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Participating in a Summer Art Festival (event updates)

edited June 2018 in General Discussion
Hello everyone,

Finally with a small collection of my paintings I have decided to participate at the Wells Street art Festival (with juried art show) this summer in Chicago. Just for an experience's sake. Here's where I need as much support and info as I can get from my fellow forum members. I've got a 10'x10' booth space. I'll be renting a tent from the organizers (just the canopy,  side walls to be rented separately). 
What are your opinions of how I can arrange my stuff.... I'll be considering them very seriously.
If I can hang paintings on the side walls I'll definitely rent them, If i have to make other arrangements for hanging anyway, do you thinks the side walls are necessary?
What would you have hung the paintings on? mesh, metal grids, chains, easels, panels?
Do you think renting is better or buying? (not keen on buying pro-panels, too pricey for me right now).

Regarding framing... do you think I should keep all my frames (of paintings) the same or of two kinds, or really good frames for the special ones to make them pop out?

What are your tips and experiences? I am really eager to know your opinions.




  • edited March 2018
    Hi @anwesha - there are others here who I think regularly sell at art festivals so hopefully, they'll provide input as well.  @jswartzart ?

    Okay, be prepared for it being a pain - stressful but it will be worth it. 

    Before I go on, let me find some more photos of what I did at this particular art festival (summer of 2017)    brb
  • @Anwesha I found some answers to your questions here.  Hope it helps.  Summer

  • edited March 2018

    I chose to only have the canopy.

    You can see the difference in viewing when you have a "wall" or backdrop behind your paintings - they show much better with a drop cloth or something - I used cheap foamcore from the dollar store - taped it together and used tape to attach it dropped from the canopy - very easy and cheap

    See how the poppy painting does not show as well?

    Get some folding table, chairs even   - boxes stacked with a cloth could work as well

    I was on a busy corner so was able to utilize the outside "wall" of my space as well - it drew people in

    Tons of tablecloths - some of these are cheap old drapery pieces from a Goodwill store - anything to drape and cover

    You need signage - clear signage

    I posted my prices everywhere 

    get tons of business cards - people take them like crazy
  • @Julianna : Thank you for sharing so much of information and in such detail... your stall looks really fun and inviting.... for kids and adults alike... love the idea about the miniature paintings.....  
    Could you explain to me what signages are for, and signposts ?

    My booth will be outdoors and rain isn't highly unlikely. I'm in for the experience and losing some of the paintings for a price would be good, atleast to recover the art expenditure and create more space in my home for new ones.  :)
  • @Summer : very informative read.. thank you so much!  :)
  • ok, I just looked at that art festival - since you will be outside and manning your own booth the entire time - bring plenty of water and some snacks.

    Definitely try to use some sheets or drop cloths or even foam core for a backing - that way people aren't looking at the other booths.  You will be jammed side by side - if you can get a corner, that helps give you more space to grab attention - hang something on that outer wall - it draws people in.

    Some people do this every week so purchase booth items - I just rent the space - I use my friend's canopy that is part of their horse camping gear - I bring folding tables but you could even use boxes if you want to display your art on easels.  If you have a lot of paintings and want to hang them, then you will need to purchase or rent something sturdy.  Personally - I don't like to spend a lot of money and the booth space itself is expensive (mine was $500 last time) - People want color, attraction - they're not looking at your backdrop so look online, get creative to save money.

    You don't live there?  I thought you were out of country?  So, this is a big deal for you then.

    Have a chair but try not to sit - 

    Stand and greet friendly every single person - you can ask if they paint themselves or any number of things to keep busy.  The more people you have in your booth - the more interest. 

    If you are siting in a corner reading, people will pass on your booth - it is amazing how many times I see artists sitting in a corner on their phone.

    If I don't have anyone in my booth, I move stuff around as if I just sold a bunch and need to make room.   Smile, smile, smile

    You'll probably have many children asking questions about art or telling their cute stories - sometimes, I feel like a free art teacher (even though I am not capable of teaching).

