Art Fair Insiders

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

Six Florida Art Fairs for this Michigan Artist

Every year Marcia and I head south for February and March to do art fairs in Florida. Lets face it, there are not very many opportunities to make money in the frozen north during the winter. Is it worth the trip? For me, it is worth it. In fact, the trip has become essential for us financially. We would have a lot of unpaid bills in the winter without the Florida art fairs. How did it go this winter? Results are mixed, but we were able to pay the bills, and we are coming home with some money in the bank account.

I'm a digital artist. I sell prints on paper and canvas. My price point is $45 for small unframed prints up to $695 for large prints on canvas. I work on environmental themes with images that use surrealistic imagery and humor. Our best show was at Jupiter ArtiGras where we grossed $8600 and won an award. Our worse show was March Bonita Springs where we made $2700. We grossed a total of just over @28K for the tour and averaged around $4700 for the six shows we did. We scheduled the shows back to back, and did six in a row, every weekend so the schedule was a little strenuous. 

Last year our average was over $5000 per show and the year before we averaged $6K, so, it seems that the shows are becoming less profitable for us. But, we were in better shows in past years. This year I applied to many of the shows with new, unproven images and was rejected from a couple of good ones, Gasparilla and Winter Park. We also got snowed in during the Polar Vortex in Michigan and we missed doing ArtFest Ft Myers on the first weekend of February, a traditionally good show for us. I think if we were able to do Ft Myers, our average per show would have matched the 5K we did last year.

The weather for all the shows this year was spectacular. Sometimes a little hot, but no rain, no windstorms.

My wife, Marcia is an important member of our two person art fair team. She keeps me calm and she is an excellent navigator, helping me find the sign-in booths and the artist parking lots. We have a rather complex setup that takes 4-5 hours, and she is extremely helpful in setup and take down. She is also a good sales person and (usually) has a smile on her face. Having said that, she would rather be somewhere else. These art fairs are a lot of work, and I agree that a little pampering between shows helps to keep her involved. So, we don't try to save money on accommodations or restaurants, She deserves it. This year we rented a house in Ft Myers Beach with a close friend who we have been traveling with for years, splitting the outrageous cost. From this base we were able to commute to two shows in Bonita Springs, Naples National and a show on Sanibel Island. So, we paid lots for the house for our two months, but saved on hotels at these four shows. We did cross to the Atlantic side for Jupiter and Vero Beach, so we had to pay additional lodging for those two shows.

I don't know whether it is significant, but the four shows we did on the Gulf side were well below average in revenue, while the two shows we did on the Atlantic side were well above average in revenue. The shows we did on the Gulf side were heavily attended by retired people while the shows on the Atlantic had a lower percentage of retirees.

Will we do a Florida tour next year? Yes. We already booked the same house in Ft Myers Beach for February and March. But next year we can (hopefully) get into Gasparilla and Winter Park. And next year we will try to plan the schedule so we don't have six shows in a row, every weekend.  

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Comment by Connie Mettler on March 18, 2019 at 12:09pm

Thanks, John. Another great review. Many people appreciate your candor. Interestingly, my experience with the Florida shows is the same as yours ... Atlantic buyers much better than Gulf Coast buyers, but I think we are the exception. For us northerners there is usually that double bonus, keeping the bills paid between November and May plus the wonderful weather. Spoils you. Not to say it isn't high overhead and a lot of work. It also means time off during the week because few of us can make work away from our studios. 

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