Art Fair Insiders

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

Sanibel Rotary Art Show—what happened to people on Sunday.

This has been a long-running Show over 25 years old.

Held same week in Feb. as The Grove And Artigras.

This was my first time doing this show.

I bailed on Artigras, which I have done for nearly 30 years. It has been a downhill debacle for the last five years.

So, I always have heard great things about the Sanibel show.

Only about 220 exhibitors. Held in the height of season.  Plenty of money around. Lots of Midwest tourists.

Well, the long and short of it was that it ended up being a one day show instead of two.

Crowds were packed early, and buying, on Saturday.

Sunday was like a desert, very few buyers walking around.

I talked to many of the Rotary Club volunteers.  They were flummoxed too about the poor Sunday.

Never happened before, according to several veteran Rotarians.

It definitely killed me.  Saturday, I sold several large framed pieces (I am a photographer).

Sunday I barely sold $300 the whole day.  All Lowend images At $30.

This is a Well Run Show.  Great staffing, solid info about the setup, boothsitters and free water abound.

Storage behind booths is a problem here.

Lots of booths were backed up to a mesh fence(they charge admission) with no rear storage. Yet, there was plenty of room to have the front of the booth out further without disrupting the flow.

Also, this show is strung out between three exhibit areas and a lot of the elderly did not make it down to the end where I was.  I was booth 216 out of 220.

The crowd is mainly elderly, sixties and up.

The young people who came through did not give much attention to 2-D art, they just did not care.

I was disappointed with the show.  I just did not see much sales going on for 2-D Art.

This is a fish and feather show.  Very conservative tastes in art.

Also buying mostly Lowend.  There will always be the exceptional whale who walks thru.  Just not enough of them,

Personally, I think the crawl of autos on Periwinkle Way deters a lot of people from attending.

In season this island slows to a crawl.  More people on bikes.

This is an expensive booth fee plus high hotel costs.  You better be on your game if you try this show.

Lovely location but the sales are not commiserate with them.

So far, for me, the Florida shows suck Royal Canalwater.

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Comment by Connie Mettler on February 28, 2020 at 4:07pm

Oh, Carol, so sad. So many truths. A few years ago Carroll Swayze (I'm sure you know her) told me about how she was doing fewer shows and making more money. Guess what? It requires a lot of work, but being off the road has its own rewards. She is not selling online, but developing her local market in many ways. You (well, probably not you, because you've been working all the angles for a long time) might enjoy this podcast I did with her a few years ago:

Comment by Carol Joy Shannon on February 28, 2020 at 12:11pm

Nels, the "fish and feathers" description is brilliant.

2D art is just a hard sell everywhere.  I'm still in a couple galleries on the coast and even in the brick and mortar galleries, it is the "fish and feathers" which sell. Big luscious paintings get "oohs and aahs" only.

Young people have different ideas about what they want on their walls, and the middle class, middle aged market is gone.  I imagine if we were all in the over $10,000 per painting bracket, it would not be as much of an issue, but then we would probably NOT be doing art fairs!

I had thought I would only do local shows,too, like Dean, and after a year of that, I've packed it all in. The same variables arise in the local shows: investment + sales x weather and crowd size/age = profit/loss. 

I've sold my equipment and kept some Pro-Panels to make temporary "rooms" when the grands come to visit! And I'll keep my collection of new and old tents for the backyard and the beach.  

I am very sad to see these venues fade away.  It was a wonderful way to showcase our work for so many years.  I have fed my family for several decades this way, but it's become very unreliable, as evidenced by Nels' review of Sanibel. 

The online option is no better, because most of us do not create or ship cheaply enough to compete with Etsy and Amazon.  There are high end galleries online also, but it is a waiting game.  I am mildly successful at it. 

I didn't do shows as retirement income; they were my ONLY income.  But I thought I WOULD be able to use them in retirement!  I just hate it when plans fall apart!  I hope the hardy road warriors still out there find the best creative medium to make the most of the good shows to come.

Comment by Carol Joy Shannon on February 28, 2020 at 11:54am

Great map, Dean!

Comment by Connie Mettler on February 27, 2020 at 3:04pm

Very cool work, Dean.

I'd not worry about backlash. All those concerned are doing their best to mitigate changing times, tastes, economies and climates. Smart to do what you think is best with your time and talents. I is hard to make changes and I admire those who actually do. Good luck.

Comment by Dean Forss on February 27, 2020 at 11:20am

At the risk of severe backlash I'm posting this concept/ideology. The promoters of these shows seem to have a bit of nostalgia when planning these events. The booth fees are egregious and I think we will see a decline in participation and attendance. This is across the board. I'm a veteran of this landscape and this year we decided we are done. We will do a FEW local shows and that's it. I would rather spend our hard earned money on things that are valuable from a customer acquisition point. The weather considerations are very real to us who set up, tear down, and put 20k worth of product at risk only to hear from the promoters; too bad - we don't control weather. Fair enough, you don't get our quality of product anymore either. By the way, I have a Sanibel map that would be perfect for that show but no one showed interest unless we were there. Interesting landscape now. 

Comment by Nels johnson on February 27, 2020 at 8:40am

Only the usual, good for some, and very poor for many.

The Show has been going steadily downhill for years.

Comment by Connie Mettler on February 27, 2020 at 8:39am

 Thanks for this review, Nels. I am not sure if we’ve had a review on Sanibel for a long time. Anyway I hope that tequila tastes better than the royal canal water in the upcoming days. Only been to Sanabel once and it was in the winter getting there it was hard, all that traffic. Lovely once you got there but why do you have to come at the end of December and not leave the island until April? Maybe the Sunday was so beautiful, great weather isn’t Always a charm at the Florida shows, but of course that is true everywhere, Across the country and resort areas. I’m curious about how things went at Artists Gras Considering that they turned it into a two day show this year. Have you heard anything?

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