 5AM setup on Saturday morning, although many tents were up earlier than that.  The load-in is easy if you get there early enough but not horrible even if you’re late.  The HAE staff keeps everyone moving and we didn’t see any real logjams.

Spaces are in the parking lot at the Boca Town Center, an upscale shopping center in a very upscale community.  The layout is a series of fairly short row bordered by a long row connecting the short ones – think shopping center parking lot and you’ll get it.  The aisles are very wide and the spaces are 18 giant feet deep – think parking space.  If you had enough panels, you could display art the entire depth of your space or you could store everything you own behind the tent.

The weather was perfect all weekend – mostly sunny, not too warm and gentle breezes.  On Saturday the crowd was steady but not the throng we had expected.  Contributing factors may have been the torrential rains that had flooded the streets of many Boca neighborhoods in the few days before the show.  Also, it was the Jewish Shabbat combined with the Ariel Sharon funeral. 

In any event, Saturday was slow for us and for a number of the other artists we spoke to.  Of course, some were vey happy.  Just like every other show.

Sunday was very crowded  - HAE gets them out with lots of promotion/ads.  Unfortunately it was just as slow for us as Saturday.

Sales were very disappointing especially after coming off a very good weekend at Las Olas. Last year we did the Hot Works Boca show (Patty Narozny) and had light sales as well.  Combined with this year’s result – Boca you’re dead to us!

A painter across from us practically sold out and we did see lots of bags being carried – though many were small.  The quality of the art was very, very high and there were buyers – just not for our fabric art.


We had a buyer on Saturday who was waffling about taking a piece because the colors might not match.  We did the old pay for it now, take it home, if it doesn’t work, bring it back routine.  On Sunday morning, she walks into the booth carrying the piece.  We immediately assumed that our slow sales were to get even slower.  Instead, she said the piece worked so well she wanted another one just like it.  Yay!

Also, we had enough Marriott points that we got a “free” weekend in the onsite hotel.  (Of course it’s only free because we have paid for so many other nights.)  It was great to have a two-minute walk to the room for air-conditioning/bathroom breaks.  It also ensured that we could be in the hotel bar for happy hour within seconds of getting the tent zipped up.

We saw and talked to many artists who were also at Las Olas. This week we were next to AFIers Gary and Maureen Shull and right behind Melanie Rolfes-Leonard.  We enjoyed meeting them in person and comparing notes with them on past/upcoming shows.

Teardown was as easy as it gets.  With an 18’ deep spot, stacking everything behind the tent and then getting the tent down meant that the already wide aisles became even wider.  There was plenty of room to drive right to your spot and load the van.  HAE staff tightly controlled entry to the venue.  We were on our way in no time.


It really came down to sales.  We covered the booth and a few meals but that was about it.  If we didn’t have the free room it would have been a loser.  Boca Raton is clearly not our market.  There were plenty of artists who did well here; there were also a number who weren’t happy. 

Bottom line:

Great venue, big crowds (mainly on Sunday), professional promoters, poor sales.



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This was a first-time show for us at one of the nicest venues we’ve ever visited.  Annmarie is a 30 acre public park that includes the first class sculpture garden and classes and workshops for adults and kids in ceramics, fiber, painting, drawing, and jewelry, among other media.

The park is surrounded by tall, mature pine trees and has winding paths through the woods and open spaces in the center.

The show is set up in three basic locations:  inside the arts center, in the “tent circle” around the open space, and in the wooded paths.  The artist specifies on the application his/her preference and it seems like most first choices were honored. 

Space fees vary by location.  Inside is $150 (including electric), the tent circle is $50 and the wooded path is $25.  All artists also owe 14% of gross sales with a minimum of $100.  I wish more shows were like this – a reasonable basic fee plus a reasonable commission.

We chose the tent circle as it seemed “central” and everyone would have to pass by.

Setup was easy on Friday.  We got there early enough to park next to our space and unload and setup.  With few “neighbors” there, we didn’t need to move the van at all.

Spaces in the tent circle were 10x10 with plenty of storage behind. The wooded path spots were open on all four sides with lots of space in between.

Artist parking is at the very farthest point in the large open field that was also the patron lot.  When we arrived early Saturday, there were about 100 high school ROTC kids forming a lined corridor to wave us to our parking spot. 

It was really comical. It would only take about 4-5 people to accomplish the same thing but it cracked us up.  The kids had a blast too.  Nice way to involve the community in the show. The same thing happened on Sunday but with a different group.

A local Boy Scout troop camped in the park overnight and provided security.  (The grounds were also gated closed overnight)

The show has a $6 gate fee and a “no pet” policy.  At 10AM on Saturday, the gates opened and people came streaming in.  The weather was perfect all weekend and the traffic was steady all weekend – even with the Ravens and Redskins both having 1:00 games on Sunday.

Artist amenities were pretty basic – a free cup of coffee each morning, booth sitters, load-in/set-up assistance if desired and postcards.  There was also very heavy advertising including large signs all over the neighboring counties.

The show has been going on for 20 years and the locals love it as do the Washington, DC crowd (about an hour away).

Sales for us were pretty slow on Saturday but did pick up on Sunday.  Because our out-of-pocket for this one was trivial, we couldn’t help but make some money. 

