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Has Anyone Done Art Shows?

Posted by: Loyda Herrera on 02/01/2013 - 2:34 PM

We have local art shows down here all the time. I've been an FAA member since 2011 but it's just now that I'm actually exploring selling or having people view my art as a proffession rather than just a hobbie. I wanted to know if anyone has had experience with art shows I have about 35-40 pieces I wouldn't mind displaying or selling but I have no idea if Art shows would be a good start for beginners like me. Thanks!


Oldest Reply

Posted by: Janine Riley on 02/01/2013 - 2:44 PM

It depends on the fee for the show.
It's a great start to be out there, mingle & show off your work.
Your first few shows may not pay for your entry fee - but it is in the contacts that you make - & brochures & business cards handed out for the potential future business.
I go to the shows to enjoy them - I don't tend to stand still for too long, & have a tendency to wander off.
Make sure you speak to other artists in your area to know which ones pay off as far as attendance.


Posted by: Darice Machel McGuire on 02/01/2013 - 2:47 PM

By all means show your work. Local art shows are a good way to get exposure and learn how to talk to people. I've done a lot of them, some I made money, some I didn't. But I gained valuable experience from each one. I've even ran art shows for my students as part of their learning process.


Posted by: Roy Erickson on 02/01/2013 - 4:08 PM

I'm with Janine - depends on the fee's and if you've been to them and found them well attended and people buying. you can spend a lot of money doing art shows and the only ones making money are the promoters. If you belong to an art group - start there - ask questions.


Posted by: Ginny Schmidt on 02/01/2013 - 4:43 PM

I have never done an art show, primarily because most of my work is digital - if I had that many pieces that I could display, you bet I would be trying to get a space in as many shows as I was able to enter - depending of course on how much the entry fee might be.

Not having ever done an "art show," per se, I will say that there are a couple of local, weekly "farmers' market" or "fresh market" situations here, and I had a booth in one ever Tuesday for a few months last year. There were vendors of a variety of products; a lot of jewelry as well as foodstuffs, decorated T shirts, little dish garden type things, and various kinds of artwork. The managers of these markets do not like to allow to much of certain types and, when I applied for my space he said don't bring jewelry, there was too much of that already (and I actually DID have a few beaded bracelets that I would not have minded displaying) - and if I had just had a few art prints to put out, I might not have gotten my space. My main product, and the reason I got a table at the market, was walking sticks, which I made out of branches that fall to the ground in a wind storm. I got a few out of my own back yard, and picked up a number of others in the neighborhood while walking my dog. I just started making these things when I saw one piece that begged to be a shillelagh and, before I knew it I had a couple of dozen sticks - what else could I do but try to sell them? Well I did but several up on Etsy, but never got a nibble. But the market guy said they were unique and that nobody else was selling anything like them - so I was allowed my table for walking sticks AND artwork - my sign and the cards I printed said STIX & PIX and, as a promotional thing, I made the cards into a coupon for $5 off anything if you brought it back next visit.

So, my market experience lasted perhaps four or five months, and I never did make enough to pay for the fee for my space. It was a lot of fun, I talked to SO many interesting people who would stop and ooh and aah over my work (mostly the sticks) and chat about all manner of things, and I got to sit outside in a lovely main street near the Gulf of Mexico during gorgeous weather, and I enjoyed it immensely. BUT not only was I not making my market fee, doing it every Tuesday, setting up early for the market to open at 9, spending the whole day without a rest (once in a while a friend would come by to watch my space while I got a potty break), and then breaking up shop at 3 in the afternoon was SO exhausting that I would get home on Tuesday evenings and put myself to bed before sundown and then drag around for at least a day to recuperate.

- it could be a good opportunity for exposure,
- you might actually sell something, and
- it could be a lot of fun

but my advice
- do not do it alone; have a friend or interested family member go with you to help you set up and stay with you so you can spell each other during the day for breaks, and
- go for the experience with no expectations except for the novelty of doing something new and different.
- Prepare yourself for talking about your work and your self to people who will hang on your every word and admire your talent so much, even fall in love with a particular piece and say pooh that would go SO well in my ____________ (fill in the blank), but not buy a doggone thing. and
- Realize that it will be a draining day, both emotionally and physically - at least it was for me, but I am seventy and maybe don't have the energy that I once did.


