Independent Artist Newsletter

The Independent Artist is a publication of the National Association of Independent Artists (NAIA) that is published twice a year.

Many thanks to the artists, collectors, merchants, service providers, and other professionals who generously contribute articles for inclusion in this publication.

To advertise in furture issues of The Independent Artist, contact NAIA member .

To submit articles, letters to the editor, or ideas for future issues of The Independent Artist, email , chair, Communications Committee.

Individual articles for the most recent edition can be found below or you may click on the current or archive editions below.    

Independent Artist Newsletter____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Issue 15 – WINTER 2015

Director Spotlight: Margue Esrock and St. James Court

Friday, October 1, 2010
In October of 1957, fifteen artists paid their half-dollar registration fee and agreed to donate ten percent of their sales to the St. James Court Association. Thus was the St. James Court Art Show born. One hundred fifty-seven dollars worth of art, hung from clotheslines, was sold at that first show, with one hundred dollars netted for the association’s funds.

Taxed with preservation of Louisville’s landmark St. James Court and its historic fountain, the association had created an enduring and beloved tradition that thrives to this day. By the time the show’s founder, Malcolm Bird, chaired his last show in 1967, 200 exhibitors displayed their work to an audience of 40,000.

Over the years, several Old Louisville block associations cooperated in the management of the show, leading to many changes and expansions. Exhibitors were gradually added on Belgravia Court, where that section’s director, Connie Light, has been in charge for over thirty years. Connie introduced several innovations, including a jury process for selecting artists. The Fountain Court and Fourth Street sections were added in 1975.

The Show expanded with the Fourth Street Association, the Third Street Art Fair, and the West End Baptist Church. In 1994, St. James Court Art Show Director Ellen Patrie collaborated with Connie Light to reach an agreement with the various block associations to create The Consortium. The group shares planning, problem solving, and resources.

In 1995, when Susan Coleman became director of the St. James Court show, she enhanced the show’s operations with a professional artist selection jury, an on-line application process, replacement of the commission with a flat fee, and a more efficient set up and break down procedure. Surveys conducted through Sunshine Artist declared St. James Court as the best art show in the nation in 2003 and 2004. The Independent Artist recently interviewed Margue Esrock, Susan Coleman’s former assistant and St. James Court’s current show director.

Q: How long have you been the Show Director for St. James Court?

I have been Show Director for six years, and this will be my eighth year with the organization. The St. James Court Art Show is 54 years old.

Q: What brought you to work in the arts and arts event production? 

My mother was a watercolor artist. I remember as a child going to every art museum in a three-state area on weekends. As I got older, my mother would take me to the galleries she showed her work in. I also remember going to her life drawing classes and hanging out with the artists as they worked. I think all that somehow seeped into my bones, and, although I never sought out a career in art, it’s always been a part of me. My two brothers are both in the arts. One teaches Art History at Southern Methodist University and the other is a Boston architect.

After graduating from The University of Kansas with a Journalism degree, I ended up at several advertising agencies as a traffic and production manager. After I had my first child, I had a part time job with an arts education company. Just by chance I found out about the St. James Court Art Show needing a part-time person to help the past show director, Susan Coleman. She hired me, and two years later she decided to retire. I was lucky enough to be hired as the new Director.

I credit my love for the artists and maybe my ability to understand artists to my mom.

Q: St. James Court has a somewhat complicated structure, what with the several different non-profits in the consortium that works together to mount the show. Please describe the special nature of the show, how it works, and the benefits and problems you encounter working with this arrangement.

There are five neighborhood associations and the West End Baptist Church that put on the St. James Court Art Show. These six groups work together all year long to produce the St. James Court Art on the first full weekend of October. These groups are Belgravia Court Association, South Fourth St. Association, South Third St. Association, 1300 Association, St. James Court Association, and the West End Baptist Church.

The Art Show Consortium, as we call it, operates off a budget that consists of sharing sponsorship dollars that help pay for operating costs like city permit fees, Metro Police daytime security, private nighttime security, port-o-johns, dumpsters, EMS services, signage, marketing and advertising of the show to the public locally, regionally, and nationally.

Each section (neighborhood association or church) then operates its own individual show off internal budgets that derive income from artist’s application and booth fees and expenses like artist breakfasts, artist amenities, volunteer expenses, printing costs, office expenses, and staff salaries. The people connected with each individual section decide for themselves what they want to do with the money they make from the art show.

Here are just a few examples:

St. James Court must maintain all green spaces, trees, flowers, and the fountain. The city of Louisville does not pay for these things. The fountain alone is undergoing a $30,000 restoration this year. (see attached articles)

After four years, the South Third St. Association has saved up $75,000 and is giving it to a neighborhood elementary school to install a playground.

There are many, many good things done with the money raised from the art show. Local non-profits, the neighborhood police substation, and the residents of Old Louisville benefit from having the art show here.

The St. James Court Art Show’s footprint is approximately four square blocks. The city of Louisville asked us about 15 years ago to not increase the size of the art show. The city services that are used (e.g., police, fire, EMS) also have to contend with other city events that same weekend, like the University of Louisville football games and charity 5K run/walks.

It is a constant worry for any major event to keep things fresh and new so the patrons want to come back each year. After 54 years that is especially worrisome. However, the jury process is one way we keep new artists coming in so the patrons aren’t seeing the same artists each year.

Each section of the art show juries its artists. In all cases, there’s a panel of jurors that view the images and score the artists. We all use a 1-7 scale. Jurors are a combination of local or regional artists, gallery owners, art collectors, art professors, and neighborhood residents. A waitlist is established from those juried artists after the initial invitation list goes out. All artists can apply to as many of the sections as they want, however, once an invitation is accepted and a booth fee is paid, artists cannot exhibit with another group for that show year.

Q: Do you have any statistics or interesting figures to report in relation to your shows?

Last year’s attendance estimated by the police was at 175,000. In my tenure as show director, I have been told it has been as high as 300,000. A lot depends on the weather. But typically the first weekend in October is a beautiful fall weekend in Louisville.

The actual numbers of artists fluctuate right up until the first day but we usually hover at 725. We are due for a new economic impact study but our last figures indicated The St. James Court Art Show brings in about seven million dollars to the Louisville.

Q: Why should an artist want to apply for your shows?

From the outside I can see why so many artists don’t want to apply to our shows. It does sound confusing and too much trouble to figure out. But really any of the show coordinators are more than happy to visit or email about the differences between the shows. I have also included a quick guide for you (see box, p. 14).

Q: What is the level of support for the festival in the community where you are located?

We are so fortunate that this art show has become an established tradition for folks in Louisville. I get many calls at the first of the year checking the dates so people can plan to get off work. It’s also become a big reunion type weekend with families gathering and enjoying the Art Show together. The Jefferson County Public Schools close the Friday of the Art Show because they were having problems getting substitutes for the classes because so many teachers were taking off! So now it is the start of the fall break weekend.

Q: What marketing strategies do you use to draw the crowd to your show?

We use print, radio, tv, internet and social media to spread the word. We also have a very active and fantastic Convention and Visitor’s Bureau that help us get the word out. Good recommendations from art patrons and artists are the best form of advertising.

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment for the St.. James show?

The St. James Court Art Show like many outdoor art shows, are special in that the patron can speak to the artist about their work. They (the patron), can find out the story behind a particular piece of work, the labor of love that went into it, and make a connection between another human being and a piece of art. You can’t do that by buying art in most galleries, or a retail environment. We require the artist to be in the booth. The official artists wear special buttons identifying them as a St. James Court Art Show artist.

By talking to the artist, the patron has something more than just money invested in the artwork. Maybe now they have a story to tell their friends, or they intend to buy another piece from this artist. To me it’s all about the human connection.

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of mounting the show?

I think it’s probably just the shear amount of small details that are involved in putting on a show of this size. We have an enormous responsibility to make sure the public and artists are safe with the amount of people that come here. All the coordinators in the Consortium work literally all year long to get four days perfect.

Q: What makes your show artist-friendly?

Louisville is one of the friendliest places there is. Our art patrons love the artists! The residents of Old Louisville love the artists so I think that reflects back onto the artists.

Q: What is the most important amenity any art fair can offer to the artists?

In my book it’s patience and a smile. But I’m sure clean potties go a long way!

Q: Is there something you wish that artists understood better about producing an art fair?

I think artists and art directors should job share from time to time. It would be good experience for both of us! I guess personally I would like to see my comment sheets filled out. Good, bad or indifferent, we can’t improve the show if we don’t know what’s wrong.

About a month after our show we have a big powwow and we review all artists’ comments, volunteer comments and patron emails. This is our basis on which we start planning the following year’s show.

I understand artists don’t want to put their name on a comment sheet which is fine with me. I’m just looking for some constructive criticism or happy comments so me and my staff of volunteers know what to improve. v

Steady Now: Tools and Tips for Canopy Security

Friday, October 1, 2010
by Holly Olinger

On any given weekend this year, we heard horror stories about artists who lost their canopy, displays, and inventory to a furious Mother Nature. The aftermath of these episodes is exhausting emotionally and financially. While good commercial insurance is a necessity to help you bounce back from disaster, some new products specific to the art fair industry, some borrowed tricks from architecture design, and some cross-purposing of gear from other industries will help put you in a better position to avoid disaster during storm season.

The Geometry of Triangulation

Even those of us who are not particularly geometrically literate can understand a few basic principles and some terminology borrowed from the architecture and construction trades to help us protect our canopies. When strong thunderstorms swamp your display, the natural forces at work involve several components—down bursts, wind shear and puddling on tent roofs. The puddling is common place on the “instant” canopies and most people know hula hoops in the four corners are the cheap quick fix when you cannot afford the better canopies with barrel or dome roofs.

Tremendous wind forces are a more complex issue. Many shows located in dense urban environments have notorious wind tunnels that form between the high rises. Some show directors go to incredible lengths to help protect the artists with weights, circus-sized tents, etc. Often, however, we are left to our own devices. When there is no option for ground staking, the types of weights you use and how you reinforce your tent with webbed strapping can make a huge difference.

First, it’s important to understand these physical forces and why, by their design, show tents are very weak structures. All geometric shapes have varying strengths under compression or during stress tests. Unfortunately, the square—your basic 10’ x 10’ structure—is the weakest shape possible under stress. In the construction trades, when natural forces bend a square or rectangle out of shape, it’s called racking. Your square shape becomes more of a parallelogram, leaning like a certain famous tower in Italy. Add in the thin metal tubing supporting a canopy, and the next set of negative forces usually follows—shear and twist. The result: mangled poles and torn canopy tops (see photo above).

The simplest way to prevent racking is reinforcement through altering the square shape with “triangulation” bracing. Simply put: break down the geometry on each side wall by creating a series of small triangles within the square. The triangles reduce the stress to the outer structure and add exponential strength to your tent skeleton. It’s all fairly simple to execute with common gear and a slightly different approach to anchoring the tent than most artists have been using (see illustration, right).

One of the easiest ways to create triangulation on an outer wall in areas where you can use ground stakes is to take your ratchet straps and go from top right to bottom left and vice versa. In other words, anchor your ties to the top corner of your tent and then, rather than tightening them directly down to the foot below, go to the foot at the opposite corner of that side. You may not be able to create these triangles on all four sides due to the arrangement of your entrance, but even if you only anchor your two side walls like this, the tent will be much more stable than if you anchor from top to bottom.

The most innovative new device we’ve seen for triangulated anchoring systems is called The Claw©.

Due to its unique three-sided design (think more triangles!), this ground stake provides enhanced downward pull to anchor your tent more vigorously than normal tent stakes or spiral dog ties. The design of The Claw© allows for quick and easy installation AND removal. Claws placed at the corners allow for triangulated side walls, creating excellent resistance to racking from sheer winds. Even if you choose to stay with the typical top to bottom anchoring method, The Claw© will provide you with a better likelihood of surviving “tent creep” in high winds. My ultimate tornado alley tie down would be claws on each corner—plus weights, which we get to in the next section.

Steady Now—Weights and Stabilizer Bars

Going back to construction 101, reinforcement is another important method of keeping our tents in place during a storm. For artists who can afford the Light-Dome® or TrimLine Canopies, the optional stabilizer bars available from the manufacturers are a valuable addition to your safety system. They give you the opportunity to lash your Pro Panels or mesh grid walls to both the top and bottom of your tent with bungee balls. Even better, you can lay heavy sand bags over the stay-bars for an inexpensive weight option.

If you are a tool-head like me, you can revel in opportunities to modify your tent by adding optional awnings, hooks for hanging heavy art, etc. I have even welded and drilled stabilizer bars for square-legged tents in the past, but you don’t have to work that hard. Anyone can order from the immense selection of tent fittings at Creative Shelters.

