Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Well, this show gets a lot of press.
I read a great post on Facebook that had about 30 plus comments. Some good, mostly bad.
Facebook is thin, you never get a lot of meat.
I am gonna give ya the whole feast, and dessert too.
No Papys, since a 23-year old Papys is now getting $85 per shot in Louisville restaurants. Pleez!
FIRST A LITTLE HISTORY
I first met my wife, Ellen Marshall, at this show more than 18 years ago. So I have a romantic angle to it. Hard to let go of the show.
May have too. Read on.
At one time, every important artist out there did St. James, hereafter referred to as SJ.
The crowds came and bought, impressive sales numbers were made in all media.
Sadly, those days are a distant memory for most of us.
I have done the show for 20-plus years. I am on the court in a great spot. Next to my wife--very important. I get fresh kisses by the hour. We have our backs to the SJ mansions. Plenty of storage room. We have electricity (Most do not). A neighbor lets us use her bathroom. She feeds us soup, sandwiches, even beer. We get in very easily and setup. Teardown is a piece of cake too.
So what's not to like about the show.
It always comes down to dollars spent versus dollars earned.
SJ gets a big "F" in my book. The dinero is longer there, for what it costs.
In the old days this was a solid show, $4K plus every year.
Sadly, that does not happen any more.
OK. A LITTLE MEAT ABOUT THE SHOW
SJ Court is only one of five art fairs run at this location. Altogether, you have more than 750 exhibitors. Just like Ann Arbor.
The Court show has exhibitors on both sides of the two streets on the mall. The mall has two rows of artists. Newbies get put here. They do not always get the whole crowd. It is a rite of passage. You get on the mall, at least one time, and then hope for a better spot after that. I was on the mall, once.
There are artists on a show called Belgravia Court. This is a narrow strip of artists, tightly packed in back to back. Just off the court on the south end. It is considered a prime show to be in, along with the court.
One street over, to the east of the court is Fourth Street. This show has artists packed in on both curbs of the street.
Then, another street to the east is Third Street. There are two shows, one north, one south that have artists setup off the street facing the sidewalk.
Then there is an old church along Magnolia, which has their show with artists around its parking lot. Then, there is a scab show under an old filling station on Hill Street.
Lots of competition for limited spending by the attendees.
In the Court show there are lots of corner booths, double booths. Most artists have ample storage behind. Many have some room to hang on at least one side wall.
LETS NOW LOOK AT THE SALES SIDE OF THIS SHOW
First, I am a photographer. I have very colorful images, many are tropical, many are humorous, some are hand-colored. After 40 years in the biz, I have many friends in all media who do this show. I walk all the shows every morn. I get reports from folks. What is hot, what is not.
Also, when people come into my booth, I greet them, tell them about the work. My nose is not in a book or on a IPhone.
I am a closer. Give me an opening, and I will make sure you go home with one of my pieces, been doing 36 shows per year, for 40 years--and, making a living at it.
For most of us, this show is sliding into oblivion.
Yeah, about 10 per cent of all exhibitors make some serious money there. The rest of us are struggling to make $3K now. This used to be a $5K show for years, and then I saw it starting to slide ever downward the last five years.
A LITTLE MATH LESSON ABOUT SALES.
Lets just say you did $3K there. Sounds decent for a three-day show now.
Remember, $3K is now the old $5K.
Trouble is, the $3K does not buy you $5K of anything.
Back to the math.
Show fee is $550 for the booth, plus the jury fee.
If you live a five hour drive away (Like me) or longer, then you are looking at a $200 plus gas bill.
Lodging. Show is three days, plus a day before setup. Many of us come in the night before the setup--especially depending on your Thursday set up time. First ones, go in at 9 am, then next group (me) goes in at noon, then final group goes in at 3 pm. So you can have 4-5 nites of hotel bills. I stayed at a Sleep Inn with a great rate--with taxes it came to $69 per nite, or nearly $350 for the five days.
Food, gonna run ya $40 per day easily--so there is another $200 gone.
You gotta replace that $3K of inventory you sold.
You are losing six per cent back for sales tax. The another 2-3 per cent on the MCV processing fees.
All told, when you add it all up, you clear about $1200-$1400 for the show. And you were away 4-5 days.
Not a great return on your money.
That is why this show no longer really works for most of us trying to earn a living out there.
For the booth fee charged, there should be a far better return on your money.
Sadly there is not. And, I do not see it improving in the near future.
SO, NELS, TELL US ABOUT THE FRICKING SHOW, I CAN NOT HOLD MY BREATH MUCH LONGER.
Thought you would never ask.
This year we had very cold weather two of the three days. I think it affected crowd turnout.
Friday, we lucked out. It was supposed to rain most of the day--never happened. Crowds were thin.
Saturday, we had clear skies, winds, and a high of about 58 degrees. Brrrrr!
Sunday, we had clouds, some wind, and it got into the low 60's. Brrr!
Crowds were thin compared to years past.
Not a lot of good shoes people attending.
Forget about be-backs. You got one shot at them.
Most of the crowds there could be called the "Walking Zombies."
They walked enmasse down the middle of the street, never looking into a booth.
A sorry state of affairs.
When they did come in, they bought very lowend. Most of them did not have lot of moola on them.
Louisville tends to be very Southern, very traditional and very conservative in their art taste.
Sadly, lots of art on the stick going buy. Who juried these shows?
I saw very few gallery wraps go by me on any given day. Mostly little matted pieces in bags.
I just do not see the quality people there anymore.
I also do not see a lot of the great circuit artists there any more. They have written this show off.
Hey, you pay your $550 and takes your chances.
If you are a part-timer, then maybe a $3K return is ok with you.
If you live nearby, it is probably OK.
For the rest of us who try to make living out there--it is very questionable whether we should continue to do this show.
Bottom line. The pie is being sliced way too thin. There are not enough buyers out there for all the competition.
That said, Louisville is a wonderful town to be in, in the early fall.
I just don't know if I will be partaking of it anymore.