Annual Fine Art in the Park by Rotary Club of Los Altos
I am Lisa Ramos, a road show artist, traveling around parts of California featuring my body of art work. I hand craft leather bags and sculpt metal jewelry in my Clayton, California studio. My inspiration for writing this blog comes from my previous curiosity about how an artist gets into art shows and festivals. I thought perhaps others might be curious as well, especially those interested in featuring their work at an art show. Another goal, to highlight some of the challenges artists experience applying to shows. In this blog article I take readers through my personal experience applying to art shows, the cost of doing a show, the competition, the jury process and a few art community resources to consider exploring.
The world of art...
Since launching my business, MONOLISA in November 2017 I have had the pleasure and experience of being in over 100 shows throughout California. My show experience has delivered many teaching moments along the way I am excited to share with readers. There are some things which remain constant applying to art shows - it takes money, scheduling and at times may deliver doses of self-doubt. Throughout the year it is an ongoing task that takes careful planning for many artists.
Before taking a deep dive about how an artist applies to a show it is important to discuss art show types. There are different show types an artist can display their body of work at both indoors and outdoors. For example fine art, festivals, art and wine, makers markets, private shows and holiday pop-ups to name a few. The fine art shows are the most difficult shows to get into. The fine art shows feature top artists from around the country, very competitive and are carefully juried.
Before discussing the process of applying to an art show I want to clarify the information below pertains to California fine art and festival juried shows.
Applying to Art Shows & Festivals
The first step applying to an art show is finding a show that interests the artist. This can be done online at an event planners website such as the Pacific of Fine Arts or at art show portal such as ZAPPlication. Next an application form is submitted, completed online or sent in by mail. During the application process artists give information about their business - name, location, experience, artist statement and medium details. Artists are required to feature a series of photos of their art work and provide a booth shot - in some cases specific photograph guidelines (pixel specifications). Other required information includes the make / model of your vehicle, proof of a sellers permit and insurance certificate. In some cases, a city permit to sell at the show.
Along with an application there is a processing fee and always a booth fee paid after an acceptance notification. Processing fees can be from $15 - $50 per show and medium. So, if you are an artist who works in two mediums such as leather and metal jewelry - like me, you may be required to pay two separate medium processing fees and are juried separately rather than under one collection. How the processing fees work is dependent on each event planners policy. Booth fees typically range from $300 - $1,500. Booth costs are based on the type of event, location, reputation and the competition. Fine art events often have higher booth fees. After each application the artist waits for an acceptance, rejection or waitlist letter. If you are accepted, congratulations. Many fine art shows also include a 10% - 15% commission fee on all of the sales made during the show (paid at the end of the show). After a show acceptance the artists payments are processed via credit card or by check.
The Cost of Doing an Art Show
One of the challenges a road show artists may experience is financial. To start, artist applications are 4-8 months out from a show date (in some cases a year out). So, if an artists applies to multiple shows per year the costs quickly adds up. For example, if an artist applies to 10 shows and the booth fees are $400 each, the cost is $4,000 plus application fees. Then another 10%-15% of their total sales. For every application the processing and booth fee is given to the event planners before the show date. For some artists making payments prior to having show sales can be a financial hardship. In addition to paying for shows, artists are responsible for the following:
- Booth Display Setup - tent, weights, tables, table coverings, display pieces and marketing materials.
- Transporting the items - dollie, bins, panels, coverings and protectant materials.
- Car Expenses - gas and repairs
- Lodging - hotel and parking
- Food - breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks.
- Last Minute Supplies - They always come up
Selling at Art Shows & Festivals - Competition
Competition isn't for everyone, but is a requirement for a roadshow artist. If you are interested in becoming a roadshow artist prepare to compete with all of the other talented artist applicants. Applicants are competing with hundreds or thousands of people around the country trying to get into the same show as you. Unfortunately, there isn't room for everyone. If you are accepted into a show it can be very exciting - especially for those first timers. Remember once an artist gets accepted into a show it does not automatically guarantee a space the following year. Each year an artist reapplies and waits for that letter of acceptance or rejection - which can be an emotional roller coaster for some. When an artist receives an application rejection letter it can deliver self doubt and for some effect their livelihood.
