22 Jul 2010

Art Shows and Festivals – The Professional Way

Posted by Moshe Mikanovsky

I thought that my last post (at FAV – MM) would finalize the series on venturing into art fairs and festivals but in the last few days I couldn’t stop thinking that something was missing. Well, maybe not just one thing, but it occurred to me that I cannot simply close it off by the DIY display systems. I have to give a stage to the more professional ways available out there.

So I decided the best way to present it is by quoting one of our constant readers and frequent commenter, Sandy Askey-Adams, who, throughout the entire series, continues to remind us of the importance of being professionals, invest in proper display systems and canopies, by speaking from her own experience of over 28 years doing art shows.

On outdoor art shows:

“Listen to those with the experience of doing the outdoor art shows for many years. They do know what they are talking about because of their experience. They were also once starting out and know the pitfalls of a less than right set up.”

“It is possible to make a living at this. Why do you think so many do it? At one day art show I made $10,000 before noon time. That amount is unusual in that short of a time, but I have heard of other artists making from $20,000 and up (in a weekend with two or three day show).”

Some websites for outdoor art shows:

On display systems:

“You will not see them using less than quality display systems. THEY know what attracts people to their booths…besides the art.”

“If an artist wants to break into the art show circuit, do not cut corners. It shows and takes away the importance of the overall art work and professionalism.”

 “If one goes half-way (some go less than even half-way) on setting up a display system then you will not get into the higher quality art shows where an artist can, and most do, make a good income. The better art shows are better advertised and more people with money to spend on art attend them.”

“One should take pride in not only their art, but the way they display it. When doing the outdoor art shows, that display is just as important.”

“Maybe for anyone thinking of starting the outdoor art shows, they will know now that they may have to put some of that extra money aside to use for racks and a decent canopy (if one can find extra money with this economy).”

“The best investment is in a great professional and attractive looking display system and a canopy for proper protection of your art work.”

“Make your display system as presentable and inviting as possible. Hang up photos of your working process.”

“I do hang up a lot of my art work because I have a lot of work; and I do this for a living. Some say hang work sparingly…well, you follow your ‘gut feeling’ of how and what to hang. Do not listen to anyone who tells you to hang less work. It depends upon HOW you present the work, be it a lot or not. You do what works best for you.”

“There are shows that jury your set up too (besides your art) which includes the look of your display system and canopy. Do keep that in mind. You will eventually need the right panels, the right look to get into those types of juried shows. Those are usually the shows with the biggest crowds and the most sales also… Hmmm, and the highest entry fees. And very, very professional looking display systems. You will not find Home Depot stuff there.”

“I had done one of the largest and the oldest outdoor art show in the U.S. at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia. It is high professional, juried work and displays. Tough show to get into. That display system means a lot in the jurying too. Points are deducted if not right and those points that are deducted can keep you out of the show.”

“As far as the display panels go, if I were just now buying panels, I would invest in the ones that look like they have carpeting on them, they are the best and are gorgeous and come in different colors.”

Web sites for display systems:

On canopies:

“Do not buy the EasyUp tent because it will not hold up to the high winds or heavy rain. When and if they do, consider yourself fortunate.”

“Yes, it is easy to set up, but in a very heavy and serious rain storm, it could collapse. I have seen many, many of that type of tents collapse. About a year ago, there were about 7 tents like that set up in a row and all but one totally collapsed. Leaking? Yes, but collapsing is also a good possibility. Why do artists continue to buy this type of tents? Because they are cheap and easy to set up. They are fine if the weather predicts an all sunny forecast.”

“I have the TrimLine Canopy (from Flourish – MM). It has skylights and awnings which I can put on the front or on the sides when I hang work on the sides. My canopy is a 10’ x 10’ that can re-adjust into a wonderful 10’ x 15’. They also make 10 x 20′s. When I get two spaces (which are usually 10’ x 20’) I use the 10’ x 15’ with room to set up my table on the side.”

“Sometimes you can find one of those type canopies for sale at a good price by an artist who does no longer want to do the outdoor art shows. Keep an ear open.”

Web sites for canopies:


About dress code:

“When you dress successful, look successful, you become and are successful. A successful look breeds success and look much more impressive than a white t-shirt and shorts thrown on.”

“I have seen men artists at shows dressed very well and they really have been among the most successful. It carries through.”

I want to thank Sandy again for all the valuable comments! Thank you Sandy! :-)

And instead of signing with my usual “Cheers, Moshe”, I will sign this time ala-Sandy-style…

:) Moshe

This article was published on FineArtView blog on July 15, 2010

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2 Responses to “Art Shows and Festivals – The Professional Way”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Robert Houston Sneed and ArtsyShark.com, Moshe Mikanovsky. Moshe Mikanovsky said: New blog post: Art Shows and Festivals – The Professional Way http://bit.ly/bKHT1v [...]

  2. Moshe,
    Very useful info. Just a couple of things. First – I can personally attest to the amazing qualities of Flourish Canopies. It is more than 5 years since I have been on the artist side of an art fair but I helped out at a number of them for a few years all over the country.

    In my experience when you are traveling long distances to places with unfamiliar weather conditions and you are spending a lot of $$ on travel expenses, you can’t afford to have uncertainties about whether your canopy will handle the conditions. So, it makes it worthwhile to spend the money on a good one so you know you can be in business and sell stuff! Our Flourish canopy was always really solid, waterproof, full of light, and constantly admired by other artists!

    Second thing I wanted to mention was the Artfair Source Book. Not sure if you mentioned that elsewhere but we used to find it very useful for assessing shows.

    My 2c worth.




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