What was selling?  It seemed like the fine crafts did better than the fine art.  Most of the 2D we saw going out was matted prints or smaller framed pieces.  I only saw a few very large paintings walking out.  Some jewelers did great; the one next to us had a very slow show.  I didn’t see any buy/sell.  At the same time, I saw painted toilet seats!

During the show, artists had the opportunity to do demonstrations (and could compete for a $500 “best demonstration” award.)  The winner was a raku artist.  It was another great way to involve the patrons in the show.

There was a big downside to the raku demo though.  It was very breezy on Saturday and the smoke from burning newspaper or whatever was on fire in the trashcan was blowing all over the place.  We were about 10 booths away and the acrid smoke was a problem for the patrons in the area but also for the artists whose work could be affected (like fiber!) 

Fortunately the breeze was mostly blowing away from the tents but it was pretty bad judgment, in my opinion, to set up this demo so close to the other tents.

There were other cash awards that included – longest participating artist, People’s Choice, and best new artist.

Food options were plentiful but the size of the crowd meant long lines.  There were “real” bathrooms” (also long lines) but portapotties (without lines) for the braver souls.

There was music on stages that were remote from most of the booths and the performances were almost inaudible from where we were.  Stilt-walkers were there but didn’t do much other than walk around in costumes.  They were “dignified” (if that’s possible) and reminded me of the masked extravaganzas in plazas of Venice.

Tear-down was super easy.  Because we were local for this one, we waited until Monday morning.  All but 3-4 tents were long gone. We parked the van right in front of the tent and were done in an hour.  There was a plan in place for Sunday tear down but we were in a bar while all that was going on so I can't comment.

Overall, it was a pleasure doing this show.  Our sales were not as high as we’d hoped but were still good enough that we would do the show again if it was local for us. 

The local hotels had special artist rates but I would not recommend trying the show unless you had other shows in the area to piggy-back on.  Some did very well here, some did okay, and some not so well.  (Sounds like every other show, right)

There were at least 2 other AFIers at the show and I love for them to chime in with a report on their experiences.

Here is the layout (we were in tent circle spot #20):

8869121291?profile=originalVenue is behind the tree line...

8869121690?profile=originalNear the food...


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Second art fair review, here we go...

This was my second juried art fair.  Two years ago, when I was in the beginning phases of learning everything I could from the Art Fair Insiders forums, my family & I were in Flagstaff and checked out the Flagstaff Art in the Park 4th of July event.  At the time, I was taking lots of mental notes and thought to myself, maybe next year?  Maybe by then I'll have a display put together and enough art and get into this art fair.

So, two years and a couple of months later, it was pretty cool to be juried into their Labor Day event.  


I'm still new at the art fair review thing, so I'll try to do my best here. 

Application process: they are not on Zapp, so you mail in your application along with three photos of individual art pieces and a photo of your booth.  Two checks go with the application, one for the jury fee and one for the booth fee, which is cashed when you are juried in or returned if you are not.

Communication: the organizer, Stu, returned emails quickly and was good to deal with.  At the art fair, I saw him pretty often, although I actually wasn't introduced to him... I just knew who he was from having seen the Facebook page.  He was personable and easy to talk to.

Location: the art fair is in Wheeler Park, a block off Route 66 and visible from it.  The park is right on the road heading up to the ski hill, which is a well-used thoroughfare, so the location is highly visible.  Pretty hard to miss if you're doing more than just driving by on the freeway.  Flagstaff is a very popular location for people to escape the heat of the Phoenix area, being only about 2 1/2 hours away.  All weekend, it was fun to ask people where they were from.  Quite a variety of answers.

Load in: it was busy, but I guess that's pretty expected when everybody is trying to set up all at the same time.  We arrived about an hour and a half after the time when you could start setting up, so things were well under way when we got there.  They allow you to park in the parking lot by the park during load in, and lots of people had their vehicles on the side road by the park.  We were even double-parked on that side road for a time, but it was pretty quick and nobody seemed to mind while the set up was going on.

Parking: it's about a block away at the Catholic school, although I actually never saw it, because my husband dropped me off at the curb by my booth each day and went to park the van.

The fair itself: the art fair is advertised as a fine arts & crafts fair, which is what it is.  I wasn't sure going in how I'd do, being more on the "fine art" end of things.  It seemed that the lower-priced items were more popular with the patrons of this event.  We had a major downpour on Saturday, which definitely hampered things.  It was amazing to see how many people came out after the heaviest rains were over, carrying umbrellas and wearing raincoats.  These people didn't seem fazed by rain.

On Sunday & Monday, we had beautiful weather and lots of crowds.  On Sunday, there was a farmers market nearby, so a lot of the folks going there came through the art fair on their way to and from the farmers market. 

As for how I did?  Well... I sold some smaller prints but didn't come anywhere near to making my booth fee, let alone meeting my total expenses.  But it was still a lovely weekend, fun to visit with the other artists and talk with a lot of really interesting people who came by, a nice getaway for my family from the heat.  And, it was pretty cool being a part of the event that I had hoped to get into, back at the beginning before I had a display or even enough paintings to really contemplate getting into a juried event.