    It can get sad and depressing if no one is looking or comes by and you see someone across the way busy, busy, busy and selling things like crazy.  That is why I do the minis - anyone can afford $25 and it includes the little easel!!!  so popular!   I get the 2x3 canvas at jerry's and boxes of the little easels same place - cost about $2 each?  I paint the minis like an assembly line - I probably painted all of those you see in 2 days?  I did have four 4x4 square (same easel) that sold for more - cute umbrella scene.  I highly recommend something small and cheap to get business and make steady money while you are there.

    If you have some of your gorgeous paintings hanging - all for hundreds of dollars - you may (probably) wont sell them all - you'll be lucky to sell one.  I hate to sound so harsh but my expectations were way high my first art fair - people go there to look, buy cheap things - EAT!!!  but you probably won't see many people walking out with bags or paintings or purchases.  I'd say about 20% of people actually are seen walking out of these art festivals with nice paintings.  So , I hope your experience is better but just be prepared.

    Visually, move people around your booth - that is why I had a round table in the left, front corner - you can stack empty boxes - just something there to draw attention - I generally stood in the left back corner area - I could greet people and be out of the way - the back paintings were the main attention holding once people got in the booth -  I had a small chair, tape, scissors, gift bags, business cards, bubblewrap, ribbons for adding a bow to gift bags (nice touch) -   I also had one of my wooden art boxes with a wooden palette, some paint and some empty little canvases in case I felt like painting.

    I told you i'd be verbose!!!!!!!!!    Have fun and good luck!

    remember, stand, smile, engage and be friendly!!!!!! 

  • regarding framing, it is a personal choice and you'll be spending hundreds that may not be necessary - if you were in a gallery, for sure, frame all of them beautifully,  For a street art festival?  You can get by with painting the sides of some of them black - gives a finished and polished look and they can choose their own frame - Michael's here in the US has beautiful frames for 70% off sometimes.  
  • @Julianna : Thank you again.. you have so much info and tips loaded in these....I wish you would go on.. :) I live somewhat nearby half an hour may be from where the fest is going to be....

     the shifting and arranging stuff is a genuine tip ! =) never heard of it before...I did buy some smaller canvases for small and fast studies though... the little ones look really fun to do.... I bought a wooden photo frame for painting too... might paint a few if they look good...

    My husband would probably be happier if the paintings came back unsold... he's grown so attached to them... wants me to repaint anything that sells, for him  =) But thanks for the warning :+1:
  • edited March 2018
    my husband would be happier if I never did another art festival because he sees me get so wound up - it can be nerve racking!!!  Preparation is key - a box with masking/postal tape, scissors, cloths, snacks and waters - pen and poster paper for signage - you may want to add something or change a price etc... are you going to have help?   my girlfriend usually comes with me - she is a fantastic salesperson and very friendly.  My last art festival, I was alone and it was difficult - luckily, I had a nice gentleman in the booth beside me and would look after things when I needed to step away.  My husband helped me set up but that's it, he does not have the patience for crowds and dumb questions.  

    Definitely get the square - they will send you a free reader that easily fits onto your cell phone - it is invaluable to have this at festivals - cash only is a deal breaker - make it convenient and easy - I would say that 90% of buyers use/prefer to use their credit card and are familiar with the security of square (you never know any of their personal information - you simply swipe and they sign and they get emailed a receipt) - you'll get a lot more sales.

    Here is a code - you will get the first $1,000.00 free processing - after that, you pay almost 3% per transaction     (I won't see any of your information (name, etc) so even that is secure) once you sign up, request the free square reader - get it in plenty of time.  I'm computer illiterate so it took me a while to figure out how to sign up, come up with a name (I mainly use this for my vacation rental in Florida - thus the name and logo) - I did practice runs to make sure it was as easy as it seemed.  If anyone else is reading this and wants free processing - feel free to use the code - there is no limit to the number of gift codes I can send.  Square is awesome!

    They will even give you a sign for your booth that says "Square Up Accepted Here" - I can't tell you how valuable this is for more sales.  Heck, I've even used it for estate sales!

