Art Fair Insiders

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

A member of this site shared a show review and it included this letter that he sent to the show organizers:

We participated in the ________ _______ 2019 and it was our first time exhibiting in your show.  Our booth location, listed in the program and advertised to our customers, was #85. When we arrived at registration we were not given that location per the map but had been moved to a spot with a hole, a tree, and half a driveway in the middle.

After a bit of back and forth, you offered us our choice of two spots; one being nearly the last booth in the show [notable: this is a show where everyone moves as a unit in one direction — so the “end” is the absolute end] and another other spot which seemed great: level, middle of the show, plenty of storage room.  So we took it.  Then we found out you had neglected to tell us that this spot was adjacent to a 20 foot wide food booth, (claiming this food booth had never been in that spot in previous years) with a queue stretching 30 feet down the road in front of our booth, and that of our neighbor.  As it turned out, this was more than a problem for us, it was — literally— a show stopper.

The entire flow of show visitors moved in a now-much-denser mass on the opposite side of the food line, either unaware of our booth or unwilling to try to cross through the food line to access our booth. We were having brisk sales up until the line spanned our entrance; as a result of this scenario, we did 85% of our sales before 12:30, when the line first formed, and only 15% —two sales— during the remainder of the day as the line had remained in force until late afternoon.

In talking with other exhibitors, including the food people, we find that:

1) the artists on the other side of this food had been on our side of this food last year and had specifically requested to not be anywhere near them again, so you just moved them from one side to the other.

2) this specific food vendor has been in that very spot for several years.

3) the line of people waiting to buy food here snaked from this booth spanning the entire length of their 20 feet, plus another 30 feet, passing in front of us and another artist.

4) this line-scenario happens every year at this food booth.

When we spoke to you about this your response was, “who would have foreseen this?”, even though it had happened repeatedly in past shows.

We take our commitment to our Art, and to the shows we do, very seriously. This is our livelihood. We made sure to invest in inventory, advertised to all our customers, and set up our display in advance to make sure it will work in the pre-assigned location only to have a different booth and the access to our new location blocked.  As far as we are concerned, you broke your contract with us and it cost us a great deal of time and money.

Please — Do not ever do this to another artist. I know that at least two members of show management also exhibited at the fair; ask yourself: would you be willing to set up in this booth space and have your entire entrance blocked for the major selling hours of the show?

Because of your amateurish mistakes and lies, of omission and outright, your failure to correct or avoid recurring problems ahead of showtime, and your apparent inability to learn from past failures, we will not only never apply again, we will include this letter in reviews we post.

What do you think of this approach? Have you ever done this? What have you done in a situation like this?

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Comment by Connie Mettler on February 15, 2020 at 2:14pm

Dave, it wasn't one of the "biggies" (and not Gracie Square). In fact, it is one I've never heard of. I'd venture to say this would rarely happen at 95% of the events. I posted it here really because show organizers do read this site and sometimes they are not aware of "unintended consequences" (to use a current term). Many show directors have no awareness of other events. Really. Also, I thought it was such a fine example of communication from the artist to the event, a model, to me.

Comment by Larry Sohn on February 15, 2020 at 12:31pm

Dave Piper: I am not the OP, nor do I know exactly which show they are stating. However, if the photo posted is from that show. It is called "Gracie Square". It is in New York City.

Comment by Dave Piper on February 14, 2020 at 5:31pm

Wish we knew what show.

Comment by Connie Mettler on December 5, 2019 at 3:05pm

It is always interesting to see both points of view. I agree, Sharon, show organizers are often dealing with issues that artists are unaware of. Last minute things happen, people need to be shifted, sponsors back out and a program that was promised can't b fulfilled. 

I'm thinking right now about two high profile events that were faced with a changing scenario recently that have brought on surprises.

Comment by Sharon McAllister on December 5, 2019 at 1:01pm

We are well aware of the issue Barry refers to and are concerned about the effect this "musician" situation had on nearby artists. We can't share the details but on advice of police we didn't not attempt to move them or ask them to leave - the risk was too great. We could not share the details during the art festival either but please trust that we heard your concern.

You are right Stephen King is the best there is - many of us seek to emulate his staff's dedication to artists.


