I just did two great shows in the midwest that I had not heard of before this year. One was Edward's Place Fine Art Fair in Springfield, IL, September 15th and 16th and the other was Edwardsville Art Fair, in Edwardsville, IL September 21-23rd in Edwardsville, IL outside of St. Louis.
Edward's Place Fine Art Fair has been going on for 30 years and I think I just never looked for shows that weekend before because of previous commitments. But it turns out this show fits a lot of the criteria of what makes for a really great show for me- small show, run by an art center or art group, and in a community that doesn't have too many other art buying opportunities (I call this an "art starved community").
The setting for this show was on the lawn of a historic building turned into art center. Set up for me was super easy because I was the first booth- just pulled right up and unloaded. Other booths had to haul in. They had great crowds the entire time including Sunday morning. I did a bunch of sales before it even opened at 10:00 on Sunday! The weather was hot and humid but I still had nonstop traffic.
I also loved their new concept on the "kid tent" they called it "Kidz Picks" and encouraged artists to set aside some work for under $8 for kids to purchase in their booth rather than send it off to a separate location. This was a great way to do a little studio clearance and get kids into buying art. I thought it worked great and didn't impact sales in any negative way- if anything it was a big positive to bring young families into my booth. I actually think this concept will help encourage more families which is a what we all need to build this business into the future. I didn't hear from many other artists as to how sales were because I was so busy- my neighbor with jewelry was happy though. One other artist that I saw the next weekend said they had a slow Sunday.
The next weekend I was heading down to the area once again but about an hour further south for the Edwardsville Art Fair. This show is only in it's 5th year but they really know what they are doing. Another artist recommended it last year and I will now recommend it to every artist I know. I talked to the director and she said they want to grow the show but hopefully she will take my advice to keep it under 120 booths. At this point there are 90. The quality is mixed so I am sure they will continue to build in that area. My sales at this show were once again constant and ranging from $5 to $425. The hours are long on Saturday but shoppers were out the whole time with maybe a little lull around 3:00 or 4:00. The close time at 3:00pm on Sunday was really nice for those of us needing to get some miles on after the show. There were still customers at that time but at least I felt like I could start to tear down as needed.
I haven't even touched on the amazing hospitality- meals served at our booth everyday!! And good food too! On Saturday afternoon they gave me the best chocolate chip cookie I've ever had! The judging was also really fair. They had a new take- the judges had sticker that they could place near a favorite piece of art so they were able to spread their "Love" all over the whole show. This helped sales too! Plus they have enough sponsors to give out some serious cash!
While chatting with the director she told me one thing they did with their advertising was to place ads in the programs of other art fairs in the area. Once she told me that I realized that I had definitely seen those results- a lot of patrons asked me about other shows I would be in and said they go to all the shows. And several customers called themselves "collectors". Talking to other artists it sounds like they saw the benefits too!
The other thing that really stood out to me at this show was how gracious everyone was. I was thanked over and over again for coming there by the volunteers, board members AND many many customers! I've never in all my 25 years of shows felt so overwhelmingly appreciated!
If you are looking to do a couple of shows next September just remember to check out the "Edwards" shows in Illinois- both were amazing for me so hopefully they will be for you too!