Art Fair Insiders

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

I like being an artist and everything that goes along with our career.  It's my belief that its the pioneer spirit that lies within us that causes us to chart a new course every day of every week of every month of every year.  We're the ones that would have traveled the Oregon trail east toward the promised land.  We roll the dice and take our chances that are creations are going to keep us in beans and tequila, although I'm finding a taste for a nice porter beer now and then.  Now for the beef.

I just opened an email on upcoming deadlines from Juried Art Services with four shows and each one had an Application Late Deadline available.  I know that I've read a few gripes and I've never chimed in.  Well now it's time.

The Sausalito Art Festival's deadline is March 1, 2012 with a $45 jury fee.  Yea, I think it's high but I don't want to deprive anyone from making a buck.  But here's the kicker.  They will cheerfully take a late application by March 14, 2012 for an extra $100.  Are you kidding me?  Do I have a sign on my back that says, "KICK ME"? Or, maybe there's a finger on the front of my shirt pointing upward that says, "I'm with Stupid".  For the first time in over 20 years I'm going to say enough is enough.  This is the show that already charges $1,200 for an inline 10x10 and $1,850 for a single corner spot.  Everyone has to make up their own mind, but I believe that we artists need to draw the line on this kind of gouging - I'm pretty sure in a number of states, this may be extortion.  And, it's not that I have an issue paying the booth fee.  Heck, I did the Northwest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle last weekend and paid more than that, but I also had a premium spot and had several sculptures placed in other key areas for that.  It's just the whole excessive jury fee is getting out of whack. 

For me, I'll stand up and say forget it.  The only reason why shows do this is because they get enough people applying and hoping to get in; it would be interesting to know what percentage if any actually get in. Unless we as a collective organization refuse to participate in this, it will only get worse!  Listen to your inner pioneer spirit and think about it.


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Comment by Alisno Antelman on March 13, 2012 at 2:32pm

I know that in the past, the Artfair Sourcebook has listed the chance of getting in to a show. If you figure 800 applicants (for example) to a show with 180 exhibitors and the award winners get in automatically, perhaps if you live locally you get a better chance etc...and maybe some shows invite artists...Also, they may take a certain number for each medium, so your chances are slim in some cases. I think I recall reading that the chance to get in for jewelry at the Smithsonian show was something like 35% this was a while back. There are so many factors and it's impossible to base a business on particular shows. I also agree the late application fee is BS!

Comment by Wendy Zumpano on March 13, 2012 at 11:02am

Wow, this is a saucy, spicy exchange!!!  As a fairly new artist to fine art, I am meandering my way around the Chicago area landscape, trying to figure out what works for me, always asking my fellow artists for suggestions.  On occasion, I've received an enthusiastic suggestion for a show with the caveat "the deadline is passed, but maybe you can still get in."  I've paid late fees because I've honestly been late to the party.  I didn't follow the rules, I understand that there will have to be some after the fact accounting and attention paid to my application.  In our very capitalistic country, the rules of supply and demand allow for the increase in price as the demand rises.  When you get to the point where the price exceeds your own personal demand, then enough's enough.  But when the shows are still full, we can complain all we want, but the demand allows for those high prices.  But $1200 would definitely exclude me from participation, that's for sure.  In the case where shows are still pimping for applications, could it be a situation of full categories but they don't actually come right out and say that they have enough jewelry folks?  The issue I have with more expensive shows is when there is no prize money for the award winners and those generic bulk ribbons are handed out.  If you're going to charge a premium, then give the artists a premium experience, I say!!!  Finally, if a $300 show might charge a $25 late fee, the percentage is around the same for the $100 late fee.  If artists are driving 3000 miles, it sounds like it's really worth it!!!  I have a loooong way to go before I could even consider something like that.


Comment by Paul Strohman on February 21, 2012 at 1:48pm

One more comment...I think Joe is right, that shows are not getting the number of people they expected to apply.  I have called several places that allowed me to apply late without a fee.  Sometimes just calling them and speaking to those in charge will make a difference.  If the deadline has past and the show is coming up, you can bet that the shows will take artists.  2011 was totally that with me, as I never did shows before and didn't understand this crazy "show/jury" world. 