Posted by: Deborah Smolinske on 02/01/2013 - 5:10 PM

Don't even think about doing art shows unless you're willing to commit somewhere between $10,000 and $15,000 into equipment and inventory necessary to set up a good display. It's not just the fee for the show itself; it's owning your own tent, walls, a vehicle large enough to transport it all, bags, wraps, frames, prints, canvases, hand trucks, chairs, desk, tables, invoices, some form of credit card processing ability, signage, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

You can try to sell at a local "arts and crafts" fair where you may be able to get away with a $90 EZ-up tent you bought at Costco and a couple of card tables, but those are so hit and miss I wouldn't recommend it. In fact, I no longer do shows if the word "craft" is part of the name. People who go to arts "and crafts" shows are there for the crafts, I promise. They want $2 knitted booties and $10 wooden yard signs. They are not interested in fine art. At all. Except to come into your tent and rhapsodize about how gorgeous your work is and then spend half an hour telling you about (or worse yet, showing you) all the photos they took with their iPhone on their last vacation and how they're just as good as yours (or better) and how they've been thinking about "doing what you do" to make "a little extra cash." Or you get to grit your teeth through the "wow, your stuff is great, what kind of camera do you have that lets you take such great pictures?" routine.

If you really want to do art shows, you have to look at it as a real business, not a part-time hobby. It takes time, effort, a lot of sweat and heartbreak, and money. Lots of money, up front. And it's always a gamble. Some shows are terrific; some are crap -- and there really doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to which are which. It's frustrating, fun, exhausting, and exhilarating.

Oh, and the single most annoying thing that will happen is the conversation that goes like this:

"I want something exactly like this for my living room, but the colors aren't right. Do you have one with more purple in it?"


But then there's the person who walks into your tent and straight up to your most expensive piece, asks the price and hands you the money without batting an eyelash -- and that makes everything else worthwhile!


Posted by: Loyda Herrera on 02/01/2013 - 5:32 PM

Thank you all for your input. Deborah, thanks for the estimate. The numbers you mentioned are out of reach for me at the moment. I appreciate the time each of you took to tell about your experiences and suggestions Thank you, again.


Posted by: Chuck Staley on 02/01/2013 - 6:34 PM

Funny, Deborah. I may write a sitcom about this artist who....

Well, you know.


Posted by: Deborah Smolinske on 02/01/2013 - 7:00 PM

I really don't mean to be "Debi Downer" here, Loyda (and isn't it ironic that my name actually is "Debi"? :-D), but, like so much else in life, the art show circuit is one of those things that looks a lot easier than it really is. Don't get me wrong -- I very much enjoy doing art shows. As Ginny mentioned, it gets you out of the house and off your butt, you do get to meet a lot of interesting people and have some truly fascinating conversations, you get a great opportunity to see others' work and compare yours to theirs in a like setting, you get exposed to fresh ideas and methods, and many other rewarding things, but it's not for the faint of heart. Go into it with your eyes (and your wallet) wide open, and you'll get a lot out of it (maybe not actual money, though). It's just that I've known a lot of people who thought they could dabble in art shows, and they are always severely disappointed. Hate to see that happen to you.

That's a sitcom I would definitely watch, Chuck. If you need a consultant with story ideas, let me know. I've got a million of 'em ... Of course, we're talking paid consulting work here ... ;-D


Posted by: Pauline Ross on 02/01/2013 - 7:45 PM

Have done many art shows. Juried are the best type to enter. There is an initial investment for doing shows so plan on doing more then one if you feel it is something you would like to persue. Sometimes you can find retiring artists or artist who have upgraded their canopies, selling equipment and walls. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Try it.


Posted by: Michael Peychich on 02/01/2013 - 10:01 PM

I do quite a few art shows and for me they are the best way to sell my art. In fact this weekend I will be sending in about five applications. My initial cost for booth, walls display racks was around $1,500. I keep my booth simple. If you go to my site you can see some of my shows in the gallery "Art Shows". You can do quite well with a simple booth, in the last two years I won cash awards in 25% of the art fairs I was in which show you do not need be very fancy just catch the eye of patrons. My best shows are smaller ones in resort or vacation areas.


Posted by: HW Kateley on 02/01/2013 - 10:16 PM

Hummm.... Well, I've done a few local shows. Bought a $40 folding table, and some racks at an action for about $50. Of course, I only do inside. I have considered a cheap awning for about $150.00. It's a fair amount of work for the return, but you do get out there and it's interesting what you learn.


Posted by: Alfred Ng on 02/01/2013 - 10:18 PM

Loyda, I done many art shows and by all mean go visit some shows near where you live before commit yourself to one. Go to watch how artists set up their works, see what kind of art being offer and talk to artists get as much information you need from them. Most artists are very helpful. You can post an ad on Craigslist to rent the tent and display units from other artist. The shows I do in Toronto has display rental and they would do all the set up and take down for you.


Posted by: Thomas Schoeller on 02/01/2013 - 10:26 PM

Very functional and informative website you should consider either joining.... OR just lurking about.