I'm still trying to find my niche for my art, whether the art fair market is even the right place to try to sell my work.  So, if I were another artist, I wouldn't necessarily decide whether or not to try this event based on my results.  But my gut feeling is that if you are more on the "fine art" side of things, it might not be the best venue.  It seemed that most of what was being bought were the smaller, less pricey items.

I'm not giving up on this art fair thing yet.  I've got a juried art festival coming up in a couple of months, and we'll see how I do there.  I just have to pace myself on applying for more art fairs, because paying booth fees without selling enough to cover the fees adds up pretty quickly. 

I have learned pretty much everything I know about art fairs from AFI, and I have to say it really helped a lot at my first out-of-town, first major downpour, art fair.  Thanks, Art Fair Insiders! :)


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I am unpacked from the 50th Annual Havre de Grace Art Show - which is put on by the local Soroptimist group (Women's Service Group). At one point in time, this juried event was very large with upwards of 300 vendors. These days, it is about half that number of exhibitors, with more craft than art. The show has shrunk over time as the volunteer staff has greyed and fine art draw has decreased.

The booth fee for the event is very reasonable (under $200) and the venue is a mostly level and somewhat shaded Tydings Park in Havre de Grace, overlooking a marina populated with large powerboats, and small yachts (which might seem a good demographic). The whole venue overlooks the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay, just south of where the Susquehanna River flows into the bay... There are plenty of eagles, osprey, heron, egrets and other cool birds to see... It is usually a two day event, with a relaxed set-up on Friday. There is food, music and kid activities. The event is held close to Aberdeen Proving Grounds (military base), which hosts a huge number of military personnel and contractors. Many of these folks were unaffected by the 'sequester', but you couldn't prove it by my art sales this year...

My wife and I did a booth apiece - side by side. She staffed the River Road Candleworks booth and I the Art of Mark V. Turner booth. This year being the 50th Annual, the management added a 4 sales hour stint on Friday night (normally just a set-up day) from 5 PM - 9 PM. There was a good latin jazz band and a very small fenced (as reqd by Md law) area which dispensed adult beverages.

Small Problem: It gets dark around 8PM.... Most vendors didn't have lighting. So most closed up as darkness fell. My wife and I used my LED lighting system off the deep-cycle batteries and were able to stay open until closing time. The soy candle booth did over 100$ that evening and I sold one $50 original acrylic painting. 

Saturday dawned to good weather and we arrived and set up uneventfully. The weather was good all day and the event was well-attended by the public. My wife did well selling our ~$6.00 scented, dye-free, hand-poured, all soy jar candles. We had lots of repeat business and referral customers. Meanwhile, I was only selling two additional small originals. However, I was awarded the blue ribbon for painting! This came with a check that was equivalent to selling two additional small original paintings.


(Photo by Leo Heppner, Heppner Imaging, Copyright 2013 - Used by Permission)



The show director also picked out a small painting for her grandson (no, she wasn't one of the judges). In fact, I didn't actually recognize any judges as such during the event... This is not the first blue ribbon I have collected at this event for painting. However, I am honored by the judge's decisions as there was good competition in the fine arts category this year. The show closed up on Saturday with the threat of rain overnight and into the AM on Sunday.  We buttoned up the booths and went home (Nice to do a show where one can go home and sleep in one's own bed).

Sunday dawned grey and overcast. It rained overnight a bit and also briefly on the way down I-95 to Havre de Grace. We left a bit late and were not quite set-up as the crowds came on. For some odd reason, this event seems to have a rain event in the overnight Saturday to Sunday time slot each year. However, this year it didn't come down in buckets like it usually does... Last year saw several tents wiped out from water weight, but none were noted this year.

Sales over at the candle booth were steady, while I racked up next to nothing for my part. However, I did get to flaunt my blue ribbon in my tent during the day and many folks stopped by to admire the work....just didn't buy....

In the end, our craft division sales were same as last year. However, my art sales were approximately 1/4 of what they were last year. But as so many know, fine art painting sales at any given event are a total crapshoot if you do not produce and sell prints...and I don't/won't...

There was some buy sell at the event - notably a male vendor with Virginia plates, who was selling colorful Ghanaian style woven baskets at high prices. He has won ribbons in times past for his merchandise (note I didn't say 'his work'). Many vendors have seen him before and knew him for buy/sell, but show management didn't seem to know and he got in again... I sent show management links to web pages where you can buy the merchandise he sells....

Overall, this event was good for my two businesses - the craft business b/c we made money and the art business because I was again honored for my creative abilities - even though my inventory didn't shrink much.


Here comes the Opinion RANT.... All jewelers and wearable vendors without thick skins need to go do something else now and not continue to read. While I admire most wearable vendors abilities to generate considerable revenue for themselves, they are like too many ants at a picnic. Show directors, I propose a way to weed out some of the plethora of wearables with an honest criterion for decision making




All the jewelers I spoke to did well in their sales, with almost all who would say, reporting thousand to multi-thousand dollars in sales. And as usual, there were a lot of jewelers, but most whined about the overall number of jewelers and all the other artists who had a 'jewelry' component as part of their merchandise glass and ceramic artists with pendants. I have very little sympathy for them seeing as their booths probably took in 30-50% of the gross sales overall - while despite being best painter in show, I did less than $500.00 in sales...

