Art Fair Insiders

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

New Podcast: Amy Amdur & Howard Alan - The Business of Art Fairs - May 2

May 2 - 3 pm ET, 2 pm CT -


Join us as Connie Mettler talks with Amy Amdur,, and Howard Alan,, two of the most important people in the art fair business. Amdur produces 17 Chicago area shows and Alan has two divisions of events, fine art fairs and craft shows, producing nearly 100 shows a year around the country.

Just about every artist has participated in one or more of their events and has met them face to face but you've never heard them talking to each other as they discuss the state of the art fair business.

We are going to talk about

  • their background
  • how they choose a show
  • how their shows are run and juried
  • how they detect buy/sell and what they do about it
  • how the business has changed since they started
  • what the changing economy has meant to them and how they have adapted
  • Predictions for 2012

Plus, a lot more. You don't want to miss this!

If you can't make it to the "live" session, the episode is hosted on this site and is available for download so you can take it with you. Please join us:

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Comment by Jim Parker on May 5, 2012 at 10:36am

Interesting podcast. I do have to agree with Geri that there was too much background on the two promoters (history as Amy referred to it), and not enough meat. The background could have been pushed to a blog post ahead of time, and the harder questions asked. Too much time got eaten up with the background. Don't care. Don't need to know. Let them have 200 characters to give us the elevator speech and move on. LOL.

As far as market saturation, Florida, whether it's a big urban area or a bunch of crappy little cracker towns, has way more little shows than Chicago. Chicago tends to stay local, as Brian points out, so that Arlington Heights audience may or may not overlap with Port Clinton, for example. That's not to say that the population of Florida is tiny. Miami is one of the biggest cities in the country. Tampa, Fort Myers/Naples, Orlando -- they all have sizable populations that can support a few shows a year. Two or more a week? Probably not. Chicago has a lot of shows, but only a few good ones.

Milwaukee only has a few shows; New Buffalo has the Lubeznik show, plus the Krasl show up the road. Amy may do okay in those markets -- again, they're local markets, not really even regional destination shows. Florida's problem now is "Where ya gonna be next week?" Meh. Over it.

The interviews were interesting, including the part about the new metric "dollars earned per mile". Ha. With booth fees and gas at historically high rates, I foresee a constriction in nationally known artists traveling nationally to do these shows. Artists just can't afford to go long distances for the small payouts -- it's going to be a bumpy ride moving forward. And in the end, it's not only the artists who are losing, but the audience as well, since the pool of artists will get smaller and more local over time. Maybe that's not a bad thing.

The other point that I hear time after time is the amount of money that gets spent on marketing. Spending time and money for marketing is something that both promoters and artists need to emphasize in their yearly budgets. I know I don't do nearly enough for individual shows. For those events where I have a following and a history, a well-timed mailing will equal sales. Same for the promoters. Media seems to be a big sinkhole but a necessary evil. I'd like to see the media book that Howard sent to Greg Lawler! Seriously, publishing the pr and advertising plans (ala the Guild shows) is not a bad idea to let us know where some of that hefty booth fee is going.

Comment by Connie Mettler on May 5, 2012 at 10:26am

I just discovered that all the podcasts can be downloaded from the iTunes store - free, of course. Put "Art Fair Radio" in the search box.

Comment by Brian Horan on May 4, 2012 at 4:31pm

Geri, my post wasn't meant to correct you just to point out in my opinion there are just to many shows in the same areas in Fla. in general

Comment by Brian Horan on May 4, 2012 at 4:01pm

Holly there's close to 8 million people in a 60 mile radius of Chicago with the  collar counties  that's urban sprawl, sorry but I call most cities in Florida large towns LOL not at you just that they're large towns

Comment by geri a. wegner on May 4, 2012 at 3:41pm

I don't want to get into a geography discussion but I stand corrected.  12 of Amy's 17 shows are in the north/northwestern suburbs of Chicago.  When I say within an hour, that is because you have to use surface roads not expressways to get to a lot of them. 6 are within 20 miles of each other with 3 in one suburb,2 in the next suburb and one in another contiguous suburb.  And there is a 4th suburb that she should have the show in because the other promoter is not doing the best job and that would connect 2-3 more shows to one another geographically.  

Want to know the question asked most often at an Amdur show?  "what other shows are you going to be at?"  

That is reasonable of Howard to do that.  He does have the advantage of such a large volume of shows.  He used to have the best show in Skokie Illinois across from the major shopping center.  A lot of artists would come up from Florida to get out of the heat there and to sell year-round.  I have an amazing number of pieces from those Skokie shows and to this day I still run into artists in Florida that I met in Illinois.  

I guess since promoters are not often asked about themselves that they took advantage of their chance.  

I hope you can get them to come back and talk about artist issues.  

Comment by Connie Mettler on May 4, 2012 at 3:18pm

Actually, Geri, I don't know anyone else who has this same policy. It worked for us. When the HA applications would come out Norm would look over our schedule and see where we might need a backup and he'd apply for one or more of the shows. We definitely wanted to be in Florida in the winter, so these shows would keep us there, paying the bills and taking pressure off financially. So sometimes, as the schedule developed we'd cancel ones that didn't fit in.

I wanted to get some background on both Howard and Amy, to fill out who they are and their attitude toward their businesses. I think that is useful information. I wish I had been able to get more of those answers you were looking for, but as Geoff said, some times the interviewees are pretty talkative and time ran out.

Comment by Amy Ikenn on May 4, 2012 at 11:43am

B/S was listed as a topic - did I miss that part of the discussion?

Comment by Brian Horan on May 4, 2012 at 11:35am

Hi Geri,My Opinion on market saturation I am originally from Chicago now living in Fla.  Chicago  proper is the center of entertainment downtown ,near north etc. and with urban sprawl I believe you can get away with it ,and people from the Chicago suburbs would much rather stay local then dealing with traffic especially with Chicagos other season "construction" season LOL and there are more full time residents.  Florida with the exception of S. Fla there is not much urban sprawl so the population is much smaller but yet there are more shows in some of these areas then S Fla.  Many of the towns and villages in Illinois you may have just the 1 show for the year and yes I understand that there are some up there with more but for the most part you may have 1 or 2 .Fla, take Sarasota I haven't ck'd this year but between art shows and art and craft shows there is probably no less then 10 shows in a 3 month period and I'm being generous there's probably more ,and with most areas in Fla. especially coastal being snowbirds so they're secondary homes they can only go to so many shows..I learned after my 1st year not to go in an area more then once or twice and I've been staying away from twice because if I'm not going back the next week there could be 3 or 4 shows by the time I get back.

Comment by geri a. wegner on May 4, 2012 at 9:52am

Me again, didn't see Connie's answer before I answered this.  

Connie, is it the usual policy that if you cancel a show the fee could be used for a future show?  From what I have read, that is not the usual policy.  Is this something that Howard still does?  Does anyone else do that?  

Comment by geri a. wegner on May 4, 2012 at 9:48am

Oops, not background info on the artists, too much background info on the promoters.  Sorry.

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