Posted by: Deborah Smolinske on 02/02/2013 - 12:23 AM

Michael, you have a very nice display. It looks really professional and attractive. Ever been through high winds with it, though? I have. Last 4th of July. We got hit by a microburst with winds clocked at ~100 mph. The woman behind me had a display nearly identical to yours. It was shredded into nothing in a matter of seconds. She lost everything. Out of the ~40 people at the show, my display was the only one that didn't suffer significant damage, and I still lost two Propanels, a stabilizing bar, two tent poles, the glass in three framed pieces, and some loose prints. More and more of the "good" shows are banning canopies like yours because not only can you suffer significant damage, but your canopy, mesh walls, and artwork flying around loose can cause damage to those around you. Even just a really heavy downpour can be enough to collapse your canopy. As Thomas mentioned, go have a read of some of the canopy threads at Artfairinsiders. There's one in particular that's both funny and scary, where a guy wrote in biblical style about what happened to his canopy when the rains came hard and heavy during the night.

It's a real heartbreaker to see someone lose all their hard work that can never be replaced when Mother Nature decides to do her thing. Yes, it's expensive to buy the really sturdy stuff like a Trimline canopy, Propanels, and all the rest (not to mention the extra time it takes to set them up and tear them down), but make it through one wicked thunderstorm intact and you won't regret that extra money at all!


Posted by: Janine Riley on 02/02/2013 - 12:46 AM

This may not be be your concern as much, but for me personally- I do watercolors. The mere thought of any inclement weather - shrink wrapped or not, strikes fear in my heart.


Posted by: Chaline Ouellet on 02/02/2013 - 12:57 AM

You might try art walk venues to begin with, they are usually indoor, no fees and some places sell quite well. It's a cost effective way to get your work out there,


Posted by: John Crothers on 02/02/2013 - 1:21 AM

I'm taking the art show plunge this year.

Deborah is ain't cheap!

I bought a Lightdome, Propanels and have had close to 400 prints made. Spent 100 hours over the last week matting and putting them all in plastic.

Had to get set up to charge sales tax in two different states, set up the square reader so I can take credit cards.

I'm still not done but on my way. It is a lot of work and quite a bit of investment. I have applied to three juried shows and have three more in the works. Sure hope I get accepted into some after all this!


Posted by: Michael Peychich on 02/02/2013 - 4:33 AM

Deborah, I have been through some very bad weather, at one show a thunderstorm took out three booths next to me but mine held firm. I do have the Flourish wall panels whic give a lot of strength but they were the most expensive part of the system. I do not know how many shows I have done but I know it has been at least sixty.


Posted by: Dyan Johnson on 02/02/2013 - 9:30 AM

Shows are a risk...and such is life! Consider location, seasonal weather, established reputable shows, crowd attendance estimates. Indoor shows are a BIG plus and many "mainstreet" art districts hold art tours/art walks. Check out your local wineries...many have wine tasting events that blend well with fine art!
Always remember that your display should be worthy of your work, not just thrown together. Go to shows and galleries to
get ideas on displaying.
Displays that disassemble to lay flat when packing for transport are helpful.


Posted by: JC Findley on 02/02/2013 - 9:51 AM

Deborah, you must have a REALLY nice camera to get a shot like this. I have a similar one I shot with my droid. Do you have a version in purple?

Photography Prints

ROFLMBO, I would give some input here but the big D has put it quite eloquently and said most of what I could add. Though, I have never had the color comment, I have had someone telling me if I would just photoshop in a yellow spider the magnolia shot would be perfect. The really nice camera comment is common but I still have a lot of inventory that was shot with a point and shoot that I will point out, or did when I did shows.

OK, things I didn't see in here.

1. Unless you have a storage unit or spare room say goodbye to your _____________ room as it will become an art storage room instead. (In my case it was the dining room.)

2. Large prints bring people in and even sell at times for me but most of my sales and profit came from small 5x7s matted and bagged to 8x10 which I sell for 25 bucks. It is also why I will NOT sell cards because why buy a 25 dollar 5x7 when you can just buy a card.

3. While Deborah covered it, let me reemphasize NOT to do shows with "craft" in the name. Exceptions to this are arts and craft shows in a spot you really want to target, like the HS in the middle of the VERY wealthy neighborhood where you have a lot of area specific art or if you have a lot of military art, on the local base. I broke that rule twice for those reasons and it worked out but in general, you will see those hand knitted animal hats at the tent next to you FLY off the shelves while you sit there and look at someone's IPhone shots.


