Art Festivals: During and After A Show
Updated: Mar 9
After participating in my first two juried art festivals of summer 2021, it feels very appropriate and timely that we are discussing what to expect when you show your work at an art festival and the things to do afterward. This is part three of my series about juried art festivals - if you missed part one (applying) or part two (preparing), be sure to check those out too!
Let's dive in!
LOAD IN: each festival will have specific instructions for how and when to arrive to their show to set-up your booth. Some shows allow you to set-up the day before the event and others will have you arrive the morning of the event. You may be assigned a specific time or asked to arrive within a certain time frame to check-in and begin your set-up process. You will often be given a packet of information at check-in that will be helpful for the weekend - schedule of events, local information, parking passes, signs, name tag, etc.
Be sure to confirm all important details before you arrive - there are a lot of moving parts to these festivals, volunteers won't always have the information you need, and many artists are trying to get in at the same time.
As someone who has participated in 50+ art festivals and events, I can't stress enough how important it is to come prepared and be respectful of the people around you. You will spend hours on end with your neighboring artists - that can be a great thing or a really stressful thing.
SET-UP: once you are at the festival site and checked in, it is time to set-up your booth! Each festival will be different, but be prepared to completely unload your vehicle onto the sidewalk or near your booth location (photo on right) and move your car off the festival site. Space is often tight and limited for vehicles and trailers. When space allows, you may be allowed to unload and set-up at the same time. If you're not sure how a show runs their load-in and set-up, be sure to ask so you don't cause a traffic jam or hold up other artists.
As you set-up your tent and other display materials, be sure to properly secure your booth...i.e. WEIGHTS! Wind gusts and bad weather can be unpredictable and festival tents can act like giant sails. Secure weights - recommended weight per corner is (usually) around 40 lbs - to the poles of your tent to help keep it in place. This not only helps protect your property and artwork, but also helps ensure the safety of every artist at the show. [Artist booths have gone flying in high winds and blown into other tents.]
Create a booth display that shows off your artwork in the most professional way possible. Consider how people will move around your space and what presentation style will help sell your work. Your festival booth is your own little 'storefront' - take pride in it!
The space allowed between booths and behind your booth will vary show to show as well. Some shows (pre-pandemic times) place booths side-by-side with little to no space between them, which means you cannot access your side walls, walk between booths, or display on the outside walls of your tent. Other shows will have a few inches to several feet between booths. The space behind your booth will also vary. Most of the time there is enough room for all your storage bins and packaging, as well as space for your chair and personal items. Just be sure to check on the shows guidelines for what space you're allowed to use around your designated 10'x10' booth.
PARKING: some shows may provide an 'artist only' parking lot, but also be prepared to pay for parking in public lots or garages. Most shows will provide parking information before you arrive - available lots, when designated lots will open and close, etc. These parking options may not always be close to the show or convenient if you need to go back and forth to your vehicle frequently.
ARRIVAL TIME: on the day of the event, I recommend arriving early enough to finish setting everything up and be ready to engage with customers about 30 minutes before the official start time for the show. You will store all your 'extras' (storage bins, packing materials, tools, tables, etc) inside your booth overnight, so you need enough time to move everything behind your booth, get organized, and ready to make sales. There will always be people walking through the show before the official start time - unless there is ticketed entry for a completely closed site.
*Hint: the really serious art buyers come early on the first day of a show because that is when they will have the best selection of work.
ARTIST AMENITIES: festivals will have a range of amenities for participating artists. They may have volunteers who can sit in your booth while you go to the restroom, get food, or if you need to leave your booth for any other reason. Organizers of the festival may also provide water and snacks throughout the day or invite artists to a special breakfast or dinner. Many shows will have a panel of judges or jurors who walk the show, score artists, and present awards. Some awards come with monetary prizes. Most will get you an automatic acceptance into the show the following year. Your booth fee may also be waived for the following year. All of this information will be in your check-in packet, on their website, or in an email.
PREP REMINDER: as I discussed in the second part of this series (Preparing for a Juried Art Festival), you will want to make sure you have packaging material for when you sell a piece, the proper equipment to take payment (credit card reader, receipts, cash), a way to collect email addresses from customers and other interested in staying in touch, business cards or flyers for people to take with them, an extra phone charger, paper/pens, tape, tools, and anything else you may need throughout the weekend.
