Art Fair Insiders

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

Podcast: What Really Happened in Houston at Bayou City

May 22, 5 pm ET: Listen live and call in at 805-243-1338

As the new interim executive director took on the reins at the Bayou City Art Festival in Houston late last year, it became apparent to Susan Fowler that the organization was stretched beyond financial viability. This is a festival that depends on an admission charge that had been negatively impacted by the weather.

Four festivals back to back with rain had drained their savings  that were in fact a literal rainy day fund because the Bayou City Art Festivals are outdoor events.

The Art Colony Association, which hosts the Bayou City shows, needed to do something fast to keep the popular festivals alive and well.

When the Board of the Art Colony met in January they put the wheels in motion to expand the event from 300 artists to 450 artists plus several other changes that they hoped would lead to financial stability.

We'll be speaking with the Executive Director Susan Fowler and Kelly Kindred, Director of Operations to learn

    •    how a board of directors oversees an organization and its' fiscal responsibility
    •    how the decision to increase the size of the show was made
    •    how successful were the changes that they made to the Spring show
    •    what they learned from this experience
    •    what to expect next from this festival

and lots more.

Listen live at 5 pm ET. Call in with your questions: 805-243-1338. Email me with questions and comments. Leave questions for me to ask them in the comments below.

This podcast is sponsored by our 5th Annual Birthday Pledge Drive to support our art fair websites. Learn more:

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Comment by Oscar Matos Linares on May 21, 2014 at 5:32pm

Larry they refund the booth fee to people that refuse to be part of the show after they increase the amount of artists so that may be the loophole.

Comment by Larry Berman on May 21, 2014 at 5:12pm

Not sure if this has been brought up. Doesn't every show have their attorney go over the contract they present to artists, advertisers, and sponsors, etc. Or do shows copy contracts from other shows, figuring the other show had their attorney go over it. I'm asking because artists have to agree to something in order to start an application on ZAPP. Do shows have to agree to anything before they can list an application on ZAPP or do they just have to send in their money to play.

Getting back to the contract artists have to agree to. Did Bayou City ask their attorney if they can change it after it was signed (approved) and money sent in by artists?

Larry Berman

Comment by Gloria Danvers on May 21, 2014 at 3:52pm

Hi Connie, 

I live in Florida, and so will probably never do the Bayou City Show but I have noticed a trend in the last few years in some of the shows I do towards increasing the amount of Artists in the show without regard to the needs and expectations of the Artists that are paying top dollar, and traveling sometimes very long distances to do these shows.

My question to the staff from Art Colony that will be participating in the podcast is this:

Did you do any type of Demographic research on the numbers of show goers and the sales of the Artists for the last few years that would have lead you to suppose that your show could support such a drastic increase in the Artists accepted ? Did you research show you that there was a steady increase of patrons and sales over the last few years, and therefore you felt comfortable increasing your Artists to half again as many ? Because you have at your fingertips a tremendous amount of information that you should be using to make these decisions, and if you are not using all of this information to predict the success of any changes you are contemplating, then you are just dancing in the dark, and courting a terrible reputation in the process. If things are bad, we all have to tighten our belts, not just the Artists, who are the ones who can afford it the least.

Comment by Alison Thomas on May 21, 2014 at 3:40pm

Pure and simple, they lied and they spun.  And they put the financial burden on the artists, the ones who can afford it least.  I'd love to hear if anyone else suffered to ease the financial burden.  Were there any paycuts?  Were the sponsors asked to cough up a little more money?  Were there any negotiations for discounts from the advertisers, assuming that if the show failed the advertisers wouldn't be getting any money next year?  Who else felt the pain?


Comment by Connie Mettler on May 21, 2014 at 11:28am

All true, Geri! When I spoke with Kelly the other day she said almost exactly the same thing about the city. We don't want this show to go away, we want it to work for everyone -- the Board, the show staff, the artists, the Houston economy. It should be one of the country's best. Hopefully it will be.