Posted by: Loyda Herrera on 02/02/2013 - 11:44 AM

Oh wow! Thank you for all your experiences. I would definaly need more time to prepare but the suggestions of going to shows and seeing what it's like and speaking to other artists is something I really would love to do. To just get a feel for the whole thing. I think it's definatley in my future but not something I'm going to delve into right away without doing all the research and taking account all of your awesome suggestions about equipment and so on. I hope this post keeps on growing b/c I think we all grow a little with each experience told!


Posted by: Janine Riley on 02/02/2013 - 12:00 PM

Excellent point Chaline - they are always the most fun (" wine & cheese anyone ?" ) with minimal investment on the artists behalf.


Posted by: Kyle Rea on 02/02/2013 - 12:06 PM is having live shows and venues for underground artists across the USA. I will be having my first showing, just like yourself, March 6, 2013 in Hollywood. Check out for my profile and see what kind of stuff they show and how they show it. Might help you out?

Good luck!
Elyk Aer Photography


Posted by: Harry Lamb on 02/02/2013 - 2:28 PM

All this brings back memories. I no longer do shows - it's too much work for too little payback.

The only thing missing here is a means of finding great shows. they aren't cheap. I only booked juried shows and only those that were indoors at convention halls or under big tents. I got my leads and significant information from a publication called "Sunshine Artist". They also have regional books that concentrate on your area. The Northeast Region is the book I needed at the time, but their monthly publication discussed shows from all over. They give excellent reviews that reflect crowd attendance, products that moved well etc.

I did notice that where crafts were present, especially jewelry, you could forget selling images. Artists having water color, oils or acrylic were able to move some. Not too many earned their entrance fee though.

Think hard!


Posted by: Deborah Smolinske on 02/02/2013 - 2:33 PM

Michael, I am very glad to hear that you've had such good luck with your booth and the weather thus far in your art show career. I hope your luck continues to hold out for as long as you do art shows!

LOL, JC. I sure am lucky to have such a great camera, aren't I? And you are so right about the amount of space it takes to put show stuff together. My whole house turns into a manufacturing facility when I'm getting ready for a show, and my supplies and spares are tucked away into every nook and cranny. I have a used cargo van to haul all my stuff around for the shows because I can't even get close to cramming it all in my regular car (a PT Cruiser). I was careful to buy a van that would fit in my garage because of the weather we have here in Chicago. You'd laugh if you saw it stored away right now, though. That monster does fit in my garage but only just. I can barely squeeze in the driver's door to pull the thing out!

You also make a good point about breaking the rules for shows that have a higher likelihood to fit your art. There's a forest preserve about half a mile from my house where I've shot a lot of my local stuff. They have a very folksy arts and crafts show once a year that caters to artisans who make things out of wood, dried flowers, et cetera. I would normally never do a show like that, but I was invited to display my photography at their show last year and did quite well. 90% of what I sold were images taken right there at the forest preserve. Go figure ;-)

Since we're having this discussion, I thought it might be useful to include my booth shot. This is the one I include with art show applications, so it's not quite how things look at an actual show.

Sell Art Online

There is a second print rack (a duplicate of the one in the left rear of the booth) that I put out in front of the bare racks on the right-hand side of the photo. I also took out my chair and side table, my interior lighting fixtures, and some other things that cluttered up the shot. I'm thinking about buying a floor for this year's shows, but I'm dithering over it because my cargo van is already stuffed to the gills. I'm really not all that enthused about adding to the stuff I have to schlep from van to booth site and back again at every show. I'm also reluctant to shell out another $300-400 for fixtures. OTOH, I've seen a bunch of booths lately with the mock parquet foam flooring squares (they look like giant jigsaw puzzle pieces), and I really like the way the flooring gives the booth more of a portable gallery look and feel. Ah, decisions, decisions.


Posted by: Janine Riley on 02/02/2013 - 3:57 PM

Lol. I love these people here . You ask a question - & you get help.
So nice to see a group that is non-competitive with each other.


Posted by: John Crothers on 02/02/2013 - 11:47 PM

I have a few question for the "old hands" here.

How do you know how much inventory is enough? It seems to be a fine line between having too much and not enough.

How do you handle the people that want to "haggle" with you on price? Do you discount anything? If not, how do you tell people (short of telling them to get the hell out of yur booth)


Posted by: Deborah Smolinske on 02/03/2013 - 12:08 AM

I'm still struggling with the how much is enough inventory question myself, so I'll defer to others on that one. I do know that there have been times where I could have sold 20 copies of the same shot if I'd had them, and other times where the five copies of something I was sure would sell have sat untouched the whole weekend! I don't think there's any definitive recipe for how much to bring to a show. I think for most people it's a question of how much you want to haul around and how much you want to invest in an inventory that may not sell for years on end.