Their fittings are the exact materials and dimensions used by the canopy companies. You can retro-fit your tent to include stabilizers made from conduit poles from any DIY home superstore. This will allow you a lot of freedom to customize your individual display, including putting the stabilizer bars at mid-wall height to stop tent side flapping from bashing your interior panels. Creative Shelters also sells The Claw® system in a convenient two pack with carry bag.

Everyone has seen tents weighted down with concrete filled PVC tubes or cinderblocks. Aside from the less-than-polished appearance of the blocks, one drawback of these systems is that they only allow for the capacity to tie down from top to bottom. There is no triangulation possible with such a design. Happily, two new companies are offering heavy weight systems that will enable the user to create those safe triangles.

Happifeet™ weights were designed by artist Cindy Gordon in collaboration with an engineer friend. They provide thirty-two pounds (upgradeable) of heavy steel for each corner, but the really cool part is that multiple options for attachment to your tent legs allow several configurations, including placing the “handle” towards the middle of your side wall so you can attach your straps from the opposing upper corner to that foot. Triangulation and weight in a slim design that will travel easily!

Similarly, Eaton Canopy Weights have a clip system that holds their stackable weights in place around the tent leg resting on the foot. I believe it would be possible to anchor your straps to these clips as long as you have the clips oriented so the “closed” side of the clip is facing your strap. The Eaton weights are very unobtrusive, and, because of their stacking design, you can put more weight on the side of the prevailing winds.

Low-Tech Creativity

Low-tech solutions are not all bad. Many artists choose sand bags for weights because the sand is cheap and readily available. The artists who like this option also save on gas by not carrying extra weight with them. They buy sand at each show location and then leave the used sand in flower beds or distributed across grassy park areas.

Depending on how many shows you do per year and how much sand you buy, this may be a good solution for adding weights to your tent. The negative aspect is the really poor design of the sand bags provided by most canopy manufacturers. They often provide only have tiny little holes for pouring in the sand, thus requiring two people and a funnel to fill them with ease or speed.

Borrowing from the sports world, I would like to recommend that any artist who wants to use sand bags go to the soccer supply site below to check out the well-designed, attractive, and rugged sand bags used for soccer goals. The goal anchor bag (product # GA-0335) is a sturdy nylon bag with handles and a zipper across the entire top side. These will be easy to fill and easy to dump plus you can put 45 pounds of sand in each bag. Now that is some super protection in an affordable, portable, and attractive package!!

Be safe on the road friends!

A Letter from the NAIA Board Chair

Friday, October 1, 2010
by Teresa Saborsky

Next Director/Artist Conference Announce

The NAIA would like to announce that our next Director/Artist Conference will be held in Indianapolis, Indiana, hosted by the Broad Ripple Art Fair, May 21 and 22, 2011. The conference is the 18 (meet and greet evening) to the 20. Show Director Iris Dillon and the Indianapolis Art Center will host our conference prior to their festival. Indianapolis has a vibrant arts and cultural scene and has recognized the value of the arts to the benefit of their community growth and character.

Conference details will be announced in the days to come. Our conference goal is to bring together artists and show directors to discuss the present state of art fairs and how we can work together to make them more successful for all involved. Mark your calendars for that week in May and arrange your schedules to take part in the conference.

American Craft Week

Craft Retailers and Artists for Tomorrow (CRAFT) have begun a project to celebrate the wonders of American craft. For ten days each October, they are asking all those who create, sell, display, promote, collect, or just plain love American craft to join them in publicizing, displaying, and educating.

NAIA is proud to have joined with CRAFT to sponsor American Craft Week and urge all of you to go to their web site at to find out more about the ten day celebration. Please note the “Crafting a Nation” an interactive conference co-sponsored by the Smithsonian American Art Museum will be held in Washington, DC, October 8 and 9. American Craft Week is a project that promises to be an annual event so, if you missed it this year, bookmark this page and look for the celebration next year.

Buy/Sell, revisited

The topic of buy/sell at shows that require work created by the artist continues to be on the lips on artists and directors alike. How do we really know what is buy/sell? What can we do about it?

A number of artists and directors have contacted NAIA at various times to report suspicions of buy/sell and we’ve investigated as much as we can. At present we’re consulting an attorney who deals with such matters to find out what all of us can do to discover and report, yet be as protected as we can against legal repercussions.

This issue is going to take all of us making a concerted effort to make a difference. NAIA is doing what we can to field questions as well as facilitate discussions as to what artists and directors can do when they encounter buy/sell where it should not be.

Sharing information is most important.

At present, we’ve begun to encourage directors to take part in a discussion on the Show Director’s section of our forum. Each show has its own policies in how to deal with those suspected of violating rules set out in their prospectus. A sharing of that information with other directors would be helpful so that others can know some options and caveats.

Artists go from show to show across the country and have opportunities to see things that directors don’t. We see works and practices that sometimes simply don’t add up. We can check business cards and web sites, then share that information with shows directors and each other.

This issue is important to everyone involved in Art Shows, from directors to artists and even customers, and we do not wish to cause any harm to legitimate exhibitors who are following the rules of the individual show. All of us are doing what we can to make a living and some shows allow artists to sell work that others don’t. This is a matter of clear rules and requirements, diligence, and working together to make sure the artists and shows provide the public with what is promised.

Once we find out more information concerning procedures we can all follow when buy/sell is suspected, we will let you know. NAIA is taking the issue seriously and is working to formulate a course of action so that shows and artists can work together toward a solution.

Join NAIA and be a part of the “one voice” of the art show industry as we continue to be committed to integrity, creativity, and the pursuit of excellence, advocating for the highest ideals and practices within all aspects of the art show environment.

Buy/Sell: Taking Action


Be familiar with a show prospectus regarding what kind of work is allowed at a show.

If you suspect buy/sell, check the business card of an artist and look at the business web site.

Give information to the director of the show.

If you are a NAIA member, you may discuss suspicions on our forum. Other artists may know more about the artist in question.

Remember that suspicions are not fact!

Show Directors:

Make certain that your prospectus is clear on what is allowed at your show.

Enforce the rules that are in your prospectus (artists recognize and welcome such action and the word spreads).

If you are a member of NAIA, share your concerns and experiences with others on our forum.  It is a networking device for you to connect and share stories with your fellow directors.

The Medical Consumer: Keeping Costs in Check

Friday, October 1, 2010
by Cynthia Davis, Photographer, NAIA Staff,

Helpful Web Sites

As independent artists we need to keep our costs as low as possible and usually purchase large-deductible health insurance policies to keep our costs in check.  More frequently many insurance companies are not covering certain non-urgent healthcare services, procedures and tests especially if they are just “recommended” by our doctors.

Recently my doctor recommended I get a baseline DEXA bone density scan and a baseline colonoscopy neither or which are covered by my large-deductable insurance plan.  Inspired by an article in USA Today, I started to search the web.

There are now several web sites that help the medical consumer find out what the average price of a procedure or test is in their area and then the best prices. Some of the areas of non-urgent healthcare services listed are dental, medical, vision, cosmetic, walk-in clinics, mental health, weight loss, acupuncture, audiology, and even ear wax removal.

This site has really informative articles on various procedures and their average costs along with helpful hints like May is National Osteoporosis Prevention Month and many clinics offer discounted prices during that month.  March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.

This is an online consumer guide to help you determine fair prices in your geographic area for non-urgent healthcare services.  While it does not have a list of doctors, it gives you a good starting point for negotiation especially if you pay cash.

Not all procedures are listed (did not list DEXA bone density scan), but for what it does list, it provides amazing information with benchmark prices by clinics in your geographic area.  I was amazed to find that there was such a wide spread of costs for a colonoscopy in the Ann Arbor area:  $2,100 – $7,200.

Matches up health care providers and consumers.  Health care providers sign up on this web site and agree to a discounted price for various procedures/tests.  You print out a coupon with the price on it or request a cash price quote from the provider. suggests that prepayment be made in cash to “reduce office paper work and overhead.”  This site depends on which providers sign up.  I searched the DEXA scan procedure and the closest was 217 miles away in Cleveland.

These are just a few sites to help you become a better informed consumer of medical care.  If you are aware of or find others in your search, please let me know and the NAIA will add them to our Health Care Insurance and knowledge page on the NAIA web site.

Cheap Prescription Eyewear

I recently lost my expensive, progressive lens eye glasses (yes, I am vain—no bifocal lines for me!) in the Huron River when our canoe overturned (don’t ask…). Because it was an emergency, I went to my local chain eyeglass store where I got an immediate appointment for a new prescription exam and walked out with new glasses the same day—and also a large amount charged to my credit card.

But if you don’t have an emergency, why not let your fingers do the walking on the internet? There are many web sites now where you can order prescription eyeglasses for a fraction of the cost. I found out that the eyewear industry can mark up prescription eye glasses up to 500%!

And you don’t have to opt for just generic, basic or outdated styles but this is, frankly, where the best deals are. Some sites offer designer frames, antiscratch coatings, transition lenses, and other premium add-ons.  But the more premiums you add, the less of a good deal you will get, if any.

You can upload a photo of yourself and virtually “try on” different frames. Some sites will also sell new lenses for your old frames, but, of course, you have to relinquish your frames for a while, so you need a back-up pair.

Some companies offer really cheap deals because they make everything overseas. It also takes longer to get. You might pay more with a US-based company, but you might be happier.

Here’s where to start:


Get your eyes checked by a qualified optometrist or ophthalmologist. You should have a prescription that is no more than one year old. Leave the office with your full prescription in hand. By law they must give it to you.

This is a great blog by Ira Mitchell that has everything you need to know about buying eye glasses online, including product and web site reviews and discounts deals on already low-priced web sites. What is PD (pupillary distance), why you need to know it, and how to get it. Hint: has a downloadable pupillary distance reader.

Get the down and dirty skinny on Glassyeyes.Blogspots Google Group forum. If you are thinking of ordering your glasses on line, check here to see what others have to say about their experience with specific companies or problems they might have.

Search the Internet

Since new web sites are coming online all of the time, just search “cheap eyeglasses” and lots of sites will come up.

Fitting the Frames

When I have ordered frames from a brick and mortar store, I noticed that the optician does some tweaking to make them fit better. I found a series of videos by Expert Village on YouTube that shows how to adjust eye glass frames: search “adjust eye glasses.

Dialing It In: Accepting Credit Cards with Smart Phones

Friday, October 1, 2010
by Wendy Hill

Doing the Research

Alright, it’s time to share my research on Smart Phone credit card applications and services. I made a spread sheet with columns for important data: name, monthly service fee, transaction fee, monthly minimum/maximum, check card/qualifying rates, key-in/reward card rates, set up/application fees, swiper cost, and who does the actual processing. Did I miss anything?

After narrowing it down (damn, there are a ton of choices), mostly by cost, I came up with a Top Two:

Merchant Warehouse  • 800-791-9715 (ask for Lee) •  •

Payment Max • 800-979-0210 • •

Both services cost $7.95 per month, and have no set up or application fees. Merchant Warehouse has a little better rates: 1.65 percent for almost all swiped charges—except for reward cards and keyed-in charges—which brings the percentage to 2.40. Payment Max is 1.99 percent, going up to 2.89 percent. The percentages are close enough that I feel the differences are pretty inconsequential. Merchant Warehouse has a .21 fee per transaction; Payment Max’s is .20.

Here’s what differentiates the two: both have a $25 per month minimum, which is prorated (so if your fees are $20, they only charge the difference). Merchant Warehouse, however, will let you put your account on hold, whereas Payment Max didn’t mention any hiatus. I wonder about this, though, since neither of them require a contract—couldn’t I just cancel the account from November through January and require checks for any purchases?

Another difference is the swiper, which plugs right into the audio jack. Both systems look easy to use and both send an email receipt to the customer. The swipers are optional; you don’t need them to use the application, but it will make your rates lower.

Payment Max’s swiper is called “ROAM” ( Of course, they have nothing but good things to say about it and it’s only $49. ROAM is available for iPhone immediately, and will be available for Droid very soon.

Merchant Warehouse’s is called “MagneSafe BT90” ( It’s a bluetooth device, and costs $149. It was not yet available of this writing, but was scheduled to be out shortly.

I think this is significant: Payment Max does its processing through First Data, so it is  more like a middle man. I also have had trouble getting their customer service on the phone, and have been transferred, on hold, sent to the wrong terminal . . . all of which does not endear the company to me.

So I’ve made a decision to go with Merchant Warehouse. The company does its own processing, with Wells Fargo as its back-up. I have talked with a man named Lee, and he’s been available and personable, answering my zillion questions with clarity. Merchant Warehouse also has the highest Better Business Bureau rating, whereas I can’t even find PaymentMax on the BBB website. Merchant Warehouse just strikes me as a more legitimate company, with 24/7 merchant support and people that actually answer the phone when you call.