Comment by geri a. wegner on May 21, 2014 at 10:43am

Rather than going out and finding more sponsors or cutting back on other entertainment that they  had to pay to appear, once again the artists were expected to bear the brunt of the problem.  Weren't the artists also affected by the rains at previous shows?  

And the lack of openness and honesty by the staff of this show was an added insult.

The thing that saved this show is that Houston probably has the fewest number of art shows of any big city and also happens to have a thriving economy so with good weather, people came to the show.

Comment by Barry Bernstein on May 20, 2014 at 9:26pm

I'm not talking about adding artists or any of the things Nels and Oscar are talking about. I am just addressing how they handled this once artists found out that they were increasing the number of exhibitors by 1/2. They sent out emails, newsletters, and bulletins that really angered artists. I would have been embarrassed by these news flashes. I found the spin to be insulting. I've never seen so many upset people. This could be a very interesting podcast. I know more about this show, it's layout, who they let in, etc. than any other show I've never done. The one thing that show directors aren't aware of is that we all communicate on many forums and we all know what is going on as it happens. I belong to at least 5 of these that are just about art fairs, including this one. If it's raining in Indianapolis or there is a storm in East Lansing and booths get destroyed, we all know it as it is happening. 

Comment by Oscar Matos Linares on May 20, 2014 at 7:16pm

Connie I may be talking off line but Nels and Barry have a very good point. I think that they believe that show should hold off in adding artists until next show. The application process was under way. Even if they refund the money that did not sit well with a lot of artists. There is a lot of mistrust between the artists and promoters. The feeling is all about the bottom line for promoters and they are the only one allow to earn money not the artists. What they did not help with that perspective.

Nobody wants the show to go away, but maybe they can cut some of the stuff they do for year, Maybe the staff can go without paid for a year. All comes back to fact that artist do not know what it takes to put an event. We only see x amount of artist per booth fee plus x amount of applications per jury fee. Maybe they should explain what it takes and how the funds get move and what they for the Houston area (for those that do not know). Still no matter what we think the reality the artists are paying for the staff mistakes and that is not morally correct.

Comment by Connie Mettler on May 20, 2014 at 5:26pm

Nels, I loved your blog from Bayou City last year. Wasn't that they one you did with TP Speer and Deb Banyas where you had this amazing offer for art fair patrons? one of your 3 parters?

So, is the upshot of this, Barry and Nels, that we should just totally write off the Bayou City show? Shut down Houston as a place for an art fair? I've gotten several excellent responses via email and a very helpful phone call from artists. Help me out here. Instead of trashing, what can we do that can salvage this good marketplace (for some or many).

This show took steps this winter that were not in the artist's interest, to salvage their event. Did it work for them? did it work for artists? What are they going to do in the future to avoid these problems? 

You know, it is supposedly long past the time of the big economic crisis but I keep hearing about challenging economic situations. Did Bayou City lose sponsors? Can Olive Garden and Red Lobster keep their doors open? did your customer base disappear? are bricks and mortar stores closing up and going online? does Amazon sell everything? who does that impact? Are we so concerned about our personal situations that we don't have any empathy about others problems or have perspective?

We may not like how Bayou City handled their economic situation this winter. Can we help them fix it? Do you want your voices heard? 

Don't you believe that your input can make things better? 

Comment by Oscar Matos Linares on May 20, 2014 at 2:08pm

While I am understand of the money issue they should not increase the number of booth after the application process started.

Barry even if you do not do the show the problem is that other shows may end doing the same because this was a sample and now they know that comes to push and ... the artist will still do the show even they do not like what happen.  Another sample is Des Moines is doing the same thing as Cherry Creek. A program to appeal to "young professionals". "Do you have work under $200?"

I agree with you, it wont change my mind about them or believe anything they say on this podcast.  The smart thing to do will be to those artist that got accepted in the first round should get a credit through the next shows (return the entire booth fee through a period of time).

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