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

Out in Des Moines (home to one of the nation's top art fairs) an experiment will be taking place on November 7 and 8 at the Metro Arts Expo in the downtown convention center. The organizers, the Metro Arts Alliance, have been awarded a $25,000 grant from Iowa Arts Council, so they are opening the doors free of charge!

In past years the admission was from $5 to $7 and the arts alliance is hoping that a free admission will double the number of attendees. This is a very nice event (a fair number of years ago we participated in it), in an attractive building and there is good community support, usually around 5000 people attend.

"This is a really great event, and the most important thing for us is to be able to offer it free to the public," said Kim Poam Logan, executive director of the Metro Arts Alliance. "We've always wanted to arrive at this point."

Read the article at the Des Moines Register.

What do you think? Do you think that an admission fee (that is less than the price of a movie ticket) affects attendance? Are you affiliated with an art fair that could maybe squeeze some money out of a sponsor to make the admission free?

Are any of you taking part in the Metro Arts Expo? Please report back to me! I am very interested in seeing how this turns out.

Views: 72

Comment by Peggy Whitson on October 21, 2009 at 1:35pm
as far as "squeezing money from" a sponsor ,I think a good place to start would be the big 3 banks, insurance & drug companies ....they are giving out billion dollar bonas 's yet again this year , and have heard they don't really know what to do with their abundance of money --true or not ? but a good place to start checking out , for favors .
In the past , the door fee brought in serious buyers .....but in this day & age , that fee may be keeping alot of potential serious buyers out . Everyones pinching pennys...and I'm not fussy , I will take the penny pinchers money , as well as the frivolous :)
Comment by Connie Mettler on October 21, 2009 at 2:50pm
That is a great idea, Peggy. Yes, it seems JP Morgan Chase would be worth pursuing! Then just think of all the towns that have a B of A. Art fair organizers, are you listening?

Here's a hilarious article from Andy Borowitz at the Huffington Post...it seems as though the hookers and cocaine dealers are getting the money now. Maybe a little Art at the Park presented by the Chicken Ranch would be good for Vegas?
Comment by Diane Wright on October 21, 2009 at 3:28pm
I wonder if having an entrance fee at least brings in those who intend to buy rather than just those who just want an activity for the day with no intention to buy.
Comment by Michelle Sholund on October 21, 2009 at 9:50pm
I see those who buy art will go to a show no matter what the fee is especially if it has a good reputation. On the other hand a free show opens the floodgates to all kinds of people. This could be good regarding exposure, on the flip side you'll get people who complain the "art" is too expensive. What I think works best is using ads (albeit on fliers, in the newspaper, on the internet) giving a few dollars off admission. This gives people a reason and act - cheaper admission and use some of the added money from would be sponsors and apply that to advertising efforts - larger size ads in newspapers - and more often. Commercials played during at the time of morning and evening news broadcasts driving traffic to places where they can get discounts off admission as well as donating tickets to radio stations, art colleges/institutions, etc. I think may all work better. An attendance of 5,000 sounds great, but what about 8,000 paying say $3 and giving you valid feed back as to what advertising efforts motivated them to come?
Comment by denise binford on October 22, 2009 at 7:41am
I'm new to the Blue Ridge, Ga area, moving from SW Florida area and doing shows there for 15 years. I have particapated in several shows this summer in this area, and trying to "learn the ropes" for a whole new set of clients in this crazy economy. I believe that admission fees really don't matter. The few dollars it might save is not going to even buy one artist lunch for the day, and as one artist put it, back in the dark ages when we made money, this could have helped with advertising supposely. I just believe we have to ride the storm. You can't make people take their hands out of thier pockets when they can't afford anything extra. Know the areas where the shows are at and if they can support anything extra. My goal now is to do shows anywhere the real estate is wealthy, and pray they like my work, and if not I will change my work. I'm too old to live on the streets!
Comment by Colin Murray on October 22, 2009 at 7:58pm
You just never know where you next customer will come from ... sometimes its the person who had no intention of buying a piece of art. As long as the location can accommodate the attendees, then I think more it better. The down side is when the crowd gets too big and they just shuffle past all the booths, because they can not see anything. I would enjoy reading other ideas to build traffic at art shows.
Comment by Diane Wright on October 25, 2009 at 2:11pm
I have been doing shows all summer that had no admission charge - some in fairly affluent areas and have had dismal sales. This past weekend, I did a show with an admission charge in not such an affluent area with low booth rent and did great comparatively speaking. In addition the majority a people were buying. Yes, there were b/s there.
Comment by Ron Mellott on October 28, 2009 at 1:09pm
I think this is a mixed bag. Reading the comments to this post, I agree with those that wonder why a fee of $5 or $7 or $10 should deter people coming to an event if they are seeking artwork and willing to spend a couple of hundred to a few thousands dollars on artwork. Hmmmmmm. And agree that as with Florida, it tends to keep out those that are not interested in artwork, just in doing something for the day. Though agreed, there are probably a few instances, rare, those these days "rare" is helpful .... of those that come with no intention of buying but are rewarded by finding something they cannot live without. At least that's what they tell themselves and we're all okay with that, right? Right!

Is there not another way that shows could handle admission fees? Some ideas that come to mind (some from experience at other shows) is working with artists to offer them their admission fee back if they PURCHASE something (ahhh!) .... the amount they have to spend to get it refunded based on the gate fee. No, it wouldn't make sense to have a $7 gate fee and they get their money back if they spend it on a $20 item .... but maybe a $50 item. Seems that for many artists it would be a more palatable way to offer a discount in these strenuous economic times .... plus, the more discounts you give means the more people are buying from you. Heck, I'd give everyone through the door of the last art show I did a 10% discount if they'd bought something from me.

And the show promoters, as a working partner with the artists, could consider buying back from the artists those admission coupons at the end of the show. Thus the show is only giving free admission to those that BUY something. Those that just want to come look, or do something ... well, they'd have to pay to go to a movie, or perhaps a park .... so they can pay to just come look.

Of course, this is just an artist's perspective. Perhaps the food vendors, or corporate sponsors that set up booths at the show might want just lots of people coming through.

I think my thoughts at this point are that if the show is bringing in the kinds of artists and artwork the public wants to buy from, the public will have few reservations about paying to come because they are likely going to find something they want to purchase. If it is one of those esoteric shows .... not so much. And if they get that entrance fee refunded IFF they BUY ..... that removes the obstacle about paying to get in. Any thoughts on this?
Comment by Peggy Whitson on October 28, 2009 at 3:38pm
so much of the public, this year especially , are buying lower end prices this year ....saying under $100......I'm not saying ALL....but a lot . So that $6-10. gate , can deter. And some , they are paying for parking also .
I can't see unsponsored shows giving up their gate .....they have no incentive for that ....but those having coporate sponsors...well, they could budge .
The one thing about "lookers" ,those out to see the spectacle....if they are not impulse buyers--sometimes come back the next day , or the next year -specifically looking for certain artists ...and buy .
It's no skin off our back , as artist /crafters, to have people look at our work......everyone is a potential buyer .
So I say, "if possible" , open the gate ---let the serious and the zombies in .
As for discounts .....yeah, I can see that working too ....especially for the Unsponsored shows.
Though I can see where this could be a hassel for everyone involved ....and maybe confusing.
I would think it would encourage people to buy .
though I would hope to not be stuck explaining this "ticket with instructions" to people all day .

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