    So, do your research, I'm sure your booth will be beautiful as your paintings are stunning!  Don't get discouraged and remember, most people are looky-loos - if you have small, cheap items, you will get your money back for expenses even if you don't sell one of your masterpieces.

    Another thing that is popular and easy - if you go to Michael's or similar art supply store, they have wooden trays - you can use a coupon and get up to 75% off = I have even painted on some tin pieces and they also sold fast.  People love art but most can't afford a fine piece and they appreciate the affordability of oil paintings on usable items.  You mention frames you have - I highly encourage you to paint them!!!!!!  

    Some examples that sell fast of mine (remember, inexpensive using coupons at Michael's - I prime with a couple of layers of acrylic for the wood - prime nothing on the aluminum):  Fruit are popular!  Men love lighthouses, marine scenes, fish etc...   Monet like are very popular - flowers  - whatever you like and can paint fast (I wouldn't spend a lot of time on the smaller stuff - this is your money maker at art festivals though).

    If you don't wish to make sure money, then have your masterpieces only on display and you may get lucky and have a buyer - the little paintings/trays will keep you busy and active and make it profitable though.

    I told you I'm verbose!!!!  I love it that you are putting yourself out there like that!  It is difficult!  You will get a lot of questions from know-it-alls - people will tell you about their aunt's cousin's uncle how also paints    :)

  • @Julianna : Gosh! thanks a ton.. I was wondering how Square would be and was about to ask you how you managed the transactions.... I'll hurry and get one soon..
    Am really looking forward to painting small ones... they seem so much fun to paint.. and I do wish to see some happy customers, picking my items as a souvenir from the fair, my pocket will be happy too!

     frequently haunt Michaels's too with the coupons as its just a couple of blocks from my place..... 

    I wish to deck up the booth as so many of the applications to the really prestigious art fairs asked for booth shots and I didn't have any.

    and again thank you for the warnings!  :)
  • @anwesha then you may want to rent the side panels if you're going to be using the booth photo for submission to other fairs - Make sure you are in the photo as well.  Many people also make a banner with their name or whatever they want to use for marketing. You can get a very professional banner from I believe vistaprint - also, business cards.  That booth photo is going to be very important so forget what I said about foamcore etc...  there are some gorgeous booth examples online - good luck and have fun!  Keep us posted. 
  • @Julianna such great advise and information. Your experiences will help others here. @anwesha , I wish you great luck with your first and all art shows but especially your first. I hope the weather holds up for you. In my research (not a whole bunch) some of these shows can be expensive. Some won't allow you certain things. Some won't even allow you a canopy, you have to rent one of theirs. And it is true (from the article in the link) that you may not meet their criteria for showing your work.

    I would also like to point out that there are other forms of festivals where an artist can show off and sell her work, For instance, the rodeo/livestock show is in town and there will be hundreds of vendors selling anything you can imagine. Ours is indoors and many others are as well. You still have to rent space and in the case of the rodeo you would have thousands of spectators not hundreds. It would be advisable to have at least one painting that is in the theme of the venue. But really not necessary. After the rodeo here there's a crawfish jubilee out doors and again thousands of spectators. In town they have a big art festival every year (by invitation only) but they have about 10 others where vendors rent spaces to sell their wares including art. So wherever you are I'm sure there are events all around besides art festivals. Also I would invest in sides and sandbags for your canopy to protect from wind and rain. Sand bags aren't enough here so they fill 30 gallon drums with water and attach them to each corner.

  • Thank you so much @Julianna , the banner sounds like a good idea, i'll definitely do one... am still in search for panel ideas to hold the paintings... I'll let you know what i do about it once I figure it out..