So, there you have it! I’m so relieved to have made a decision! If anyone has any questions, please feel free to email me—after all this work, I’d love to be able to share what I know!

Oh, and if any of you DO decide to go with Merchant Warehouse, please mention my name as a referral (Wendy Hill). There is a reward, which will help pay for the swiper 🙂

The Story on Square

I know folks with iPhones have been considering Square—here’s why I didn’t consider them: although they have (sort of) changed their maximum sales policy (it was $1000 per week, which won’t work for most of us), it was only marginally: any amount you make over $1000 goes into a holding account and will be transferred to your account after 60 days. I informed the rather surly sales representative that they are the only ones I’ve found with that policy, and that this policy is why many people will not be using their system.

Frequent award winners, blockprinters Marvin and Wendy Hill have made their living since 1990 entirely through the sale of their artwork at juried fine arts festivals and galleries across the country.  Marvin died too young, but leaves behind a remarkable legacy of blocks that Wendy continues to print, color and exhibit.  She remains on their 1850s farmstead in South Central Wisconsin, printing and painting blockprints in a converted chicken house studio.

The Companies Included in My Research:


Mobile Merchant

Merchant Anywhere

Merchant On The Move


Merchant Plus


Softening the Blows: Kudos to the Des Moines Art Festival Staff

Friday, October 1, 2010
Preparation and Planning Pay Off

Shortly after severe thunderstorms and high winds hit the show site during the 13th Annual Des Moines Arts Festival on June 25-27, 2010, words of praise for the Des Moines festival staff and administration began to appear on artists’ forums across the Internet. The Independent Artist would like to take some space to acknowledge the advanced planning and post-storm work that helped to mitigate the pain of the storm.

Friday into Saturday . . .

After midnight on Friday, just as festival staff were leaving for the night, winds began to pick up and rain started to fall. With 70-mile-an-hour winds ripping down 12th street, the festival’s emergency plan was activated. Festival staff are housed downtown during the event expressly for the purpose of  NSV Tent and Signageenabling them to respond quickly to situations such as this. Some staff members immediately headed out into the storm, while others called in vendors responsible for the festival’s power, generators, tents and other large structures.

Particular troubles surfaced on Grand Avenue, where artist tents were damaged, and on 12th Street, where an Emerging Iowa Artists (EIA) tent crumpled under the storm. Individual artist’s tents were unzipped by the lashing winds and some tents flipped over. The artwork in several displays was completely exposed. Some festival staff clung to the EIA tents to hold them down while others gathered up artwork that had fallen to the ground.

In order to avoid the dangers of downed electric lines, power was turned off in the affected areas. Once the storm began to subside, staff notified artists of the damage and the actions being taken to retrieve their work. Artwork was gathered inside the festival’s office where staff and artists began to dry and salvage what they could, wiping down framed work and hanging wearables. Several artists assisted staff in making phones calls, collecting artwork, and reassembling damaged tents.

“I spent all of Friday night at the Festival and was surprised to see all the help, even at 3:00 in the morning. There was a lot of damage done during the storms but it could have been worse if help would not have been there.” —Bill Lemke, Photography, Waukesha, WI

Clean up continued throughout the night so that the festival could be up and running at 10 a.m. Unfortunately, four artists, including NAIA members Carla Fox and Dave Fox, had to pack up and leave the Festival due to the severity of the damage to their displays.

“Stephen [King, the festival’s director] had to call us three times to wake us up in the middle of the night, bless his heart. We were here until 4:30 in the morning, and the place was so methodical, so organized. We were very impressed.” —Carla and Dave Fox

Then Sunday . . .

Around 2:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, festival staff were called to the site by security for another round of stormy weather. The EIA and artist’s tents were damaged yet again, along with the festival’s giant metal entrance signage. The scaffolding was so badly mangled it had to be taken down for Sunday’s opening.

Thankfully, many artists had removed their artwork in advance of any potential bad weather on Saturday night, while staff took additional precautions with other areas of the festival. These proactive measures kept the damage to a minimum, so it ended up that only a handful of artists were affected, but there was still a lot to accomplish by way of clean up and repairs to ready the site for opening at 10 a.m. Many tents were ripped, poles were bent and broken, and banners and flags were destroyed.

“I think a lot of shows could learn from [Des Moine’s] organization, treatment of artists, etc. It really is appreciated. Even in the face of an emergency, the festival team acted immediately and went above and beyond to help artists.”  —Amy Lansburg, 3-D Mixed Media, Valdosta, GA

Ultimately, the show survived the weekend of severe weather and no one was injured. To assist the artists affected by the storms, the Des Moines Arts Festival set up the Des Moines Arts Festival 2010 Artist Relief Fund, held at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines. The festival generously seeded the fund with $5,000. Money will go toward replacing the artists’ ruined displays.

It is heartening to see show administrators handle the volatile weather and its consequences with forethought, planning, and sensitivity to the artists. What a great example to set.

“The damage and devastation would have been so much worse if not for your quick thinking and savvy action of retrieving artwork before the rain came. My gratitude for that runs especially deep.” —Julie Sutter-Blair, Drawing/Pastels, Belleville, WI. v

From the Second Annual ZAPP Conference Sept. 12-14, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010
by Teresa Saborsky

Panel Discussion “The State of the Art Fair”

Topics: “The Impact of Generational Change (or the lack thereof)” by Larry Oliverson, photographer; “Trends in Audiences: Buying and the Economy” by Teresa Saborsky, Chair of Board of Directors, NAIA; “The Relationship of Fairs to the General Art World” by Reed McMillan, Director of the Artists Project New York; “The Festival of the Future” by Steve Schmader, President and CEO of the International Festivals Association (IFEA); and “Festivals and Community Revitalization” by Elaine Kroening, Executive Director of Positively Pewaukee, a non-profit organization and part of Wisconsin Main Street Program and The National Trust for Historic Preservation.

I was invited to take part in this session at the ZAPP™ Conference. We had a panel with five people, moderated by Stephen King (executive director of the Des Moines Art Festival), and Board of NAIA wanted to make sure that artists were represented.

Our panel took the form of a two-and-a-half hour discussion. As panelists, we were at a table with a moderator, and the audience was seated all around us. Audience members were invited to submit questions on index cards and hand them to the moderator. He would then ask us some of their questions. The audience seemed to really like it.

None of us on the panel knew each other, though most of us knew Stephen. But we really seemed to click during the discussion. I think a transcript will be available online on the ZAPP™ website at some point.

We were each supposed to have five to seven minutes to talk before the group discussion started. Larry Oliverson spoke first. I was second. Larry talked about he impact of generational changes. Then it was my turn, followed by Reid McMillan on the role art fairs play, then Steve Schmader, and, finally, Elaine Kroening discussed festivals and community revitalization. Soon afer I began my talk there were questions, so I never really got to present my remarks in the order I wanted; however, I did eventually get it all in during the course of the panel discussion.

Before the meeting, I received four questions in order to prepare for the discussion:

How does the current recession feel to you?

How are artists managing the recession?

As an artist participating in the art fair world, what significant trends have you observed over the years?

How can artists engaged in art fairs build a larger profile in their home towns?

I posted the questions on the NAIA forum and asked for input and did have a few people comment. Five, maybe six new artists and veterans. Just before the conference, I also did two shows, one in Oregon and one in Colorado. So I asked the artists there same questions to get their feedback, then put it all together with my own observations as well as those from the NAIA forum to formulate my responses.

How does the current recession feel to you?

Across the board, all the artists I spoke to said this was the worst recession since the Great Depression. Most said that 2008 was bad but in 2009 they experienced a return of some optimism. But all said that 2010 is the worst. Costs are going up—booth fees, jury fees, travel expenses. Attendance is not too bad, although it is a little down generally. But nobody is buying.

The cost of materials is going up, sales are going down. Some said their sales dipped as much as 50 percent, but nobody reported less than a 30 to 35 percent drop. This recession has cut across the board.

How are artists managing the recession?

Not well. They are trying several different things, and not just taking it lying down. They love this profession they want to do it. So they’re trying different things to make it work.

They’re changing geographical locations, trying to figure out where their stuff sells better. As we’ve often heard, some artists are staying close to home to trim expenses, but that’s not always the case.

Several people told me that Texas is still a good place to go, that it remains unaffected by the economic downturn. And some say Chicago is still good.

I did speak to one NAIA member who went from Texas to Chicago to New York. He lives in Texas and did great there, not so well in Chicago. He bombed totally in New York. Artists tell me that you can’t plan a circuit around Florida, or around Arizona and Southern California like you used to. Out west, there are so few shows and lots of artists, so it’s difficult to get in and hard to plan a circuit. Florida is just the opposite. In Florida, there’s a show every weekend, and not enough of an economy. Many artists across the board are staying out of Florida.

Artists are also experimenting with price ranges. They’re going for lower price range stuff to at least make expenses, but finding it’s not making a huge difference. Folks with work that’s low end already say they are doing okay, but those with higher-end pieces who lower their prices are not doing so well. Some people are still selling their higher-priced items, just not as often.

Another thing they’re doing to stay afloat is expanding their opportunities: internet marketing, galleries, teaching. Galleries are hurting as well as art shows and many artists told me they’re not doing as well in the galleries.

Another strategy used to be adding more shows, but people are finding out that these days that strategy is only compounding their expenses. In addition, with more shows, when do you have time to do art?

A  lot of people are taking other jobs. I talked with a lot of younger people, artists in their early thirties. They’re really upset. They want to make a living with their art, but find they can’t pay their mortgage and bills. One man I spoke to has  two young children. He was depressed after the show, saying he can’t continue with this kind of income and raise a family. We’re all concerned about the graying of art show artists. Well, young people can’t do this and pay mortgages and support families.


What significant trends have you observed over the years?

Some of the artists have the impression that the public feels like it’s a fad to be frugal now. Even people who might be doing okay are afraid to say so. They play a game of “Who’s suffering most?”

The artists say they all hear customers’ financial horror stories: “My husband lost his job.” “I love this, I used to buy it, but I can’t do it anymore.” “We don’t have the income that we had.”

I heard more artists relate customers’ financial woes, seeing people that love their work, then telling them stories about why they can’t afford it.

There are also trends taking place within the shows themselves: special shows aren’t so special anymore. Everyone understands that a show has to make money and fill booth spaces. But we used to have several very high-end, high quality shows. They’re not there anymore. They’re being overtaken by sponsors and hawkers. At one such show, an artist said that so many vendors were handing out “freebies” that the public were overburdened by them and weren’t able to properly look at art, much less walk away carrying any. Also, with such vendors ever-present, potential customers were distracted in front of booths. Quality seems to suffer.

Some of the shows are expanding booth space numbers, and what they’re filling them with is not necessarily in keeping with rest of show. One jeweler told me she was in a show with 150 booths, and 50 of those were jewelers.

Everybody has reported seeing an increase of buy/sell. During the conference, I discussed the difference between buy/sell and production, and how buy/sell undercuts us and is against the rules in many shows. I said NAIA was presently consulting with attorneys about what we can do to distribute information on how to identify buy/sell and what can be done once it’s identified.

How Can Artists Build a Local Profile?

A lot of artists are doing local gallery exhibits as well as shows at public libraries and local colleges. There is increasing activity in local guilds where they can establish their own shows, and more cooperatives are forming.

Artists are finding local spaces at reduced prices or free, sometimes in empty buildings. Some are doing studio tours, workshops, teaching classes. One of the things that Elaine Kroening, who spoke about festivals and community revitalization, said was that they sometimes try to get artists who are going to be in an upcoming show to donate and display in stores.

I know I can’t sell locally and  have talked to a  lot of  other artists who don’t. What you can do to help both yourself and your local art show is talk to local show directors about free publicity. Directors always need help. Sharing your experience and discussing what will be seen in art shows by going to schools, book clubs, garden clubs, etc. is one way to support the local art community and support shows. As artists we have knowledge that is beneficial to everyone.

Go to schools and talk about art there. Kids bring their parents to art shows.

One of the things I didn’t get to say and wanted to, and did manage to say to several directors and artists later, is that right now there is a huge atmosphere of fear and depression, and pessimism. I think that’s one of the reasons that we’re being affected so badly. It’s difficult for art to flow and creativity to flourish in that kind of atmosphere. We must see what we can do to turn it around and make it positive.

Surveys: Their Importance for Art Festival Artists and Art Festivals

Friday, October 1, 2010
By Marc Duke, Editor, The Art Festival Newsletter

By nature and inclination, artists are independent and private people, engaged in what is almost always a solitary   career, often internalizing their opinions and viewpoints just as they internalize their experiences in life on the way to turning them into art.