I am looking for non-jewelry fine art events. Jewelers and wearables need their own events in order to understand what fine artists endure season after season. Fine artists take a beating at most events because of the number of jewelers and wearable vendors... If you look at the demographics, the majority of attendees at these events are women (most with non-buying or non-buying decision-making male companions). These customers will almost always buy something to wear in preference to or before buying something to put on the walls or on an end-table.... Wearables suck the revenue out of too many events - leaving very little for fine artists. The number of 'jewelers' at events is confirmation that artisans know where the money is to be made and many have chosen to go the wearable route b/c of the guaranteed sales factor - to the point of 'wearable; saturation at many events. Many events are at 40% or more of vendors having 'wearable' merchandise

Very few 'jewelers' make their own findings, settings, chains, pull their own wire or half-round ring shank stock, cut cabochons, cut stones or create other components for their products. It is the extremely rare and talented Jeweler with a capital J who does all of the preceding... Those rare birds are not part of this discussion....  The same goes for many wearable vendors. I do not include those who do their own weaving, spinning and dye-ing as part of their process as being part of the problem I am seeing - which keeps most fine fiber artists out of the discussion.  I also do not consider quilters to be part of the issue b/c they make their component forms out of what used to be scrap...

As a fine art painter, I use paint, hardboard and frame components. However, the only obvious store-bought item visible to the customer in un-altered form is the frame which I assemble myself and I minimize this aspect of my product. If a jeweler was only allowed to sell products which they made completely from feed-stock materials rather than incorporating out of the box ready-made components, there would be only a few who could compete at each event - rather than the over-supply of wearables at every event I attend as either an exhibitor or attendee..... Show directors if you are still reading, this aspect of outdoor shows has to change....

Plenty of jewelers and wearable vendors will tell you that there are too many of their discipline in any given exhibit or festival. Yet, none will suggest a method by which to reduce those numbers. This is one way to up the quality ante and increase the originality and hand-production aspects of the exhibitor. It would also reduce buy/sell wearables at all events... It would eliminate the store-bought "bead-ers", store-bought component assembler jewelers and most of the ateliers mass-producing jewelry in general...


I am quite ready for the flames - just look at the number of wearable artists on this board. So if you have a blowtorch out and at the ready because you buy most of your stuff ready made and only do 'creative assembly', I encourage you to make the most of your opportunity to cook me in the shell so to speak...

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This was my first time doing this Art Festival. From the start with detailed advance information and active advertising I felt that it would be a terrifically well-organized event. My initial reaction proved to be true.

The event is held in downtown Salt Lake City on the narrow one-way streets within an outdoor, high-end mall (The Gateway). Each artist was assigned a load-in time, given 15 minutes to off-load their booth materials and artwork. A booth-sitter showed up at about the 10-minute point and watched everything while the artist parked his/her car. For those of us with cars, parking was less than 2 blocks away in an attended lot for which we were provided an all-day pass. For artists with trailers, parking was in a large dirt lot about 3-4 blocks away.

The festival day dawned in the 80s and rapidly shot up to over 100. There were a reasonable number of pedestrians who showed interest in the art between the 10 am start and 6 pm; however the heat tended to encourage them to move to indoor film festival and other cooler venues (outdoor stage near misting fountain). So, sales didn't pick-up until the sun was low in the sky and everyone felt cooler. Even in the heat of the day, when no one felt like trying on my jewelry or my neighbor's fiber art, I had great interest in picking up my printed schedule for identifying future "cooler" days--a number of those folks showed up a week later at another Sat. venue and bought items.

During this HOT day, volunteers strolled the venue with cold water for the artists. As soon as I hung my (provided) "Booth-sitter Needed" sign, a volunteer would materialize so I could take a break in the air-conditioned VIP (artists and volunteers) room. Water and snacks were provided there as well as a convenient restroom.

At the end of the festival (8 pm), an orderly "evacuation" plan was staged. We were only allowed to bring our car in to load up as the artist a specific number of booths "upstream" (relative to one-way direction) left.

Thoughtful anticipation of artists' needs showed from start to finish in this festival.

BTW, I 'm a jewelry artist, designing with natural materials--wire-wrapped pendants, gemstones, pearls, and wood used in necklaces and bracelets. I make unique designs--lots of time spent selecting materials and ordering beads to make the piece. Some of you would call me a "stringer" but I consider that a term for those crafters who buy beads and string them as is. I am an artist--but that's for another discussion, not this review.

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Blowing Rock Review

This show is not for sissies.  It is a one day show held once a month from May – October.  I did July.  It was good for me.  The people were great.  They didn’t say “I’ll be back.”  They bought on the spot.  They didn’t glance around the booth, grab a card, and say “beautiful work” while exiting the booth.  They had insightful comments.  It was an incredibly enjoyable show to do.  The people putting on the show are kind and helpful and very organized.  The logistics are another story.


To begin with, at least from where I am, you can’t get there from here.  There was some nice highway driving and then 70 miles of up and down, curvy roads.  Vanny is not the most maneuverable vehicle and weighted down, not the most powerful either.  To make matters worse I kept losing GPS signal leaving me in the middle of nowhere, with nowhere to pull over, at least three cars behind me probably cursing me, and no idea where I was.  And of course, it was raining.  Lesson learned – become familiar with my route and the area through google maps before I leave home.


