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What Does It Take to Participate in an Art Festival?

by Carolyn Henderson on 9/11/2017 9:31:28 AM

This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. A regular contributing writer for FineArtViews, Carolyn’s alter ego, This Woman Writes, publishes lifestyle articles in online and in print newspapers and on her blog site. The co-owner of Steve Henderson Fine Art with her painter husband Steve, Carolyn is the author of Grammar Despair: Quick simple solutions to problems like, “Do I say him and me or he and I?” and the money saving book, Live Happily on Less.




For the last two essays (What about Art Festivals? and Art Festivals: A Typical Day in the Tent) we’ve been tapping into the expertise of LuAnn Ostergaard, an abstract/impressionist photographer who, over the last eight years, has participated in a number of the ‘Top 25,’ juried art festivals in the nation.

Traveling miles to a large city with one’s art, setting up a tent in an empty park or parking lot, and spending days in that tent interacting with thousands of people who attend these festivals, is not a task one approaches lightly. “Practicing” closer to home, at a smaller affair, is not a bad idea, and bit by bit one acquires the experience, knowledge, background, materials, and resources one needs for the literal long haul. Or, you could do it the way LuAnn did and just jump in, relishing the sheer adventure of it all, climbing the learning curve with the determination of a Cross-Fit athlete.

“I have a large, 15-passenger, one-ton van with the seats taken out and a wood floor installed to haul everything,” LuAnn says, acknowledging that she didn’t start out with everything she needed, including such premium transportation. Her very first show, she had to borrow the Pro-Panels needed to create a Booth Shot (required for the jurying process), setting up the photo-shoot in her front yard.

So what does she put in that van, other than artwork (which she transports protected in heavy, 3 mm plastic bags that work well for sending home with the buyer as well)?

“For the booth, you need a RAIN-proof tent (I say this because one year it rained very hard overnight; I had art pre-hung in the booth, and I lost half my inventory to water damage before the show had even begun – Heartbreaking!). This is the first to be set up, and sometimes needs to be creatively shimmed on uneven ground or weighted for potential wind.

“Then there are those large, unwieldy Pro-Panels to hang the art on.  We set those up, hang up the lighting system and set out our commerce table with a variety of supplies – and you don’t want to forget any of these items, or you’ll be looking for a store that sells them, using up your precious time:

“You need pens, receipt book, ‘square ‘ device to process credit cards, business cards and holder, brochures, camera, money box, extra comfortable shoes, hat, cool neck wrap, fan, sacks, extra light bulbs, zip ties, bungee cords, director’s type tall artist’s chair to sit up high and engage with customers, rug, comfort mat to stand on all day, ‘survival’ supplies like coffee, water, energy bars, Gatorade, aspirin, sunscreen, gum, plastic to cover art stored at the back of your booth if rain comes, promo materials like biography, and creative process signs to hang in the booth.

“Oh, and your best, most artful clothes and jewelry to wear!”

Yes, it sounds daunting. And yes, also, you’ll probably forget something – despite a list – and find yourself scrabbling to find what you need or creatively figuring out how to do without it this year.

You may or may not sell a lot of work; you may or may not incur a war story of your own; and you will undoubtedly work very hard. But surrounded by activity and people – live music acts, parades, food booths, hundreds and potentially thousands of attendees, and other artists – you will walk away with an experience, one which LuAnn is willing to repeat year after year.

“My advice to those thinking of submitting to art festivals: go for it!” she encourages.

“It will be some of the most rewarding and interesting experiences you’ll have in your life. It will make you a better artist – you will understand why you are making art, how to talk about your artistic process, and you will learn how to sell your art – all while getting valuable feedback from interested art lovers and art buyers.”




Editor's Note:

Have any art festivals, fairs, or other events coming up? FASO makes it really easy to promote your next art festival to over 25,000 collectors through our weekly Special Edition USA Festivals, Fairs & Other Events newsletter. Let us help you promote your art shows, not a FASO member click here to sign up for a free, no obligation 30 day trial. Or if you're stuck where you are, or just don't want to deal with the hassle of moving your website, sign up for ArtistEdge today to tap into our great art marketing tools



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Related Posts:

Art Festivals: A Typical Day in the Tent

What about Art Festivals?

The Psychology of Art Shows

Mining the Mind of an Art Show Judge

Topics: advice for artists | Art Business | art festivals | Carolyn Henderson | exposure tips | FineArtViews | inspiration | sell art 

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Mark Brockman
I have done festivals, not my thing, I did not find them rewarding, just a lot of work and frustrating. But I don't blame the festivals, it's just not right for me. I know a very successful artist who does and has done festivals for decades (sells reproductions of his paintings), it works for him. What ever floats your boat.

David McKay
I have enjoyed your articles in the past and this one is no exception.
We do not have art fairs where I live in New Brunswick, Canada, but your article makes me wish that we did, so that I could take part in a few each year.
My studio is located within the building of my dealer and I get lots of people stopping by my studio (if I want them and leave my door open) so I have learned to talk about my work and the process and enjoy doing it. The art fair would be an exciting extension to what I already do.

Walter Paul Bebirian
doing such fairs - for galleries - like they have been doing on a growing basis - is proving to be effecting their bottom line in a negative way and has put a lot of them in the red as far as business is concerned and I would imagine the same would go for the individual artist as well -

John P. Weiss
Great post and tips, Carolyn. It's more work than some folks realize!


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