The Logistics of Getting Into a Juried Art Show

My current booth

Today, as I'm getting ready for my next art show one month from now, it hit me that I have been doing Arts and Arts & Crafts shows for over 30 years! What??!!

What I've realized, from the questions I get consistently asked, is that most people have no idea of the journey, from the artist deciding that they want to participate in a show, to that lovely display of artwork that you see set up on the street or inside the convention hall or wherever. And why would they? I was just as clueless about the art show circuit world until I did my first show all those many moons ago. 

By the way, that first show was completely unplanned. FiancΓ© Ron and I were living in Athens GA, and I worked at a little arts/crafts shop, where I painted designs on knit outfits to be sold in the shop. Imagine - I actually got paid to paint! 

Lynn, the shop owner, was supposed do a local show but had to cancel at the last minute and offered me her space to sell my painted outfits. I thought, "Why not?" I had recently moved from New York where I was working as an assistant fashion designer, to Athens where fashion design isn't exactly a big industry, and I was fishing around for a direction to take.  

I remember going to a used store fixtures place in Atlanta and buying a couple of wire grid walls and collapsible clothes racks. That was the extent of my display... no tent! Thankfully the weather was good. I was floored when people came to the show and bought my stuff! And then things grew from there... which is a whole 'nother story!

From my silk painting + felting days

Now, that Athens show must have been non-juried, because in any show worth its salt, you can't just let somebody of your choosing have your space! So I thought I'd answer some of the questions that I routinely get asked by show patrons, to give a little insight into how things work.

First of all, the artists don't just show up on the morning of the event, pick a spot we want, and set up. Here's how we get there:

You have to apply to the show, usually many months in advance. This involves sending images of the work and your booth setup, description of your technique and artist statement.  Although this process is getting more streamlined now, it used to be quite onerous at times if you were applying to several shows. 

Every show had different requirements for image format, size and naming, and for written stuff. Thankfully, for images, we've gone from having to get professional slides made, to the huge leap forward of sending in CD's, to now the convenience of submitting everything online. 

And no, it's not free! There's a non-refundable application/jury fee, and a booth fee which can range from $$$ to $$$$. Sometimes it's refundable if you cancel before a certain date, sometimes not.

 

Then you wait. Applications usually open months in advance, so you have to wait until the deadline has passed, wait for the jury (often a panel from the local arts community) to meet and make their selections, wait for accept/reject notifications to be sent. Another wait for the show committee to assign and send out booth numbers advance, so you can tell your peeps where to find you. Some shows let you request a specific space, but it's not guaranteed. Also not guaranteed is acceptance into a show just because you did it the previous year... ask me how I know!

The shows don't provide the display materials or a tent... you buy or rent your own. Some have volunteers to help offloading your vehicle, but mostly you're on your own for setting up. I'm super fortunate that Ron enjoys anything smelling like construction, so he's a tremendous help!

Together we take about 3 hours from offload to totally ready. Add on at least an hour if I'm by myself!

This was the start of setup for a show that (bless them) allowed us set up the evening before. The van is stuffed back to front and top to bottom. Sometimes I wonder how it all fits!

Well I hope you've enjoyed this brief glimpse into my world!

Check out my Show Schedule page to see if I'll be in your neck of the woods any time soon!