But I do have a response to your question about discounts and hagglers. At one of my very first shows, a very nice man tried to get me to sell him two 8x10 prints of the same scene from different angles at a discount because he was buying two. The price was quite low to begin with, but he wanted it lower. My initial thought was to respond with something snarky like "Hey, this isn't a garage sale," but I bit my tongue. I thought for a minute and smiled. And what came out of my mouth next was as much a surprise to me as I think it was to him.

"I'm sorry, but I just can't do that. If I don't respect my work enough to charge what I feel it's worth, then how can I expect that anyone else will?"

He smiled back, said "Good answer," pulled out his wallet, and paid me the asking price for the two prints.

I've used that same response any time someone has asked me to lower my price on something. I'm very comfortable with the prices I charge at shows, having done a lot of research and comparison with other artists whose work seems similar to my own. I choose not to be offended when someone asks me to lower my price, but it's hard sometimes :-D

Having said that, I do sometimes put out a "bargain bin" at shows, with a percent-off sign for whatever I put in there. I do it more to get rid of things I'm tired of looking at than anything else. I actually have not noticed that my sales increase any when I have the bargain bin out. And sometimes what was in the bin at one show and didn't sell will sell for full price at a different show.

I expect you'll get a lot of different answers to your questions. I'm looking forward to seeing what others have to say!


Posted by: John Crothers on 02/03/2013 - 1:51 AM

Thanks Deborah!


Posted by: Nop Briex on 02/03/2013 - 11:14 AM

In the past I did one in an old diary factory. Nowadays I paint mostly digitally. When I would go on show I have to print my work on canvas first... next to the printing costs, the storage problem is another one. Therefore I have only a virtual show on-line:


Posted by: JC Findley on 02/03/2013 - 11:35 AM

Price haggling for me? You betcha!

They come up with two matted 5x7s, and ask for a discount, I tell them if they buy two at full price they get a third free. They walk up with three? The pay full price and get the fourth free. :o) (5x7s matted and bagged run me 2.50 soooooooo, at 25 bucks each, 2 x 25 = 50 -7.5 in inventory cost = $42.5 profit. (minus overhead in general as well mind you))

Will you take 200 for that canvas? No, but I will take 300, which is 100 bucks off, but still a profit on the individual print of $125.

Inventory, more = better. What it comes down to is how much you can afford to produce AND to store when it doesn't sell. Large inventory for me = stuff I want on MY wall, and that is where it hangs between shows.


Posted by: John Crothers on 02/03/2013 - 11:33 PM

Thanks JC! I was thinking about pricing individual 8x10 for "x" but if you buy three they are "y". Not sure what that price is yet but for example, they would be $20.00 each or 3 for $50.00.

I have about 400 prints matted and bagged right now. Have a lot of 8x10's which made me glad when I read your comment on how well those move for you. I also have a few 24 x 36 prints and one of them is on my wall right now.


Posted by: Judy Kay on 02/06/2013 - 6:39 AM

Deborah's assessment of the investment cost to participate in a art festival is spot on..It discourages so many people from participating in them. What surprises me is that the sponsors of these art shows have not figured this out and done some to make it possible for so many who avoid them for that reason. Imagine if the shows setup the tents and rent out space...An ideal solution! the shows could even raise money for the initial investment costs to purchase the tents ...They could even use "kickstarter" to raise the money for a very worthwhile project. There are at least 20 art shows in Miami alone that run annually...


Posted by: Deborah Smolinske on 02/06/2013 - 1:34 PM

Judy, the fact that the cost scares away some artists is precisely why many of the high-end art shows insist that artists wanting to participate own all their own equipment. A willingness to make that kind of investment shows that you're serious about the art show business. If you've invested in all that equipment and paid the high booth fee, it's much less likely that your work isn't very good, that you'll blow off a show at the last minute (leaving a gap in the layout that the organizers can't really fill), that you'll bring a gaggle of family and friends with you to the show and treat it like your own private party, that you'll take care to make sure your booth looks good and is kept up well. No matter how scrupulous you are, booth fixtures suffer wear and tear over time, and need replacement and upkeep. Even just general cleaning. And they have to be stored somewhere. I don't think the majority of art shows have storage space available all year round.

Art shows have no trouble at all filling up, Judy. They don't need any help getting more artists to participate. Most of the good shows turn away more artists than they accept. Anything they can do to narrow down the field of applicants prior to a show is a good thing for them.

There really is no benefit for the shows to do all the hard work for the artists. I know there are some shows that do as you say, renting out tents and even setting them up ahead of time, but I actually wouldn't want to do those shows. Having someone else set up my booth raises a whole host of other issues. I can't put the walls where I want them. I may not be able to display things the way I like because the booth won't accommodate it. What if the canopy leaks when it rains because somebody didn't set up quite right and my work is damaged?