If you want a hotel close to the show I would still recommend Alpen Acres.  However it is very expensive for what you get – basically a 1 star hotel with difficult parking for a van.  And people do start coming to the show well before the 10AM opening time so a trip back to the hotel for a shower after setup is a bad idea anyway.  Lesson learned – stay in Boone.  It is not that far away and there are hotels with actual flat parking lots.


The show is held in the top level of a parking garage and the access roads leading to it.  Setup is tight, extremely tight.  A call to the show beforehand informed me that while you cannot set up on Friday, anytime after midnight is fair game.  If you have anything other than an EZ-up plan on arriving before the official 6AM setup time.  I arrived at 4AM hoping to get the tent and walls up and the work inside the tent before the masses came at 6AM and I had to move the van.  Of course it was threatening rain.  I failed by half an hour.  Lesson learned – arrive at 3:30AM.  Also you can park on the street outside the show but it is a hard dolly up and down hill.


Artist parking is far away and fills up quickly.  I arrived at artist parking at about 7AM.  I got the last space.  Also there is a driving route to the parking lot and a walking route.  I got a little bit lost trying to get back to my van at the end of the day.  Lesson learned – don’t just follow people back to the show in the morning, pay attention.  Also figure out a way to keep additional stock in your booth because going to the van and back will take a good half-hour.


Breakdown is very well organized but just as tight.  You are supposed to break down completely, get your sticker, and then you can bring your vehicle in.  However if you wait until a lot of the people clear out you will be allowed to come in without breaking down completely.


This area is telecommunications challenged.  GPS is intermittent and gives out at the most inopportune times.  Don’t believe the radar.  It looked exactly the same on Saturday, a little drizzle here and there, as Sunday, pouring.  I did two deliveries on Sunday.  I have three navigation systems on my phone.  It required all three to get to the first one.  The second one was to a woman who could not make phone calls due to no cell phone signal but could text.  So I followed directions by text.  In the pouring rain, on the lovely curvy roads it was just a little stressful.  Lesson learned – set up a meeting place for deliveries that you know how to get to.


After all that – will I go back?  Absolutely.  It was a profitable show for me.  I had some factors in my favor.  The percentage of photographers and 2D artists in general was lower than most shows probably due to the difficult setup and breakdown all in one day.  I only plan on doing this show once a year.  A lot of people asked me when I would be back.  When I answered “next year” instead of August, September, or October, they bought.   I also have a lot of images from the area or look like they could be.  So YMMV but I will go back.

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What a disappointment!  I had read the reviews of this show on AFI and while it sounded like there was a lot of B/S, there was still a chance to make some good bucks.

This is a Chamber of Commerce show (50th anniversary) and they get a good crowd but it’s the wrong crowd for us. 

Staci’s work is all about color and most of the fine art that we saw going out here was traditional New England style seascapes.   It was the only show we’ve ever done where people came into the booth, tilted their heads and got a “what’s this bright stuff” look on their faces.  Only a few smiling “I love your colors” compared to what we normally see.

So we misjudged the opportunity here – bad on us.

Show specifics:  It’s an easy load-in/out with a fairly short dolly across the town green to almost any booth spot.  The volunteers were great and the Chamber put on a Friday night BBQ  (we didn’t attend because we have family in the area and were visiting with them.  The reports we heard were that the food was great.)

The show layout was confusing.   All spots were 15Wx10D so there was tons of room to set up almost any way you wanted.  The rows didn’t seem particularly straight though.

The aisles were very narrow and when coupled with the usual jerks who set up their director chairs and huge beach umbrellas in the middle of the aisle, traffic became congested and booth visibility impaired.  Come on guys – stay in your tents!

Exhibitors were all over the lot.  There was fine art but there was also buy/sell and several show veterans complained that it’s getting worse each year.  Also, I have never seen so much sea glass!  There were three sea glass booths within a four tent radius!

We did end up selling 4 nice canvas mounted pieces, a small framed piece, and a few reproductions so it wasn’t a disaster but it sure wasn’t what we were hoping for.

One highlight – I got to meet/talk to AFIer Carrie Jacobson.  Her contemporary landscapes are stunning.  If we didn’t live on a boat, I’d want one hanging on our walls.  I’ll let her chime in but I think she would agree that the body of work to be successful here needs to be quite different that what we both were exhibiting.

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I hate that my the first review I do for the Art Fair Insiders is a poor one, but I need to get the word out about this stinker of a show!

I spent the weekend at the Lincoln Park Art and Music Festival, in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Chicago. As a first timer to this show, I didn't know what to expect, but I was excited about this one. I usually do well in urban areas. 

The second we checked in for set-up, I knew we were in for trouble. We were handed name badges and a booth number, nothing more. No info about booth sitters, sales tax, restrooms, parking, or where to grab lunch. Nothing. Bad sign #1. And when I tried to find someone to inquire about these things, there was not a member of the fair staff to be found. 

Set up was fairly easy and convenient. There was space right on the street to park and unload and the weather was cool and comfortable. The fair grounds were right on a street on the lovely DePaul campus, so the surroundings were nice. Unfortunately, this is where the the nice and good about this event ended.