Comment by Barry Bernstein on November 27, 2019 at 6:22pm

I don't do much on social networking sites anymore. I haven't even posted on my FB page in almost two months. Here I am though, staying inside, trying to survive a horrendous snow storm that is just starting and I wandered over here to see what people are posting. I agree with Stephen King. Artists should not be put in this position. Directors know when a food booth is going to block the flow of patrons. They also know that having a fire hydrant and a cement post in a booth is wrong. This show should not exist. Unfortunately, there are many shows that do the same thing and look the other way. I try and avoid doing these shows and anyone who knows me knows that I will be very vocal at the show and will call out the director for this transgression. I try to avoid these shows. There is enough info on line and from friends that I do my homework and, if it's a show I've never done, I find out about that show. We all pretty much know which shows are the best ones and I only apply to those shows. There are even some highly rated shows that I won't do because of the attitude of some directors.

I have said, mostly tongue in cheek, that if a group wants to have a show, that it should be a requirement that they pay Stephen King to volunteer at the Des Moines show. That show is the best run show in the country, hands down (along with SLAF, Cherry Creek, and Ft Worth). The best thing about Des Moines is that Stephen and his crew think on their feet and make adjustments on the fly. For instance, the weather was brutally bad this past summer. They came around non-stop with water, not in plastic bottles, but in large containers where you could fill up. When they realized that the water wasn't cold enough, they went out and bought ice for the artists. How many shows do that? Mostly, they shrug their shoulders and say they have no ice. That's just one small example. There are many little things that they do to make the experience as pleasant as they can.

I had an experience this year that I'm still upset about. At the Ft Myers show, last February, they placed a scam vendor(he was a vendor, not an artist) who was selling cd's of violin music with a sign about raising money for some music school in Boston. He had a youngish looking woman playing violin in the booth that he hired through a popular online ad site. The cd's were purchased and had no connection to any school in Boston. I asked the guy about some famous violinists and he had no clue about any violinist, famous or otherwise. They were 10 feet from my booth, directly in front. As people came down the line they would reach the edge of my booth and then turn to the music. By the time they turned back, they were past my booth. I complained long and loudly to the show director and nothing was done. I asked that they be moved. Their answer was that they sympathized with me and assured me they wouldn't be back next year, meaning this coming year. They wouldn't move them. I had people on the committee come around and agree with me that something should have been done. I probably lost around $2K in sales. Afterwards, they could have made up for this by refunding my booth fee, or, offered me a free space on this years show. I'm pretty loyal to a show that I've had success at in the past. Consequently, I am going back again this year. Maybe I'm being a hypocrite because normally I would not give that show my money. I do have a small loyal clientele there. So, I decided to go back. I asked to be on the other end of the show. We'll see where they put me. Ironically, these scammers were at just about every Florida show I did last year. It was as if I was being punished by fate.

I used to write to committees with logical and constructive criticism, sometimes strongly worded. I gave that up a while ago. 99% of those shows don't listen, and do not change a thing. I don't do that anymore. I just try to avoid those shows and if there is some problem, I try to take care of it myself. I don't want or need the aggravation. 

Comment by Connie Mettler on November 27, 2019 at 11:56am

not only the fire hydrant ... but the cement posts ... yikes!

But back to the topic, does anyone else have an experience similar to this artists's? Has anyone else written to a committee with constructive criticism? or even not-so constructive ;)

Comment by Cindy Welch on November 27, 2019 at 11:20am

Oh yes, on the fire hydrant.  Where is a fire marshall when you need one?

The proximity of the booth to the hydrant should have resulted in a citation and a fine (of the promoter) from the fire marshall but if no inspection was done after the booth was moved there ... no penalty.  They get away with it and it promotes breaking the rules in the future.

The artist should have been moved to a spot that was equal or greater in value to the one he had.  Or, been issued a refund if that could not be done.

Comment by Larry Sohn on November 22, 2019 at 7:39pm

I should have added, that is Gracie Square show, NY. I have done that show. Found the staff to fail to correct very bad issues that cost me revenue. I tried to work it out with them, many times. Instead found them completely unreceptive, non-communicative and uncaring. Therefore I wrote off the show and NEVER applied again. If they read this and black ball me, no loss. Without correction I would not go back, nor advise anyone else too.

Comment by Larry Sohn on November 22, 2019 at 7:32pm

If the fire hydrant pic is real, that would be against the "law/ fire code, whatever prevails in that locale. Although the booth is a temporary structure, no such structure can be erected within that proximity of the fire hydrant. In an emergency extra time would be needed to facilitate the hydrant use. Very hard to believe any show director would not realize this. Seems strange.

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