Art Fair Insiders

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

You Should've Been there with me! Part I

8th Annual Arts Festival Conference, Oct. 6-7, Houston, TX -- sponsored by Westaf, otherwise known as Zapplication

To go or not to go? That is always the question. To take the time and $$ to travel to a distant city to learn more about art festivals? Seems unnecessary after my 30+ year immersion. However ... usually I go.

I go for the new ideas and information, I go to see the people, I go for fun, I go because I love travel. Will I go again? Yep. Here is why:

  1. The seminars led by people who love the arts.

    Session I: Reciprocal Relationships between Arts & Community with Laura Zabel
    The first session usually challenges the attendees to think on a larger scale about the place of arts in a community, beyond the box of art festivals.

    Laura is from Fergus Falls, MN, where she is the ED of SpringBoard for the Arts, an economic and community development agency run by and for artists. Best advice: if you are challenged start small, don't wait until you get a big grant. 

    A huge light rail construction was being built 4 miles long through the town. How to keep the downtown alive through the disruption that would take 4 years? They organized events, a zumba teacher teaching dance outside a coffee shop; stained glass project in the hurricane fencing; special events in the bars and restaurants; bicycle tours of the area. It changed local politics and engaged the community.

    Her suggestions: organize around people's passion and ideas; let collaborators change you; show up; be skeptical of best practices and make up things as you go along; embrace the creative process. Just do it. Growth is driven by doing the work. Cross pollination with others who then bring in another idea.

    Discouraged by your arts organization. Visit their site and be amazed at what can be done with little funding and great ideas:

  2. Measuring what really matters in the Social Media Sphere
    Ariel Jones led us through the ins and outs and do's and don'ts for expanding social media engagement in Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.

    To make it worth your time figure out what is best for you. 
    Do you have great photos? do you have a great blog? Use your advantages.

    Most of all: be interesting, be newsworthy if you want it to work.

    Is it current? (newer is better) Is it talking about something locally? It’s all about the neighborhood. Is it impactful? or unusual? Is it about human interest? Is it prominent? Are you networking? 

    Instagram really useful for visual artists: the process, beginning middle end (and I'm going to do a podcast about this because I really learned the possibilities of this for artists for making sales.)

    give without expecting immediate returns

    talk about the things going on around you, not just you — share their info 

    if you’re a dancer, don’t be talking about it, show it on Instagram

    FB, Twitter, Instagram (under 35) FB helps sell tickets; no links in Instagram; it is about relationship; good for selling art and showing your stuff

    2 Easy, useful tips for show directors and artists:
    1. Show Directors go to your artists FB pages and "like" them. Artists, "like" the shows back. This builds an interconnecting network. 
    2. Artists when  you are traveling to a city, look at that city's Facebook page and add your information to that page. FREE advertising!!

The afternoon sessions were separated into an administrators track and an artists track. For admins sessions on communicating with your board of directors and best jury practices with Christine Berthiaume (New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival); Tara Brickell (Cherry Creek Arts Festival); Stephen King (Des Moines Arts Festival) and Nancy Musser (ZAPP trainer). I have so much information on that that it will be in Part II of the Zapp conference.

(Show directors Margue Esrock (St. James), Cindy Lerick (St. Louis), Karen Delhey (The Guild), Mo Riley (AA Street Art Fair) and Tara Brickell (Cherry Creek) synchronize the next big step!)

For artists there was a Public Portfolio Critique. Artists sent in their images to be discussed by seasoned jurors with good discussion about each. The second session Carroll Swayze brought her great ideas for optimizing your success as an artist, working harder, not smarter. Listen to the podcast I did with Carroll on that topic here.

Thankfully then we adjourned to a beautiful, funky, bar nearby for a reception, where I met an AFI favorite, Melanie Rolfes and her partner Michael Zavison. They've both consented to do podcasts. Melanie with her incredible tips on finding affordable lodging on the road and Michael is going to "talk trucks".

Day Two:

Artist track: Learning all the ways to manage and maximize ZAPP for show applications.