It is a necessary and understandable characteristic.

Art festivals, by nature, and often by inclination, tend also to be private and—many artists would claim—an unapproachable group, loathe to hear the comments (often called whining complaints) from the artists who exhibit.

Thus, artists, and the artists who participate in art festivals in particular, have for far too long known too little about the artist community of which they are a part. Festivals, again for far too long, have had little in the way of reliable, broad-based information about their customers—the artists who exhibit in their shows.

Most artists sense a divide between themselves and the festivals in which they exhibit. Yet, in speaking with festival directors, I have found them more than merely interested in gaining information about festival artists; indeed, they seem hungry to learn what artists think, need—and exactly who their exhibitors are.

The sentiment is universal among the dozens of show directors with whom I communicate regularly. Show directors want to make their festivals successful, enjoyable events for everyone involved. Often they will hand out or email questionnaires to their exhibitors after their shows take place, with a few questions aimed at learning how sales were and how the artists felt about subjects ranging from artist amenities to load-in procedures to public attendance—a variety of topics. While potentially valuable to the show directors, these so-called “surveys” are intrinsically limited, very narrow in focus, and rarely reported on to the artists who fill them out. Quite possibly they are read but, artists believe, rarely acted upon.

At the beginning of 2010, The Art Festival Newsletter, itself a new quarterly publication, inaugurated a series of quarterly national surveys sent to more than 5,000 art festival artists nationwide. The first three are now complete. Survey topics topics included The Great Recession, Art Festival Application and Acceptance and, most recently, Art Festival Artists: Who We Are.

The artists’ responses—all confidential and anonymous—have been both illuminating and, to some degree, cause for concern. For example, fewer than two percent of artists believe that the jurying process for festivals is generally fair. Answers such as this can create a call to action for festivals and benefit all involved. Participation in the surveys is free, and artists, whether they participate or not, receive a report on the surveys, also at no cost. Further, the survey report is sent to nearly 1,000 festivals nationwide and is available to all festivals, again at no charge.

What does this mean to artists, and to festivals? For the artists, they can find out where they fit in the community of festival exhibitors, whether in demographic terms, sales results, progress in achieving acceptance into festivals, and a host of other subjects. They can compare their show choice and application methods to those of other artists, and see where they fit in age, location, and other career elements. The survey questions are all pertinent to knowing more about both who we are and how we pursue our art festival participation. And, yes, artists can give vent to their feelings about festivals—as a whole.

For festivals, the survey reports can inform them, motivate them to meet the stated needs of the artists—not only those who exhibit with them, but also those who may apply to their shows in the future.

The Art Festival Newsletter surveys are the first ongoing effort to build and maintain a compendium of knowledge about our large, amorphous, far-flung and dedicated community of creative professionals (for example, our research shows that 80% of festival exhibitors are full-time artists, for whom the festival industry is their primary source of income). It is also the first time this aggregate knowledge, coming directly and without bias from a broad base of artists, has been available to festival directors, promoters, committees, and organizers.

At the end of 2010, we will be sending out a survey asking artists to tell us about their experiences during the year, from sales (we never ask for numbers), travel, and show quality to plans for 2011. Next year we will ask festival artists to report on the shows they do—again in aggregate, not specific festivals—and to define and characterize what they would consider a perfect festival.

The wealth of knowledge gleaned from these surveys, their importance to artists, and their potential impact on the festival business far outweigh the effort to create, produce, send out, analyze, and report on them.

For the first time, The Art Festival Newsletter national surveys provide artists with a factual, unbiased, and truly communal voice in the art festival industry—created by the artists themselves in their interest, and the interest of art festivals nationwide.

To access the survey reports and learn more about The Art Festival Newsletter, go to: And to see the remarkable, and free, new homepage for artists, visit We welcome your comments and suggestions. v

Marc is a Chicago native now living in Florida. He is the founder and editor of The Art Festival Newsletter. He has been creating fine art photographs for more than forty years and says he stopped counting the number of art festivals he has participated in after reaching 500. Over the last five years alone, his images have won more than 25 major awards at the nation’s top-rated festivals. Marc is also the author of several books, including The Art Festival Handbook, which has garnered both critical and public praise. He and his wife and partner Linda have two children and three grandchildren.

My Trip Through the Jury Process

Friday, October 1, 2010
by Holly Olinger

Read More »
2010 ACC: Jury Review

Friday, October 1, 2010
interview by Larry Berman

I believe that artists should have as much information as possible so as to make a more educated decision on which shows to apply to. To that end, whenever possible, I interview jurors for this ongoing series of articles. Within these articles you may find opposing points of view, so take what you read with a grain of salt.

The juror I spoke to (who prefers to remain anonymous) juried the home décor category. All the jurors juried from home. There were three general categories, home décor, fashion (which included wearable fiber and jewelry), and ceramics and glass. I’ve heard from another source that the ACC used to only jury in two categories, fashion and everything else. There were seven jurors for the home decor category and they were given five days to review and score the applicants. There were four exhibiting artists, one listed as an artist professional, the director of programs at Penland School of Crafts, and the associate director of the San Francisco Museum of Craft and Design.


What I want to see first of all is quality of craftsmanship. I’m a real fundamentalist when it comes to looking at artwork. I had many year career in the gallery business and I enjoy looking at a lot of artwork. The quality of craftsmanship is the most important aspect I look for over style or subject or material. Creativity would come in second. I want to see somebody that’s doing something new and innovative, and I’m seeing less and less of that in the galleries and in the shows. I do see some artists that are very creative but have very poor craftsmanship skills. A lot of artists try and pass off a lack of craftsmanship as being funky. And while funky is fun to some, it doesn’t mean that it is true craft. When I look at artwork that interests me, I ask myself about the WOW factor or what stopped me to look at this piece of artwork and consider it in the first place. And will I like it in five years. That’s been a good gut check when I’m making choices for the artwork I acquire or jury. And sometimes when I’m jurying I throw that in about the longevity of a particular piece of artwork. Does it hold substance or is the artist jumping in on a popular fad. Is the artist doing something different enough to make me say yes to this piece. These are some of the personal qualifications I consider when I’m on the fence about something. Over the years I’ve found that my initial instincts are pretty good when evaluating a piece of artwork.

With all the jurying I’ve done I think it’s advantageous to have the jurors in one room so things can be discussed. But on the other hand, jurying at home without time constraints allows me time to read the descriptions without feeling pressured.

Recent Trends

A lot of good artists are not applying anymore, which is opening it up for younger artists to apply. When times were good, the ACC went really big and cut the pie really thin for artists so the chances of making substantial sales were diminished. Now when you throw in the economy we’ve had these last few years, the competition with the Rosen show, and the awkward timing with a week between the two shows combined with the way buyers are spending money, it’s the perfect recipe for things to go downhill real fast for the artists.

One of the things I’m seeing is a greater emphasis on jewelry and fashion, which is fine except that it’s mostly groups of women that come in to go through the jewelry and fashion. The problem is that there are many exhibitors that sell to couples and those couples are now far and few between. I’m seeing that the attendance is getting to be far more women than couples, even on the weekends where husbands used to accompany their wives.

A lot of the buyers from shops all over the country no longer have to travel to do their business with so much online they can do the research right from their desk and connect that way. There is now a generation of buyers that don’t consider hands on an important aspect of their decision making. This makes me realize I’ve really got to get on the ball and work the Internet and get my web site updated and appreciate how important this may become to my business.

You can read other jury reviews and get lots of information about the art show business and jury image preparation at Larry’s website.

The Repairman
Friday, October 1, 2010
by Larry Berman

How much do you know about the people who enjoy walking art shows and buying your art?

A few months ago we had a repairman come to fix our dishwasher and I photographed him for my visitors project ( and sent him a print. Then one day we came home and there was a note on the door from the repairman, wanting me to come to his house and photograph his flowers. His passion in life is planting flowers on his property and watching them blossom, sometimes staying up until 1:00AM watering them. He chooses flowers based on color and their growing cycle and plans their relationship to the flowers that surround them.

We talked about art shows and he told me about the piece that got away. About 25 years ago at the Shadyside art show, he saw a mosaic tile piece of a carousel and the horses looked like they were alive. He thought about it while walking the show and when he went back to purchase it, he found out that he was about ten minutes too late, it had just been sold.

For about an hour’s worth of photography, we had our dryer completely rebuilt and it’s like new again. And I made a new friend.

Director Spotlight
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Cindy Lerick and St. Louis Art Fair

The award-winning Saint Louis Art Fair—consistently ranked in the Top Ten of the Art Fair SourceBook’s Top Fine Art Events—is a nationally juried fine art and fine craft show. The Saint Louis Art Fair (SLAF) just held its 18th annual event this September. Billed as “A free three day celebration of the visual and  performing arts” held in the streets of Downtown Clayton, Missouri, website says SLAF attracts over “150,000 art enthusiasts who purchase an estimated $2 million worth of art at the festival.” The Independent Artist recently interviewed Cindy Lerick (above), Executive Director of Cultural Festivals, which produces SLAF.

Q: How long have you been the Show Director for the Saint Louis Art Fair?

A: I have been the executive director for two years. Prior to that, I was the Executive Director of the Uptown Art Fair (also known as the Metris Uptown Art Fair) from 1997 to April of 2007. I also co-directed the Main Street Fort Worth Arts Festival from 2002-2004.

Q: What brought you to work in the arts and arts event production?

A: I had been an event director for sporting events (runs, bike races, rollerblade corporate racing series, skiing) and other events since the early 80s. I was planning to leave the sporting world and events. I took a position as the executive director of a business association, with the idea . . . “No more events.”  A year into the job, like all non-profits, other duties as assigned came in to the picture and it turned out that I became the Art Fair Director.

Q: What is the mission of your organization, Cultural Festivals, and what are the other activities it’s involved in besides the Saint Louis Art Fair?

A: Cultural Festivals mission is to present high-quality cultural arts experience to all in easy-access environments. We produce the art fair and a book festival. We also have a touring public art collection and do author visits in schools.

Q: What makes the Saint Louis Art Fair special or unique?

A: Hmmm . . . I am still trying to figure that out . . .
It was a mystery to me before I was the director and I still don’t know the secret, but do know that I do not want to mess with it!

Q: Why should an artist want to apply for your show?

A: We have great community support and belief in the art fair.

Q: What do you feel are the advantages of art shows run by non-profit organizations staffed by volunteers vs. those produced by for-profit companies?

A: I do not believe there are advantages of one over the other. The passion the management team brings to the job is more of an important than the tax status. A non-profit organization is a business just like a for-profit business. The tax status should not have any affect on the outcome or how well the organization performs.

Q: What is the level of support for the festival in the community where you are located?

A: The Saint Louis Art Fair was started by a former mayor with the idea that this is the community’s event and could help bring Clayton to the forefront in tourism. The founders did their research and created the event they wanted.  Looking at our sponsors, over 90 percent come from the community and have been with us for 17 years. The city of Clayton is extremely invested in the event and it has become a selling point for economic development. In September it is the event to be at in Saint Louis.  As a newbie to the area, I am amazed how many people tell me their art fair stories—regarding a purchase or an interaction with an artist—and how they look forward to September. This past October, I was at a chamber event and an individual stopped me. He wanted to apologize because he had been at the art fair in September, but due to a change in the family finances, he was not able to make a purchase this year. He felt badly and wanted me to know he was hoping to purchase art at the next festival. I have never had that happen to me before!

Q: What marketing strategies do you use to draw the crowd to your show?

A: We use a wide variety of non-traditional vs. traditional media. We try to use social media, PR stories, and traditional ad placement in print, radio, television, and web.

Q: Are there any special ways in which you strive to inform or educate art fair customers?

A: We try to tell stories and educate through our PR efforts. We focus on unique stories that make art interesting to the masses.

Q: What is your proudest accomplishment for the Saint Louis show?

A: Wow. I have only been here for two shows. We had Saint Louis’s first open jury in 2010, which was successful for us in the marketplace of Saint Louis. We also revamped our emerging artists program, which is in the start of being a vibrant entity to our festival (see sidebar).

Q: What is the most challenging aspect of mounting the show?

A: For me it is the jury process. I have been involved in the jury process for the shows I have directed and still believe we can improve the process. I am constantly analyzing our procedures for a better way to jury the show. The jury time for me is the most stressful time, and the most mentally and physically demanding part of the show. Facilitating the process of choosing someone’s path, is something I do not take lightly.

Q: Which elements make your show particularly artist-friendly?

A: The set up, the space, the communication prior, during, and after, the volunteers, and the community.

Q: How do you get feedback from your artist participants?

