In the Studio: Applying to Arts and Craft Shows

Art Show Outlook

Across the US and around the world, art shows are a major component of the art market. As an emerging artist, participating in art shows can offer increased sales and networking opportunities and the potential spotlight for discovery by customers and galleries. The application process that must be followed is critical, often entailing a lot of administrative work and analysis for the artist. Potential exhibitors send in their applications along with images of their work, a bio and resumé, artist statement, and art fair history. The fair jury assesses the application to curate the right group for the show’s target audience.

Artists wanting to participate in larger or higher-end art shows usually have to adhere to the restrictive guidelines. The more established and prestigious art fairs often only want art galleries and art dealers reserving booth space and charge accordingly. However, smaller and more local art exhibitions will allow artists to represent themselves, if they meet the quality criteria.

If you’re preparing or you are ready to show your work at an art fair or craft show, here’s a guide to selecting and applying to shows.

Show Selection

Art shows elevate local art scenes, creating a face-to-face opportunity for artists to connect with their communities. These shows are avenues for showcasing your work to thousands of potential buyers and participating galleries.

At these shows, artists not only present their art to diverse audiences, but also build their network and assess potential markets. Local fairs often have an intimate feel and can be valuable exposure to new, enthusiastic buyers, as visitors may be struck by what you have to offer and seek to follow up with you after the show has concluded.

With any show, keep in mind application and booth fees, plus expenses for transportation and/or shipping, and plan for anything and everything that can go wrong before committing.

When applying to shows and fairs, check out sites like ArtFairInsiders.com and ArtFairCalendar.com, along with Ceramics Monthly’s Call for Entries list (www.ceramicsmonthly.org), which provide a clear description of events. Local and regional well-known annual events draw visitors from a wide area, and you may see these as beneficial to your career. However, be prepared for the challenges that come with these larger and more prestigious shows.

Once you find an interesting opportunity, be sure to read the prospectus very thoroughly. Evaluate each opportunity and ask yourself, “Is this right for me and my artwork?” Look at the work that has been shown in past events, the average number of attendees, and all associated costs and fees. If your work doesn’t seem like a good fit or the cost is too high, it’s a waste of time, money, and resources that could be spent on a more suitable opportunity.

Attention to Details

The next step, before even starting your application, is to read and adhere to the requirements. It may be tempting to jump right in, but make sure you prepare and send exactly what is asked for—whether it’s the subject matter, file types and size, piece details, or the number of images. Don’t feel the need to send more than what is asked for, as it is often discouraged.

Art fair jurors have many applications to read and evaluate, and sticking to the rules communicates that you’re a professional. Adhering to the specifications demonstrates that you went through the prospectus thoroughly, pay attention to details,  and will be easy to work with.

Check out sites like Zapplication (www.zapplication.org), Juried Art Services (www.juriedartservices.com), SlideRoom (www.slideroom.com), and CaFÉ (www.callforentry.org) and get familiar with the submission process. Make sure you type your information correctly on the online application. If you’re mailing in your application, type it or write legibly. Always proofread written materials, from your application to your resumé.

The Booth

Once you have been accepted to an event, there are other practical considerations: working within the parameters of the fair guidelines; planning your booth to be durable and suitable for all weather conditions (if outdoors); making sure your booth and materials are easy to pack, unpack, and transport from your vehicle to your booth space and within the venue itself; and displaying your artwork in an approachable fashion where both the artwork and the patron are protected.

When possible, pick your booth space carefully. Make sure your booth is away from the food and drinks stalls (a strong food odor can be unpleasant for shoppers, and the area may be greasy or messy). Each fair provides different things to the participating vendors, from an empty space allocation to a table or a wooden stall. Visit the fair or try to find photographs of previous shows online or on social media to give yourself an idea of how the event looks when in full swing.

Art Fair Check List

Organize well in advance, make sure you’re prepared and have all the items ready, a booth tent (if needed), a comfortable chair, the appropriate number and type of tables and shelves to display your work in an organized and inviting way, and a well-designed sign to advertise your studio name. Space should be something you concentrate on as an artist. So, pay attention to the booth’s layout and design. Customers should be able to view and appreciate the work and feel comfortable approaching you. Keep your stall clutter-free. Pick carefully which pieces you plan to display. It’s worth having a variety of products available at high and low price points, to target a wide spectrum of visitors.

Make sure to have plenty of business cards to share with interested buyers, so they can contact you in the future if they aren’t entirely sure about making a purchase at the show, or if they’d like to place new orders after the show has ended. A catalog or a folder showing other examples of your work will give interested buyers a chance to see your art in a broader context. Be prepared and available to talk about your work, your studio, and yourself.

Local Art Fairs in the US

Represent Yourself

It’s helpful for potential buyers to have the artist around. Most collectors want to know more about the artist and their process to gain insight or feel connected with the work. Convey that you’re pleased to talk to people—smile, chat, and be friendly. Relax and enjoy explaining your work and process.

Art fairs can be a great opportunity for networking, securing sales, and even achieving international recognition. You need to make a deliberate effort to stand out in the vast crowd of extremely talented creative counterparts. Just be yourself, be prepared, and let your art charm the audience.

Mamta Gholap received her MBA in finance and is passionate about handbuilding with clay.

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