This is the season in which we artists plan out our show season for the upcoming year. Some of us display at strictly wholesale shows or fine art galleries but the vast majority of working artists participate in one or more Art Fairs throughout the year. Choosing which shows to apply to can be daunting.
Each show has a jury fee that is non-refundable AND a booth fee (if you are accepted). If an artist intends to fill their entire season with shows on every weekend they will need to pay jury fees to multiple shows scheduled for each weekend, just to be sure that they have enough acceptance letters to to fill their season. Even the best artists get rejection letters but we all learn, over time, how to maximize our season while minimizing the financial impact of all those jury fees.
I’ve heard from varied sources that applications to the Grand Old Art Fairs is down. The recession took a hard bite out the working artists, and not all of us survived..
So let’s say you’re planning one of these big art fairs. And you want me to apply to YOUR fair. Heck, you want as many artists as possible to apply, so that you can carefully select a mix of the very best art and craft for your audience. How do you entice us to throw our hats into the ring? What do you offer that will make me want to shell out my hard earned artist dollars just for the chance at landing a spot in your show?
Make it Easy
Artist’s don’t have a lot of free time for paperwork. We’re busy making stuff. If your admission requirements include a lot of stuff that nobody else asks for, I probably won’t bother.
- Use the same size photos as everyone else- Etsy requires 1000 pixel square images. Most artists have an Etsy account and a hard drive full of gorgeous product pics formatted to this size. You’ll get much nicer photos if you let us choose the best out of the ones we already have instead of making us take brand new ones just for your show.
- Don’t ask for hard copies, slides, or a CD. or a paper application for that matter. Do you REALLY want to swim in a sea of paper submissions?
- Please don’t make me wade through a third party online application service. Please. Those things are evil. Just make a list of requirements and let us e-mail the packet directly to you.
Make it inexpensive
Artists are broke. We’re artists. We work hard making the things we love, but if we were big-time, highly successful, gallery represented artists with licensing deals at Barney’s we wouldn’t be working the Art Fair circuit.
- More than $25 for an entry is painful. $25 is painful, but we’ll deal.
- Consider a flat rate or discount rate for artists working in more than one media. As a mixed media artist making both decorative and functional items I can be charged as much as $100 just to apply to a show. OUCH!
- Consider jurying the artist, not the media. MOST working artists and crafters now have diversified their products to include more than one type of item. Painters also sell note cards and magnets with their photographs. Sculptors make brooches and pendants. Mixed media artists make EVERYTHING.
- Consider working with local hotels to offer discount rates to traveling artists. Or meal specials at local restaurants. Or free parking at the venue. Those little things add up, and we DO take them into consideration when deciding whether a show will be worthwhile.
- Let us apply online. The cost of printing, postage and mailing supplies adds up fast.
Keep it Fair
Carol has been displaying her blown glass vases at your fair for 20 years. You know you’re going to accept her again, and you know that you’ll not be taking any other blown glass artists because she has artistic tenure. So why are you accepting jury fees from up and coming blown glass artists? Artists gossip. We share our experiences with the applications and admissions process. So play fair.
- If the odds of being accepted into a given category are especially slim, tell us in advance. Then its on us to decide whether to blow money on a jury fee that most likely won’t net a sales opportunity.
- Have an outside judge. This is why there is a jury fee. We are happy to compete on a level playing field, but if you are judging this yourself there is undoubtedly going to be bias towards artists you know.
I mean it. Offer me a tent. Bring me food (I love food). Have a dinner party (did I mention I love food?)
Artist amenities are very very important. If I can only afford to apply to one show in a given time frame and one has free load-in assistance, a pre-standing tent, and a breakfast buffet I know which one I’m applying to.
- Feed us. Snacks are AMAZING. A hungry artist is a cranky artist. Some peanuts and a bottled water will win you my love many times over.
- Free coffee. Put it in your ad materials. It doesn’t even have to be GOOD coffee. Just give us coffee. Lots of artists are night people. Most art fairs have early morning load in. Its sounds a lot nicer if there will be coffee.
- Load-in Assistance. Can’t offer drive up load in? Then at least offer to help us carry stuff.
- Awards. Everybody loves to win a prize. Hand out ribbons and a couple of waived jury fees. It won’t hurt you much and it makes us feel special.
It’s not hard to win over the artists. Just take a little time to see things from our perspective. And give us snacks.