    @BOB73 : Thank you so much! I'll be renting a tent from the organizers.. its coming atleast $500 cheaper than the other independent renting services... They are in charge of the weights around the tent so that's one big relief. I think this event will be a reality check regarding what kind of paintings gather more crowd (even if they don't sell)... At the moment i think I should have atleast 10 paintings more or else my booth will look quite empty... lots of work but so exciting!
  • Wow bucks to rent, you can invest in owning for a lot cheaper I am sure, if it's going to be a regular thing

  • I'm getting a very good deal on pro-panels from a local studio...  renting 9 panels, around $100 for the set... I will need to do the pick up and drop off...

     @alsart buying the tent does seem like a good option now with the panel issue taken care of. Thank you for the link :+1:
  • PaulBPaulB mod
    @anwesha, will you have business cards with the word "commission" on them?  Is that one of the goals?
  • @PaulB : I was thinking of putting that in..  :)
  • BOB73BOB73 -
    edited March 2018
    I'm so envious of you @anwesha. You are going to have a lot of fun, make new friends and learn a lot in the process. My father-in-law (RIP) encouraged me to gather my art and crafts and sell them out of the back of my pickup truck on the side of the road. Actually he was the one who wanted to be the salesman. It's sort of a dying business out here but in the eighties there was still a lot of vacant land along the roadside  and there were venders there selling everything: fruit, rugs, shrimp, caps'n'hats, lawn art and home-made crafts, Giant plush Toys and Bonsai trees. "fine" art too. But I didn't pick up on him wanting to do this for himself until much later. Anyway, I was always too busy and did very little art work. Nowadays it's just watermelon, tacos, firewood and pecans.
  • edited March 2018
    @anwesha, enjoy the art festival. It's a great opportunity to show your work and gain confidence. Your paintings are great but I hope you are not too attached to them because I'm sure they'll sell. :)
  • @anwesha good luck to you! This will be a great experience by sharing your works with others.
  • @tassieguy, @Kaustav : thank you so much! I'll probably be coming back with the whole lot.... but looking forward to the art fair experience.  :) 
  • edited March 2018
    @Flatty : this is too much!  =)
  • @dencal : thank you so much for this information... i think its a great idea.... I was kind wary regarding a clause in the application which said "Reproductions must be clearly identified as such and may only constitute one third of the total display" However in the gallery photos of the fest i do see artists sporting greeting cards/postcard kind of display in their booths too:

    I am going to e-mail the organizers to clarify. If i keep a small display as you have shown I don't think it will be an issue that they'll mind... Thank you for the tip!  =)  
  • anwesha

    There should be no objection to stocking your booth with promotional or advertising material.


  • @anwesha I'm so glad that you have posted this.  I've learned a lot from everyone.
  • @dencal   I LOVE that idea!!!   it doesn't take up much space either!  I bet @anwesha will sell a ton of these!

    @anwesha   I don't know if you are done framing but Michael's has a 70% off coupon for framing - custom!!!   I asked an associate at Michael's how they can offer such amazing prices on custom framing and she said that they recently bought out a framing company (can't remember the name) and they have a huge warehouse and supplies in Los Angeles.  Good luck and I'm so excited for you and can't wait to hear about the festival!
  • Thanks @Julianna ! I did check up at the nearby Michaels  :) but have already purchased a bunch from frame destinations.... wooden black frames to keep a continuity and order in the look of the booth... thinking of going for special frames just for the 16x20s... like a highlight among the other paintings... .. currently on a time crunch.. have 8 weeks to paint.. want to do atleast 10 paintings so that Ihave atleast 3 paintings per panel..... cant compromise on quality either... Oh and i got some 4"x4" from Michael's for the little painting ideas you gave me   :) 
  • this is ingenious!i'm definitely going to order some... thank you @BOB73!
  • Anwesha put your worries aside and go for it! Too much information creates confusion. Just go there and show your beautiful work! I wish you good luck :)
  • Thanks @michalis ! I need all the luck i can get... first time always the scariest...

