outdoor art fairs

Outdoor Art Fairs: Are They for You?

Many of our artists participate in outdoor art fairs and find they are an excellent way to showcase and sell their work to a broad audience. While this well-established sales channel can be very effective, it isn’t for everyone. Here are some pros and cons of exhibiting in outdoor art fairs.

The Pros of Art Fairs 

We’re located in Michigan, and outdoor art fairs are very popular in our cities and lakeshore tourist towns throughout the spring, summer and fall. Here are some reasons to consider participation:

A Low-Cost Business – Participating in outdoor art fairs will require only a modest investment. You’ll need reliable transportation and a vehicle large enough to transport your tent, display materials, and product. Still, assuming you already have transportation, with an additional investment of $5-10,000 you’ll have a fully operational independent business. You can save costs by purchasing used equipment.

Wider Audience – Art fairs attract diverse crowds, giving artists exposure to a wider audience that might not visit galleries or art shows. This can be an excellent opportunity to get feedback directly from the public and network with other artists and potential buyers one on one. 

Personal Interaction – Creating art can be a solitary endeavor. Art fairs are in-person events that connect artists with people who love art. This can be exhilarating, especially when the audience is appreciative and generous. Artists can share their inspiration and the stories behind their work. This is great for networking and making long-term connections with potential buyers or gallery owners too. 

Sales Potential – Selling at art fairs can be financially rewarding if the artist’s work resonates with the attendees. This offers an opportunity to make immediate sales and potentially secure future commissions. However, success can vary greatly depending on the fair’s audience, location, and the artist’s pricing strategy.

The Cons of Art Fairs

What are the downsides of art fairs for artists? Not every artist will find art fairs to be the best use of their time and resources. There are a number of reasons why some artists choose not to go the art-fair route. These are:

Booth Fees and Travel Expenses – Each art fair is sponsored by a promoter who, in exchange for a booth fee, promises to provide a comfortable venue and promote the event to draw a crowd. There are both for-profit and nonprofit promoters, and these fees can range widely from under $100 to well over $1,000. Travel and lodging expenses can be significant– especially if the show is in a tourist town in peak season.

A Relentless Schedule – Most artists find they have to maintain a fairly busy schedule and travel quite broadly to generate a good income from art fairs. And since art fairs are usually scheduled for weekends, you’ll find yourself working far more than a 9-5.

The Weather – Art fairs are generally outdoors and so are influenced by the weather. Every artist who participates in outdoor art fairs with any frequency will have a story of having survived a major thunderstorm while desperately trying to protect their work. And hot or cold weather can suppress attendance. 

Outdoor art fairs have their challenges, but they can be a rewarding avenue for artists ready to engage directly with their audience and invest in their own marketing. If you’re proactive, personable, and prepared for a bit of unpredictability, these fairs can be a valuable part of your artistic career and an investment in your future.

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