Admin Track: Engagement Strategies for Community Events with Barry Fell from Celebrate Fairfax

His top tips: 

  • Identify your stakeholders
  • Use social capital to build the event
  • Use the psychological contracts you have build. Everything you see and feel at an event builds the social capital
  • Engagement with your community which build your brand and your reputation
  • Build your political capital - support of the community; so you can pick up the phone and get it done. 
  • Internal support - make sure you personally are involved and insure that your staff is also

By utilizing these strategies you can extend the quality and stability of the event and it will bring you new opportunities. People will stay with the event but because they feel valued. You know these stakeholders and you have built a relationship which leads to long term goals.

The afternoon sessions were:


  • Setting up your Space for Success with veteran juror, independent curator and fine arts consultant Trudy Van Dyke (and infrequent contributor at AFI). This session was extensive and I took lots of photos. I'll be writing about it separately. Very soon.

    Some of her images were of member Greg Little's booth, that was discussed on this site this year!  Please forgive this poor image, a shot of the screen in the presentation. It was perfect.

    Top tip: A dynamic artistic booth is what gets you into the show and gets you the sales. 

  • Festival 101 for Artists with Amy Amdur. Amy has been in the trenches for over 30 years and produced over 41 festivals. This session was specifically for new artists with overwhelming details that gave even the veterans new ideas for improving their success at the shows.


Barry Fell returned to speak about public safety at the events with case studies that about Crowd Management and its importance in event planning.

Who I met and wish you had also as these are the dynamic people who keep our events running:

Show organizers: Robin Aiken and Kerry Murphy from Artisphere; Angelique Allen from Arts Gras; Kerry Allen, Rita James, Meredith McIlmoyle and Jennifer Wilson from the Anacortes Arts Festival; Amy Amdur (who needs no introduction); Paul Anderson from Sausalito, Sarah Aziz from the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust (3 Rivers); Kayleen Barton and Heather Joy Puskarich from The Woodlands Waterway Festival; Christine Berthiaume from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival; Amanda Bleakley from the Paseo Arts Assn.; Tara Brickell and Amy Curlee from the Cherry Creek Arts Festival; Katrina Delgado from Coconut Grove; Karen Delhey from the Guild of Artists & Artisans; Josh DuBose and Renee Rice from the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar.

Margue Esrock from St. James Court Art Show; Barry Fell from Celebrate Fairfax; Mary Flad from the Decatur Arts Alliance; Carla Flanders from the Lakeshore Art Festival; Randal Fox from AFFPS; Diane Hdges and Brenda Hyde from Historic Granbury; Barbara Hill from Fiesta Arts Fair: Stephen King from Des Moines; Erma Lee from Main Street Fort Worth; Cindy Lerick and Laura Miller from St. Louis; Angie Macon from Decatur Arts Alliance; Gilbert Magdaleno from the Arts Council of Oklahoma City and Maureen Martino from the Lakeview East Chamber.

Sarah Peil from The Grand 1894 Opera House; Elizabeth Regner from the Lubbock Arts Alliance; Maureen Riley from the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair; Mary Sherman from the Grand Haven Chamber of Commerce and Melanie Whitley from the King William Fair.

Artists: Will Armstrong, April Bates, Brian Carter, Terry Peddle Corcoran, Stefani Domenico, Benjamin Frey, Sara Corkery, Diane Hinckley, Linda McGonagle, Amy McMurry (who won the free Zapp conference pass in our annual pledge drive), Mark Grosser, Cynthia Reed, Paula Ritchie, Dar Schafer, Cat Tesla, Eva and Frank Thompson, Jefferson Woodruff, Jenny Wright, Melanie Rolfes, Michael Zavison and Grace Zuniga.

The Zapp team: Kristina Villa, Kate Kreuz, Kim Morski, Nancy Musser, Anthony Radich and Susan Walicki.

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Comment by Melanie Rolfes on October 24, 2016 at 7:28pm
Great job Connie
Comment by Christina L. Towell on October 24, 2016 at 9:15am

Connie, this sounds great!  So much information, networking, learning new skills, meeting artists and organizers...looking forward to Part II.  So glad you were able to participate in this event, is it annual?

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