The list goes on and on. Having the show set up the booths might be a convenience in some ways, but it's definitely a liability in other ways. There's a reason things are done the way they're done now.


Posted by: Nicholas Evans on 02/06/2013 - 3:04 PM

Art shows are cool, but I cannot stand how many rules they have. Your tent must be this or that color... it must be rented, it must be bought, it must be made by this company. Your art must be framed, no larger than ****, it must be matted in white or black only. You must give your SSN, you must give your tax ID, you must report your daily sales amount, you must have wire hang frames, you must have plexi and not glass in your frames, you must take credit card only, you must take check only, you must take cash only, you must have three walls, you cannot have print boxes, you must have, or may not have a table. You must have a table cloth, it must be THIS color. You must be a member of this art group, or a member of that art group. You must be a member ofr this long, or that long. Too many rules, and many more than this. I know you all are going to say that these rules make these shows look good.

I hosted a show one time with no rules like this, and it was great. NO problem. I do not do them any longer because they take too much time to plan. But art shows are great exposure and income.

PS: These are some actual rules from art shows that I went to. Believe it or not, most of them are from one show.


Posted by: JC Findley on 02/06/2013 - 3:10 PM

Actually the biggest reason I have avoided some of the bigger events is they want the fee six months out. Seriously, I just do not have 500 bucks to pay for something that MIGHT make me money six months from now. If I could see a short term return, then maybe, but no way I am paying big money that far ahead of time.


Posted by: JC Findley on 02/06/2013 - 3:12 PM

Oh, and here is another thought on shows, think outside the box as well. For me, that means I will rent a spot at one of the big reptile expos in the future and try and find an audience for some large and small reptile and amphibian shots.


Posted by: Nicholas Evans on 02/06/2013 - 3:15 PM

JC, you are 100% correct. They do want BIG $$$ far from the show time.


Posted by: Deborah Smolinske on 02/06/2013 - 3:50 PM

I have to say one of my biggest beefs with big shows is that they don't really take the set-up process into account in their planning. They'll give you two hours before the show opens on the first morning, say, from 7:00 to 9:00, to find a place to put your vehicle, haul all your stuff out of the vehicle and over to your spot, and then build your booth and get it all put together.

Well, guess what? I do a lot of my shows alone. It takes between four and six hours for me to set everything up. It's a big job. Even when I do have help, it still takes an hour just to build the booth, let alone hang all the artwork, et cetera. And I really hate the shows that occur in places where parking is tight on a good day. Having 40 or 50 artists and their vans, trailers, and big trucks fighting for 10 spaces is awful.

I'm a lot more choosey about what shows I'll do these days. I try to limit myself to shows where I can set up the day before, where I'm allowed to pull my van right up to my spot during set-up and tear-down (I don't care if I have to park far away during the actual show, but it's murderous when you have to park a mile away and then haul 10 or 20 loads of stuff over gravel, up and down hills, through mud and dirt, blah, blah, blah). I'm not real fond of one-day shows either because it's not really worth all the time and hassle to set it up in the morning and then tear it back down the same night. I'm too old for that much physical labor all in the same day, not to mention that I get all dirty and sweaty rushing around to set up in the morning and then have to sit in the booth all day and try not to offend customers with my icky self.

And I agree with you about all the rules, Nicholas. I don't mind many of them (must be a white canopy; if you have tables, must be covered all the way to the ground; no obvious trash or boxes visible to customers; no gas-powered generators; nothing that creates a tripping hazard in the aisles; supplying the show with tax info), but some of them seem just frivolous or over-controlling (no sales of cards; framing/matting directives; color of walls or method of display directives). If I can see why a rule exists, I'll follow it. Too many rules, or rules that seem too capricious, and I don't even apply.

And I also avoid the shows that want my money six months out too, JC. I don't see the point in that. Why do they need all the money so far in advance? I don't mind making a small deposit (say, $100), but sending in $500 or $700 six or eight months before the show is just too much for me. I have better uses for my money than letting somebody else sit on it for that long!


