An Inside Look at Art Festivals: What You Know and What You Don’t

There are many questions I get about my work as a professional artist, including what the heck scratchboard is, how long it takes to complete a piece, where I show my work, and how commissioning a custom piece works. One part of my business that people don’t typically ask questions about until I bring it up is art festivals and how they work. Once I start explaining it, the questions and the surprised looks come gushing out. So, I thought I would take a little time to give you an inside look at art festivals!

The first step in attending art festivals as an artist is RESEARCH. There are so many different festivals in every state and depending on your work, different shows are more appropriate than others for the various mediums and styles (pottery, painting, drawing, fiber art, jewelry, sculpture, etc).

After deciding which festivals are the best fit for your work, then you must APPLY, which includes filling out the application that includes information about your process and work, submitting 3-5 images of your artwork and one of your booth display, and paying the fee (typically $20-$40). These images are then presented to the JURY who score each artist and determine who will be invited to display at the festival (typically only a fraction of applicants will be invited). If invited, then you must pay the booth fee (typically $150-$600). Some artists are placed on the waitlist.

*Example of some of my recent application images

SCHEDULING | The application and payment process happens months before the actual event. Some artists travel to festivals all over the country and all year long…my season is typically April – October and in the Midwest states. This year I will have on average 2 festivals each month in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan.

PLANNING + PREP | Before and in between shows, there are always many different tasks that need to be done to be prepared for a festival, including actually making the art, marketing and advertising for the shows, creating and printing the marketing materials, printing and packaging the reproduction prints, framing new artwork, and tracking inventory.

*An indoor show set-up once the main structure is up and with all the artwork bins ready to go

Set-up for festivals is often the afternoon before or morning of the event. You’re assigned a specific spot and reserved a space of 10’x10’. I always set-up my booth as early as possible so the structure is in place and I can take my time with the artwork the morning of the event.

FESTIVAL | Every festival has specific hours that artists are required to be open to patrons, typically 10am-5pm, give or take an hour. Festival organizers sometimes offer volunteers to ‘booth sit’ so the artist can take a quick break, a complimentary breakfast, and occasionally an artist dinner when awards are presented. Most outdoor shows go on rain or shine. At the end of the day, I always take all my artwork down and repackage it so it can come with me when I leave.

Once the show is over, everything is taken apart and repacked. Then the travel home or to the next show starts and all the day-after tasks begin, including reorganizing everything, accounting, updating inventory, and restocking supplies and reproduction prints.

This is just a snap shot, but hopefully it gives a better insight into the world of art festivals!

Find your joy!


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