Thursday, June 28, 2012

Lessons from Fountain Square Art Festival (Part 1)

Leap of Courage (2012) - Mixed Media Textile 50'x33"x2"
Every artist, visual or performing, who seeks to earn a living looks for ways to share their work with the buying public.   The festival show circuit is a viable option for many visual artist.   I stepped into this arena for the very first time with my participation in the Fountain Square Art Festival (FSAF) in Evanston, Illinois.   For those of you not familiar with the festival circuit, in a nut shell it is all the spring, summer, fall, and winter opportunities were vendors display their wares for purchase.  My husband likened the experience to the medieval merchants traveling the countryside in horse and wagon selling their goodies from the roadside.

The Festival Show circuit is a thriving industry in the creative world.   Festival promoters make money through artist application fees, vendor booth rentals, corporate sponsorships, and entry fees.  Artists are paid through their booth sales and ,in some cases, cash awards for outstanding fine  art or craftsmanship.  Participation in the festival show circuit comes with both benefits and risks, but many artist see it as a way to expand their opportunities beyond gallery representation.

As an emerging artist, I choose to enter the festival circuit as a way to self-promote my work.  I view my art as a business venture.  The festival circuit gives me a platform to begin branding my work and introducing it to the public.  I have total control over the presentation and marketing of my art.  I decide where my art is viewed and how it is seen.   Many galleries are reluctant to represent an artist with limited exposure.  I am absorbing some risks in order to gain exposure in anticipation of future sales and gallery representation.  What are my risks? The most costly risk is infrastructure investment to promote my work.  Then comes festival circuit expenses.  And finally unpredictable consumers.

My goal for 2012 is to participate in at least 3 juried fine art shows, with one of these being outside of Illinois, my home state. I only apply to juried shows with projected attendance of over 20,000.  Shows of this size give me a broader audience resulting in increased opportunities for sales.  But sales are not my only goal, I wish to add 120 potential clients to my mailing list during each event.
FSAF was my first opportunity to test my plan.  Part 2 of this post will describe my results.

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