Posted by: Nicholas Evans on 02/06/2013 - 5:13 PM

Exactly what I am saying. I can understand some of the rules. They are for safety. I participated in an art show one time and this was the set of rules:

MUST be a member of ****** Art Group for no less than 1 year
Must send photo of actual display
All entries will be selected, displays are not based on "fist come first serve"
Must provide my own insurance and named the event sponsor as covered
No cash sales
No check sales
All sales must be reported at close of day
Setup at 6:00 am to 7:00am - late arrivals will be turned away without refund
Break-down 5:00 PM (early break-downs will result in $75 pentaly and refusal to enter future events for a period of 1 year)
Had to provide my SSN
Had to provide a tax ID # (if not the same as SSN)
Business Name (ok, thats fine)
Must have a gray tent that measures 10'x10' and 8' tall - could be purchased or rented from event sponsor ONLY
No print boxes on tables
Tables must be 3' tall or less and cannot be more than 4' wide
Black Table cloth only
Walls must be dark blue cloth
Booth must have 3 walls (sides and rear) - cannot thave rear door
Only 2 photos or paintings per wall and must be framed
Only black or gold frames permitted
White mats only and must be professional (no home made versions permitted and must submit receipts from framer for each displayed item)
No rugs or carpeting in booth
No food or drinks in booths (artists may have bottled water only - can be purchased from eveny sponsor only and must be in approved bottle from sponsor)
No electric lights (both AC power or battery operated)
No generators
No Radios or other music device (including Ipods with earbuds)
Items not permitted to be sold: small prints (less than 8x10), post cards, unframed photos or paintings, beverages, or food
No display signs or banners of your business name or services (including sponsors)
No advertising of your business or services at your booth (this includes business cards)
Proper attire required (no tennis shoes, sandals, short, or t-shirts)
Only stools, not chairs are permitted (unless a medically needed - must provide proof from a certified medical doctor)
No pets (except for service animals - must provide proof of medical need)
I know this is not the picture of ALL art festivals or shows, but this is an actualy one I went to. NEVER again.


Posted by: Deborah Smolinske on 02/06/2013 - 5:33 PM

Holy cow, Nicholas. That's insane! Do artists actually do this show? How? A one-hour set-up time? Gray canopy? Blue walls? On two prints/painting per wall? No business cards? You can only drink their water in their approved containers? You have to prove you bought your mats from a framer? No chairs unless you have a note from a doctor?!?

What the *bleep*? I would have gotten halfway through this list of rules and never even finished reading the rest. No way I would ever even think about doing a show that restrictive. What made you even want to do it once?


Posted by: Martha Harrell on 02/06/2013 - 5:34 PM

I have done a lot of outdoor shows in the past 15 years, in my state. It is really hit and miss. In fact, I have a blog about some that I have just visited first. It is called What I Did On My Vacation, and it is on As for tents, if you have a small business, you can depreciate the tent over the years.


Posted by: Nicholas Evans on 02/06/2013 - 5:42 PM

The strange thing about this one art show is that they actually have a waiting list to get on if you apply the day after opening. They do shows in the highest income areas of Florida, and about only 2 a year. People that display in them make a killing from these shows because they do target the overly rich. I did it because I thought it was the norm, and it was my first. Wow, was I wrong. I did make some good cash, but the hassle of getting in was not worth it. When I sponsored my own art shows the rules were very small. I could care less what the people had on, what they sat in, or if they had ads up in the booth. I am thinking about doing another one now, thanks to this post. They can be a lot of work to plan, and fun at the same time. They usually ran my abou $1,800 to host (permits and insurance), and brought in about $8,000. Some places do not require permits or insurance. If you ever thing of hosting one check into your local county or city for this info, and see what can be done. I know that some of them will not charge anything for a sidewalk show (But you can charge a vendor fee).


Posted by: Deborah Smolinske on 02/06/2013 - 6:06 PM

I would never dream of trying to host a show in Cook County, Illinois (where I live). This place is a nightmare of bureaucratic red tape and rife with that reach-into-your-pocket-for-cash-for-every-little-thing mentality. It's hard enough to do a show somebody else set up. No way I'd ever try to set up one of my own around here!


Posted by: Roger Swezey on 02/06/2013 - 6:12 PM


Forget about all the discouraging comments posted here....You don't need all that stuff when you first start out... Think small ( the "Big" will come soon enough)... Expect nothing....Be flexible...Think creatively in the displaying your work...Smile..but, still be yourself...and enjoy...

Take this from someone who has been living relatively comfortable, solely on the face to face sales made throughout the last 35+ years.

As I've said to others, You can't expect to sit and wait for the people to come to you, you've got to GET OUT THERE AND HUSTLE!!!

Sell Art Online


Posted by: Nicholas Evans on 02/06/2013 - 6:13 PM

The hardest part is getting the permits. In my town here they thought of every nickle and dime permit possible. Permits for: The event, to have a display, to use parking, to use public restrooms (that are already available), permit to have tents or a canopy, permit and salary paid to a law enforcement officer for that zone (already on patrol and not even on scene). But once you get past all that, its pretty simple. People actually do line up to get a spot in your event


Posted by: Nicholas Evans on 02/08/2013 - 12:06 AM

This post made me inspired to run yet another show. It has been a while since I hosted one, I hope it goes off without a hitch. If you know any artists (not limited to painting or photography) in the Tampa bay area, share this infor with them. This is NOT juried (I believe everyone should have have a chance).