Some artists may encounter what I call a "partial rejection". I know you are thinking, what is that? For instance if the artist applies to two mediums and only receives an acceptance into one medium. The challenge then is the artist has to decide if they still want to participate in the show. Not an easy decision for some artists, because one medium may dominate sales over the other. Your art medium category also effects an artists chance of getting into shows. For instance jewelry is one of the most competitive mediums, therefore it automatically creates an even larger competitive market throughout the country. There are so many talented jewelry artists, but they all can't get into the show.
Another rollercoaster of emotions, the waitlist result. This type of application result means the artist has not been accepted to a show, but may be accepted at a later time - up until the day of the show. Then what does an artist decide to do? If you have specific financial goals, this may be too risky for some artists and opt applying to other shows. Although application fees add up quickly, some artists apply to multiple shows overlapping the same show times each year. Then the artist makes a decision based on their application status.
How well an artist sells at a show can be a lot of pressure as an artist. One year an artist may do great at a show and the next year does poorly. I have spoken with many artists over the years regarding the ups and down challenges of sales - often delivering self-doubt and frustration for many. Having thick skin with sales certainly is a bonus and helps ease the frustration.
Selling at Art Shows & Festivals - Jury Process
What is the art jurying process? For some it is a mystery. I don't know any jurors and have never been behind the scenes of an art jury process. Therefore the jury process for me is formulated from my personal experience, reading application process details, speaking with other artists, reading the NAIA FB Forum Facebook Group topics and listening to the Independent Artist Podcast - (two great resources I discuss more in detail below). The jury committee consists of a panel of art professionals who select the top artists for their art shows. During the selection process here are some of the criteria for determining the selected artists.
Getting into Art Shows - How An Artist is Juried
- Quality and detail of an artists work.
- Previous show profits.
- How long does the art take to create?
- The type of skill set involved creating the art piece.
- Is it a one a kind piece?
- What is the artists design to development process? Is it different from other artists in that medium?
- Other show participation
- Booth curation.
Artists Community - Resources
When I first entered the art world I had a lot to learn and am still learning. Along the way I discovered these great resources below which I highly recommend.
If you are an artist that appreciates hearing from other artists - how they started and roadshow talk checkout the Independent Artist Podcast - Hosted by Douglas Sigwarth and Will Armstrong is a hidden gem I discovered in 2021. The hosts cover topics affecting the lives of professional art show artists. This entertaining podcast is ideal when I am on the road - which is a lot. The podcast content is relatable and valuable to artists selling at outdoor festivals. Another great resource in the artist community is the NAIA FB Forum Facebook Group - National Association of Independent Artists - The Collective Voice for Art Show Artists. This is another fantastic resource and I am a current member of. Lots of useful information on their website at NAIA.
Being a roadshow artist has been an incredible journey I continue to journal about in my monthly blog. I take readers through the many experiences and emotions along the way - being on the road and a solo business owner. Below are a few of my latest articles. Thank you for reading about my journey. If you are an artist reading this article be safe riding to your shows and I wish you lots of success at all of your shows. I better get back to the studio.
Articles by MONOLISA Artist, Lisa Ramos
Explore a day in the life of Entrepreneur Part 1 - Road Show Artist - A day in the life of an entrepreneur is different everyday. Some days are easier than others. What they all have in common is keeping my eye on the clock and working at being efficient. Each day is interesting, challenging and rewarding all wrapped up like a present.
What a journey it has been since starting my business and participating in art shows. My favorite moments are the insightful lessons and humorous side to my business - I couldn't resist sharing a few stories.
All Blog Articles
"Thank you for reading about my journey."
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- Tags: Art & Wine Shows, Artist Blog, Artist Life, Bay Area Festivals, Fine Art Shows, handbag designer, Jewelry Designer, Roadshow Artist, starting a business, women entrepreneurs