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The Peoria Art Fair took place in a riverfront park in Peoria September 28-30. I had the pleasure of being the featured artist for this show, including the use of my images on posters, billboards, programs and a delightful mural-sized mosaic depiction of one of my paintings created by patrons of the art fair. In return for the show using my images, I was given a free booth in a great location. Great perk! I guess you should realize that my "featured" status gave me a BIG advantage over other exhibitors. I had a terrific show selling 81 pieces of art to 57 customers. My gross for the show was twice what I grossed at the same show a couple of years ago. I must admit that my success had a lot to do with my balloon images being on 10 billboards all over town and on the posters and ads being run by the committee.

So... great show for me, but a random poll of other artists gave me the impression that most other artists did pretty well too. I think this is due to the great work the two directors brought to this long running show. Shannon Cox and Kim Sanders did a great job, as did all the members of the committee. Advertising was widespread for weeks prior to the show and really worked to bring people out.

Setup was all day Friday and was a luxury for us artists who take a long time to set up. It was cool on Friday, making set up comfortable. The committee sponsored a pizza party for the artists from 5-6pm on Friday and the show opened to the public at 6pm. The cool temperatures continued into the evening and us artists froze our buns for the rest of the night. There was a great band that played classic rock most of the evening. We were a distance away from the band and enjoyed the music, but exhibitors close to the band complained. The band's contract called for performing until 10pm, so the art fair stayed open until 10pm... a mistake. Could be that more customers would be around late into the night if the weather was better, but traffic was pretty light after about 8:30.

I did pretty well Friday night in spite of the cold weather, selling a large canvas that the billboards were based on as well as a few other pieces. At least half of the booths did not make it to 10pm, and closed early because of the light traffic and cold weather. This is the first year Peoria opened on Friday, and they will probably reconsider that decision next year. Since us artists have all day to set up on Friday, we might as well open for a few hours in the evening to get in some extra sales. But maybe close around 8pm instead of 10.

Saturday's hours were 10-5. Weather was still cold, but not as cold as the night before. In spite of the cold, attendance was good and it seemed like every other group was carrying packages. Our sales were also good. Lunch for artists was brought to the booths, but not to artist assistants. Lunch was nothing to brag about... a sandwich. Saturday evening the committee sponsored finger food, beer and wine for the artists at the Peoria Art Museum. Food was very good and a blessedly brief awards ceremony gave a best of show ($3000 I think) and three additional awards. We were out of the gathering by about 7:30 and went out to dinner.

Sunday hours were 10-3pm. What a great idea to close at 3 giving us plenty of time to tear down and pack up while still light out. Weather was great on Sunday, warm and sunny. Again, lots of traffic and lots of packages going by. Seems like the people of Peoria really came out to support this art fair.

Here's one idea this art fair has been doing every year. They take an image by the featured artist and break it down in a grid into 280-plus 6-inch squares. Then, they ask patrons to reproduce each 6-inch square with paint on a piece of fome core. They have a big horseshoe shaped table set up with paint and brushes and visitors paint a reproduction of the art piece by piece. The result is surprisingly effective. And visitors to the art fair participate in creating this big mural.

This has always been a good show for me. Never a great show, but a pleasant one, easy to do with a lot of support from an artist-friendly committee. This year it as a great show for me; my best show of the year. Hopefully next year will be just as great. Hey Peoria! You need another featured artist next year? I'll volunteer... 

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Comment by Jeri Vitello on October 8, 2018 at 12:06pm

I reviewed this show on Art Fair Review.  This show was my second highest grossing show (just behind Des Moines Art Show) in 2108.  Highly recommend this show and hope to do it again next year.

Comment by Connie Mettler on October 8, 2018 at 6:18pm

Wow, John! Great review with lots of helpful info. What a wonderful opportunity with all of that PR AND a free booth. Going back next year?

What a business this is, a bit of feast and famine -- keeps you guessing every weekend, doesn't it? I know the folks at Peoria work hard on this show and was curious about how their Friday party was going to work. Was there a gate at all? 


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