There is a lot of discourse among artists as to whether art festivals are a good way to market and sell art. Attending a festival is always a gamble. You are betting your time, effort, and money on the hope that this particular weekend will bring in enough sales and leads to be worth your time.
Festivals can be expensive and labor intensive. First, one has to apply to shows and we all know how much fun paperwork is. Usually, application fees are anywhere from $25 to $75 , which can add up quickly when you are applying to multiple shows. An application is not a guarantee of entry by any means, most festivals screen their participants. If you are lucky enough to get chosen for your preferred show, then you need to pay the booth fee, which usually ranges from a few hundred dollars to over $1000. Booth fees are almost always non refundable, even in inclement weather.
After all that, you need to prepare for your show. For me this means topping off my collection of prints, counting up my stock of packing material, checking I have enough bags in all the sizes, finding those business cards, and of course PAINTING the actual art. I always make fresh art to take to a festival but, depending on the rules for each show, sometimes I’m not able to bring prints at all and have to really put in extra time to make certain I have enough artwork for the show.
Setup can be a headache. Thankfully there are festival coordinators that are well organized who make unloading and pack up run smoothly, but that is not always the case. Weather is always something to think about as well. I had to set up at 5am in the freezing rain on more than one occasion. But regardless of the quality of coordination or the mercy of the weather you’ve got to have your booth and product looking it’s very best. Most festivals worth doing are going to be juried shows. This means a group of judges will look through photos of your work as well as a booth shot showing how professional your setup is. So, no pressure on the set up there.
Once you get over all these hurdles there’s still no guarantee any one will show up, never mind any assurity they will buy your products. There’s absolutely an element of gambling to it.
I have found over the years that art festivals have been a great way to get my art out into the world and make sales, but not without a lot of hurdles and stress, as well as inconsistent results.
Stay tuned for the next post in which I explain why I continue to torture myself for these events!