A: Ask, and hope we are interacting in a way that our clients (artists) feel comfortable to tell us and communicate with us. We do a post-event survey, and we do try to ask questions of a variety of artists throughout the year. It is hard to respond to anonymous e-mail and notes. And, of course, during the heat of the moment is not our best time to change or react.

Artists and Directors Met…and Discussed
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
By Teresa Saborsky, NAIA Board Chair

On May 18 and 19, 2012, the NAIA brought together artists and show directors in Indianapolis, Indiana, for “Solutions: A Working Conference.” Why bring artists and show directors together? This industry has three primary components: shows (and those who put them together, the directors and/or producers), the artists, and the buying public. The purpose of a show is to provide an enjoyable atmosphere for the public who attend and to encourage them to buy original art. We feel that in order to most effectively reach those goals, it is important for shows and artists to work together to examine their concerns from each others’ perspective, continually working to improve the means of marketing original art. With this in mind, the NAIA invited both artists and directors to this years’ conference to look at some of the issues and discuss them. While the group was smaller than desired and representation was limited, it was a start toward opening a dialogue between artists and directors.

If one reads forums or takes part in conversations at art shows, one will hear a number of concerns and complaints about shows these days. We talked with some artists and directors to determine some of the most pressing and prevalent concerns with regard to shows and came up with three topics: The Cost of Doing Art Shows; Booth Image; Buy/Sell, Imports, Reproduction, and Production work. Yes, there are other issues, but, after discussions, we felt that many other topics are also addressed under the headings of these three.

Cost of Doing Shows

Those presenting on the topic of costs in this segment were Terry Adams, President, Cherry Creek Arts Festival, Denver Colorado; Sara Shambarger, Krasl Art Fair and Special Events Director, Krasl Art Center, St. Joseph, Michigan; Carroll Swayze, printmaking artist, Englewood, Florida; and Richard Fizer, glass artist, Englewood, Florida.

There are a lot of questions about booth fees and jury fees and, as questions arise and discussions take place, it becomes evident that many don’t really know the actual costs involved in producing shows. Though the attendance of the conference was low and not all shows in the country were present, there were representatives from shows of varying sizes, so the range of input into the cost of doing shows was considerable.

Expenses vary according to the size of the show and the location, though rising costs for all include labor, insurance, venue fees, permits, and advertising. For example, in a larger city setting, police are required to be present throughout the show, which means paying a number of police to patrol, thus incurring overtime costs. Sometimes these costs rise to $30,000 for a three-day show. Larger shows tend to use sponsorships for revenue, enabling them to keep booth and jury fees at a set level. The challenge for such shows becomes achieving the fine line of balance between the visual arts, sponsorship, and retail sales. For smaller shows, the booth fees make up a larger percentage of revenue. Such shows often don’t have the staff, urban location, or high attendance numbers to attract major sponsors, leaving them to rely on donations from local businesses. This support often comes in the form of in-kind donations.

On the artist side, cost of doing shows include advertising, travel, food, lodging, photography, labor, taxes, and the cost of materials.  Material costs are going up as well as the price of gas and lodging while on the road. Artists cannot get sponsorships to offset costs and must rely strictly on sales and monetary show awards… and raising prices is not always an option in a shaky economy.

In their feedback, many artists expressed that they feel more a part of the smaller shows and now know why—they are more integral to the show’s revenue and feel they matter more. With a larger show, the sponsors are responsible for almost half the revenue, and so have a higher profile at the event. Artists must accept a tradeoff—they may feel sponsors have a higher priority, but the crowds are larger, which increases opportunities for sales. Directors of larger shows have a high regard for artists and are working hard to find the balance between the sponsorship and creating a higher profile for the artists. They realize that without artists, they don’t have an art event.

One of the issues only briefly touched upon and in need of further exploration is refund policies. Some follow-up discussions with directors showed that many had refund policies in place, but they varied widely. As a whole, returns are available, but the amount of the refund differs depending on the time frame in advance of the show. Most directors cited the expenses involved in substituting artists. Not only are there administrative charges related to staff time, but accepted artists appear on web sites as well as some printed materials. Costs are incurred both in time and printing to make those changes. These are only some of the considerations for refund policies. More will be discussed on this issue and reported as they take place.

Booth Images

The facilitators for this topic were Carla Fox, metalsmith and director of Art in the High Desert, Bend, Oregon; and Stephen King, Executive Director Downtown Events Group, Des Moines Arts Festival, Des Moines, Iowa.

Carla Fox has written her own summary article on Booth Images for this issue of the IA. (Please see page 14 for her summary of the discussion that took place and some possible solutions available. Photographer Les Sleznick also presented on the topic at a previous conference, and you can read his follow up remarks on the subject on page 12.)

Another question being put to shows is: “How would you respond to the suggestion of having artists send photographs of their booths from the most recent show prior to application?” One director has said that he would prefer an authentic, recent photograph taken with a cell phone to a stylized booth shot so that he and his jurors can see what is actually in the booth and how it is presented. Again, we’ll keep you posted on responses and other questions that arise from this conversation.

Buy/Sell, Imports, Reproductions

This was a full day of discussion facilitated by Richard Lobenthal, member of NAIA Board of Directors. While some of the discussions were heated and some felt the conversation sometimes fell to “flogging an expired equine”, all had an opportunity to express experiences and concern as the morning segment was devoted to identifying the problems and the extent of them.

The afternoon segment of the session was devoted to solutions and three primary points for effectively addressing the problem were put forth:


The shows prospectus must spell out the rules for buy/sell, imports, reproductions, and production work. Simple statements such “Buy/Sell or Imports will not be tolerated” should be written. Also included should be statements concerning the show’s policy on production work and reproductions.

The importance of such statements in a prospectus are reflected by artist Marji Rawson, jeweler. “If there isn’t a written statement or policy against buy/sell in the prospectus, “said Marji, “I probably won’t apply to the show.”

Both artists and directors must approach the buy/sell issue in a professional manner. This point has four different levels of involvement.

Jury level

A show’s policies should be explained to jurors. Many of the issues in question can be eliminated at the jury level. Using qualified, experienced jurors is a good start. A jury panel may consist of individuals who are knowledgeable in different media and should be allowed to share their expertise with other jurors. The “no discussion” rule should be re-examined by shows to allow the combined experience of jurors to be utilized in selecting artist exhibitors.

Before the show

This is the best time to contact a show director to let them know about possible infractions. Artists should take responsibility to review the artist list posted by the show and tell director if they see a potential problem and provide documentation. The artist must understand that claims must be substantiated so must provide information web links or contact information of another show director who may have dealt with the issue at another show. With the artist providing the director with solid proof of infractions rather than speculation, the director can better check into possible infractions.

During the show

Artists must be aware that a director may not be able to deal directly with the issue during the show. The director has responsibilities on site and may not have the time or capability to research a suspected infraction. Understand that the director often may not be able to act on his/her own. They may need to answer to a board or show committee or to consult with attorneys before taking action. Also, registering a complaint to a director should be a personal conversation between the artist and director, but do not expect the director to be able to act immediately during the show on all complaints.

Artist’s should not circulate petitions among other artists to remove a suspect offender nor go back to their room after a day at the show and report suspected offenders to artists at large on a forum.

After the show

Work with directors after the show to present further facts after the show. When you lodge your complaint, offer to get what information you can and forward it to them after the show when you can both gather facts more completely.

Director should take responsibility to deal with the  issue.

After a complaint is made, it is up to directors to investigate, gather information, and educate themselves by talking with other directors or the NAIA who has often heard of offenders. Most importantly, work with complaining artist and follow up with them. Let the artist know you took their complaint seriously.

Artist and NAIA board member, Carroll Swayze has begun a “guidebook” called FYI which is still being compiled. It contains web sites and definitions that pertain to different media, among other things. The first paragraph of the booklet states:

“This booklet is intended as a guide for show directors and artists to help create a level playing field.  It is an informative guide to aid in the discovery of rule breakers, buy/sell vendors, art festival imposters, production studios posing as individual artists and imported art.  It is not intended to be used as a means to change the “rules” for any show or to suggest that every show have the same rules.”

Carroll sums up the importance of the topic and the importance of working together on the issue: “Everyone realizes that in order to keep the art show venue alive it must be protected from harm…I think a great dialogue was started between show directors and artists and I think that this will continue as both realize the symbiotic relationships that we all have.  We all need each other and I, for one, am going to continue the communication started here.”

Where do we go from here?

We’re talking with those who attended the conference and putting together a summary of the conference to distribute to others. The summary will include some of the suggested actions and proposals that came from the conference. We’re presently looking at different means to most effectively distribute to both artists and shows nationwide.

There haven’t been many face-to-face discussions between the two primaries on a large scale. There are many different kinds of shows just as there are different artists. All have their different parameters within which they have to work. When there have been years of real or imagined barriers between the shows and artists, with limited discussion and real understanding of those different parameters, there is a lot to discuss as well as myths to dispel. We made a start at this conference, but we still have a way to go.

I hope all of you will see the importance of the direction we are going and support NAIA with your membership and contributions to such things as FYI and future conferences.

A Letter from the NAIA Board Chair

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Teresa Saborsky, NAIA Board Chair

I have heard more than once (it’s become a sort of sound bite) that the National Association of Independent Artists is an oxymoron . . . that independent artists aren’t joiners. If that is true, then I have a question. How is it, then, that independent artists join a show for a weekend to sell their art—a show in which artists play by the rules of the show and the show has all the control over the venue in which they are to make sales?

NAIA is an organization whose membership consists of artists, show directors, and supporters of artists. Our goal is to work together “to strengthen, improve and promote the artistic, professional and economic success of artists who exhibit in art shows”  and our members have joined knowing that problems are solved more effectively when voices are joined rather than spoken as individuals.

So now I have another question:  why would you join a group on weekends—one over which you have no control or authority —to sell your work, yet not an organization which has a goal of helping level the playing field to make a safer, more equitable environment in which you can sell your art?

So now we come to efficacy.

What is NAIA doing for the artists?

Well, first, I’m an artist as are two others on our board of directors and some of our staff, as are past board members. It’s in our best interest to identify and address issues, come up with possible solutions to offer fellow artists and shows, then implement them. Is it easy? Of course not. Shows and artists are all different and there’s no “magic wand” to wave and take care of all issues. Also, change takes time. You can look at the articles in this issue of the Independent Artist and see what has been done in the past to make our jobs a little easier and more equitable as well as improve the quality of shows. You can also see by reading articles on our most recent conference how we’re working with an eye on the present and the future.

Do we represent all artists?

No. We have an obligation to our members, however all those who work within the art show industry have benefitted from the work NAIA has done.

Do we have all the answers?

Of course not. One of the reasons we have conferences and have invited both artists and directors to talk together is to present as many perspectives as possible as well as sharing experiences and solutions to different problems. At this point, though the representation of the variety of both shows and artist has been impressive, we’ve only had a few participants when there are many out there.

Is everyone going to agree with what we do or actions we take?

Absolutely not, but the more voices we hear, the more likely we’ll be able to act in ways to reflect the need of the whole.

NAIA is an organization of those in the art show industry—not all, but those who want to do something more than spend time on forums or blogs ranting about the inequities “out there.” We want to implement solutions. Forums and blogs are terrific ways to communicate and learn of the experiences and thoughts of others, but without action, relating experiences and ideas only become impotent complaints.

In invite you to join us to be a part of the solution.

Buy/Sell: Taking Action

Artists:   Be familiar with a show prospectus regarding what kind of work is allowed at a show.

If you suspect buy/sell, check the business card of an artist and look at the business web site.

Give information to the director of the show.

If you are a NAIA member, you may discuss suspicions on our forum. Other artists may know more about the artist in question.

Remember that suspicions are not fact!

Show Directors:

Make certain that your prospectus is clear on what is allowed at your show.

Enforce the rules that are in your prospectus (artists recognize and welcome such action and the word spreads).

If you are a member of NAIA, share your concerns and experiences with others on our forum.  It is a networking device for you to connect and share stories with your fellow directors.

FYI: An Informative Booklet for Show Directors and Artists

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
by Carroll Swayze, printmaker and NAIA Board Member

Carol SwayzeArt shows have changed drastically in the past ten years, as everyone can attest. No longer are we just competing with other artists in our fields, we are finding that our competition is coming from many other sources, world wide. Our very livelihoods are being threatened from within, and while the shows and their directors are trying to cope with the changes, no one has really stepped up with a viable tool to help them.

For those of you who don’t know me, I am a working printmaker and painter. I am also a new board member of the NAIA. I am fifty-five years old and have been doing outdoor art festivals since I was 14. I feel lucky to have been a part of the art show movement in its infancy. It was fresh and exciting, but I am very worried about the health of our world today. With forty-one years of art shows under my belt, my experience is extensive. I felt compelled, this year, to try to give something back to an industry that has supported my family for my entire life. Thus the birth of FYI—an informative booklet for show directors and artists.

