There are thousands of art and craft shows stretched across the country and they can be as varied as the holiday bazaar at a local church, or a long standing juried art show. Choosing the right show, setting your budget, and the benefits of such are the topic for this article. For the research of this piece I met with Marguerite Esrock, the Executive Director of the St. James Court Art Show in Louisville, Kentucky.
As discussed in the previous article of this series, having a presence at a juried art show cannot only build your reputation within the community, but also within the network of gallery owners, collectors and businesses alike.
Marguerite advised that typically juried shows are made up of a panel of qualified jurors that include gallery owners, artists, professors of art and possibly a patron of the show who has an understanding of art and the show itself. In addition, although the cost for a booth will be more expensive at a juried show, the money is used by the show for advertising to draw in patrons.
One of the benefits to a credible juried show is that much like a gallery, they will act on your behalf to advocate for you with influencers within your local art community. Contrary to the Sunday window shoppers (the general public) who will attend, there is a flurry of networked activity happening behind the scenes. Executive directors such as Marguerite invite hospitals, interior designers and architects to view the artists displayed within the show for potential collaboration. Gallery owners will also attend art shows looking for new talent. The opportunities for your art exceed print sales on the show dates.
Start up costs
When it comes down to it the question is: “Am I going to make any money?” To assess the return, let’s focus on what our start up costs might look like.
Although booth costs will vary for shows, states and locations, you can expect that for a 10x10 space the cost will range between $425 and $1,500 for a credible show. You can also anticipate that a corner booth may be sold at a premium price. In regard to your return on investment, traditionally you can expect a standard of making at least 1.5 times your booth fee in profit. This estimate is quite low and Marguerite shared that typically artists who exhibit at the St. James Court Art Show will make between 5 and 7 times their booth fee.
If your show is going to be outdoors, you will need a large open walled tent, a table, or a structure in which to display or hang your artwork. The cost for this will vary greatly depending on size, preferred materials and if you are designing and creating the space yourself.
A sign hung with your branding will set the tone for your booth and will act as an invitation to visitors. As discussed in the previous articles, branding yourself in the community is very important.
Your largest expense will be having prints made. If you are printing them yourself, you will need to assess the cost for paper, ink, frames, mattes, brackets and your time. However, if you will be sending out to a lab, here is my advice to try and cut costs.
Bay Photo recently released the XPozer. I was able to see it in person during the Photo Plus show in New York City this last October. From afar I had difficulty telling the difference from the XPozer and their nearby hanging metal prints. Upon closer inspection, I assumed the hanging print was a photograph mounted to a board. It wasn’t until I touched the piece that I realized it was a thin piece of material mounted to the bracket. I am going into greater detail because the quality of the XPozer genuinely impressed me as it has the potential to be an asset to an art booth. The bonus to this new product is the cost. Sizes range from 16x16 to 40x80 and range in price from $38 (16x16) to $229 for (40 x 80). When you compare this to a metal print the cost difference is substantial. A 24x36 Xpozer will run for $99, whereas the metal print in the same size will cost you $210. An added benefit to the XPozer is that it is light weight, which will be a benefit for transporting to your outdoor booth. Be sure to check in with the Bay Photo website. At the time of writing this article, we were made aware that they are releasing an Expo Display Kit which would be ideal for your new booth.
In regard to cost, set aside a budget, work with what you have and get started. As you begin to make sales you can improve your booth or expand your print collection.
Choosing the right shows
Identifying shows that have the best reputation for the strongest sales will be key. Sunshine Artist Magazine releases an issue in September each year where they outline the best shows based solely on sales reported by the artists exhibiting that year. This magazine may be a valuable tool for you.
Another important resource is to speak with other artists (photographers and non photographers alike) and ask their opinion on the show.
Getting accepted – the juried process
The first step to being accepted into a juried show is submitting an application. Each show will vary for application deadlines and having a list of your favored shows, dates and deadlines will be important to staying organized.
Once your application has been submitted and received, it will then be moved into the jury selection. For the St. James Court Art Show, the jurors gather together and go through the arts and their respective body of work. Each juror has their own computer screen where they will look at three images by the artist. They can then opt to read the artist statement and score the artist on a scale of 1-7. It will be important to find out how each individual show conducts this process. Don’t hesitate to call the executive director of each show and ask questions. During those calls, pay close attention to the hints and tips they might provide to you.
Once the decisions have been made by the jurors, invitations, rejections and wait list letters will be sent out.
Selecting your work to exhibit
The photograph that might get 5000 likes on Instagram may not be the art that sells at a show. Although a photograph may be pleasing for quick 5 second views on social media, collectors and buyers may not want to hang it on their wall. The Executive Director of the St. James Art Show shared that she appreciates the photographer who has a unique eye. She isn’t looking for post cards or touristy pictures. She is searching for something unique and possibly a different spin on photography. In summary, don’t be afraid to experiment and try something new.
Writing your artist statement
One common mistake made by photographers when writing their artist statement is that the writing becomes more emotional and less technical. When painters write their artist statement, they will focus on the medium and method to which they created the pieces. In the same way, photographers must give technical details of the camera, lenses used and details on the post processing while elaborating on the steps taken. Be sure to take some time with your artist statement because it can truly be the one thing that sets you apart from the other artists during the jury process.
Once you have received your invitation to exhibit at the show, you will also need to hang your artist statement on your booth. In addition, some shows will also require you to hang a photograph of yourself working in the field so that the patrons of the show know exactly who the artist is when they visit the booth.
Your photography is first your art, but it can also be your business. Success will be found when you can partner your creative right brain with your logical left brain and find balance. It is important to stay inspired and continue to create beautiful imagery, but you also have to have a plan in place to make it profitable.
Set aside time for yourself to focus on your business of photography. Have a budget set in place, do your research, network and rely on the advice of those with experience, attend shows and ask questions of exhibitors.
Most importantly, get started. It is easy to wish, dream and plan but all great ventures have to start somewhere. Don’t let the myth of perfection delay you from realizing your dreams.