Art Fair Insiders

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Uptown Art Fair, Minneapolis, Minnesota— Hit and Miss for Many

Uptown was held on first weekend of August in a very trendy shopping,eating, and partying area of Minneapolis.

It is a theee day show with setup the day before except for those on Hennepin Ave.

The Show is held in two distinct sections: booths are setup on the street and grass of a mall that runs about five blocks long.  Those booths setup in staggered times on Thursday.  The second section sets up on Friday on Hennepin Avenue which runs across the top of the mall.

Some artists swear that sales are better on Hennepin. Others, like me, prefer the mall.

Hennepin has very little shade and you have moving traffic going by the rear of your booth.  There is a metal barricade that separates booth from cars.

You are on hot burning pavement in the height of a Minnesota summer.

Reminds me of an old joke about this. “Minneapolis has two seasons, August...and winter”.

The mall is shadier(typestyle just changed, do not know why.) and a lot more mellower.

I have done this show since the late 80-ies.  Many years sales were in my top ten show range.

The last three times have been showing a serious downward slide in sales, mostly, Lowend.

This year was no different.

They charge a big booth fee and frankly, most people are lucky if they do $3500. Not good.

The crowd tends to be young and tattooed with little disposable income.

Lots of people with dogs and they do not buy art.

Lots of the Zombie Walk going on, they do not even look at the booths.

Uptown claims over 300,00 in attendance.  I would question that.

This year they instituted a new wrinkle that contributed to a decrease in sales.

At the lower end of the mall they had a number of tents setup that were giving away free food in boxes and bottles.

So all show long I had people clutching three boxes of macoroni in hand.  Others with frappe bottles from Micky-D.

None of them bought anything.

I sure hope the committee revisits their thinking on this.  It is not good for the artists.

They are following the current trend of too many shows who are calling them an “art event” when they are really just an event to attract crowds.

Our whole biz is slowly getting sucked down the drain.

We had lovely temps which we’re slightly marred by a freak rainstorm about 5pm on Saturday.

It did not even show up on the radar but lasted an hour.

It flooded the gutters and made water rise high in booths.  It also drove away the crowd who never returned.

Sunday we had great weather and crowds, I did more then the other two days combined.

I talked to many artists in different mediums, very few were happy.

Sales were off by 30% or more.  This has been the trend this year.

For those of you living in the Midwest this is still a doable show.  If you live further, like Florida, I would have second thoughts.

Oh well, I am in Lexington, KY right now waiting to setup and hoping for better sales.

Stay tuned.

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Comment by Connie Mettler on August 22, 2019 at 9:27am

I remember the first time we did Uptown, very good sales (this was a fair number of years ago), and we were very interested in the neighborhood, the rollerbladers, the lakes, the "scene," the cool restaurants and the tattoo-ed people. We were always on the mall. We stopped going as slowly our sales cooled off. But I remember when it was THE place to be on that weekend for the top artists in our business. 

Comment by Layl McDill on August 20, 2019 at 12:18pm

I was on Hennepin Ave- the section that faces into the street (without the traffic going through). I've been in both areas and not sure if one is better than the other though one friend said they didn't make it down the whole street so I may consider the mall next time.

I would 100% agree there are no where near 300,000 people.  That number is GREATLY exaggerated. The crowds are very young and more about being scene.

I am local so this show is worth it (barely).  They really need to re-think their marketing campaign- there are very few real buyers at at this show.  The quality of the art is very high but it won't last if they don't get real art collectors. 

The free food was a major downer- had people interrupting me to ask for bags to carry their bounty.


Comment by Nels johnson on August 20, 2019 at 9:45am

I am on the mall, same place, for many years.

Sales were flat everywhere this year.

people are buying more Lowend,

When your sales are off by 40% over last year, you start worrying.

If I cut out this show then what us left.  It is getting to be very hard to earn a real living out here.

The art show biz is turning out to be a failed biz model.  Too high operating expenses coupled with diminishing returns.  Only a few lucky ones can survive,

Comment by Connie Mettler on August 19, 2019 at 11:16am

and I must add -- do they say there will be free food? That does not help to attract the audience artists need to continue. 

Nels, do you have the same booth space every year? On the street, or the Mall? Do you think there is any significant buying pattern in one or the other location?

Seems every show is "should I return next year or not?"

Interested in learning more about the Uptown Art Fair (not talking to Nels here)? Google Uptown Art Fair in the search box. There are many helpful reviews.

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