Posted by: Deborah Smolinske on 02/08/2013 - 12:19 AM

Gook luck with your event, Nicholas!


Posted by: Nicholas Evans on 02/08/2013 - 12:23 AM

Thanks. They can be fun if done right. I run it the way that I I wanted them to be like. I want people to have fun, make sales, and gain exposure. I also like to let a few non-profits in for free to raise funds for their own events or needs. Its all about helping one another (sure, some profit is to be made too).


Posted by: Nicholas Evans on 02/08/2013 - 12:27 AM

One of the hardest parts for me is the time and money game you need to play with it. My local city wants 30 days notice for approval. So I need to get 9 exhibitors BEFORE the 30 days so that I an purchase insurance for it ($1550 for a two day event). If we do not get the 9 then we need to cancel and refun all those that did sign up. THe next problem is if we DO get the 9 required (and that is not a hard number to get) but the city rejects it for some reason, I must refund the artists and I am out of pocket $1550 for the insurance. So it all about playing numbers to get it going. I think that the hardest work is getting it all started...the actual day (sign-ins and setup) is easy.


Posted by: Judy Kay on 02/08/2013 - 6:43 AM

That is precisely why I feel that the tents should be setup professionally...I am talking about just the tents...the individual artist could fill up the interior if needed...If done professionally, there would be a consistency with layout and visual continuity and would open the door to people who are otherwise left behind...I would hate to think an artist could be measured by his or her ability or willingness to invest so heavily in equipment and costs associated with setting up a tent....The entrance fee costs and the cost to rent the space should be barometer enough to measure interest...and the energy would be so much better expended developing and mastering the craft and not so much time in the display process..Another thing to consider...If you notice when you go to these shows, for the most part it's is the same artist over and over and over..When I go to these local shows it is like a re-run of every show before. The same artists, in the same place....There are millions of serious artists out there who would do well in shows and whose art is display worthy ...This would afford those artists an opportunity to participate and for visitors to see art they have not seen a million times before.

Loyda, Roger is correct in that if you are serious about your artwork ,art shows would be the best venue to showcase and sell your art and well worth the investment in the long-run..


Posted by: Roger Swezey on 02/08/2013 - 8:11 AM

All this writing about "professionalism" at Art shows is worthy of discussion, but I don't believe here.

Let's deal with Loyda's question .

And maybe a little bit of encouragement might be welcomed.


Posted by: Lois Picasso on 02/08/2013 - 8:22 AM

They are fun, yet very hard work. There is typically always some 'thing' that goes wrong each time, whether it is vehicle problems, bad weather, a theif, or rude, cruel, mean people. If you carry a variety of items in a variety of price ranges, you are more likely to at least cover your space fee, gas, expenses for the weekend, than if you only have originals for sale. Investing in a big fancy set up to begin with is maybe not a good idea, since if, after you attend your first show; you are yet willing / able / desirous of going to one more after that, then, others, too; you are off to a good beginning. Start with a show where the space fee is on the lower end, where the average attendees are on the higher end, in an area where you do not have to travel that far, & where you may be able to camp out near your space; or in your vehicle, or better yet, drive home after the show with enough time to get plenty of rest prior to driving back the next day. It takes a lot of courage, you will meet a lot of friendly, nice people, if you choose to keep up with it. After awhile, you will learn more about the best shows to go to, the best / better stands, display items, also if you bring business cards with referrals to your art items on this site, it would help you to build your online customer base, too.



Posted by: Harold Shull on 02/08/2013 - 11:06 AM

Hiya Loyda,

I have spent thousands of dollars for my art shows and made thousands of dollars. Most importantly, I have made many friends since I started going to art shows some 20 odd years ago. As everybody has put it, it takes a lot of work, a lot of money and a lot of frustration to make it all work. If you are just looking for an arena to show your art, forget it, it costs too much money. The average show will set you back at least $100 per booth. And, I think that price has gone up too. I haven't been to any art shows lately because of health problems and probably won't be able to make any for a least another year.

Sell Art Online

I went the whole route of purchasing a sturdy but expensive tent, lots of racks, and even purchased an SUV that could hold everything to get to the art shows. I have put thousands of miles on that car. Most of the advice I would give you, Deborah has already cvovered. I no longer go to the art shows for the money but now just to see and talk with the "Fellowship of the Brush." hahahaahaha


Posted by: DENISE TOMASURA on 02/27/2013 - 6:16 AM

Some great information here. Thank you all for sharing.


This discussion is closed.