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Wichita Annual Book, Art and Craft Fair - Mother's Day Weekend

When I applied for this show, I was looking for something close to the OKC 6-day show.  The Book & Art fair is held every year on Mother's Day weekend at the Century II exhibit hall in Wichita, Kansas as a fundraiser for the local art museum.  As the date of the show approached, my husband and I were faced with a couple of very unexpected and expensive events that had me questioning whether or not to do this one.  He talked me into going, but I chose to drive and set-up on the same day to keep my hotel costs down, something that I don't normally do.

 

Set-Up

Set-up is on Friday from 10 am 'til 8pm.  I arrived at 5pm and found easy parking at the loading dock.  I was able to unload quickly onto one of the provided flatbed carts and dolly my stuff to my booth space.  Set-up seemed to go smoothly for most people. Affordable electric ($35) was provided via an outlet on the floor right at your booth space, the floor was fairly level, and the aisles were wide.  I managed to finish setting up at 7:45, a respectable time when I'm by myself.

 

The artist's parking was an easy one block walk from Century II.  Because of my late arrival I didn't need to move my car to the artist's parking lot on Friday, just move it from the the dock space to another "loading" space.   Saturady and Sunday that short walk was much appreciated in the 100 degree heat.

 

The Show

The show opened Saturday morning at 10am, and there was a line of shoppers at the door.  Some of these folks went straight for the booths, others went right upstairs for the used book sale.  By 2pm the crowd had thinned out to a mere trickle and pretty much remained that way until the 6pm closing time.  Bargain shoppers abounded in the afternoon crowd, drwan in by the book sale.  The artists had plenty of time to walk around and visit in the afternoon.  I met many first-timers like myself, and one long-timer.  Several of the artists had been in OKC like myself.  All of the first-timers expressed that it would be nice to just make the booth fee for this one($200).

 

Sunday brought an 11am start time, and shoppers were once again lined up at the door.  Most folks managed to make early sales, but by 2 o'clock the crowd had shifted again.  The recycle metal worker across from me managed to keep the sales up for another hour or so, but most of the buying energy was gone.  At 3pm, an announcement was mad that all of the used books were on sale for $3 per paper grocery bag full, and that sucked some of the shoppers up to the balcony to look for bargains.  Several of the artists started a slow tear-down at 4:30 in preparation for the 5pm show close.  Those I spoke to didn't have great sales on either day and were gald when the show was over. 

 

Load Out

In anticipation of the forthcoming chaos of folks trying to leave a not-so-great show in a hurry, I brought in my own handtruck and packing materials when I arrived Sunday morning.  The flatbed carts provided by the site were in short supply at teardown and I was gald to have a place to stack my ProPanels off of the floor.  Everything was orderly and quick, and the hall was fairly empty when I departed at 6:30.

 

My Review

For some reason this show was very heavy on photography and jewelry.  The jewelry I get - Mother's Day and shiny, 3-D things to touch.  But photo?  I'm a photographer and this was totally not my crowd.  My stuff is higher-end, monochromatic, historic process work and this was a lower-end, 3-D, bargain-hunting crowd.  Unfortunately this show doesn't really have a website, and you're only given a list of participating artists at check-in (without a notation of medium), so reasearch can't be done prior to application or acceptance to see if your work is a good fit.  My hopes were that being sponsored by the local art museum the quality might be a little higher.

In terms of sales, under $100 seemed to be the hot price point.  A nearby jeweler sold a piece well above that mark but had give a significant discount just to make the sale.  In terms of 2-D, the hot item seemed to be the "print-in-a-bag" - no mat, just a flat print dropped in a clearbag.  Even notecards were a hard sell at this show.

In the past this show was held in conjunction with RiverFest (now held in June), which apparently brought in bigger crowds on Saturday.  This was the first year the the Book and Art show was on its own and despite a good advertising campaign the shoppers just weren't there.  And this is first and foremost a used book sale.  The art fair feels like a sideline - a few boothsitters, cookies at check-in, but that's it.  Everyone was very nice, but that doesn't put gas in the car to get you home.  If you live close by and need a filler show, this could be OK if you have lots of stuff in the $30 - $50 range.

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Comment by Annette Piper on May 11, 2011 at 6:06pm

Another great review to read.  Sorry the show wasn't so good for you Jacqueline.  But yes, there's always someone who does OK so I'm glad it was an AFI-er Tahmi.

(Interesting how you are usually able to obtain a list of participants, this seems to be treated as "secret" by organisers down here - maybe otherwise you'd see how loaded the show is to a particular type of art... or how they've let the buy/sell in!?)

Comment by Tahmi DeSchepper on May 11, 2011 at 4:49pm
It's funny how different artists have different experiences. This was a good show for me (better than many of the 3 day events I've been doing lately!), and I look forward to going back next year. I made multiple $200+ sales without having to offer discounts. My average ticket here was a little over $95. (I do jewelry and my price points are from $22 - 550). This is a show in transition though. After breaking with Riverfest, they have hit the re-boot button on the show. They only invited 1/3 the normal number of artists, focusing back on finer art and leaving out the stuff on a stick. Comments I heard in my booth were really positive, as many folks were surprised to see real art for a change and were happy not to have to fight through the beer tent crowd just to get into the event. It'll be interesting to see how that affects attendance next year as the word gets around. Plus, it's in-doors which is a huge plus in my book! As with any show, my neighbors were either happy or sad with the weekend take, but most of the artists around me expressed their desire to come back next year so it couldn't have been too bad for them.
Comment by MICHAEL ALAN STIPEK on May 10, 2011 at 2:35pm

I'm sorry to hear about this show.  It doesn't seem to have changed one iota since I stopped doing it in the mid-90s.  Books, books, books!  And not a bit of art to be had by the public.  This why it makes sense to contact other artists - in person/email/AFI about a show you don't know much about.  

Yeah, I still make those mistakes, so experience can be a cruel and indifferent master.  But thanks for the review, it will serve as a cautionary note to other artists for the future.

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