A compilation of years of experience, hours of research, and too-many-to-count intense conversations with hundreds of incredible artists so far, it is a work in progress at this point, the first edition of which I hope to make available by the end of 2011.

This booklet is intended as a guide for show directors and artists to help create a level playing field. It is an informative guide to aid in the discovery of rule breakers, buy/sell vendors, art festival imposters, production studios posing as individual artists, and imported art. It is not intended to be used as a means to change the “rules” for any show or to suggest that every show have the same rules.

Art shows began years ago with the mission of bringing original art to the public, one on one. The basic concept of an art festival or fair was an outdoor exhibition where the artist was able to meet and interact with the individuals who purchased the artist’s work then share ideas and thoughts together, thereby making the concept of owning original art something quite special.

There are many different types of venues available to artists. There are fine art festivals where the rules state “original art only” and there are more lenient venues such as craft shows, wholesale markets, bead and jewelry shows, and flea markets where the product does not have to be hand made. Venues exist for every type of artwork and for every type of artist and vendor, whether they are selling original art or a buy/sell imported product. FYI is an aid to distinguish between the two.

The prospectus of an art show is the most important piece of information disseminated by the show to the artist. It is the prospectus that details the “rules” of a show to the applicant. The “rules” of an art festival define the kind of a show it is and give the artists the information they need to decide whether or not to participate in that particular fair or festival.

Artists choose shows based on those items defined and outlined in the prospectus. What should come with the prospectus—and is of particular importance to artists—is a statement by the show that it enforces its rules. The prospectus should also define the means by which those rules are monitored and enforced. If the show has rules, it needs to enforce those rules and ensure that issues that arise because of infractions are addressed and dealt with. All too often, artists responsible for infractions are simply prohibited from returning in future years or, worse yet, the infractions are ignored and not addressed at all.

FYI is going to address many important topics and issues that show directors and artists have to deal with in our new marketplace, such as “Why Buy Original Art?” “What do Artists Expect From a Show?” “What is an ‘Original Print,’ What is a ‘Reproduction,’ and what’s the Difference Between Them?” The FYI will go into the specific problems and possible solutions in each of the categories at an art festival.

Hopefully, by providing information and research, the FYI will give everyone some direction in how to help rid the shows of imposters. If we can supply an aid to identifying those participants who are breaking the rules, then perhaps individual artists who follow the rules won’t have to compete with buy/sell imports and production studios for space to sell their work.

We all know the best time to police a show is during the jury process, but unfortunately there has never been a network of information available to help the jurors and show directors do this. The FYI is going to be a collective source, hopefully linking show directors and artists together to help create an extensive list of imposters, websites, and buy/sell merchandise which can then provide the sources to prove the infractions and suggest possible solutions to the problems in the future.

After the jury process, the next best place to stop the rule breakers is before the show occurs, using research methods to check the accepted artists who will be coming to the show. You’d be surprised to see what kind of information is available to all of us if we have the time and the tools to spend. The FYI will include sources for artists and show directors and their staff to use. The benefit of this is, of course, will be the opening of spaces to legitimate artists on the shows’ wait lists.

The final place to police a show is on location as the show opens. This is probably the most difficult time for the show director or the artists because everyone is so busy. The FYI will suggest many solutions to this problem such as making sure the show has enough manpower to do the job with informed volunteers, educated paid staff or artists educated in their particular media whose job is to walk around the show and point out and provide the proof to extricate the rule breakers.

One of the things I would hope to create with the FYI is an open line of communication between artists and show directors. This has been too long in coming. Artists hold a wealth of information that they would love to share with the show directors if they felt comfortable doing so and if they thought the show directors would do something with it. So often in the past the worry that they would be blackballed for speaking out is forefront in their minds and as a result a lot of information is kept secret. I think we can change this situation and I hope the FYI will be a catalyst in this change that will help us all.

I would love to have help with this project. Any information that you would like to share will be greatly appreciated and will be kept confidential. You can reach me by email or snail mail at my studio at Carroll Swayze, 2373 Donovan Rd. Englewood, Florida, 34223.

The Rising Costs of Credit Card Processing
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
by Michael DiGiovanni, President, 1st National Processing

In the Fall 2010 issue of the Indpendent Artist, Wendy Hill wrote an article on her experiences with smart phones and credit card processing. Michael DiGiovanni requested  that he be allowed to discuss this from the perspective of  the credit card processing company. His response, which  should not be construed as an endorsement from NAIA, appears below.

Security and Regulation

Over the last few years, the credit card processing industry has seen a significant increase in risk, cost and overhead combined with a simultaneous dramatic decrease in profit margin. Several factors have caused this nearly half a billion dollar swing with the end result being increased fees to you the merchant.

Although a giant leap forward, the internet, advanced technologies, increased communication speeds, and information networks have created a security nightmare for the credit card processing industry, which now spends hundreds of millions of dollars annually to protect critical information from hackers. Additionally, new government involvement regulating how much can be charged to cardholders and merchants has significantly affected the industry’s profit margin and, hence, the ability to pay for the additional expenditures. To top that off, the Fed now requires detailed annual 1099 reports on total transaction volume for every single merchant, as well as the withholding of deposits on merchants with invalid Tax ID numbers. (For reference as to the magnitude of this requirement alone, if you were to ask the average accountant to compile this data and to file this annual form for you it would cost in excess of two hundred dollars).

These new government policies have forced all companies to revamp their entire systems, employ third parties to monitor, report, and collect data, and to dramatically increase the workforce to service and support the new requirements—all the while being regulated on how much they can charge to process certain types of debit cards and credit cards. The amount of money the credit card processors are now spending to comply and adhere to all of these new government and security requirements, combined with a regulated profit stream, has forced them to come up with new creative fees they now pass on to the merchant. The bottom line is that the fixed cost of a merchant account has increased significantly, and whether high transaction volume or low, one way or another all merchants are going to pay for having the ability to accept electronic card payments from customers.

New Fees

Maybe you, the merchant, haven’t heard about all of this but I guarantee that you have already been a victim or very soon you absolutely will be. New monthly fees and annual fees are being assessed to merchants industry-wide to cover all of the increased costs and decreased profits.

These fees are sometimes called PCI Compliance, PCI Protection, PCI Non Action, or an IRS 1099 Documentation Fee. If you are not affected by one of those, you will see the addition of a $25 monthly minimum to your account, a dramatic increase to your monthly statement fee, a simple annual fee or, more than likely, all of the above— especially by the companies that claim they don’t have these fees while they are trying to suck you in.

And Buyer Beware, the contracts, not the merchant application, the actual Terms and Conditions and the Program Guide which a merchant rarely sees nor reads but still agrees to in full when they sign and personally guarantee a merchant application, are iron clad and the providers are completely empowered to add or change any fee they see fit. So make sure you know exactly to what you are agreeing before you sign and be sure to get valid references and BBB reviews of the company you are considering.

The bottom line is that every company in the industry has the same cost, overhead, risk, and requirements. There will be monthly or annual fees for you to have a merchant account on file. This is a fact. Nothing is FREE, no matter how much you would like it to be. Yes, if you are merchant, processing a high monthly and annual volume, then certain fees can be waived because the costs are being offset by the profit being made on the account. But if you are a merchant who does minimal processing and you come across a company offering you a higher rate, and no monthly fees whatsoever, boy are you in for a ride. You are about to fall victim to the typical “Bait and Switch.”

In today’s market, the average cost for a credit card processor to maintain your account on line is over $200 per year. This is their fixed overhead for Account On File Fees, IRS reporting, PCI Compliance, etc., that are paid to all of the third parties—meaning the back-end networks, security scanners, settlement banks, card issuers, and the gateway and wireless providers among others. On top of that are up front fees that companies incur for boarding the accounts and activating them.

So, for a low volume merchant, even a per transaction rate of 10 percent would be highly unlikely to cover these fees, because this percentage fee is also split among the front-end and back-end processors, the settlement banks, and the card issuers; thus, the merchant service provider is only earning a small piece of that pie.

You can rest assured that at some point this merchant will see an annual fee—followed up by a monthly fee—assessed across the board to make up for all of the continued loss on the account.

You need to be aware of this if you are currently accepting credit cards or plan to do so in the near future.

The Smart Phone Trap

The new smart phone technologies provide a perfect example of the type of trap of which you need to be aware. Several providers are offering “Free Everything and No Contract”. They claim there are no monthly fees, no set up fees, no equipment costs and no termination fees, just a higher rate and transaction fee. Keep in mind these same companies have invested tens of millions of dollars in the development of the devices, software, and gateways. On top of that they are spending even more on marketing, with ads almost everywhere you look—even going as far as putting huge advertisements in the middle of Times Square in New York City and TV commercials on the most popular channels. They are going to have to pay for all of this somehow, and continuing to board accounts that barely process any transactions, while having a huge annual fixed cost on each account, is simply not going to cover it. At some point they are going to end up changing their price structure and charging the same types of fees as that of the other 95 percent of companies in the industry. And remember, no matter what you may think or what they tell you, the processors are contractually able to do this to you at any time. And they will, in fact, do just that as a quick annual fee to the millions of customers that fell for their trap, followed up by a recurring monthly fee to those clients as well. What a racket!!

While the overall costs increases and the smart phone technologies are new, all of the shady tactics being used by all too may providers are not. Companies in the credit card processing industry have been pulling the wool over the eyes of merchants for years. At 1st National Processing, we have tried our hardest to spread the word and make merchants aware of all the unfair business practices that are blackening the eye of our industry. In fact, on our website, we have an entire “Buyer Beware Guide” detailing all of the things of which you need to be aware. If you are currently process credit cards or are in the market to do so, take ten or twenty minutes and read it. It will be well worth your time.

Since its inception nearly 15 years ago, 1st National’s mission is to establish a long term, mutually beneficial relationship with each and every customer. We strive to build a personal rapport with our merchants, regardless of size, while providing superior service, support, products, and services and to never compromise our policy of Honesty, Integrity and Full Disclosure. This is truly our goal and we are confident that maintaining these standards has enabled us to achieve the success we have reached thus far.

1st National has recently renegotiated our agreements with all of our vendors to deal with the rising costs of credit card processing. We are confident now, more than ever before, that we offer the hands down most competitively priced deal for merchant services in the industry. Combine that with our complete line of Technologically Advanced Products, our Superior Service and Support, and our A+ Rating on the Better Business Bureau, you will not find a better merchant service provider in the industry. We guarantee it!!

You may learn more about 1st National Processing at, They may be contacted at or Toll Free: 877-964-1622. You may also contact Mike directly . ¦

Business Insurance: Dispelling a Longstanding Myth

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Compiled by Daryle Stafford, Artist, Crafters & Tradesman Insurance Program

Almost seventy percent of artists and crafters strongly believe in a longstanding myth. As uncomfortable as the conversation is, and no matter how distasteful it may be, homeowner’s insurance is greatly misunderstood when it applies to artists and crafters.

Let’s attempt to simplify the discussion. In standard homeowner’s policies “Business Pursuits” are specifically EXCLUDED. Courts around the country generally define business pursuits as “continual activities carried out for financial gain.”  In some states this can include almost any activity resulting in some form of revenue or exchange of money, even if the money comes from a tip jar. The pursuits don’t need to be full-time or even your primary source of income, either. “Business Pursuits” can simply be your hobby where you occasionally sell a product for money or trade.

Many artists and crafters also believe that the material goods used in their businesses are covered under their homeowner’s policy, too. Unfortunately, the same exclusions apply.  A potter’s wheel or woodworker’s lathe could be excluded if they were damaged in a home fire or stolen if these items were ever used during a “business pursuit,” even if they are permanently located in your home’s shop or garage.  This exclusion can also extend to inventory, shelving, containers, or even the bubble wrap used in your “business pursuit.”  If you have visitors to your home to conduct business or sell your wares, and someone slips and falls on your premises, the possibility of your homeowner’s coverage excluding the incident is very high.

The Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), vigorously advises that artists and crafters purchase insurance for their various activities.  Too many artist and crafters discover the absence of proper protection at the worst time—after the disaster.  Some insurance companies recognize the need to extend coverage to their clients who have small home-based businesses. This coverage can extend to liability or property, usually with costs that range anywhere from $250 to $1,500 depending on your activities and location.  If you take your business away from the premises, additional extensions and premiums may apply.

Even with the additional premiums, the most widely used endorsement for business pursuits still has limitations.  The business must be owned by the named insured on the homeowner’s policy, and resident family members, and must not exceed certain revenue benchmarks.  Additionally, this extension will not cover anyone engaged in manufacturing, selling, or distribution of food or personal care products.  Basically, the homeowner’s policy is written for homeowners, not necessarily small businesses.

