This post is by Jason Horejs, regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Jason Horejs and his wife, Carrie, own Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ., which they founded in 2001. Jason also publishes RedDotBlog.com, a resource for artists interested in creating and strengthening relationships with galleries, as well as those looking to sharpen their own selling skills.
The summer art show season is upon us again. Each summer, tens of thousands of artists have the opportunity to show and sell their creations to the art-loving public. Participating in these shows can be exhilarating, terrifying and exhausting, all at the same time.
I’ve long recommended that artists take advantage of the opportunity to show their work at art events. Not only do the artists have the chance to sell their work, they also learn first-hand what potential buyers think of their work and get to learn about the challenges of selling their work. But how can an artist have the best shot at success in an art show or at a festival?
For the last several years, about this same time, I’ve run a post asking for tips from artists who participate in art shows and festivals. I asked what advice they might give an artist who is just beginning to show their work. Readers made some great suggestions, and I would like to re-post them here as we go into the summer season. I also ask you to share any wisdom you’ve gained by participating in shows. Thanks for all the great input!
Suggestions from Reddotblog Readers
"Go out and visit as many different shows as possible. Visit ALL the local ones, no matter how small, plus as many farther-away ones as financially possible. Eventually you can use ArtFairSourceBook to find the best shows. Don’t bother when starting out, you won’t get into them anyway.
Visiting a show, look at everything: the quality of the art, the number of shoppers, how many of them seem to be buying, how happy or busy the artists seem to be. Talk to the artists, especially the ones who are showing work similar to yours. Go on the last day of a multi-day show, so the artists know how well they did. “I’m thinking about doing this show next year, how was it for you?” is a good opener. There are a few grouches, but most artists are happy to share info. It’s how they started too.
Take notes on displays, tents, everything. Ask people where they got their stuff. Read everything available about doing shows. Figure out how to apply. Many shows use Zapplication.org, so set up an account there. Get all the necessary equipment – tent, display system, boxes for your work. Start with small local shows (make your beginner mistakes there) and work your way up into the better shows.
Finding the shows where your work sells is trial-and-error. You pretty much have to try them all and just see how it goes. Drop the duds and keep the gems. Keep careful track of all of your show-related expenses. You might have a few more sales at an “away” show but if the hotel costs eat it all then it’s not worthwhile. It takes a few years to find the gems. Some shows are so hard to get into you’ll probably take a few years just to figure out how to get in.
Have a mailing list signup sheet out at all times. Your list is your key to success, so work it."
"This is your time to sell your work. Do not make it easy for family and friends to stay for long periods of time. Leave chairs at home. Bring a bar stool or director’s chair for you alone."
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Getting Your Work Out There - Art Organizations and Juried Shows, Part 1 & Part 2
Art Shows and Festivals - The Professional Way