The show opened on a perfectly lovely Chicago afternoon to a trickle of patrons. From experience, I that the first hour or so of any show can sometimes be slow, so I patiently waited for the buyers to emerge. I passed the time talking to my fellow artists and soon realized that this was the first time that any of my booth neighbors had done this show. Bad sign #2. If this was a good show, you'd expect to meet some returning artists, right?

An hour passed, then another, and then another, still just a trickle of people walked past my booth. After 6 hours, I sold just one $20 print and one $18 set of cards, so we decided to pack up early for the night. (The fair hours were 12 noon - 10, but artists were allowed to close at "dusk".) The non-existent event staff didn't seem to care that we closed up 2 hours early. Bad sign #3.

We came back Sunday, trying to be optimistic. Again, the weather was perfect...Buyers should be piling in, right? Not so much. By 5:30 pm on the second day, I was nowhere close to making enough to cover my booth fees, so we decided to pack it in. Most of the other vendors were doing the same. We weren't allowed to bring our cars onto the street, but luckily we scored a parking space right around the corner. As we walked past the entry gate with our things, the event staff just looked at us and continued to charge their admission fees even though most of the vendors were dismantling. They even joked that they were tired of seeing walk past. Ha.

In summation, the Lincoln Park Art and Music festival was a complete waste of time. There was obviously no promotion. (An event in this neighborhood on a beautiful summer weekend should be teeming with buyers!) The art fair website was a joke....Just listed event times and the bands playing. The event staff provided absolutely no amenities or support for the artists. They just saw us as a paycheck and didn't care if the artists were happy or not. Out of the 55 artists there were just a handful of good quality vendors and quite a few buy and sell booths. Boo! Artists beware! Avoid the Lincoln Park Art and Music Festival at all costs! 

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This past weekend we participated in the Frederick Festival of Arts in Frederick, MD.  We did the show last year and had a terrific weekend – perfect weather, big crowds, great amenities and excellent sales.

This year was a mixed bag.  The Frederick Arts Council has undergone some changes in leadership.  Last year’s show director is gone and her spot was filled by an acting director.  The acting director and her staff worked tirelessly to put on a great event but there were some noticeable differences, particularly in artist amenities.

Last year:  Welcome reception with free drinks and a big spread of snacks/hors d’oeuvres.  Free lunches provided by local restaurants that offered a wide variety of sandwiches, wraps, fruit, etc. that were served in an artist VIP area.  Water wagons made regular visits to the booths to offer free cold bottled H2O.  Sunday breakfast with lots of options including a waffle station (I think this is right – might have been eggs.)

This year: Welcome reception where artists paid for drinks and the snacks were very limited (salsa/chips, strawberries, mini brownies).  Free box lunch – turkey, ham or veggie sandwich, apple, chips delivered to the booth on Saturday.  Health department said “No” to that on Sunday. The same box lunch was offered in the VIP area on Sunday.  No water wagon. Limited breakfast on Sunday  (full disclosure – we did not attend but heard it was just muffins/bagels.)

Bottom line, we think budget issues made for a real dollar crunch.  The booths were not cheap ($400 and $475 - corner) so I’m not sure where the shortfall came from but this year was not the same delightful artist experience we had last year.  A letter in the welcome pack that explained the situations/changes would have surely gone a long way to mitigate some of the disappointment. 

Don’t get me wrong – we’re not looking to get pampered but when you have expectations based on an experience from the prior year, the changes we saw were glaring.  Also, I must reiterate that everyone who worked on the show, both staff and volunteers, was terrific.  The new, permanent director stopped by our booth and we had a good discussion about the show.

Show specifics:  The load-in here can be a challenge depending on your assignment.  You will be dollying for sure as the venue is along a pedestrian-only area that lines both sides of a very pretty canal in the heart of downtown Frederick.

We arrived around noon on Friday, had lunch and then parked the van in one of several “artist only” reserved spots that was very close to our spot.  After getting the first load to our spot, I went back to the van to discover a $50 parking ticket.  Yikes! 

It seems there was supposed to be an “unloading” pass in the Welcome packet to be displayed on the dash.  Our packet didn’t have one.  A quick visit to the parking “court”/ticket-stand about 100 yards away produced no joy.  We explained the situation to the show staff and they took the ticket and said they would see what they could do.  Welcome to Frederick!

We got set up in pretty short order but with frequent breaks for water – it was very hot.

Saturday dawned clear and pleasant.  The show opened at 10AM and by 11:30 we were up about $800.  This was going to be great!  Sadly, at about 11:35 the temperature had hit about 90 and the buying energy disappeared.  The crowd that had been smiling, enthusiastic and eager to shop had become lethargic and almost zombie-like as they moved down the aisles.  Sales did pick up again around 4PM but what had started out so promising ended up being pretty mediocre.

Sunday was cooler but off and on light rain and the threat of thunderstorms kept the crowd down somewhat.  We had a good day and salvaged the weekend but we ended up doing about 65% of where we were last year.

I know there were some other AFI folks at the show and would love to hear how the weekend ended up for them.

Load-out was an easy dolly as we had arrived at the venue at 6:30AM to secure the best parking spot for our location.  (The Loading pass was cemented firmly in place).  The show ended at 5PM and we were on our way by 6:30.