Business Owner’s Policies (BOP’s) provide fantastic coverage, but cost, at a minimum of $500 per year, often exceeding $1,000 due to the broad coverages automatically included.  However, they do not necessarily include “Products Liability,” for artists or crafters engaged in manufacturing.  There are a handful of specialized products geared towards the artist and crafter that are both affordable and offer the basic coverages needed.  For those who manufacture a product, they can extend protection benefits to this exposure as well.  One or two specialized programs even offer their coverages for shorter periods of time if you are only doing a single show, or perhaps a summer season, saving you even more of your hard-earned dollars.

In summary, there is no reason to rely on your homeowner’s policy when it probably doesn’t provide the coverage you need when other programs are available at similar, or less expensive premiums. Do a little homework and cover your assets properly. ¦


Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF+)

Insurance Survey article and full report

Studio protector

A few insurance companies

Artists, Crafters and Tradesmen Insurance Program

RLI insurance

Specialty Insurance for handcrafted Beauty and Cosmetic Products AND Candles and Jewelry is available through associations including:

Handcrafted Soap Makers Guild (HSMG)

Indie Beauty Network (IBN)

What You Should Know: 

The Craft Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), vigorously advises that artists and crafters purchase insurance for their various activities.

Most Homeowners policies DO NOT cover ANY small or large business pursuits. If someone says a policy does cover them, ask to see it in writing.

If you are a promoter or event organizer you should consider requiring participants to have basic liability insurance and be named as an additional insured. Having participants sign a liability waiver WILL NOT guarantee that you will not be named in a lawsuit.

Many craft associations and guilds do not offer insurance options with membership. Stratus Insurance and others specialize in these kinds of association insurance plans, offering special plans and discounts on premiums. Let any associations with which you may be a member know about these special insurance programs.

Often times an annual policy gives you more coverage and is worth the cost if you do more than a handful of shows.

Imagine a Better Art Show World

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
by Cynthia Davis, Photographer, NAIA Staff,

Some shows want slides, some want digital files, but they ALL want something different.  So you remount all of your slides and relabel them (each one differently) for shows A, B and C. You copy and resize all of your digital files in 3 different formats to apply to shows D, E and F. By the time you’re done you are so exhausted and confused you have to take a nap even though you should be in the studio working.  Shows A, D, and E have asked you to supply your Social Security number and you have just gone through the nightmare of having your identity stolen and really don’t want to provide that information, BUT you really want/need to do that show.  Shows B, C and F want you to send in the booth fee now which they will cash (meanwhile making interest on your booth fee) and will send you a refund check if you don’t get in the show. This ties up valuable available funds to, say, pay the mortgage.  You are looking at the website for show B and they have one of your images on it advertising the quality of art they have at the show. But you got rejected from that show last year and they never asked your permission to use your work to advertise their show.  You have to double or even triple apply to shows on the same weekend so you can hedge your chances and have a show to sell your work at that weekend. You are thrilled to get into all the shows that weekend, but they have an “application is a commitment to show” clause and you have to “eat” 2 of the 3 booth fees because there are no cancellation or refund policies.  You get into shows A, E and F and when you arrive there are “artists” in the show who are not the artists but reps selling the work as proxies or buy/sell.  Just a really bad dream????  Unfortunately, not really.  All of these practices were actually very common in the early years of shows. Some brave and concerned artists would try on their own to get shows to change their practices. Other artists were also concerned, but didn’t want to approach shows on their own because they were afraid of being blacklisted. There was a need for “independent” artists to band together because there is power in numbers and an organization can speak for you. We don’t see many of these bad practices any more because of the NAIA.  That’s a big statement, you say.

The NAIA started in 1995 when a group of about 25 artists met informally in Chicago to discuss concerns and interests of the current state of affairs in the art and craft show world.  The concept of the NAIA was born out of that meeting and the organization was officially formed and named in March 1996.  Quite quickly it became apparent that if we were to change these policies that were so detrimental to artists, we needed to have some standards and practices for our industry.  A list of advocacy positions was developed and has become the cornerstone of what the NAIA is about.

What has the NAIA done?  How has the NAIA been able to effect change?

Booth fees due upon acceptance. Many shows used to require that booth fees be paid upon application. Some shows even cashed booth fee checks and used the money for expenses or made interest on your money between the deadline date and the notification date.  If you were rejected, they sent you a refund check in their own sweet time.

Standard for labeling of slides / digital slides.  It seemed that every show wanted the slides labeled differently. Slides needed to be continually remounted and relabeled to conform to show requirements. When digital jurying came on board we heavily advocated that a standard be developed and worked to help develop that standard so that artists wouldn’t have to continually resize their digital files to conform to a show’s requirements. We continue to promote this standard and shows are coming around. The NAIA wasn’t that popular during those years because some artists thought that the NAIA was pushing digital jurying down their throats. Instead the NAIA saw that it was inevitable and we wanted artists to have a say in what was happening.

No Social Security Numbers on application materials. Yes, some shows were actually requiring this information! If you have been or known anyone who has been the victim of identity theft, then you know how important it is that your SSN does not fall into the wrong hands. One show accidently published their artists SSN’s on their website!

Reasonable cancellation and refund policies. Establish a reasonable period of time during which accepted artists may cancel and receive a booth fee refund. Engaging in the application process should be considered only a commitment to jury; not a commitment to show.

Discourage proxies at shows. The art show venue is unique in that the public not only gets the opportunity to buy original art and crafts, but gets to meet the artists who make it. Artists engage with the public about their work and processes thus furthering the perception of value in what we do and create.

Copyright is sacrosanct.  Artists hold copyrights on their images. Shows should be aware that the use of artists’ images beyond any permission specifically granted by the artist is subject to the copyright laws of the United States. Seems like a given right? NOT! Shows often would use images from an artist in their publicity even if the artist did the show several years before and had been rejected for that particular show that the image was advertising!

In the beginning there was more of an “us vs them” attitude meaning “artists vs show directors.”  But due to the positive constructive work of NAIA leaders and through the Director’s Conferences, it has developed into everyone working toward the betterment of the profession. We all realize that artists need shows and shows need artists and we all need to work together to nurture and protect our venue.

These are just a few of the practices that the NAIA can be proud to say they have been effective in changing. If you are fairly new to the art show venue or do not know that much about the NAIA, you may not be aware of all the challenges and changes that happened before. In fact, you may not see the need for an organization like the NAIA but you are now benefiting from them.  Many people worked very hard to make it what it is today and the NAIA continues to work for positive change.

The work is not yet done, the NAIA is not obsolete. The art show industry faces new and different challenges today including a depressed economy, imports, buy/sell.  But the NAIA can’t do it alone. We need your help as a member to continue to work.  Imagine a better art show world!

NAIA Emerging Artist Membership Program

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
NAIA Emerging Artist Membership Program

In 2007 the NAIA conducted a survey, “Trends Among Artists,” that showed that the art festival artist is aging.  Eighty percent of the respondents were 46-62 years old with another 14% over 62!  Last fall, The Art Festival Newsletter conducted a survey titled “Art Festival Artists: Who We Are,” which painted a demographic portrait of the art festival artist. This, too, showed that a majority of art show artists are 50 years old or older. Younger artists do not seem to be choosing art shows as a venue for selling their art.  Instead they seem to be opting for venues such as Etsy, their own web sites, and social media marketing.

Many veteran festival artists are getting older and starting to retire and they are not being replaced at the rate that they are leaving.  If we want to keep our art festival venue alive and vibrant, we need to address this.

More and more shows are seeing the desirability of drawing into the art show venue new and emerging artists.  They are creating programs specifically for that. The NAIA has created a new pilot membership program designed especially for this unique class of artists. We want to help shows in their efforts to bring these new artists into our venue and keep them there by mentoring them during the process in order to help make their experience a success.

The NAIA Membership Committee contacted our member shows who have emerging artist programs asking them to partner with us.  Currently seven shows are particpating.  The NAIA and the shows have agreed to jointly underwrite a one-year membership in the NAIA for each emerging artist participating in their programs.  Each emerging artist will have access to all of the benefits of being a member of the NAIA:

Access to our Member Forum where they can ask questions of veteran artists and get the nitty gritty on selling their work at art festivals

Membership discounts with hotels, credit card processing, photographers, displays and supplies.

Mailed copy of The Independent Artist twice a year

Regular email updates from our board chair

Periodic email updates on timely and important topics

We are also asking our veteran member artists to volunteer to mentor these new artists.  Midway through their membership and at the end of their year, we will be surveying these new artists as to their experience.

The NAIA is committed to work toward maintaining the health and vibrancy of the art show venue. If you are a festival director who has an emerging artist program and would like to partner with us, please contact Cynthia Davis.  If you are a festival director who does not yet have an emerging artist program but are interested in developing one, please let us know.  We can put you in touch with shows that can advise you on how to develop your own program.

Become a Member!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Become a Member!

What is the NAIA about?

“The mission of the NAIA is to strengthen, improve and promote the artistic, professional and economic success of artists who exhibit in art shows. We are committed to integrity, creativity, and the pursuit of excellence as we advocate for the highest ideals and practices within all aspects of the art show environment.”

Who is the NAIA?

The NAIA is YOU! The NAIA is primarily a volunteer-based organization of artists just like yourself. The board directs the efforts through input from the membership while many other volunteers assist in providing the manpower to accomplish those goals.

What does the NAIA Do?

The NAIA provides a forum for artists to communicate with one another and with other people in the arts community with the goal of improving our industry. We help existing shows in their efforts to provide a viable market for selling art and crafts. In addition, we work with communities to establish high quality new shows. The NAIA works toward reducing threats such as imports and buy/sell. Our Artist and Director Conferences provide an opportunity for education and communication for artists and show directors alike.

What are benefits of membership in the NAIA?

The NAIA communicates with the membership via periodic electronic ecommunications and a member newsletter. This newspaper that you are reading, The Independent Artist, is also an NAIA publication and is mailed to all members.

The NAIA Web site ( contains a wealth of information for members. We are currently undergoing a major redesign of the site to make it more user friendly and easier  to find important information. We will continue to have a Member Roster with links to members’ own web sites as well as to  art shows and other industry businesses that support the NAIA through their membership.

Most valued by our members is the password-protected Member Forum where artists hold a dialog about their concerns, ideas, inspiration, and the nitty-gritty of doing shows.

The NAIA Advocacy Action Line is a newly developed service available to NAIA Artist Members. Through the Advocacy Action Line the NAIA assists artists in resolving specific issues or problems related to the NAIA’s official list of advocacy positions that the artist member may be experiencing with an art show.

Does the NAIA offer discounts on business services?

Yes! Over 15 arts-related businesses offer NAIA members at least a 10% discount—and we are working to provide our members with even more. Some of the businesses currently offering discounts include credit card processing companies, photographic services, web design services, hotels and motels, car rental, and canopy companies. Using these benefits will more than offset the cost of your membership.

Why should I become a member of the NAIA?

Because the NAIA needs you NOW! There are important issues such as buy/sell, imports, and a sagging economy that are threatening the art show industry and artists’ ability to make a living at what they love. We have listed many benefits and discounts above, but the most important reason to become a member of the NAIA is to add your personal voice to the collective efforts of the NAIA. Your financial support is integral to the success of these efforts.  If you can volunteer in these efforts, even better! We welcome you to the NAIA!

How do I become a member of the NAIA?

It’s easy! Simply log onto the NAIA web site. You can join online or print out a membership form to mail in. The NAIA Membership Committee looks forward to welcoming you as a member!

Supporting New Talent: The SLAF Emerging Artist Program

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Supporting New Talent: The SLAF Emerging Artist Program

Most artist mentoring programs at art fairs are little more than transient introductions to the life of an art fair artist.  Little is planned in advance; rarely are there scheduled learning events for the student.

The Emerging Artist as Entrepreneur (EAE) Program, begun in 2010 at the venerable Saint Louis Art Fair, however, is the clear exception.

Visualized as a year-long learning program, it began at the fair in 2010 as a four day, total immersion experience with each student under the direct tutelage of a well-heeled art fair artist.  It will end this September with the student returning to the show to exhibit and sell his or her own work.  In between were scheduled lectures covering such subjects as financial planning and legal issues offered by professionals in their respective fields.

With 20 artists participating in 2010, representing a remarkable combined total of 448 years in the art fair business, the program began with a day of classroom lecture involving 15 speakers.  Subject matter on the first and ensuing days included pricing, profit structure, writing press releases, inventory control, booth stability and security, display methods, protection of artwork, preparation for inclement weather, cash and sales security, art fair etiquette, labor costs, and others.

