Festivals and Art Walks- Notes for Newbies

Posted by: blueshiftart

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blueshiftart

One of the more common complaints I  hear from the frustrated artist looking for work usually deals with the lack of accepting venues for their art. “There are no places ‘art-friendly’ around here!” , “No one around here shows art like this”, and so on… This used to be more prevalent before the age of buying local, buying handmade, and choosing quality and investment more carefully now that the dollar is a more precious commodity. While money is still hard to come by for many, art walks and art festival-style events in some areas are still doing well, and even boosting local economies by bringing in tourism dollars from residual revenues like food, lodging, and all those extras we want when we go to see the big festivals and want to spend the weekend in the city, or perhaps the countryside hitting the local wine-tasting after taking in the art….

But how does the struggling, even starving artist make this work for him/her? Some festival booth costs  run over a thousand dollars for a weekend, when that may be 3 months rent for you! That is no reason to rule out festivals altogether, there are plenty that have reasonable, and even free booth space, often for a donation of a piece of work to their fundraiser or similar comparable donation or small fee/deposit (some are also juried and will just take a small commission off the top as well).  Keep to the pulse of your art community for such opportunities, as many groups are always seeking to improve the dynamic of the “festival” by creating one for their vision to please both the audience and the vendors!  Local art organizations will have this information, and established festivals will also have webpages set up for the previous year’s festivals with links to coming events and their applications. For any fellow Oklahoma artists who have never participated in a local festival, I will include some links to affordable events coming up that are welcoming new artists!

So, you’ve found a festival in which you can afford to participate- meaning you can afford the booth rent, the electrical fee if you need it/they require it (for lighting/cooling if in summer/etc), you’ve applied and been selected if need be, now what?  Now you will need of course, your works, and your booth.  The magic word of booth merchanting for me is “EZ-UP” and I still don’t own one….*sigh*…. but you can make it without one! Any canopy pavilion within the specifications of your booth dimensions will work if tents are allowed/required. Sometimes tents are not allowed (if indoors etc), but usually seem to be around 10 ft x10ft.  Local “big-box” retailers will often sell canopy tents like these in the summer seasonal section for as low as $50 sometimes, you just have to be flexible with the color and be prepared to also tote with you cinderblocks/sandbuckets and bungee cords/cabling to keep this flimsier model from blowing away…..Murphy’s Law of festival season dictates one day will be really hot, one day will rain at least a little, and one day will be windy.  If  your festival is longer (like our BIG Festival of the Arts) you may get every weather condition possible in that time frame seemingly just over the park/convention center/venue where your event is being held!  Ok maybe I’m getting a little carried away, but weather is the next thing with which to concern yourself….bring some extra clothes just in case, and stuff to cover any art that can be damaged by the weather.  You will of course need all those other things for conducting business- your cash handling materials, your credit handling materials (if you are not set up to take credit cards sometimes the event itself is- always double check), your applicable tax permit/business license info (if required-  some events are more grassroots than others and will let you be responsible for this end, others will not let you participate without documentation that you have all your ducks in a row)

*Another brief thing about booths I didn’t find out until AFTER I had several booths at several events—- Flickr has an ENTIRE group just for booth photos!  It is called “show me your booths” and is a FANTASTIC reference for booth setup if you are stumped on what should go where in a tiny square space.

SO….festivals aren’t your bag? You aren’t quite ready to sit in the summer heat/rain/wind and watch people look and then walk by (because most do just that, like window shopping, if you don’t engage them in conversation)?  The next opportunity to check out is the Art Walk. If you live in a town that does not have one of these or has never heard of it, they may think you are saying “Heart Walk” every time you bring it up for consideration hehe….but needless to say, the once-a-month Art Walk does wonders for businesses and artists alike, bringing in sales for both and providing entertainment for the local neighborhood, and I can’t tell you how many times I have recommended art walks as inexpensive date ideas, especially around Valentine’s day when businesses bring out cupcakes, custom photos and kissing booths. The night of the Art Walk the businesses on the street of the walk will stay open late and offer new artworks and merchandise for sale, in some locations snacks and wine will be set out for patrons, sometimes bands will play, in one location here a yummy food truck comes out with an amazing hard-to-find soda selection. It is as much or as little as the participants want it to be and can shape or be shaped by its community.  Becoming an artist in an established art walk is about the same as submitting art to any gallery or venue- you find a business (which may actually be an art gallery, many are although art walk venues can include coffee shops, restaurants, salons, yoga studios, etc) that participates and submit your work. If it is a gallery, they may have your opening the night of the walk to encourage walk-in customers as well as their returning patrons to view your work.

So how do art walks differ from struggling to get into galleries, you may be wondering? In some places, art walk venues will allow multiple artists, will set different walks to different themes encouraging different mediums attracting new artists, and some even have spaces where artists can simply pay a small one-time fee to set up for the night to sell their wares on the street. Depending on the area and the shop, you may be allowed to sell on consignment for the evening depending on their policies, but always check BEFORE the night of the walk. NEVER approach a venue the night of an art walk or they may not be prepared to take your work, and may see you as not ready until the last minute if they think about displaying your work in the future.  Art Walks personally remind me of a place where it is harmonious to see a drum circle at one end of the street and a dj at the other, with a guitarist singin’ the blues on the corner in between next to an open case.   They are all talented, though other parts of the city may misinterpret their choice of public expression, and on an art walk, the case is rarely empty.

Links to local Oklahoma Festivals for emerging artists to try- note: these are just a few of the less expensive specialty shows, I did not include the big festivals here but they are out there and if you want to know more info feel free to shoot me an email!
(*note- The urls are listed exactly as you would type them just in case you are unable to click them from this site!)

http://plazadistrict.org/festival.html – October 9th in Oklahoma City! This is VERY affordable, and this is a district with great exposure to a fresh young demographic that cares for local art and the community! If you can’t do the festival, check out the Live! on the Plaza events- that is their “Art Walk”- see how you can take part!

http://www.allidayeveryday.com/Apply_to_Alliday_.html – I am posting this because even though this year’s has past, you will want to check it out for next year, because space is limited! It is also affordable, and located in Tulsa- this is a new art/craft show event and everything I have heard about it is GOOOD…..

http://www.deluxeok.net/ – an annual indoor event Dec. 11, 2010 in OKC- I have had several friends participate in this and they have done well and had a great time!

http://thegirlieshow.net/ – Okay, this is probably the most expensive booth rent event I am posting, but I must include this because I dig the event- If you are a woman and an artist, this is the event for you. All female, all artistic- it is juried and they are taking apps already for this year I believe, and I think they also offer scholarships for female artists who are students seeking to exhibit at the show- this is a pretty big shopping event, they sell VIP passes to the show and have security and contracted photographers out there….so if you get in, you are gonna get sales…..

I hope this post was helpful! If you live in a city with festivals and art walks, you now have some on-the-cheap notes for getting your work in them. If you live in a city with none and you want one, then get to planning!- I bet your local chamber of commerce might like one…

Paseo art walk in OKC- outside Art of Yoga studio and gallery

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