Friday, February 1, 2008

Don’t make the same mistakes I did

If you’re anything like me, when I started my art career I received some advice from a veteran of the art show festival circuit that I took as gospel. My “mentor” suggested that I apply to, at least 2 or even 3 festivals for any given weekend because the chance of being rejected was so high that if I didn’t double up on my applications I could face the reality of not getting into any show for those dates.

On the surface, that advice makes sense. You increase your odds, thus ensuring a venue to display and hopefully sell your art for that weekend.

This advice does come with a few caveats though. The first one is that as an artist just starting out in the festival scene, chances are that you don’t have unlimited financial resources to rely to keep your boat afloat. Application jury fees cost money. Today, most shows worthy of doing realize this and charge a fee for the privilege of you gambling whether or not you will be invited to that particular show.

These fees can range from as low as $10.00 to upwards of $50.00 just to “get your images into the game.”

If you really want to continue trying to make a living selling your art and not get grand idea of starting your own festival so as to be on the receiving end of these jury fees, DON’T READ THIS.

There are a number of larger art festivals that are so prestigious literally thousands of artists apply to the show with fingers crossed hoping to get invited to attend. Using a conservative application figure lets say that 1500 artist apply. The jury fee is $50.00. Now do the math.

1500 x $50.00 = $75,000.00 just for the bloody jury fees. Add that to the booth fees the festival receives, say 300 artist paying $600.00 per booth, that’s another $180,000.00 plus if the festival promoters charge admission that could bring in an additional 100 grand or more.

I know, there are many costs involved with putting on a quality art festival so promoters out there, don’t get me wrong, in most cases (at the art shows I elect to do) you earn every penny of the money you make. I always get a kick out of the artists who complain about massive profits a show makes and doesn’t even provide artist amenities like booth sitters or a reception dinner for the artists.

By and large, that statement could be true for many shows but I guess after “paying my dues” on the local art show circuit for many years I was able to graduate to a level of shows (nationally) that do offer some of the niceties that make the artist show life more pleasant.

The second caveat I warned about earlier is being too successful in applying to shows. This was my problem in the beginning of my art career. My art was so unique that I was getting accepted into nearly every show I applied for. That won’t be the case for artists who have chosen photography or jewelry (or many others for that matter) as their media. Those categories are packed with fantastic artist representation already which makes it hard to break into, but my art, well, there just isn’t a whole lot of fractalists out there so juries aren’t faced with me and 25 other applicants vying for an opening.

Because of that, I was being accepted into multiple shows for the same weekend. I didn’t always read the show prospectus close enough, especially in regards to fee refunds and I’m sad to say that I’ve had my share of “lost” booth fees because I didn’t meet the refund criteria. Make sure that when applying to more than one show per weekend, you have a game plan or at very least, a calendar with important dates for those shows on it. Like the date when you can last notify the shows promoter saying you can’t make the show and still get your booth money back.

Use that “get out of jail card” sparingly because like elephants, promoters have great memories. They don’t like rejection any more than the artist does and when you call them to say you can’t be in their show, if it’s a lame excuse, they’ll remember it and your chances of getting into their show in the future will be compromised.

In regards to your jury fees, they’re lost; those aren’t going to be refunded. It’s a cost of doing business. It’s our fee to get in the game.

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