Monday, April 6, 2009

Art-Throb™--Juried Art Fairs

How Artists Get into Art Fairs
Art festivals are a summertime ritual in the Midwest and a great way to spend a day. You enjoy the fresh air, great art and you may come home with a treasure. Very relaxing. But for artists, it is anything but. In fact, for artists, the season starts the previous fall when a grueling series of competitions begins – these competitions are among the artists themselves to see who will be awarded booth space at the best art fairs in the region and, even, the nation.
(above: Barb in her Art Booth, Summer 2008)

How does this work?

Art festival promoters/organizers are right in the middle of it. They organize art festivals to attract art patrons. To attract art patrons, they need top artists. So they advertise far and wide for artists to apply to their show. And if it is a really good show, hundreds, if not thousands, of artists apply. I applied to a festival that had 125 openings but received 1200 applications.

This is good for patrons because it means that the best artists available are displaying at the festival. Patrons interested in purchasing art can be assured that a rigorous selection process has been applied. This is also good for artists because it means that serious art patrons who are interested in purchasing art are attracted to the show.

What do artists have to do be selected?
Artists apply to art shows with a large packet of materials. They submit anywhere from 3 to 5 pictures of their work (which they take themselves), an picture of their art booth, art statements and/or a resume, business information such as tax numbers, a variety of application forms and, of course, a fee for applying. Fortunately, much of this is done electronically today, making it a much smoother process that having slides made (remember them?), submitting paper forms and snail-mailing the package. But, not everyone is digital and I did a complete a number of these manual packages this year.

All of this material arrives at the art show office by a stated deadline. Then the show organizers have the job of reviewing each and every one of the applications to make the selection of artists to invite. Often, a jury of 3 or 4 respected art experts is assembled for a day. Art images are projected on a large screen for all to view at once. The jury scores each presentation. At the end of the day, the highest scoring artists in selected categories are invited to the show. Those that are invited, pay the exhibition fees to be in the show. Those that are not, enter into competitions for other shows. Artists apply to several shows, knowing they will not be invited to all of them.

Not every art show is like this – but the big ones have processes like this – shows that you have heard of – the Old Town Art Fair in Chicago, for instance.

So, in June, as you stroll among the fine art booths at your favorite fair, and you talk to artists and perhaps make a purchase, know that the artist has been working to be at your fair since last fall. It is a very competitive process. The happy result is that art patrons are offered the best art available.

So far, my art fair schedule looks like this –
  • April 17-19, Great Lakes Art Fair, Spring 2008, Rock Financial Showplace, 46100 Grand River Ave., Novi, MI
  • May 9-10, National City Art Birmingham, Shain Park, Birmingham, MI
  • May 15-16, Riverside Art Festival, on Burlington Ave., Riverside, IL
  • June 6-7, 57th Street Art Fair, Hyde Park, Chicago
  • July 11-12, KRASL Art Fair on the Bluff, St. Joe, MI
  • July 25-26, Geneva Art Festival, downtown Geneva, IL
  • July 31-Aug 02, Gold Coast Art Festival, LaSalle Street, at the intersections of Erie, Huron, and Superior, Chicago
  • Sept. 26-27, Lakeview East Art fair, north side of Chicago, near Wrigley Field, Halsted and Lincoln Park.
I am waiting to hear about several other applications. Plus, I am on the “Wait List” for other fairs—the Lakefront Festivals of the Arts in Milwaukee and Port Clinton Art Festival in Highland Park. The Wait List is like the “reserve” list. If an invited artist chooses not to participate in an event, the organizers go to their “wait list” and invite another artist to fill that spot. As an artist, that kind of puts you in a spot –should you try to the book that weekend somewhere else or should you leave it open and “hope” you get called?

Note: Art-Throb™ is the term I use to describe a great place or places to enjoy an art experience.

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