Thursday, November 5, 2015

Art Fairs - What does it take?

If you're like I was your wife dragged you, kicking and screaming, from a Sunday football game to attend a local arts and crafts fair. As you approached the affair the row upon row of white tents reminded you of a jousting match between knights.

Arts and craft shows are an accumulation of people's imagination and a testament of our free enterprise system. I marveled at the imagination and ingenuity of some vendors, but it never occurred to me what it took for them to attend until I became one of the roadies.

I bet you didn't know that for most shows the vendor must send an application along with three images (examples) of their work, as well as an image of their booth (tent), and application fee, which ranges anywhere from $15 - 35 dollars.

A jury of knowledgeable people will review everyone's application and images to decide which vendors get invited. From an artist's point of view the process is problematic for two reasons - money and planning. To attend a festival I have to apply months in advance and have to wait to hear if I was accepted.

I'm trying to attend one show every month, which forces me to analyze each festival, which entails looking it up on the Internet and review the type of show and how many visitors attended. There are two basic shows, Art and Craft and Art. Attending art and craft shows is less productive than going to art festivals. After attending a couple of A and C shows I discovered that they draw in a different clients than art festivals. Most of the A&C attendees are interested in the crafts and not interested in handing over hundreds of dollars for a painting.

 Getting back to my original train of thought, attending shows, I'm forced to send applications, and money, to at least two shows, which costs me about $775 a year just in jury fees. The real expense is getting accepted. The cost of renting booth space, 10x10 is dependent on the show's draw. A popular show, like "Arts and Apples", which takes place in Michigan, will cost $500 or more. Most charge 250 - 275, which isn't chicken feed. For me to attend a show I must rent a trailer for a long weekend - $75 and I can't forget the cost of accommodations - $200-300 or food.

To maintain an inventory to sell, I have to paint four or five paintings per month and build frames - cost of canvas, paint, and frames vary but adds to the cost of my habit.

If I don't sell two or more paintings per show, my expenses are not covered, which makes it difficult to justify future shows.

Two days prior to the show I get my booth and its walls out of storage and set it up in order to do any necessary repairs, as well as determine the layout of pictures to be hung.

Next time you attend a show, take into account what it takes for that vendor to show you his wears.

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