Comment by Paul Strohman on February 21, 2012 at 1:42pm

I decided to call the St. Charles art committee and talk to them about the extension.  As I, in a very nice tone btw, began to ask about the extension, I was told that I was talking to the wrong person and that the correct person was out of the office.  I gave my number and am waiting for a response.  I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt, but I will tell you that I frankly think like Jonathan and many others on here...this jurying thing is a scam (my words). 

I can happily say that I was accepted into the Barrington Art Festival put on by Amdur Productions...which is on the same weekend.  So my two thoughts...I want to learn more of this frustrating process and what the St. Charles, IL group is up to.  My other thought is why I am spending so much money on jury fees and even applying to two shows on the same weekend. 

Follow me here...I feel like I have to go from painting mode to sales mode to application mode for my art business.  I have to be an excellent painter, fantastic photographer, excellent booth designer, charismatic salesperson, and strong physically to put the booth up and down.  Never mind the traveling life as well.  Understand...I love what I am doing.  It just, as you will all attest, is a lot of positive energy going forth.  Working with the show promoters is not a problem, albeit a challenge at times, but it's jumping through the jury process that is so frustrating.    Perhaps a list of excellent shows could be listed in a separate area on this site.  For example, my best experience with promoters was Green Lake, WI and Brainerd, MN.  Cape Coral, FL was really excellent too!

Comment by Jonathan Shuff on February 21, 2012 at 10:54am

I think that while shows might have legitimate reasons for extending a deadline to apply, or a deadline to announce the jury results, the perception that I (and a lot of other artists have) is that they are extending the deadline simply to collect more application fees.  As artists, we are expected to follow the prospectus & contract to the letter, no variance, no wiggle room.  But when a promoter (or sponsoring organization) doesn't hold up their end, then doesn't that make the contract null & void?

It has been a seller's market so to speak for promoters for the past several years, and it will only change when people stop paying the fees and letting the promoters say one thing and do another.  Unfortunately there isn't an established alternative marketplace (other than applying to other shows) that can yield the turnout and potential sales a well-run event can generate. 

There are many shows that are completely professional and open in their communication to the artists, and they are a shining example of what is possible in the art fair world.  For the others, we all are left to wonder what the heck is going on?

Shows should have to hold firm to their own stated timelines and deadlines.  They expect my application on time, my money on time, and me on time, ready to go.  Why not them?

Comment by Alison Thomas on February 21, 2012 at 10:42am

A lot of us are staying closer to home as well and not doing the shows that between travel, hotel, and booth fee are hitting into a four figure investment.  Add to that the chance of getting a bad space, competing with stilt walkers, or being next to a shouting sponsor booth and a lot of us can't take the chance.

Comment by Robert Wallis on February 20, 2012 at 8:07pm

How recently have you served on those boards? The last 3 years have been hard, and I know more than a few artists who have dropped out after 20 years or more and have found day jobs.

Comment by Joe Clifton on February 20, 2012 at 8:00pm

There are many good points here including:

  • Asking a show why is the deadline extended - Connie, I caught that you don't make that decision for Arts, Beats, and Eats, but it would be helpful for all of us to understand that process
  • Writing to these shows and asking the particulars
  • Really speaking together and not applying for these shows

I'm not sure that I'm buying into that many shows are extending deadlines because they are not getting enough applicants.  I've served on two boards and we've always been getting more than enough qualified folks.

There are a number of good reasons to extend deadlines: volunteer staff changes and doesn't get out mailings in time; show switches from mail-in applications to online and it takes getting their artists used to the system; or they really don't get enough applications.  However, this should be a red flag if they are constantly resorting to this, and we artists should be asking ourselves why.

Comment by Robert Wallis on February 20, 2012 at 6:36pm

Good point there, Alison. I've thought the same thing, and a lot of the lower tier shows seem to be extending deadlines. The other possibility may be that the last three years or so may have shaken out the artists that were getting marginal returns before and it's become unviable financially to do shows anymore. Those folks aren't applying this year and it's showing up as a smaller pool of applicants.

Comment by Alison Thomas on February 20, 2012 at 12:09pm

This actually may be a good sign.  Apparently these shows that are extending the deadline are not getting the number of applications they were expecting.  This could be because artists are thinking the application fee / booth fee is too high for what they are getting.  We're starting to vote with our applications.  Now all that is left is for us to tell the shows why we are not applying.

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