Art Fair Insiders

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

I've been sitting on the upstairs step, passive hands but passionate heart, absorbing your Artist's pageant.

So it was this past weekend for the Hidden Rivers Art Festival in Brookfield, Wisconsin, that I went through that always frenetic/ avidly familiar/ artist's fan fair of preparing for a show. Not mine. My husband was one of the hundred juried.

My gold standard for a perfectly architected, organized and executed Art Festival starts with Amy Amdur of Amdur Productions. That said, I'm civil but critical if shows can't cut it.

My Dad and Mom had many sayings but this rings true of Amdur Art Shows: " You get what you pay for. "
In any show that I remember, I made all entrance costs and considerably beyond.

But I wander, as you all remember.
Bad on me. LOL

Hidden Rivers was. Hidden, that is. I had three GPS voices guiding my driving there on fairly familiar roads: my Lexus, Google Maps and Mom. It was impossible to even notice the wooded road or any advertisement sign in highway traffic without compromise. We missed the very first road three times. Frustrating with a minuscule show sign.

I heard a lengthy radio spot on NPR and Local for the Show. It was catchy.

The weather on Saturday looked ominous but never developed. Sunday was sunny, sixties and steady. A perfect Art Crawl Day if ever one was compelled.

The selection of creativity juried wasn't worth the worry. No junk, just-out-of-carton or just imported. Kudos.

The actual arrangement of the Artist's arctic aisles in symmetrical style with wide verdant swaths was striking in the bucolic beauty. Each Artist could abide on their captains chair down the center of each adequate aisle. Traffic flow was never troublesome rather one of the best in any show I've witnessed.

So.
Why did 54% of the Artists either just clear or not make even their booth fee.
66.3% of all not make all costs and reasonable profit.

Caveat: I took my numbers from the artists who remained on Sunday afternoon. I based my survey on 50 random artists. No one refused the two questions. They were advised.

Problems:
1) Too difficult a location
2) No visible ads or signs
3) Charging an entrance fee
4) Music should have been live and classical
5) Poor food selection ( even artists left site to seek restaurants )
6) Workshops could have been done outside under tent and better announced.
7) Silent Auction items were in such a dim space people just left because of visibility

I couldn't review Hidden Rivers on Art Sider Reviews because you have to be the showing Artist. Dems deh rules, yah see.

Conclusion:
Sunday, a sage whispered some wisdom in an Angel's ear: " See a Season as a Long Single Show. Seems to even out. "

Thanks, you.

I took away a gem.
Better luck next year Hidden Rivers.
Your bone structure is patrician. You just need to flesh out.

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Comment by Chuck Weber on September 22, 2014 at 9:45am

I participated in Hidden River every year since its inception, and watched it decline in attendance and sales each of those years. I did not participate this year. Often plagued by difficult weather, even in blue sky days it has been challenged to achieve any numbers. Thank the City of Brookfield  sign ordinances for making this gem of a site at the Sharon Lynn Wilson Center all but impossible to find . Originally conceived as a high end Wisconsin Artists ONLY event it has steadily lost Wisconsin's best and is now open to Midwest artists. To my way of thinking not listening to their artists has been the downfall.....Artists don't care if there is music (live or otherwise), We don't care if there is high end food. (A couple of food trucks and some porta-potties is all that's needed there. ) Lots of awsrd money is fine but not critical. Ribbons are fine. What we want is qualified ENTHUSIASTIC ART BUYERS. Yes, demos and kids activities are nice.....BUT if you don't have great enthusiastic volunteers, support of the service slubs and strong sponsorship by multiple LOCAL community companies and leaders it ain't gonna happen.

Get your marketing hats on Hidden River. Find some deep pockets and start marketing this show. Direct mail to every home within 10 miles would be a start. And City of Brookfield...,..BACK OFF and support the SLW or this art show is gone.   

Comment by Craig Henry on September 19, 2014 at 9:22am

I think this was a fair evaluation of the show.  As a woodworker this was one of my better shows and being a first-timer and I had no idea what to expect.  The show could probably have closed earlier on Sunday or they could have broadcast the Packer game to get people to stay longer.

Comment by Richard L. Sherer on September 19, 2014 at 9:05am
Beyond an enjoyable read, you charmed some hard data out of the artists. I like the business advice as well, cloaked in prose.
Comment by Connie Mettler on September 19, 2014 at 7:29am

What is your husband's media, Linda? Is this a new venture for him? Lucky him, to have a seasoned veteran at his side leading the charge into the ....

Comment by Christina L. Towell on September 18, 2014 at 9:07am

Thank you for the interesting and dare I say, poetic, review.  I take it you don't plan to participate next year?  

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