Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Before too much more time has passed, I wanted to share my experience at the Omaha Summer Arts Festival which took place from 6/9 through 6/11 2017. Having been in St. Louis the weekend before and travelling north to central Illinois for a family visit for a couple of days, it was a short 400 mile drive to Omaha. I meandered along the back roads of northern Missouri taking in scenery that I had not previously experienced. It was a beautiful sunny day and I enjoyed the ride immensely. Load in was on Thursday evening with assigned set up times. I was in the last group at 7:30pm.
The show is set up along several blocks of Farnham Street which is in the heart of downtown next to a very nice green space mall. My spot was at far end of the show. There was a wide sidewalk behind my space for storage and there was some room between the booths for airflow. They set up Farnham to be one way so everyone enters at the same place. Traffic jams are inevitable in such set ups and this show was no exception. I was allowed to line up with my fellow 7:30 people but it took me at least 30 minutes to get to my spot at the other end of the show. Communication prior to the show made me think that parking was going to be a real problem. There was no dedicated artist's parking, not even for over-sized vehicles. I was concerned about having a place to park after unloading while setting up. Here is where being in the last group and at the end of the show helped because I was able to stay parked in front of my booth. I had reserved a room at an outlying hotel that at least according to Google Earth had a big parking lot. As it turned out the Marriott downtown which was the official hotel for the show had a lot big enough for trailers and was about 4 blocks away. It really did not matter as Omaha is very easy to navigate.
The show hours are 11-8 on Friday, 11-8 on Saturday, and 11-5 on Sunday. Since I was doing this one solo I needed help hanging our heavier work. I communicated this to the show staff in advance and they arranged for a volunteer to assist me. These arrangements were confirmed by the show when I checked in . He showed up right on time Friday morning, gave me a hand for about 30 minutes and was on his way. That was the way the whole show ran. Very well organized and thought out. No surprises, fuss, or issues. They have been doing this for a while and it shows.
The forecast was for a hot weekend. It was accurate. Luckily I had a tree with shade most of the day. I had water in what turned out to be a rather defective cooler, but the volunteers came by periodically with water. There were any number of amenities available such as indoor air conditioned bathrooms and chair massages. These were a little too far away for me to take advantage of. Many of the people that came to my booth commented that there was some sort of weather event every year for the show, this year it was heat. In other years it was wind and rain etc. But the impression I was left with was that the community supports this show. It is the big art event of the year and they are not going to let weather drive them away. So, despite the heat I thought the crowds were very good given the conditions. I was satisfied with my sales. I sold all prints, nothing big. But I sold a lot of them resulting in a nice profit. I do think the heat impacted sales. The 2d mixed media artist across from me had the same experience as did some other photographers I spoke with. In fact I do not remember seeing any big pieces of anything walk by my booth all weekend. There was a nice awards breakfast on Saturday morning and a continental breakfast/artist meeting on Sunday morning.
About two blocks away was an area of the city called Old Market. It is an historic area with shops and restaurants that range from a traditional diner with the best bacon I have ever eaten to a top notch seafood restaurant call the Plank. If you get to Omaha check it out.
Load out was supposed to flow the same as load in. I was in a hurry to make the 8pm happy hour at the Plank and did not want to sit in traffic. I was able to park the truck and trailer about three blocks away at meters (free on Sunday) and then use a side street to pull up next to my booth. The volunteer came back right on schedule and helped my get all of the work he helped me hang three days ago down and packed up.
The bottom line on this show is that is well run, supported by the community, and is in a great location. The layout is not confusing as it is one long row of 135 artists. I had never been to Omaha before and found it an interesting place to be. I had a good time, ate some good food, and made a little money. Nothing wrong with that.