Art Fair Insiders

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

The ZAPP Art Festival Conference - A Newbie's Experience

As some of you may remember, I won the full pass to the ZAPP Art Festival Conference from this year's pledge drive.  Well, it's been a long time coming, but I'm finally able to sit down and write about my experience there.

I flew from Oakland to Portland on Thursday morning and got to the Benson Hotel about ten minutes into the first session and quickly jumped from one session to the next, hoping to find topics that would help me learn how to make my art festival experience great and professional.

To be perfectly honest, I was a little disappointed at first to find out that the main sessions were geared more toward art fair promoters.  I think I had been expecting this conference to be more like a convention; where art fair promoters and advertisers had booths where would-be artists could learn all the ins and outs of art fairs, have some questions answered, and learn how to improve their business.  But thankfully there were some afternoon break out sessions at the conference that focused on the artists and how we could improve our experiences.

One of the break out sessions that I found incredibly helpful was the Public Portfolio Critique.  My husband and I submitted our art and mock booth photo in the hopes of getting some feedback on our stuff, and YAY, we were one of the artists they chose to judge!  But I also learned a great deal from their comments on the other artists' images.  It was very cool to be sitting in on a mock jury, to get an idea of where they're coming from, what they're looking for, and how to improve my chances to be selected for a show.

And then there were the lunches.  I normally find a spot out of the way to sit and eat (whether from fear or a need for solitude, I'm not sure), but on both days people came to join me and I'm so glad they did!  I met some wonderful people during those lunches, and have some good contacts now; some fellow artists and a couple promoters, one even in my local area!

I also got to meet Connie!  While sitting in the back of the room at Eve Connell's session about effective interpersonal communication, I got introduced to Kelly Smith Cassidy who was also sitting in the back row.  When Kelly heard my name, she said that Connie had been looking for me.  That was a nice feeling, and I made sure to go meet her after the session.  She's just as warm and friendly in person as she seems on her podcasts and in the comments and blogs she writes here on AFI.

I was unable to stay for the festival afterward--as I had to get home and spend the weekend with my husband and his daughter--but I know I'll be looking at the festivals I walk very differently now.

Thank you, again, Connie and AFI for this wonderful opportunity!  And hopefully I'll see you all around at art fairs very soon.

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Comment by Connie Mettler on October 24, 2014 at 9:27am

Thanks, Alyx, for this report. As you can see I run a little behind also. 

Your point of view is useful to many. The conferences usually start with a keynote speaker that presents a wider perspective on the arts, the visual arts in particular, that fit under a big umbrella of what the State of the Arts are nationally, if not globally. It is always good to think outside of our own experiences and to broaden our ideas, so I look forward to these presentations, and was very interested in the keynote speaker's ideas.

The rest of them, not so much. I'm tired of that diversity conversation as I believe we are all melting together in neighborhoods everywhere. Yes, there is racism and there are ethnic communities but the hope for our country and the world is to move beyond those to what unites us.

So glad you met some good people, and that is what I like the most about the conferences. Meeting people from across the country within this one business, meeting people you've only heard about or only met online, and seeing old friends. 

One of the beauties of the art fair business is the wide variety of the events, each one different and no two alike. 

Yes, that mock jury is an eye opener and I hope it gave you lots of ideas of where to go next in preparing for a jury. That alone had to be worth the trip. 

So good to have met you too and look forward to the next time.

Comment by Alyx Morgan on October 14, 2014 at 8:46am

You're welcome, Kathleen.  I'm glad it was helpful.

Comment by Alyx Morgan on October 14, 2014 at 8:45am

I did, Jacki.  It was a very good experience & a great way to meet others (from both sides of the booth) in this industry.

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on October 13, 2014 at 10:42am

Thank you, Alyx.  Most artists here may never get to the conference and I am sure they appreciate hearing all about it.  It sounds like you learned a lot.

Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on October 13, 2014 at 10:31am

I've wondered about this conference.  Thanks for the description.

Comment by Alyx Morgan on October 13, 2014 at 12:20am

Thank you, Barrie.

Take care,


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Comment by Barrie Lynn Bryant on October 12, 2014 at 4:49pm

Very well written. Thanks for posting it!

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