Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Schedello! was billed by Zapplication as a premier music and art festival set in the beautiful botanical gardens of Schedel, in Elmore Ohio, about 15 minutes east of Toledo. The back-story was that last year was their inaugural year - an ambitious one day event with music, food, art and a vintage car show was planned. This year they dropped the car show, increased the event to two days, and made access to the art venue free (although to get to anything else there was a ticket price of $25). Last year that day proved to be a wash out with 6 hours of driving rain and a water crisis of epic proportion for the Toledo area due to toxic levels of algae bloom in Lake Erie.
So with the memory of last year fresh in our minds, many of the artists decided to apply and attend this revised event held this past weekend believing the potential was there for a great weekend. The grounds are beautiful, and when the rain actually stopped last year people came out and bought from the artists. Weather issues are beyond anyone's control, as were the natural disasters like toxic algae bloom in the water supply of Toledo. Weather was warm, brilliant sunshine. Like our hopes everything seemed bright. We were very hopeful. Radar showed no signs of rain or adverse weather for the weekend. The bands began warming up, and the sound was great.... but.....
But there were few people coming into the gardens. We counted perhaps 30 people sitting in the music venue set up for 500, and continued to look up and down the aisles of the art show only seeing other artists looking back at us. The people were not coming to Schedel. And most of the sales were to fellow artists.
Seeing that we had all the time in the world i started an internet and social media search... what was published, what was the feedback and how much media coverage did they get? It became painfully clear that the promoter did not do their part because there were not crowds. There were sparse handfuls of people and very few were buying. Many of us had not just show expenses but lodging, food, and gas... so it was a stretch to sit there for 2 days and barely cover the zapplication jury fee and the booth fee. We did not cover our booth fee until 1:30 on Sunday. We really never made it to a profit level, selling only $40 on sunday.
And as my artist neighbor said "It's a tell when all of the booths are breaking down hours before the event ends." We were to be there until 4pm, and just about everyone was there, however a majority of the booths were broken down, and the contents packed up long before and waiting for the 4pm marker to begin loading the vehicles. I don't believe i have ever seen such behavior before. (As a rule if you want to return to a show you abide by and respect the show agreement. It was clear many were not planning to return.) And there was much buzz and chatter about the disappointing low attendance, and the impact this weekend will have on the budgets of self employed artists.
In the boredom of sitting around watching empty aisles, and yawning with fellow artists i took to the internet to see what was out there about the event...a few posts on various radio stations, and one rather sparse article in the local Port Clinton paper. No big splash in the Toledo media. Social media was even more sad. twitter posted only 2 tweets advertising. Facebook's event page had a total of 77 people invited, of which 34 said yes, they would attend. The family we stayed with in Toledo knew nothing about the event, heard nothing on the news, newspaper or tv.
And the show had judges who would award prizes... however it was highly apparent the two judges had planned in advance who they would reward, and visited no other booths. When i saw they were next door i was preparing my samples and explaination of how my work is done but they flat out walked past my booth, and walked past the beautiful art glass booth next door, never stopping, never bothering to even give a nod to any other mediums. When they announced the awards it was no surprise... only the booths they stopped at were rewarded. There is no grudging this, but there is such a deep sense of bias and unfairness to the rest of us that create in medium the judges don't value.
We try to overlook silly things like biased judging, but this was one more factor heaping on a pile of problems. The event had such potential, and we wanted it to find its stride too.
And as we were officially breaking down and loading out a younger man stopped to chat with us wearing an official event volunteer t-shirt . He was the first person associated with the festival to ask how it went. But he also indicated he knew it was not a positive weekend, and he expressed his regrets that more was not done to make this event well attended, and prosperous for all. We never saw the organizer, or the paid staff, other than seeing them driving around in a golf card, keeping a far distance from everyone.
Are there take away lessons from events like this? Yes, there is always a lesson to be learned. Here are a few things we took away from Schedello!
Will we do this event next year if they have it and jury us in? Right now i am tending to say "Absolutely Not!" and i have anticipate this might be the thought of the majority of the artists who attended from as far away as Florida, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.