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Thread: Tips for Art Festivals

  1. #1
    Corran's Avatar
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    Tips for Art Festivals

    I've done a few small festivals/displays, but next month for the first time I'm doing a larger, juried art festival. I know many here have done these and thought I would ask if there are any tips or gotta-have items that you all might suggest for a newbie in this space.

    I already have a 10x10 canopy tent. I just ordered a print display rack for up to 24" prints and am waiting for the proper side walls for my tent to get back in stock. I also have a 6ft. folding table. I am currently planning on hanging framed work on the tent trusses and matted prints will be in the large rack, with smaller prints on the table or in a small rack along with a laptop POS system.

    Also I'd love to hear any success or failure stories from some of you - what has worked, and what didn't. For instance, I used to get invited to a lot of festivals that were organized by and geared towards college-age folks and the music/art crowd. After doing a few I realized that they simply didn't have the money to buy anything! So I stopped. This one I am doing now is in a well-to-do area with retirees, so I am hoping maybe there's a bit more money flowing.

    Thanks!
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  2. #2
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Tips for Art Festivals

    This year will be my 34th (and last) annual juried outdoor arts & crafts fair in my county seat with a population of 9000. Maybe twice in all that time I missed a sale by not being able to accept credit cards. A canopy tent has been tempting, but home-made pegboard panels have sufficed all this time. They hold up to 32 16x20 photographs in 16x20 frames. A tub displays unframed photos in 16x20 mats. A loose leaf notebook holds unmounted 8.5x11 photos for those with less money or display space. Rolled-up plastic sheet is instantly available if it rains. Attendance is perhaps 5000 over two days. It has rarely been profitable, but money isn't the only goal of some of us. A strong sense of community makes a difference. Showing year after year builds repeat customers.

    It helps to be able to swap matted prints into or out of frames as a customer prefers. Few choices in print size may eliminate some sales, but is a great convenience in producing and transporting prints. It's good to have a knowledgeable friend to help in busy times or when each of you wants to see the entire festival. I've set up and closed down the exhibit by myself, but it goes better with a helper. A Ford Ranger with a 7' bed and a topper is crammed full. A canopy tent would save space. Keep water and snacks at hand. I also have business cards and brochures printed on a cheap B&W laser printer. A posted entertainment schedule lures some people into stopping for at least a moment.

  3. #3
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Tips for Art Festivals

    Thanks, that's some great info! I like the idea of a small notebook/portfolio for unmounted prints. I have a number of 8x10 prints that are unmounted that I can do that with and see how it goes. Pegboard panels may be a nice addition to the tent.

    The canopy tent has been really nice for me (and also required for this fair). One of the festivals I did a couple of years ago had a sudden severe storm hit that decimated the show. If not for the canopy tent, good tie-downs, and some friends to help push water off the top for about an hour I'd have lost everything to rain and wind.

    In terms of profit...I just want to buy some more paper .
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  4. #4

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    Re: Tips for Art Festivals

    Corran,

    Over the past fifteen plus years, I have usually done on average about 18 juried shows a summer. This year I've cut back to 11 as they are getting harder and harder as I have gotten older. I do shows here in the Midwest and weather is always a concern. Seven years ago, 100 mph straight line winds wiped out my booth and nearly 60 others at a show in Omaha, NE. So, when you talk about a canopy, I hope you are talking about one of the better ones like Lite Dome or Trim Line, and avoid the cheap pop ups. Also weights should be attached to all four canopy legs. I've never used a table in my booth. I would only hang images off of panelled walls. The walls also add integrity to the strength of your set up. Doing shows requires an investment in time and inventory. Presentation should be consistent, at least to me. Using 10 different frame styles is not a good idea. I have gone frameless with my work. I've included a photo of my setup. While this shows an indoor setup, my outdoor setup is the same only I would have a double canopy over everything. If you are going to do this regularly, I'd advise being able to take credit cards. Good luck. Any questions, shoot them my way. Jim
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails IMG_0143.jpg  

  5. #5
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Tips for Art Festivals

    Thanks Jim for your wonderful insight! And especially thanks for the photo.

    Honestly the canopy I have is a cheaper one. We don't have those kinds of winds though, and the venue is a wooded area so I think it'll be okay for now. I am buying some concrete blocks for weights.

    All of my mats and frames are identical - slightly off-white mat, black metal frames. I'll need to look closer at my options for hanging.
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram
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  6. #6

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    Re: Tips for Art Festivals

    Speaking of cheap 10x10 foot canopy tents, my local Kroger grocery store here in Atlanta, Georgia has a bunch with white tops that are on end of season clearance for US $18.
    Last edited by AtlantaTerry; 6-Aug-2017 at 04:11. Reason: Polishing my prose

  7. #7
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: Tips for Art Festivals

    A note on my pegboard panels: most are 4x4' with the bottom almost 3" above the ground. They are connected by slip-pin hinges, so the edges can be joined in various configurations. The pegboard sides are separated by 1x2 strips which also extend to become the legs. Braces between the tops of the panels make them quite stable. They are usually used on grass in a park. One anchor threaded into the ground has always prevented wind damage. Long ago I would transport them on a luggage rack on top of a Volkswagen Beetle. They seem much heavier now to an old man.

  8. #8
    Foamer
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    Re: Tips for Art Festivals

    Quote Originally Posted by Corran View Post

    Honestly the canopy I have is a cheaper one. We don't have those kinds of winds though, and the venue is a wooded area so I think it'll be okay for now. I am buying some concrete blocks for weights.

    Consider using empty plastic milk jugs. They are free and much lighter. Fill with water when you get there. A gallon of water weighs 8.3 pounds, so two jugs would weigh 16.5. A standard concrete block weighs 28 pounds.


    Kent in SD
    Die Gedanken sind Frei

  9. #9

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    Re: Tips for Art Festivals

    Quote Originally Posted by Corran View Post
    Thanks Jim for your wonderful insight! And especially thanks for the photo.

    Honestly the canopy I have is a cheaper one. We don't have those kinds of winds though, and the venue is a wooded area so I think it'll be okay for now. I am buying some concrete blocks for weights.

    All of my mats and frames are identical - slightly off-white mat, black metal frames. I'll need to look closer at my options for hanging.
    Corran,

    If you are only going to do one or two shows a year, you might get by with a less expensive canopy. While you mentioned wind is not an issue, what about rain? I can't tell you how many canopies I've seen collapse due to rain. Here in the Midwest, I put almost 50 pounds on each leg. A couple of filled up milk jugs will not offer any substance in holding down your canopy, and a $19 tent is not acceptable. You must understand, I take art fairs seriously and one of my great fears is that someone else's canopy will cause me a problem, and that has happened in the past. With nearly 250 fairs under my belt, I am speaking from experience. I know there's a wish to get by without spending much, but be careful.

  10. #10
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Tips for Art Festivals

    Yes I can understand that. The canopy I have is not a bargain-basement one or anything. It's been in extremely heavy rain before and held up fine, with monitoring. The top did collect rain in the downpour but was easy to push out. I mean, I won't be doing any pull-ups on the side trusses but it has weathered a bad storm. There's a lot of space between a $19 canopy and a $1000 one. I paid about $100 for the one I have and from looking at the really cheap ones online I think it's much better built. $1000 for one of the brands you mentioned is an impossibility at this point but I will definitely consider it for the future.
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

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