Art Fair Insiders

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

Sunshine Artist Announces 20th Annual Best Show Report

Each year subscribers to Sunshine Artist send in ballots from the magazine ranking their 10 top-selling shows. On these ballots they indicate their gross income for each of the shows. No other influence is used to determine the winning shows. The staff simply applies the math to determine each event's score. This year nearly 1000 shows received votes and the top 200 with the highest scores were ranked.

This is entirely a subscriber based ranking. So, if you're not a subscriber you had no input. The results of every poll, no matter what the subject matter, are open to discussion and questioning, nonetheless you can't argue with the facts:

  • subscribers only vote
  • gross income only is used for the rankings

Congratulations to these Top 20 shows:

  1. St. James Court Art Show, Louisville, KY
  2. Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, State College, PA
  3. Art on the Square, Belleville, IL
  4. Cherry Creek Arts Festival, Denver, CO
  5. Port Clinton Arts Festival, Highland Park, IL
  6. Bayou City Arts Festival Memorial Park, Houston, TX
  7. Coconut Grove Arts Festival, Coconut Grove, FL
  8. One of a Kind Show and Sale, Chicago, IL
  9. Naples National Art Festival, Naples, FL
  10. La Quinta Arts Festival, La Quinta, FL
  11. Ann Arbor Summer Art Fair, Ann Arbor, MI
  12. Art in the Glen, Glenview, IL
  13. Downtown Festival & Art Show, Gainesville, FL
  14. Bayou City Art Festival Downtown, Houston, TX
  15. Rio Grande Arts & Crafts Festival Balloon Fiesta Show, Albuquerque, NM
  16. Sausalito Art Festival, Sausalito, CA
  17. Plaza Art Fair, Kansas City, MO
  18. Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival, Winter Park, FL
  19. Allentown Art Festival, Buffalo, NY
  20. Krasl Art Fair on the Bluff, St. Joseph, MI

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Comment by Connie Mettler on September 3, 2012 at 12:45pm

Addendum: no entity mentioned here has contacted us with a thinly veiled threat of legal action.

Comment by Daniela Lo Presti on August 31, 2012 at 4:52pm



Not only do I find your work helpful but I can state as a fact I will NEVER do another show again without talking to others first or reading a review. I had such an awful experience recently that I appreciate the time and effort you put into your research. If a person has to worry about negative feedback then they are obviously not running their business correctly which they should look into. I think knowledge is power and everything else is a bullying tactic geared to making money off consumers rather then being concerned with their well being. Thanks again.


Comment by Greg Lawler on August 31, 2012 at 4:45pm

Daniela,  Thanks for your kind words. I'm glad you're finding my work helpful.

Comment by Daniela Lo Presti on August 31, 2012 at 3:35pm

Greg- I see nothing wrong with making a credible list of marketplace analysis. I don't see anything wrong in sharing a list in fact it's quite helpful for novices like myself to read rather then waste time at shows that are not as profitable. I would rather be knowledgable with industry insiders then have my head in the sand. I think you're doing a great job and thank you for your industry knowledge.

Comment by Greg Lawler on August 31, 2012 at 2:25pm

Sam - Thanks for your unvarnished analysis of the business.  Of course I (and everyone else) is looking out for number one.  It's human nature.  That's the reason why I try my best to provide a comprehensive and credible analysis of the marketplace. Serving my subscribers (and this industry) is the best way for me to look out for number one. And you're right ... honest feedback benefits everyone who takes this business seriously.

1. The artists benefit by being enabled to better target their "most likely to succeed at" art fairs and craft shows.

2. The show organizers benefit by receiving constructive criticism on how they can improve their events, from the exhibitors perspective.

3. Services like mine (AFSB) benefit because every point-of-view on an event that we receive helps us create a more balanced analysis for us to provide to those who value and utilize our services.

Greg Lawler, Editor

Art Fair SourceBook

Comment by Daniela Lo Presti on August 30, 2012 at 10:41am

Really happy to see the Allentown Art Festival in Buffalo, NY included on the list. Buffalo has a rich art community and so much beauty and small intimate galleries. I went to UB in my undergraduate studies and love this town. I'll have to check out that show sometime and if anyone heads up there definitely goto the Albright Knox Museum they have wonderful pieces of Picasso and Andy Wharhol.

Comment by Ray Mosteller on August 30, 2012 at 7:53am

Thank you Greg for the detailed explanation.  

You know, Greg and I have never talked except to renew my annual subscriptions.  So how do I know so much about how Greg ranks the shows?  It's because he discloses the numbers behind the rankings - with enough detail for any artist to evaluate the results and make individual adjustments for his/her specific circumstances.  

This sharing of the details behind the numbers is a perfect example of being "transparent".  I'm sure Greg has some proprietary information that he also will not share with the public.  But he has given more than enough information to allow artists to make a more informed decision.

AFSB rankings are not perfect and never will be.  But at least they are based on using the one meaningful measure of success which is "average" sales.  I think Greg understands how shows should be ranked.  Unfortunately some people just don't "get it" and may never will.

I'm told I opened up a hornet's next here.  I may get censored but I don't plan on getting stung.

Comment by Greg Lawler on August 29, 2012 at 7:28pm

To set the record straight ... The short story:  Ray has it exactly right, the Art Fair SourceBook ratings & rankings ARE based solely on sales data collected at the most recent event (the previous year's). We calculate the average net income (per artist) and rank the shows based only on that number, not how nice the staff is, not how beautiful the site is, not how easy it is, nothing but the sales, the bottom line. 

The long story:  My clientele is the professional or semi-professional artist/artisan who is trying their best to maximize their profit on a given weekend, so for them, sales is the most single important criterion for selecting a show.  On my extensive review of the shows, I also give a detailed commentary, with analysis of what styles, prices, and media are selling best at the show.  In addition to all the other detailed information one could possibly want to know, I also give each show a report card, grading them on 20 different areas of performance, from exhibitor quality to ease of set-up/take-down, buying energy to venue environment, security to show layout. You name it, we evaluate it.  Are all these other factors important? YES!  But the fact remains that most of us will put up with a lot of inconvenience, and some downright abuse, IF the sales are there.  That’s the reason why I base my ratings and rankings strictly on the sales data.
When I started the Art Fair SourceBook 20 years ago, I had been struggling for over two years to make ends meet.  I did 40 shows a year those first two years, and found that at least half of those, many chosen from Sunshine Artists magazine listings, were money losers!  I thought there had to be a better way. Over the course of the next year I began distributing a little report card/postcard to the event organizers for every exhibitor at every show I had ever heard of.  It took a year to be able to sort out the good from the bad and the downright ugly, but with the help of thousands of artists out there eager for some data-driven recommendations on shows, I came up with a list of the TOP 200 art fairs in America.  Sunshine Artist followed suit shortly thereafter. When I started, I gave shows a star rating (1*  2**   3***   &  4****) but when Sunshine copied that, and my data on sales grew exponentially between 1993 & 1994, I quickly changed to a numerical rating system (1-10). It was more accurate and empirical, and easier to compare one show with another.  Introducing other considerations was too So for nearly 20 years I’ve been ranking the shows this way.

Comment by Joe Halbrucker on August 29, 2012 at 11:59am

Thanks Connie. It was about time for that reminder!

Comment by Connie Mettler on August 29, 2012 at 11:33am

Please note this new post about legal issues in the posting on Internet forums:

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