Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
The Venice Art Festival has been my launchpad for the winter season since I got in the business six years ago. The crowds that visit this Howard Alan show are good sized, they come year after year, and many of them are newly-arrived snowbirds from the upper midwest and Canada who are looking to decorate the winter homes.
I've never had a bad show here, but in most years the visitors buy small. That wasn't the case this year: it wound up as the best Venice show I've ever had. The buying energy persisted all weekend, except for an understandable lull as a cold front and squalls moved through late on Saturday morning.
When the front passed, it took the overbearing humidity with it: Sunday brought crystal blue skies and a feeding frenzy, at least in my space. I sold six good-sized Gallery Wraps on day 2 (not a record, but typically the kind of sales I see in deeper-pocketed Naples and Sarasota).
More tellingly, perhaps, I had no less than a dozen folks tell me that they had either just bought a home, they were redecorating one they'd bought a few years ago, or they had a new home under contract. Last year, at the same show, I had two or three folks say the same. (And yes, I keep track by maintaining a New Homeowner's mailing list). The numbers of artists who told me they had a good show was in double figures--not everyone I talked to, but pretty close. The buyers didn't seem to discriminate: Jewelers, 2-D, functional pottery, glass all did decently, from what I heard. I was 'way too busy to take a survey.
One show does not a trend make, of course, but coupled with the reports I'm reading about the housing market heating up, and what I hear from my brother (who is in the mid-to-high end furniture biz for a Fort Myers/Naples chain, and is writing business with both hands these days), maybe there's a glimmer of hope for the winter season.
I thought I'd reviewed this show last year, but couldn't find it. So here's some additional scoop for the unfamiliar:
* The show runs along Venice Ave., the main downtown district, filled with small-storefront retail and restaurants.
* As a Howard Alan downtown show, there's no Friday setup. Officially, check-in starts at 5 AM Saturday, but some artists were around as early as 3:30 AM to get started. Drive up to your space, unload, then move to artist parking in a bank parking lot. (Some parts of Venice Ave. are divided by a concrete barrier dividing east-and west-bound traffic; if you have a space in those sections, you can park right behind your booth, on the east-bound side.) As in most Alan events, the tents are pretty tight side to side, but most booths have some storage area behind.
* There's a Costco booth where you can grab cold water, pre-packaged muffins (on Saturday), or fruit (on Sunday). No coffee either day. Lunch is on your own, but several of the enterprising restaurants delivered fliers offering meals at a discount.
* There are a couple of hotels (Best Western Plus, Holiday Inn) off the Jacaranda Rd. exit (#193) of I-75, about 10 minutes' drive from the show. There are also a couple of national chain hotels in North Port, 20 minutes south, and lots more in Sarasota, about the same distance to the north.
I hope some of the other artists chime in with comments--and that someone takes on reviewing Alan's St. Armands show being held this coming weekend (Nov. 9-10) in Sarasota. I'm taking the weekend off to attend a workshop, but it would really be nice to hear on AFI if the buying spree continues...or not.