Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Welcome to the Cooper studio. Yup, still on the topic of that summer art fair. Who'da thunk it was so complicated, eh?
The summer art fair. And no, we don't have to limit ourselves, it could be a fall event--we'd even allow winter if you move it indoors. Think art festival, then it becomes season-less or generically seasoned. However/whatever.
Today we need to talk about one of the major problems with the art festival venue. In a nutshell? Rampant abuse of the format.
I've looked into the history of the art fair a bit. The original purpose was for a group of artists to show their work, sans a brick and mortar style gallery. It makes perfect sense that the local art center or art gallery would help with that, organizationally speaking. They often pull in a lot of volunteer work, and their mission statements tend to read like this:
Our Mission: To bring People and Art together
Our Vision: To enhance the quality of Life through Art
Our Goal: To provide communication and aesthetic appreciation of the visual fine arts, through the use of education
Experience collaborative, creative merrymaking at its finest. Join friends old and new...
From a spark of love of the arts and small town life, the idea of Art on the Prairie grew with dedicated planning...
How did we get from that to a company directing a collection of 14 art fairs? And in the off season hosting a "boot camp" to tell artists what they need to do to be art fair artists? Average price to "show your art" there? $479. And then the company grows and needs to make more money, so of course, another art fair is created. Is it about the art, or about the company needing more revenue? Please don't tell me you need a moment or two to think about your answer.
And of course, they are not the only culprits. When the local school dance team needs a fund raiser, their moms decide to host an art fair. When the town 4th of July festival isn't big enough, they add on an art fair to attract more attention and numbers. Does it matter that they don't have a clue about showing art and their mission statement doesn't have anything to do with promoting art?
"We can charge the artists to show us samples of their art, and make some money there, and then we can pick the ones we like to exhibit their art at our fair and make even more money there." "We can make money, lots of money" .
Which is all well and good for the hosts of art fairs. But what happens when there is an art show every other weekend? When the art fair patrons begin to see the art show as "just another art show, and we went to one last weekend so why go to this one, it's pretty much the same."?
Obviously the art fair patron is the ultimate decision maker regarding the success of the art fair. But the artist doesn't need to be the hapless victim caught in the middle. If you are an art fair artist, or planning on becoming one, do some questioning first:
1. Who is hosting/directing the fair?
2. What is their goal or mission statement?
3. Is it business or is it art?
Think of it like this: Is it called an art fair, or a money fair? Whoa. Caught you, did I? If as artists we would chose to exhibit at events that put the art first, could we thin out the events that think of their revenue first?
Because when the art fair host thinks "anything for a buck" it trickles down to the artist. And when the artist thinks "anything for a buck" they start to use phrases like "cobble something together to sell next weekend/next year". That's not good for the artist. It's not good for the art fair patron. Most of all it's not good for art.
When you look at that schedule of art fairs for 2012, please, put art first. Thanks for reading.