Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
My wife is tolerant, otherwise my head would be off after this one. I did Loring Park two years ago and did badly. I did it again, thinking that I had newer work and I had finally gone to canvas prints for my photography. It wasn't working and I lost my shorts once again. She was right, I was wrong, and I won't be back just like the patrons who say they will. Maybe it will work for some, but there will not be a third time looking for a charm. Outside of the lousy sales, I did have a fun time and had some great neighbors.
Okay, let's start off about the show. The promoters were pretty diligent about communications, sending several emails in advance reminding everyone where to go, what the regulations were, where to get the tax info and licenses. Can't fault them there; they were on it.
Set up was on Friday, unless you were crazy enough to try it on Saturday morning. Space was approximately 12x12, and my space was under a giant Linden tree, next to the trunk. By scooting to the far edge of my space I was able to have an open outside wall. While it was dark under there, I brought 2 boat batteries and a half dozen lights. The back of the booth faced the lake and a few shims were needed to keep the tent reasonably level. Lots of room behind the booths. I lucked out as the prevailing wind came through the back of the booth and kept a nice breeze going most of the time. I brought fans and only needed to use them a few times. My next door neighbor was Dorothy Schutte, a fabric artist who had bought one of my pieces about 15 years ago, and we had a great time. Dorothy is German so we dubbed our location Unter den Linden ;-)
Saturday started off slow with the show opening at 10:00. By 10:45 we were wondering if the gates were opened or not. Traffic was slo-o-o-w. By 1:30 it looked like the usual traffic about 15 minutes before closing. I sold one flip bin piece the entire day. The crowds never materialized as they should and I saw very few packages being carried. WTH? The weather was nice, warm out but not the usual blistering August heat. It never rained although skies looked dark a few times. I did hear that it rained at Uptown and that show closed early.
Sunday was supposed to rain at tear down, so I put up the back tarp as an awning in case it rained. Since the tree over us extended way out past the back of the booth, there wouldn't be any direct rain on us. If I were going back, I would ask for that spot again. Same story as Saturday, slow traffic and thin crowds, and little buying energy. A painter across from me zeroed out for the show, a mixed media artist around the corner did half of what she usually does, and some others said they didn't make booth fee back. I only sold another flip bin piece on Sunday, so my sales were embarrassingly low. Adding all expenses up; gas, food, lodging, booth fees, and some incidentals, I took about a thousand buck hit on this show and didn't even get to the Mall of America afterwards.
I did find out that about half of the artists at the show are new to it, as were the ones around me. That's always a red flag. The layout seems picturesque at first with everyone circling around the lake, but that makes for a long walk. To be blunt, most of the patrons looked long in the tooth and gray of head. Relatively few were young ones until Sunday when a lot of young folks were there looking like it was an afternoon date to check out (not buy) the artwork. A lot of the older folks aren't too crazy about making a long walk around the park.
Now this is the part that no one is going to want to hear. The security folks are not off duty police; they're a couple of guys with a security shirt on and a walky-talky. They can't be everywhere and they are limited as to what they can do. The show has a problem, and always has, with the homeless. A tool bag was stolen from one artist on Friday night and left in someone else's tent after they figured out they couldn't get much money for it. A few people found tarps unzipped the next day, two booths down from me had someone sleep in their booth overnight. Another artist found all the snacks she had left in her booth had been opened and eaten. At least this year, no one had their booth used as a latrine, which has happened before.
Speaking of latrines, we had use of the park facility indoor restrooms on Friday and for a little while on Saturday morning, but someone locked the doors to them and we had to use the Port-a-pots after that. We learned quickly to stay away from the Park dept port-a-pots by the basketball court because they were disgustingly nasty. It didn't help on Friday when one of the artists next to us went down there and found a couple in coitus flagrante delicto inside one of the johns. You would have thought they would have at least locked the door ;-/
Parking was a pain in the wazoo, with no free parking anywhere [edit: close], and the [edit: free] locations were about 3 blocks away. Three blocks is okay if you're young and healthy. I have bum knees, bone on bone, and a bad ankle. I asked about handicapped parking of which there were maybe three spots, all of which were used by residents around the park. One spot was so far away it did no good whatsoever, We were told to not park around the park itself in order to leave those for patrons. The north side of the park, past the tennis courts, was adjacent to a commercial area and far away from any of the art tents, about a 2-3 block walk. Seemed like a good spot as we thought the parking ban was adjacent to the show side of the park. I only had to stop and sit a couple times when my legs hurt too much.
So here's the clincher on that good spot :-) Several other artists were parking there also. I found out at show's end that the show folks checked out the parking and took license plate data. Those people won't be allowed back into the show in the future. Ask me if I give a damn, it's a moot point anyway. This is a show I'm permanently removing from future consideration.
Given that sales were way, way too low, and the overall feeling that the show works better for local and regional artists, I have to say that I won't return to this show. I gave it a shot two times, there won't be a third time. At any given show, there will always be some that do exceptionally well, and others that don't do as well. Unfortunately, I was in the latter group.