Welcome to my three part series about juried art festivals! This first section will be all about applying for shows - the research process, organizing your data, preparing to submit applications, paying fees, and tracking important dates and information. If you want to apply for multiple shows in a year (or even on the same weekend - we'll get to that), then this process can get quite complicated...but with a little organization, it can be less stressful.
First, let's discuss the difference between a juried art festival and other types of art events or craft shows. Both event types can be beneficial to you as an artist, but I am going to be speaking specifically about the juried art festivals in this series.
JURIED ART FESTIVAL - these events typically require applications from artists, application/jury fees, and samples of your work and display. A panel of jurors then review and rank each artist within different categories (painting, jewelry, photography, ceramics, etc). This is typically an anonymous process, so the jury will not get your name or any personal details - only your sample artwork and a statement submitted about your materials and processes. Juried art festivals feature fine artists with original artwork and/or limited edition reproductions. These festivals often attract high-end collectors and art buyers.
CRAFT SHOW (or other non-juried art events) - these events may also require applications and fees, but typically feature a wider variety of artists, craftspeople, and vendors. They are usually less competitive than juried art festivals and attract a wide variety of attendees - some coming for the arts and crafts, others for the kids activities, and some for the atmosphere and food. Depending on your medium and price points, these events could be a great opportunity to sell your work to a large audience.
As you prepare to apply for art festivals, the first step in the process will be RESEARCH. You have to find the shows to apply for, gather information about deadlines and requirements, and map out your schedule. Not all festivals are created equal and not all festivals (even those with stellar reputations) will bring in your target audience. It is important to find as much information about the show as you can and, if possible, ask others who have participated in the event about it.
Things to consider in your research... (certainly not limited to this list)
When and where do you want to show your work? (Date and location)
Where does your ideal clientele live? (suburbs, city, rural - East Coast, South, etc)
Are there themed shows that your work would fit well in? (i.e. floral artwork at a Botanical Garden show)
How does the show advertise? (Local ads, radio spots, signs around town)
How many people go through the show on average?
How long has the show existed? (Newbie shows may not have their marketing strategy figured out - people may not know it exists yet)
Do other artists typically sell well? (You can't completely write off a show based on other artists' experiences, but if NO ONE did well, then that's an indication to consider)
There is a lot of information associated with art festivals, so your ORGANIZATION SYSTEM is key to keeping your sanity and not missing deadlines. I am a huge advocate for spreadsheets, but find a system that works for you and one that you will continue to use year after year.
Some examples of the information you may want to record and track... (I'm taking this from my very own festival tracking spreadsheet)
Date of the event
Name of the event
Location of the event
Jury fee amount
Booth fee amount
Date you actually applied for the event
Acceptance notification date
Results (Yes, No, or Waitlisted)
Payment date (of booth fee)
Information about past results (if you got into the show in years past)
The application process for juried art festivals is usually pretty similar and about 90% of the organizing groups use a website called Zapplication (Zapp) for their entire application process. Some show applications are very extensive and ask a lot of questions/for a lot of information up front and some applications are bare minimum.
Every application will ask for samples of your artwork to be submitted - typically through the application site, but sometimes via email. This should be a small collection of your best work - usually 3-5 images - and should make sense as a grouping. Be sure to take note of their image file size requirements (Zapp applications require 1920x1920 px). Most shows will also ask for a photo of your display to show how your booth would look at the event. You may also be asked to submit a short statement about your materials and processes (typically 100-300 words).
Once you've completed your application, you will have to pay a JURY FEE (or application fee). These fees are typically used to pay the jurors for their time because there can be hundreds (sometimes thousands) of applications that they have to review in a short window of time. Fees can range from $25 to $50+ per show.
> As I eluded to at the very beginning of this post, there are artists who apply for multiple shows in a weekend. Why would they do that, you might ask? Because there is no guarantee that you will get into a show, even if you were accepted the previous year. Artists, like myself, who sell exclusively or almost exclusively at art festivals need to line up a certain number of festivals every year to ensure they will sell enough work and bring in enough money to support their business, family, and life. By applying to multiple shows in a given weekend, you greatly increase your chances of being accepted to at least one and filling that spot on the calendar. There is also no guarantee that you will SELL at these shows - $0 weekends have happened and they can happen to anyone if you're not at the right show.
[As an example, I try to schedule at least two festivals per month from May to September here in the Midwest (10 shows). I may also add shows in the winter months down in Florida or April shows in Texas. 10-15 shows is normal for me, but there are artists who travel up to 30 weekends or more a year.]
> Application deadlines can be more than 6 months prior to the event date (i.e. June or July events with deadlines in December), so be sure to check dates early and mark them down on your calendar so you don't miss out on an opportunity you're excited about.
[There is no worse feeling than realizing you missed a deadline by one or two days when you suddenly think about it again.]
> All shows break artists into medium categories (painting, photography, ceramics, drawing, jewelry, mixed media, wood working, fiber, etc). Some categories are more competitive than others simply because of the number of artists within the category who apply - photography and jewelry are always among the most competitive. Artists are typically listed by category in promotional materials and on the events website.
[As a scratchboard artists, I don't fit neatly into any category, but I typically apply under the 'Drawing' category. Drawing is not very competitive, which works in my favor. There are usually only a handful of other artists in the drawing category at most shows.]
> Once accepted to a show, you will be required to pay a BOOTH FEE by a certain date. These fees can range from $100 to $800+ and may be a factor in whether you accept an invitation to a show or apply to it in the first place. When factoring in all other expenses associated with traveling to a show, some of them can get very expensive, so it is important to weigh the upfront costs with the potential to make sales at a show. Some festivals seem 'shiny' and impressive, but may not be as profitable as a smaller show closer to home.
[Be prepared for a barrage of emails from events once you are accepted. These will have important information, dates, deadlines, and other requirements. Create a folder or other organizing system within your email to keep track of them all.]
> RESULTS for a show are often delivered via email and there are three possible options - Yes, No, or Waitlisted. Being put on a waitlist means that you have not been outright accepted o rejected, but you are a runner-up if an accepted artist declines their spot in the show. You may not hear from a show for several weeks if you're on the waitlist. Some shows will give you a ranking on the waitlist, so you know how many people are in front of you, but some do not. You can always ask, but they may not give you the information you're hoping for.
[Also be prepared to get a call just a day or two before an event if you're on the waitlist.]
Phew, that seems like so much just to apply to a few shows, but once you figure out how everything works and get your profile created on Zapplication, the process isn't so bad. Just remember to keep detailed notes and utilize your organizational systems and calendar.
The next part of this three-part series will be about PREPPING FOR AN ART FESTIVAL! Watch next week for that blog post.
Find Your Joy
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