We will definitely apply again next year.  For the most part, the quality of the art here is very high.  I didn’t get to see every booth but I saw no signs of buy/sell

We love the venue, our sales have been good here in the past and suffered this year, I believe, only because of the heat on Saturday.  We will lower our expectations for amenities and maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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ArtBirmingham, the perennial favorite once known as the Birmingham Fine Art Festival, returned to Shain Park in downtown Birmingham, Michigan for the second season since the park was redone in 2011. The show is run by The Guild, by artists, for artists, and generally they did a fine job. Put on in conjunction with the Birmingham/Bloomfield Art Center, this show attracts well-heeled buyers from Birmingham, West Bloomfield and the surrounding communities.

Setup on Friday afternoon and evening is well-orchestrated and orderly. The folks in the middle of the park and near the bandshell get to come in first and then the folks on the surrounding streets. The layout is open, and somewhat spread out, so it's pretty easy to drive to your space (if you're on the street), or dolly if you're in the park.

Saturday morning was chilly, as predicted, and cloudy. It got up to about 58 degrees or so, and people did come out. Last year's show was moved to the weekend of Memorial Day, and attendance suffered as a result. This year, the show got moved back to Mother's Day weekend, largely due to the efforts of Annie VanGelderen, President of the BBAC, and Max Clayton, Director of the Guild. And the turnout seemed to reinforce that good decision.

I saw quite a few packages walking by, and a couple larger 2-D pieces wrapped in black plastic. But it was a tad cold, colder than normal for spring in Michigan. Frankly, I was surprised to see as many people as there were on Saturday. I sold a few pieces, one to a previous collector, and had some good conversations with others, considering a purchase. Others I talked to didn't do as well.

Sunday was a different story. With temps predicted to rise only to the mid-forties, and 50 being a far-off dream, Mother's Day turned up a much sparser crowd. The sun was out in the morning, and made brief appearances all afternoon. But overnight the wind had picked up, and took out at least four booths that I counted. One glass artist near the fountain had left work on shelves overnight, and much of it bit the dust during the evening hours. Another clay artist lost a shelf full of work with a loud crash heard round the world. Several artists packed up and left early, expecting the worst, or having tents unable to withstand the predicted 40mph wind gusts. And it was cold. Did I say it was cold? At opening, it was around 40 degrees. Brr, chilly.

By noon, there were people walking the streets. Many of them walked quickly, only stopping at the booths they wanted to see. A $20 bill blew down the street, and I trapped it under my foot. (If you lost a twenty, contact me off-line with the serial number, and I will return it to you). Sales for me were pretty slim. Had lots of browsers, but it was too damn cold to do much but shiver. Then it started to sleet. Nice round white pellets of graupel. We took down some of the art in the front of the booth, as it was getting peppered by the wind and the sleet. The snow stopped quickly, though, and the sun came out again. A few more people trickled in, but generally nobody bought in our neck of the woods. My booth was on Martin Street, at the corner of Bates, near a new four-story condo, and got the full effect of those forty mile an hour wind blasts. It was a struggle keeping the tent on the ground, even with 75 pound weights on each corner. The wind was blowing straight into the tent. We left the back door open to vent the pressure, and that helped some. It was a bit like sailing a 40 yacht on Lake St. Clair in a gale. We kept trimming the sails, and turning the boat, to keep from capsizing. The sun went away, and it sleeted again, briefly. We did the shiver dance. A few patrons blew by the booth. As the afternoon wore on, we wished for an end to the deep-freeze. At three o'clock Max Clayton came by, and said, "Only two more hours!" Thanks, Max!

Saw a few friends. Barry Bernstein dropped by. His new work is captivating. He said he tried Nels' trick of running out into the street, and holding patrons hostage till they produced a platinum Amex card, but that didn't seem to work. Doug Remien was there, with his beautiful nature landscapes. Bruce Reinfeld, another photographer, was kitty corner from me, and didn't seem to have the trouble with the wind. Stephen Huyser-Honig was down the street with another double, showing photographs of Michigan in the lee of the condo, and didn't have the wind issues either. My advice? Stay away from booth 030 if you are accepted into the show! Elissa Brown stopped by and introduced herself. She had on the most marvelous blue hat. Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to see her mixed-media work. Next time, perhaps. The inspiration for the headline came from Elissa's blog, though.

All in all, the show was a success for many. The weather definitely played a role, but I heard from several artists that they had good sales. Our sales were up from last year. Others did not fare as well. It did seem to prove the point that bad weather won't keep the serious buyers away, but it did keep the traffic down. The dog walkers were definitely there though. Lots of dogs. And a few strollers. Would I go back? Yes. It's local for me, and traditionally the start of the Michigan show season. There are buyers to be found, and the buy/sell seems to have been eliminated from years past. It's a nice venue, parking is within a couple of blocks, and there are many fine restaurants in the area. With the support of the artist community, this show could once again become the jewel that it was years ago. Certainly the venue is lovely, and the move back to Mother's Day marks the start of spring and the show season in Michigan.

After pack-up, we celebrated the warmth with painter Diane Sicheneder and her husband Gary with tremendous margaritas and mole enchiladas at Miguels in Rochester. Two pitchers of margaritas later, we rolled home and into our warm beds.