MEET THE NEIGHBORS: be friendly with your neighbors! As I mentioned before, you will spend many hours near that person and it can be a good experience or a bad one. Your neighboring artists can be helpful if you need to leave your booth for a minute or if you're having issues with your credit card reader, etc. If you continue to participate in juried art festivals, you may also run into them at a different show. It's always nice to have a friendly face nearby.
You also have no idea where those connections may lead. They could love your work and buy from you one day (or at that show). You may be interested in their work and become a customer of theirs. A friendship could blossom and you build a relationship with a fellow artist. They may connect you with a friend or client who becomes a collector. Your connection could lead to gallery representation, other showing opportunities, or access to additional support.
[I have met neighboring artists at shows that are now my friends outside of social media. I met an artist 4 years ago and am now represented in his wife's gallery. One of my neighbors, who also became a friend, started running an artist mastermind group. I joined that group and have formed many new relationships with other artists around the world. That same artist friend also recommended me for a podcast interview.]
END OF THE NIGHT: before you leave for the night, you will need to properly secure your booth and artwork. Everything should be moved inside your tent, weights and any additional security measures put in place, and artwork properly secured if needed. Most artists leave their work hanging, zip up their side walls, and leave. I have never felt comfortable leaving my work hanging over night, so I re-package everything and put the artwork back into the storage bins. I may also load it into my car and take it with me over night, but I am not always able to drive up to my booth at the end of a show day.
Most shows provide security over night - a handful of security guards walking the show site - but they can't be everywhere all the time and they can't change bad weather. How you secure your booth and art overnight is a personal choice. There is always a small risk of theft in open public spaces, but it is not common. Do whatever feels comfortable for you.
TEAR DOWN: just like with load in and set-up, each show will have a different process for tearing down your space and loading out. When space allows, some shows will let you drive your car onto the show site right away so you can tear down and load up at the same time. Most of the time, however, you will be required to take down your artwork and tear down your booth entirely before getting your vehicle. Some shows may require a pass from a show volunteer who has confirmed that you are completely torn down before you will be allowed in. Festivals with strict or specific rules about tear down will include that information in an email, your check-in packet, or will verbally communicate the process with you before the show ends.
Again, be respectful of your neighbors and the volunteers. The load-out process can be one of the most stressful times during a show because everyone is tired and many artists need to load-up quickly and start their travel home.
AFTER A SHOW
After a festival is done and you are back home, there are a few things you will probably need to do to close out the experience and make sure you are ready for your next show, exhibition, or selling opportunity.
INVENTORY: update your inventory list to reflect what artwork has sold and what you still have available. If you sell your work online, be sure to update those sites as well so you don't accidentally sell something twice.
FOLLOW UP EMAILS: be sure to follow up with your customers or potential clients. If someone expressed interest in your work, asked questions, or is waiting for other information from you, make sure to follow-up with them in a timely manner.
ACCOUNTING/FINANCIAL TRACKING: it's not a fun task, but properly documenting and tracking your sales for an event is really important. Make sure you know how much sales tax you owe for the event, document your overall revenue so you can properly estimate your income tax due, and track other information that will be helpful in the future. Knowing how many pieces you sold of different sizes or what products you sold, etc can help you determine how successful the show was and if you will participate in the future. Doing the financial tasks as you go throughout the year is much easier than trying to compile everything at tax time.
NEXT SHOW: you may also want to reflect on observations from the show and assess what you may need for your next one. Do you need more artwork of a certain size? Do you need to order more reproductions? Did you run out of any supplies or materials? Do you have a new idea for a sign or information sheet that your customers might find helpful?
There will always be more to do than you expect before your next show, so help yourself out and do some of the prep and planning immediately following an event - this will set you up for success when your next opportunity comes around!
Thanks for hanging with me as I discussed everything juried art festival! I'm sure I will have more nuggets of information in the future, so be on the look out for follow-up posts with even more helpful information! Let me know if you have questions about art festivals and I'll be sure to answer them for you!
Find Your Joy
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