  • PaulBPaulB mod
    Hi @anwesha, how is your art festival preparation going?  Getting close now, 2 1/2 weeks...
  • edited May 2018
    @PaulB : yes... hardly been painting anything big these days... too many little things to be done... zip ties, sand bags, drapery hooks... the more i think, more stuff comes up... but hopefully wont have anything left to do by the last week before the fair.

    the little canvases are still not done, I wonder whether they will even dry if i do them now.... Am so way behind the mark I had set to accomplish in terms of painting... 

    have been working on my website and social media... cramming my instagram page with old paintings 

    The person I am renting the propanels from warned me about the art fair I'm participating in, saying that place is difficult to crack in terms of sales and just go for the experience... I got invited for 3 other art fairs but probably wont be doing more, or may be just the farthest one in end of August.

    Enter, stage fear  :# 

  • PaulBPaulB mod
    Thank you for the update.  I hope you'll give us an account of your experience after the festival, I'm interested in hearing about reactions to your work.

    I suspect the stage fear will dispel at the first sincere compliment.
  • Fear is a good thing, it makes us try harder in the beginning and laugh harder at the end.
  • I try to distinguish between fear and excitement.  As long as you can't see real threats or danger in this activity, you are probably just excited and curious about this new adventure.   Fear tends to  hold me back until I can sort it out.  Excitement propels me forward.  Enjoy and be excited.   I wish you the best.   :)
  • @PaulB , @BOB73 , @Summer : thank you all for the encouragements... I am excited, anxious, happy and nervous... I'm trying to do the best for the prep from my end, and praying for a favorable Chicago weather...
  • @Flatty : Absolutely...  Many photos will be taken and shared here  :)
    @JessicaArt : That is such a charming way of presentation... :) I like the idea of the brown tags that i see on the paintings.. thanks for sharing these photos!
  • I would leave out the Christmas tree for the up-coming Chicago show. Very nice display.
  • PaulBPaulB mod
    Congratulations!  You crammed a lot of experience into one weekend.  I'm glad you got to hear people (other than us) telling you how good your work is.  Too bad about the weather, but it shows that if you got lucky and had great weather, sales could be even higher.

    So the real question is: will you do it again?
  • @anwesha  See?  Nothing untoward happened to you for venturing into uncharted territory except the experience you gained is invaluable and will last the rest of your life.  I'm so happy for you.  Love reading this account and all the details.  Hope they came from the diary you kept for posterity.  Hmm.  Maybe you won't be traveling the next time 'old town art fair' presents another opportunity to expand on your experience.  Congratulations to a well-deserved young lady.  Summer
  • Thank you so much @PaulB , @Summer ..
    It truly was a very memorable event and it only feels good reliving it from memory, not even the weather can put that away.. I am planning to do another art fair in august end, because you can't interact as much anywhere else... hoping to paint atleast 5 new ones so that my booth doesn't look too empty....
  • I would say this was a success. Can you imagine what it would be like if the weather were better!? <3
    When I lived in the Chicago suburbs we'd go down for some of the art fairs. Lots of sweet memories. Would you be able to participate in the Old Town Art Fair next year? I suspect you would have a lot more sales. The other thing, and this is unsolicited advice I know, but if you could do another painting like your bicycle on the path along the lake? I suspect you would have a lot of interest in more pieces like that. First, it's the city, but it's the wonderful path along the lake that many, many people take, weekenders, locals, etc. My husband used to do the bike the night ride years ago before we moved to Wisconsin. So it's a combination of bike enthusiasts as well as Chicago lovers who would probably key in to a painting of that subject matter.

    Your booth is very professional looking!
  • thank you @Renoir .. yes its a well loved route for all in Chicago.... and i do plan to go out again this summer for some shots for reference photos...
    Renoir said:
    Can you imagine what it would be like if the weather were better!? <3
    Its nice to believe this ;) , but I'd rather not take the benefit of doubt ..

  • edited June 2018
    @anwesha there will always be hurdles. Nothing comes easy. All the big artists that you see (realists + modernists) had to go through hell. Some without any back-up. So, this will teach you how to market your work in your next too. You didn't make profit. Think about a start-up and how much time do they need to break-even! I am sure in your next you'll be selling more. This was a good starting point
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