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(Originally posted in February but it accidentally deleted by me.  Re-posted to archive the review)

This weekend was the Locals Art Show in Marathon.  It is affectionately referred to as Pigeon Poop.  For the last nine years it has been the same weekend as the venerable Pigeon Key Art Festival.

Pigeon Key was established as a fundraiser show to help support the preservation and promotion of the historical site on Pigeon Key and to promote the cultural history of the Florida Keys.  It is very competitive with about 70 well-recognized national artists juried in each year out of nearly 400 applications.

The local artists in the Keys said “what about us?” and decided to start a “Locals Art Show” that, in the words of the organizers would “share rather than compete for customers with the Pigeon Key Show”.  Pigeon Poop was born. 

About 60 artists/crafters are “invited” to participate and the jury process is not particularly formal.  Most of the artists are, indeed, local to the Keys and southern Florida.  An effort is made to get good balance across media.

Staci has done this show for the last four years.  It couldn’t be easier.  Our boat is docked less than a mile from the venue (the parking lot at the Winn Dixie Shopping Center in Marathon) so this really is a local show for us.

Set-up starts Friday around 2PM.  You back the van up to your spot and can set up out of the van rather than having to unload and park.

Heavy tent weights are always necessary in the Keys because it almost always howls in February.  Over the past few years, we’ve seen more than one E-Z UP take to the skies.

While the show doesn’t officially start until 10AM Saturday, most booths are open by 9AM.  The location is right on US 1 and has great visibility.  Tourists on the way to Key West see the tents and slam on the brakes and take a look before heading west.

The quality is, for the most part pretty decent.  Carroll Swayze’s unbelievably beautiful paintings and etchings were on display.  So too, were stunning acrylics by Terry Peddle Corcoran out of Little Torch Key.  There was also hand painted silk scarves and beautiful jewelry (but not too many jewelers), and, of course, some fine fiber art and décor courtesy of Staci.

This is not to suggest there weren’t clunkers – a vender of aprons with tacky even-for the-Keys “slogans”, among a few others. But hey, this wouldn’t be the Keys without them.

This show is more about the ragtag Keys artist (and I’m mean absolutely nothing negative by this) than it is the refined Beaux Arts' crowd (and I’m mean absolutely nothing negative by this).   This is the kind of show that would attract a guy like Serge Storms (look him up) but Geri Wegner might also find a thing or two that captures her eye.

It’s about balance and understanding the strange world that is the Florida Keys.  Lois Songer gets it with her wonderful Key West shows.  There are serious buyers/collectors but there are also Cruise Ship visitors.  Pigeon Poop gets it too.

There are some things to dislike – the seemingly larger number of artists who smoke at this show than others we do and who think it’s okay to stand right behind the booth and puff away.  The dirt and the dust that swirl through the air in those howling winds makes for a lot of dusting.

But really, what’s not to like about a show that closes at 5PM and where you can be on the back deck of your boat at 5:15 watching the sunset with a glass of delicious white burgundy while eating some Dion’s fried chicken that you picked up from the Citgo gas station on the way home.  (You really need to try this chicken to know what I’m talking about.)

Success here, for us, is anything over $1000.  Two years ago we did almost $1,500.  This show only makes sense if you are, indeed, local or if you capture that lightening-in-the-bottle patron who can make a whole weekend with one large canvas purchase.  Don’t come here if you need to make $4-5,000 to make it worth the trip.  I think you’ll be disappointed.

This year, the Pigeon pooped on us.  We finished the weekend at about $510.  Our neighbors complained as well.  Everyone we spoke to said that they were down about 50% from previous years.  What went wrong?

The evidence here is anecdotal and I’d love for a Pigeon Key artist to chime in to provide that perspective. 

As I said at the outset, the Pigeon Poop show has always been the same weekend as Pigeon Key. Pigeon Key is a destination show that draws patrons from the upper Keys and Miami and beyond and from Key West.  The quality is uniformly high and attracts the serious buyer.

In talking to customers we always found that the Pigeon Key patrons had the attitude that if they were in Marathon for one show (that costs $8 to get into) why not also go to the one just down the road that is free?  Lots of these folks told us they liked the variety at Pigeon Poop better as well.  Some complained about too many jewelers at Pigeon Key.

So, not only were we selling to the locals and the drive-by tourist, we were selling to the Pigeon Key crowd.

For nine years, all was well.  This year, Pigeon Key pulled a last-minute date change.  (So last minute that we heard of one artist who had no idea the dates had changed.)  They moved the show to the weekend of the February 23-24 (the same dates as Lois’s Old Island Days in Key West).

Was the old switcheroo designed to prevent the patrons from siphoning off to Poop?  That’s the prevailing theory among the Poop artists. 

The destination patrons were not in town this weekend.  It was the locals and the tourists only and sales suffered.

Some will say this is a manifestation of the too many shows syndrome and if I didn’t know the background of these two shows I would probably agree.  However, the nature of Poop, when compared to Key, is such that they shouldn’t threaten each other; they should complement as they did for nine years.

As long as we spend winters based in Marathon, we’ll continue to do the Pigeon Poop show – it’s too easy not to. But our expectations will need to be lowered if Pigeon Key continues to opt for a different weekend.






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