Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
You know it’s going to be a bad show when...
...you arrive at the show at 6:30 am and there are homeless people sleeping in the park.
...you leave your plastic coffee mug at your booth to visually mark your spot and it becomes a projectile in a fight between a local shop owner and a juvenile delinquent methhead, where shortly thereafter, the police arrive.
...you are the only booth that is not an EZ up.
...you drop to your knees upon achieving booth fee.
...there are aliens present at the show (more on that).
...you realize there’s no second day to make up for the crappy first one, because it’s a one-day show.
WHAT was I thinking, fer cryin out loud?
Yeah, these were my warning signs at the Providence City Artsfest. I don’t like to speak negatively about shows, especially since this one was a filler, in between Mystic and Bar Harbor, but I hoped that Providence, being a coastal city and home to RISD, would have pulled a hat trick for me.
I have to, first off, give kudos and kisses to Framer Dude for pulling off our first major downtown city driving in the Artship Enterprise. One way streets, cobblestones, acute angle streets, and random homeless people popping out like the ghosts in Pac-Man from every bus station, he did wonders navigating the streets in our forty foot sub-tender on wheels. Once again, we arrived early, and we parked in the city bus loop and did our thing in about half an hour, so that was relatively painless and anxiety free, once the police arrested and whisked away the enthusiastic coffee mug hurler. Dolly down a sidewalk to the skatepark, and that was it. So load in and out was great, considering we were in a downtown metropolitan area. Plus, he found a parking spot at an Irish pub, so he was happy.
But oh those spaces.
I must be spoiled by some generous shows. When they said the booths were 10 feet, they meant 10 feet, and not one inch more. I was glad I’d lost 10 lbs just so I could oil myself up and squeeze behind the booth. I set the booth away from the park walls about 18 inches, just so I could put some boxes behind and have some inventory, not that I needed it, as I found out.
And the aliens. I don’t mean the wackadoos whose raison d’etre seems to be asking the kinds of questions that have been enumerated upon in another thread here. I’m talking 6, 7 foot rubber masked alien creations of a costume company that roamed in a troupe, much to the amusement of the kiddies but completely drawing attention away from artists trying to make a connection in their booths. At one point, I actually had a respectable qualified couple interested in my work, when suddenly three or five of these circus escapees came bumbling around the corner, and one of them literally hung over my shoulder making kissy noises (I think?) in my ear and conducted a Charlie Chaplin pantomime next to me. I was never so tempted to wage a single-handed intergalactic battle in my life. I could envision that giant rubber schnozz squishing under my fist as the couple giggled and walked away, my artwork forgotten. But, what does one do in a situation like that? I think it was the painkiller I took that kept me from actual violence...
This was touted as a fine art show, but as I said before, I was the only non- EZ-up. Yes, I had an EZ up too in the beginning. But what Framer Dude saw confirmed my suspicions about the quality hinted at by the EZs at this show. And yes, once again, I got the dubious honor of having the most expensive art at the show. But even if I sold only my 25 and 60 dollar prints I would have probably been mid to high end. I was up against dog collar vendors, hand-painted ball caps, the requisite BS that seems to be de rigueur lately...
I suppose a downtown location in a major city has its drawbacks. Locals mentioned to Framer Dude about the homeless shelter down the block, and indeed they were out and about, probably disgruntled that a hundred slightly less homeless artists had usurped their territory for the day. Parking was horrific and expensive, though thousands were gearing up for Waterfire and multiple bands that night, alas too late to really help the show. And there was a marathon the next day whose route passed along Biltmore park, and apparently that was why this show could not extend to two days.
So what did I learn to avoid next year? One-day shows that have minimal track records. Ones that heavily rely on social media to promote the show. To check the show site vicinity beforehand for nearby drug rehabilitation/ social welfare centers. I’m not an elitist or discriminatory. I’m a realist. Clients who have and appreciate nice things are NOT going to want to park their Benz or Jag, dress nicely as they are wont to, carry cash and credit cards, and maybe carry back expensive art through a suspect part of town. Even I felt a bit nervous going to 7-11 for a pack of cigarettes and was approached for a couple as I left with them. (Honestly, I used to rollerblade fearlessly at midnight down 12th avenue in Manhattan and dodge the hookers and the dealers.)
I’m still looking for a truly high quality fine art/fine craft show in New England. No more close encounters of the third kind. Puh-leeez, a respite from the BS. Any weekend now...maybe Bar Harbor next weekend?