Which Art Shows are Right for You?

Art fairs, craft shows, indoors, outdoors, juried, non-juried – there is a large variety of events taking place all year long in which to sell your art or craft work.

 

Some shows are wonderful and profitable, becoming long-time staples in your schedule. Others are memorable only because you can tell horror stories about them for years to come.

How to choose the right ones? It’s difficult because the whole industry is in flux. Exhibitors complain that shows and fairs are changing, standards may be lowered, and that venues once producing high sales have slumped. Promoters may be scrambling to fill their shows with quality vendors and increase public attendance to turn a profit.

Do some research before committing your time and resources to shows that are new to your schedule. Join online groups such as Art Fair Insiders,  Sunshine Artist, or Festival Network Online  to check out show listings and ratings. Join in the discussion and ask specific questions about shows and fairs you are considering. These are great resources to share information and advice.

Walk the show, if possible, before you make the decision to apply as an exhibitor. A good time to do so is near the end of the event. You may want to approach some exhibitors who aren’t busy, to let them know you are considering exhibiting at the show, and ask for their honest feedback. Opinions will vary, but you should get a good feel whether attendance was up or down, and how sales fared overall. Also ask them, “Would you do this show again?”

Take a look at the art and crafts for sale – does yours fit in well with the look of the show? You may be wasting your time if your target customer doesn’t shop here.

What other events are taking place at the same time?  Is this a music or jazz festival plus an art show? Is the show fighting for attention while other major events are going on in the area?

How established is the show? It’s easy to find out how old a show is, but things may have changed. Is there a new owner/manager? Is the show “stale” with the same old exhibitors year after year and not much new? Does the show have low energy, or is it exciting and growing?

How many vendors are there? Who are they – do you recognize names? Take a look at the list of exhibitors at a show to see if you recognize names of successful artists you know who are participating, and who sell to your target audience. You may even find some good show suggestions just by checking out schedules on the websites of artists you admire.

Are there non-art related businesses in booth spaces? That’s a red flag. If your business does well in home and garden shows, or other venues where non-art related merchandise is sold, you may not be concerned. But for many artists and craftspeople, that’s not the type of environment that is conducive to strong sales.

What is the cost? Figure out the booth fee and what your expenses would be to attend (hotel, travel, loss of studio time, etc.) How much must you realize in sales to make a profit? Is this realistic?

Ask the promoter for details. How many people attended last time? How is the show advertised? You should be able to get this information from a reputable promoter. In fact, they should be happy to speak with you on these topics. 

Is the show non-juried? If so, be prepared for an anything-goes type of experience. Some street festivals have many thousands turn out, and can be profitable for all types of artists. On the other hand, a low-cost unjuried event often means you will be wasting your day with browsers and bargain hunters, and wondering if you were temporarily insane to have applied.

What’s your criteria for sizing up a good show? Have you found any “diamonds in the rough?”

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Comments

  1. Sandra Billings says:

    Try to contact people in last show to get their reactions on sales, etc.
    If one can attend, last day of the show is a good time to get reaction on the event.

  2. Steve Dalton/Clear Creek Pottery says:

    I have noticed more and more shows in my area going down hill. Booth fees are getting higher and standards are being lower. More ‘Kits’ and the ‘Made in China’ are being let in and an over abundance of the specialty foods, Aunt Frank’s BBQ Bacon Flavored Ice Cream Toppers! In most cases, you just need a heart beat and a body core temperature above freezing to get in.

    Do not get me started on the blue hairs or stroller pushers looking for a Wally Mart deal!

    • Steve, you are certainly speaking for many exhibitors with your comment. This economic upheaval will be the death knell for some shows, but others will survive. Keeping a standard of high quality is essential. As you know, artists talk about their experiences, and it doesn’t take long for everyone to know when imports, etc. are being accepted.

  3. Pink Buddha says:

    And sometimes a show isn’t about sales, but about branding, or introducing an artist to a new audience.

    Sometimes it pays to be strategic (and brutally honest) about where one’s work fits (fit being the clientele, the jury panel, the curators, the event/gallery/institution).

  4. It’s important to get an overall mood of the show, clients & vendors, upbeat, grumbling, energy. If you are going the last day of the show, you can get a sense from the artists how well it went.

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