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Preparing for a Juried Art Festival

Updated: Dec 28, 2022

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Welcome to part two of my series all about juried art festivals! (If you missed the first one, head over to read all about Applying to Juried Art Festivals.) Today I'm talking about the preparation phase, which includes everything from making artwork to sell at the event, travel arrangements, gathering supplies, preparing for weather, and more. Let's jump in!

One of the first stages to preparing for a juried art festivals is CREATING THE ARTWORK that you will display and sell at the event. This stage is ongoing and really never ends. Thankfully it's the fun part that we all enjoy the most! Once you get accepted to a festival (or more than one), you need to make sure you have enough artwork to display as a cohesive body of work, fill the space you have, and can hit your financial goals. Assess the amount of time you have until the event, plan out your schedule based on your average speed for completing work, and get started! (Remember that you should come to the event with work that is similar to the images you submitted with your application...some shows will check.)

While you're creating, it is important to also develop a way to track your INVENTORY - your system for tracking all the information you need about each completed work (title, size, price). Your visual inventory (photographs of your art) is crucial for all of your marketing - social media, website, email marketing, etc - as well, so be sure to photograph all of your work along the way. You will need image files of different sizes for different uses (i.e. applications, website, reproductions, etc). Helpful time saving tip: each time you photograph a piece, save a copy of the photo at a high resolution, mid-range resolution, and low resolution so you can grab the correct file whenever you need it.

Artists at juried art festivals own their entire DISPLAY (some shows offer tent rental, but not all). This includes the white tent, display walls, tables or pedestals, all signs, tent weights, and anything else you see in and around the artist booths. When you're first starting, it is okay (and makes sense) to piecemeal a display together, while making it look as professional as possible. Once you decide to do festivals more regularly or start selling more work, you can slowly upgrade the different aspects of your display. Figure out what works the best for your art and go from there. [If you want to see the progression of my display over the last seven years, take a look at this IG post.]

** Please make sure that you always have weights for your tent to prevent it from flying away or tipping into another artists display - about 40 lbs per leg is recommended by most shows.

After you are accepted to an art festival, you will need to figure out your TRAVEL arrangements and accommodations for the event. How will you get to the event - driving or flying? How long will it take you to get there? What day will you be able to set-up your booth (sometimes this is the day before and others the morning of)? You will also need to book a hotel room, AirBnB, or campsite well in advance. Depending on the location and the popularity of the event, some hotels book up quickly, especially close to the event site. Just keep in mind that this task will need to be done several weeks, if not months, before the actual event date.

Just like with any other aspect of your business, it is important to share the event with your AUDIENCE. Post about the event multiple times on social media, share your schedule with your email list, and provide any information you have to make attending the event as smooth as possible for your potential customers. You will receive a booth assignment prior to the show, so make sure you give your people that exact information so they can find you easily.

BUSINESS PREP (other things to consider when preparing to sell your art at a festival)

> How will you take payments? Do you only accept cash or do you have a credit card reader? (Square, PayPal, and other companies take a small fee, but allow you to take credit cards)

> How will you package your work when someone buys it? Do you have bags, wrapping, tape, information sheets, etc?

> Business cards, flyers, or contact information. What materials do you have so people can find you again?

> Office supplies you may need: tape, scissors, clipboard, pens, paper, rubber bands, receipt book.

> Collecting email addresses...will you put out a sign-up book, ask for emails during check-out, or provide some other way for people to join?

> Price will you display your prices in a professional manner?

> Artist Statement...some shows require you to post your artist statement inside your booth

> Is your website up to date with all your new work? (People may take your business card at the show, think about a piece they saw, and buy it later)

> Is there information about your work or process that is important for people to know? Can you create a sign or display to help them understand?

OTHER EQUIPMENT you may need or want at the show.

> Tools...screw driver, mallet, box cutter, bungee cords, string, duct tape

> Ratchet straps for holding weights or staking your tent down (when and where allowed)

> Chair...for sitting

> Standing pads (you will spend many hours on your feet)

> Additional tables for behind your booth to help organize your extra materials and make packaging the artwork easier

WEATHER PREPAREDNESS (I did not have a bin specifically for weather prep for several years, but I now keep one stocked and ready for anything). Art festivals go on rain or shine, so you need to be prepared for weather shifts or poor conditions.

> Sunscreen

> Bug spray

> Umbrella, rainboots, extra shoes, tarps, rain coat

> Simple first aid supplies

> Blanket

> Battery powered fan

> Extra clothing

And FOOD...come prepared with water (lots of water) and other snacks to help you get through the long hours of an art festival. There is often food available on site (food trucks or other vendors), so decide ahead of time if you will rely on those vendors for your food or if you will bring your own in a cooler. I recommend food that is easy to manage behind your booth and easy to eat is inevitable that the minute you decide to eat your lunch is when someone will have one million questions to ask you. (It happens every time!)

Lastly, you will need to figure out how to get all of this stuff to the event. I recommend that you figure out how to pack all of your artwork, display materials, and other equipment into your vehicle and/or trailer well before you have to leave. You are essentially traveling with an entire storefront, so it can be a large endeavor your first go around. Do a few test runs (with your tent display as well) to make sure everything fits and you can still see out your windows!

[I used to travel with my entire display - rigid grid panels and all - and all my artwork in my teeny tiny Ford Focus. I wish I had photos of that Tetris game, because it was actual magic that I was able to get it all in, but I don't think I ever took one. I now have a large SUV and 5x8 trailer because I just keep upgrading and adding more stuff.]

The final post in my Juried Art Festival series is coming out next week and it will be all about attending an art festival, what to expect, and some things to do after. If you haven't read the first post in this series, head over there now!

Please let me know if you have any questions about art festivals - I will do my best to get you an answer! Leave a comment or shoot me an email.

Thanks for being here!

Find Your Joy

- Melissa

**FREEBIE: Start Your Art Biz Checklist to help you plan your next steps!

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