Art Fair Insiders

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

I just got my annual rejection from Cherry Creek and it got me thinking.  There is a problem in our business that effects many artists like me.

The last time I did Cherry Creek was 1992 (its second year).   I was 11 years into my art fair career and still showing tried and true photography,  That year I showed an ironic new image, that combined with a provocative title, caused people to see themselves in a whole new way.  My sales went up dramatically and I had my best show to that date at Cherry Creek.  

After that, I began to look for more image/title combinations and soon ironic turned to comic.  I became successful beyond my wildest dreams topping out a few years ago at Main Street; Fort Worth with a $21,000 show.  People come in my booth and chuckle constantly, then, before leaving, they say, "I love your sense of humor".

Well, 34 years into my career, my body of work has progressed to the point where what I do is very popular with patrons of art shows, but because of the restrictions of 10 second viewing by jurors I can't include my titles and even if I could they wouldn't have time to "get the joke".  A glance won't do it!  So, of late I'm getting more rejections because I'm jurying with my new work assuming shows want variety and diversity.  Wrong!  It seems to me, that shows want the same-old-same-old work every year.

The problem with the whole system, is that the entire jury process is disconnected from the buying of art.  Shows choose their jurors from the same pool every year.  The jurors are all from the pool of people who are "suppose" to know art.  NOT people who consume art.  So, the same artists (many great ones) populate the best shows year after year.  However, the public is denied the experience of seeing a greater variety of artists (many great ones).  

We all know the serious type of people shows recruit to their juries (e.g. Museum directors, gallery owners, artists and academicians).  I don't believe they take humor seriously!  

If you have four eye-popping images that take no thought to process you're in.  It's the same with judges at shows, they glance at a wall of work but consume none of it.

I know the people of Denver would love my work, but they will probably never get the chance to see it. 

An artist friend of mine thinks the best shows are commission shows, because the public votes with its dollars and the top sellers are invited back.

Something to think about.

Views: 3372

Comment by Colin Murray on January 20, 2015 at 4:27pm

I would agree with you. When you walk a show and see who wins the awards, the same thoughts comes to mind. 

Comment by Connie Mettler on January 20, 2015 at 4:54pm

Our very good friend Sonny Dalton (think you might remember him, R.C.) who did junk sculpture pieces and was pretty successful at connecting with customers got into Cherry Creek once also. He pretty well sold out and people were standing in line to buy from him. It was fine work. So the question gets to be, if its popular is it not good enough? Sometimes for some folks they are both fine and popular ... great place to be, but often that very idea which the public loves isn't caught by the judges. 

R.C., if you've got the time, I just read this interesting post on an artist's blog about the participants in the well-regarded ACC Baltimore show, from Bruce Metcalf, aka the Craft Gadfly: http://www.brucemetcalf.com/blog/

Comment by Thomas Felsted on January 20, 2015 at 5:09pm
I agree with all you have said R.C.
Comment by Geoff Coe on January 20, 2015 at 5:46pm

I am a customer of R.C.'s; staring at his work as I write this.  I don't have any grand insights on the jurying/judging process...but I just wanted to note for the record that as a former Denver resident, I attended the the second CC show and bought a piece from Jerome Vaden, an Aurora CO resident who was exhibiting there (and who still lives in the Denver area).  Jerome's beautiful watercolor is hanging right next to RC's photograph.  Talk about your degrees of separation!!

Comment by ELLEN MARSHALL on January 20, 2015 at 9:17pm

I have applied to Cherry Creek for years and have been rejected.  Haven't applied the last couple as it seems to be stacked against me.  I personally think the Denver crowd would love my work but will never find out. Have finally given up that dream.  Maybe it all for the best.

Comment by R. C. Fulwiler on January 20, 2015 at 10:37pm

Thanks for the link, Connie.  Bruce is a thoughtful guy with much to say.  Especially enjoyed his essay on Susan Sontag and photography.  I'd have to say, the Art Fair World is in somewhat better shape than the Craft fair world as he depicts it.  But, ageing is a concern for both.

Comment by R. C. Fulwiler on January 20, 2015 at 10:55pm

Thanks, Geoff.  Hope it still reminds you of your father.

Comment by R. C. Fulwiler on January 20, 2015 at 10:57pm

Ellen, I know how you feel,  I've given up on a few myself.  But every now and then, you have to weigh the $40 against the incredible potential.

Comment by R. C. Fulwiler on January 20, 2015 at 10:59pm

Ellen, if you applied for 10 years you'd be out $400.  You'd make that back in the first hour of the first day!

Comment by Bert Herrera on January 21, 2015 at 8:28am

Hey Rich, I fully agree with everything you say.  I can only speak for my media, which is also photography, but generally for me, if it sells, it doesn't jury or judge. I have been lucky to get into Cherry Creek once, into Ft Worth once and into St Louis twice.  Sales were great, but geneerally, it wasn't from the images that got me juried in.

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