Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Two things stand out as good about this trip; I had a good time seeing the town and I didn't have a park bench located inside my booth space like some of the artists. Everything else went downhill and went to Hell in a hand basket. The old adage about not attending any art festival with either a food or fruit in its name applies to this misbegotten show.
Set up allowed plenty of time and it was needed to fight with the wind off the river. Chicago has less problems with the wind. I tied the back two legs of the booth to the metal rail at the edge of the plaza and that took care of it. The city inspectors or the show organizers never showed to do a weight inspection for safety, and the tax people never showed to check for permits either. Several artists said they would take the chance and not pay the $85 license fee. They were the smart ones. About half the artists had a park bench anchored to the plaza inside their booth space. You had to deal with it as best as you could. For the most part, they would be either on the left or right corner rear of the booth space.
I'll skip the usual set up details and issues as this was a show that I would whole-heartedly recommend no one in their right mind go to. The crowd was cheap as hell, although a $3,200 table was sold and that one has a warning attached. I overheard someone talking in my booth that $195 for a 20x30 canvas print was entirely too much money. I guess they were used to decorating with Velvet Elvis paintings. Another day a couple of guys were disparaging one print that I have, an old one about 12 years old taken with a 3MP Kodak, that shows technical deficiencies if you get your face into it from about 8 inches away. The self-styled experts were sneering that it showed pixelation. I didn't bother to correct the chumps and point out that it was jpeg artifacts from an overly ambitious compression routine from the camera manufacturer. Don't you just love pixel-peepers? Whatever the issues were, it hasn't stopped it from selling in the past and the roughness along a straightline part of the image disappears from about a foot and a half away.
The real issues with this show is that it's for the tourists, not the locals. A water color artist across from me spelled it out very succinctly; the crowds buy cheap, $20 and under, and it has to be local images. Several other photographers were there, about half local, and they were spottable as the ones with incredibly low prices and inexpensive framing. The photographer next to me was appalled at the low prices and accompanying low quality of the work. Of the 7 photographers there, three were local with snap-shot quality work. They must know their market, as they were selling. By Sunday, I had pulled some back-up 5x7 prints I had done a while back, and stuck them on a piece of matt board and in a bag for $15. Those were the only sellers I had.
Buy/Sell was evident. A vendor about 4 booths from me was making money hand over fist with stuffed teddy bears that were imports, and she had little pinafores for them that were also imports. She had a computerized sewing machine in the back of her booth, and would type in someone's name and stitch their name on the pinafore. She had lines of people in her booth on Friday and Saturday. Sunday was so slow, even her booth was empty most of the time. The infamous Hudson River Inlay people were down at the other end, and a $3,200 table was observed leaving on Sunday. One local artist who does the shows commented that numerous complaints about the Teddy bear vendor and the inlay people had been lodged in years past, but nothing is ever done.
I had done research on this show and had expected to see 90-120 artists at this show. I wasn't the only one, as a couple other artist expressed the same view point. I walked the show and counted 32 artists total. Maybe the other seafood festival in the fall up by Hilton Head, Bluffton Seafood Festival, is getting confused with this one. As it is, this piece of work is not a seafood fest except in name only, and it damn sure isn't much of an arts festival either. There were a bunch of food vendors there, all fried goop, burgers, elephants ears, hot dogs, and some fried cat fish. Why someone would eat from there when there were dozens of restaurants and bars with quality food is beyond me.
I saw the organizer once, and that was early before official load in time when she was pre-occupied with supervising the food vendor load-in (where the real money was) and she sent me back to the parking lot where her 20-year old assistant was. I got the packet from her, and then saw her once when the only time water bottle were passed out, and on Saturday when they snafued the pre-ordering of box lunches for the artists.
I was pretty much underwhelmed with this show. To succeed you will need local scenes that are under $20, anything else under $20, and don't sweat the quality. You can safely ignore the license fee for temporary vending as no one came around checking and the artists who hedged that bet were the winners. The size and quality of the show is misrepresented, and the organizer is drawing a nice paycheck out of this. I feel like I stepped back in time to 25 years ago when I signed up for some shows that were total misrepresentations of what they were.