Utilizing a “classroom setup” at the show’s host hotel, the program’s first weekend included an accumulative total of approximately ten hours of classroom lecture and instruction.

A highlight for each student was working one-on-one with one of the show’s judges on Saturday as the judge visited the booths and assessed the artists’ works.  Students were required to enter the booth with the judge and to observe the interactions and conversations between artist and judge.  Those conversations were later discussed after the awards ceremony on Sunday in a session titled, “Were there any surprises?”

Another unique aspect of the program was the Friday morning “Parade of Vans.”  Each participating artist opened his or her van for inspection by the students prior to unloading and setting up for the show.  The importance of astute and safe packing and transport was the focal point, as common practices were noted and defined.

Students were additionally required to assist in both set-up of the booth on opening and subsequent days, as well as securing the booth for the night and teardown on Sunday.  All in all, it was estimated that each student spent well over 42 hours, either on the street or in the classroom, with the program in the four days of its opening weekend, actively engaged in one activity or another.

The program’s host for the opening weekend was Les Slesnick, an art fair veteran of more than 30 years.  Developed under the auspices of Executive Director Cindy Lerick and Board Director David Smith, the EAE Program was designed to hopefully reverse the “aging of our industry,” as it has been often described.

Participating EAE Program ceramicist Robert Briscoe from Minnesota held the record for the longest service to the industry at 39 years, while newcomer Amy Flynn from North Carolina tipped the other end of the scale at just one year.  They and the other 18 artists and guest speakers provided each student with a structured and detailed introduction to the business of art fairs and the life of an art fair artist that some consider to be unparalleled in the industry.

Referring to it as “the proudest achievement of my art fair career,” Slesnick considers the initial program a resounding success.  “I know for a fact that these students’ lives were clearly influenced, a few of them profoundly,” Slesnick said.  “One young student,” Slesnick added, “hesitating to go home after the wrap-up session on Sunday night, frankly admitted he didn’t want to leave — just one clear sign of the program’s success.”

Those art fair directors wishing to develop similar programs may contact Mr. Slesnick at .  There is no charge or fee for this service.

From the Jury Room: Three Reports

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Compiled from articles and interviews

Columbus Arts Festival 2011 Open Jury Review by Larry Berman

The Process

1027 artists applied for 230 spaces. There were a few changes this year to the way Columbus had previously held their jury. Leah Alters, Columbus Arts Festival director changed the location to a hotel in downtown Columbus instead of Upper Arlington. And instead of a one round jury, they are now doing two rounds. Round one was to score yes, no or maybe which were assigned numerical scores of 0, 1 and 2. That eliminated a little over half the applicants. For round two, the artist statement was read and the jurors were instructed to score 1 through 7 and were free to discuss any issues they felt relevant. For round one, the initial slide show preview by medium lasted approximately three seconds followed by the scoring round which lasted approximately eight seconds. Images were seen by the jurors in the order the applications were submitted by medium. Columbus now has an emerging artist category which is limited to local counties around Columbus.

Because the artist statement wasn’t read until round two after half the applicants were already eliminated, it speaks to how important your jury images actually are, especially when you can’t use words to describe them.

Like previous open juries I’ve attended, not more than about a dozen artists attended. This has always been an enigma since Columbus is centrally located and within a few hours drive of thousands of artists living in Ohio and surrounding states. It’s always been the most accessible of all the open juries.

Charging the Jurors

Because there were initial questions about booth images, the jurors were given instructions about what was acceptable, which was read from the show prospectus. No signatures on the artwork or names in the booth. No booth created in Photoshop, which doesn’t mean that booths can’t be fixed or adjustments can’t be made using Photoshop. The jurors need to see the entire booth, not just a portion. If artists don’t have a booth picture, they are required to submit a grouping of their work. Same goes for artists who only have older work in their booth. They are also allowed to submit a grouping of new work. If artists submit applications in more than one medium, they can only display the work in the medium that they were accepted.


I attend open juries and write about issues that can help artists create stronger presentations which will improve their chances of getting into art shows. Tips from Columbus aren’t much different than what I’ve previously written about.

For some reason there were two or three booth pictures where the booth was in the center of the image and the surrounding parts of the picture faded into white and blinded jurors, like edge or border effects on the image.

Jewelry – A white background on 3D work is a killer. A number of jewelers blinded everyone in the room by having their work photographed on white, and you could hear the jurors grumbling about it. And a few jewelers used distracting similar color backgrounds as their work making it difficult to see where the piece ended and the background began, especially in the few seconds the images were on screen. Some images had a blue cast on the background because they hadn’t been color corrected yet. And one jeweler showed close ups of a series of pendants on a models neck and the blue veins in her skin were a distraction. Wearable fiber – Don’t show the models face if at all possible. And if you do, make sure the model looks like she’s in a good mood and make sure the skin color looks good. A number of fiber artists submitted pictures with models with off color skin tones that were distracting in the short time the jurors viewed the images. 3D mixed media – installations or pictures of artwork taken outside in natural settings. Make sure to use really shallow depth of field. Ideally have your photographer shoot wide open with an f1.4 or f2.0 lens from close up so that the background turns into a non distracting blur. Also, if you include the sky in the upper portion of the images, even out of focus, make sure it isn’t white because it will draw the jurors eyes away from the artwork. Shooting tip—the closer you position the camera to the subject, the quicker the background falls out of focus.

Booth Images

During round two, booth issues were discussed. If the individual art images didn’t match what was in the booth, if the booth looked cluttered, or if photographers only showed gallery wrapped canvases in their booth instead of photographs framed under glass. One photographer applied with three different sets of images under three different names but used the same double booth slide and artist statement for all three applications. He was caught when the jurors noticed the same booth picture and questioned it. These were some of the issues that were discussed.

In summary, the jurors had such a short amount of time to view the projected images that having excellent photography of your work with neutral matching backgrounds left the jurors with a positive impression, or at least didn’t give them the wrong reason to give you a lower score.

Artisphere 2011 Open Jury Review by Anonymous

Attending was worthwhile, I really enjoyed it and it was eye opening. But there were only about six artists attending including one who didn’t want to see their own medium projected. Talk about being in denial.

The process

We were told at the beginning how many applications were received in each medium and how many spaces were allocated for each medium the previous year.

I was surprised how fast the images went by, even though everything I’d previously read about projection juries said that. They did a run through by medium before scoring that particular medium. The preliminary slide show seemed to be about two seconds. Then the jurors saw the images for about ten seconds, all five projected simultaneously on separate screens without the artist statement being read. We were told that they juried in the order that the applications were received. Whenever there was a break, they came over and spoke to us (observing artists) answering any of our questions. Artisphere is one of the few shows on ZAPP that has filled out the “jury details” information page in their application so they are open in their process.

The importance of booth images

One booth image was taken in a gallery and it wasn’t just that artist’s work. There were even a bunch of people standing around drinking wine in the picture. And there were people who set up easels in their home and took a picture of it for their booth image.

Some of the jewelry booths looked like Claire’s Boutique with all the stuff in the booth. Claire’s Boutique is a cheap jewelry store chain in malls where every inch is covered with little things. In other jewelry booths I saw too much skirting because the camera angle was too low. I did see one jewelry booth where a ladder was used to get a perspective showing more of the actual jewelry.

The one juror I could see clearly would score the artist and then enlarge the booth image on their monitor and adjust the score accordingly. For my own images, I saw the juror lower my score by a point after examining my booth and for some other artists I saw the juror raise their score by a point. This answers a commonly asked question about the importance of the booth image. In fact, the only image I noticed any of the jurors enlarging on their monitors were the booth images.

A cohesive body of work

Seeing the images projected simultaneously made it easy for me to see if the presentations flowed properly and composition matched from image to image. To see that cohesive body of work made a big difference for me, and it also did for the one juror I was able to see scoring. It’s frustrating for me as an artist because I want to show what else I can do, but it doesn’t translate to the jurors in that short a period of time. I’ve read about that over and over but it didn’t make sense until I could actually see it. I thought my images were somewhat cohesive but when I saw them projected they didn’t go together as well as I would have liked them to. I could see that the artists that did have a cohesive body of work got higher scores from the juror I could see.

Thoughts on My First Jurying Experience: Broad Ripple Art Fair, Indianapolis By Elizabeth Busey

I spent the afternoon in the dark auditorium at the Indianapolis Art Center observing the jurying for the Broad Ripple Art Fair in May. This is my first year applying to shows using the ZAPP system. I had several thoughts as I watched. I should caution readers that I do not know if my musings are in agreement with the jurors, as the results were not announced that day.

Application Process

Artists were requested to submit three images of their work, plus a shot of their booth and a 200 word explanation of their process. The jurors were asked to judge over 800 entries, where only a bit over 200 would be accepted. A schedule of the media categories was e-mailed to applicants, and the categories were considered in alphabetical order. I arrived in time to see the jewelry, leather, painting, photography and printmaking categories.

Such a Short Time

The jurors would see a quick run through of each category, and then each entrant was given about 30 seconds for the consideration of the jurors. During this time, the artist statement was read.

I was struck by how short a time this is. I learned from a former juror that artists are ranked between 1 and 7, with four not being used. There was no discussion between jurors throughout. I wasn’t able to glean any particular criteria they were using, other than their personal assessment of the quality of the artwork, and the appearance of the booth.

Image Quality

I am a printmaker, and was surprised to see that when my images were projected on the screen, the top two images looked washed out, while the bottom image and booth shot looked fine. I chatted with Larry Berman about why this might be. He suggested that part of the problem might have been the angle from which I was viewing the images. The jurors were much closer to the screen, and lower in the auditorium, so my seat in the middle of the auditorium might have been compromised by the angle of the projectors and the light reflected off the screens.

Another possibility was that the two top images had too much contrast. He noted that sometimes you have to adjust the contrast of your digital representations to make your artwork appear more accurate to the judges. I realized that I would have to think carefully about my images, and choose ones that are both strong artistically, but also are the best when reproduced digitally. Thus my “Fibonacci”, the most popular of my fine art prints, may not be part of future entries.

Booth Shots

The range of booth shots was striking. Many jewelry entries looked very professional because of the display cabinets and cases used. I was struck by how distracting a busy print could be on the skirting fabric when viewed from a distance. The best jewelers had large photos at the back of their booth to further display their work.

For 2-D artists, the best booth shots in my opinion were those where simple fabric or carpet panels let the work be the center of attention. Racks of prints made things look cluttered. The best ones were photographed in a way that did not show the outside setting, but focused only on the work. Open wire mesh and wood lattices really detracted from the beauty of the work.

What I was most surprised about, however, was the number of booths that had either their identifying banner, or the artist themselves, or both in the booth shot. The jury facilitator told us that artists who had identifying signs in their booth shot were contacted, and given the opportunity to submit a corrected booth shot. I was shocked at the number of people who ignored this request. These artists will lose two points from their overall score.

Short Statements

For this show, artists were asked to submit 200 words explaining their process. This was read during the 30 seconds their work was considered. For some, their process was unusual, and the statement served to illuminate their work. Others chose to state the obvious, like; “I paint with oils”, or make somewhat political statements like; “I will never make copies of my work” or say something puzzling like; “I have a recognizable unique style.” I am already writing memorable future explanations to accurately describe how I make my prints, but also give the jurors a peak into why I make my art.

Who Will Get Accepted?

The facilitator told the audience that they attempt to represent all media categories, but that if none of the entries in a category are of high quality, that category will not be represented. In my case, the eleven other entries in the printmaking category were impressive, arresting, and tremendously varied. I would highly recommend that artists attend any jurying that is open to the public. It was definitely a learning experience. ¦

Response to the Review from the Director of Artisphere

Hi Larry, I just read through the jury review on your website. I thought it was very fair. We were a bit worried when we realized that the attending artists were able to see the jurors scorecards on their computer screens. We will probably change the set up next year so that attendees cannot see the computer screens but, at least for the artist who wrote the review, it seems to help that they saw exactly what the jurors were doing. The attendees were not present when we went over our expectations in the morning with the jurors – we ask the jurors specifically to judge the work based on the projected images and to use the thumbnail images on their computers as a point of reference only – that is why the artist did not see the jurors blowing up any other images of work.

—Liz Rundorff Smith

An Art Fair Dilemma: An 18-Month Update and Clarification

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
A Commentary and Response by Les Slesnick, photographer

Background and Introduction

Since making the original paper on misrepresentation and its accompanying booth slide recommendations available at the NAIA Directors Conference in Peoria in 2009, and its subsequent publication in The Independent Artist that winter, I can’t think of a subject more in the forefront insofar as issues and debates are concerned than that of the booth slide. As the author of that paper and of the informal study of the relative strength of show prospectuses conducted for the Peoria conference, I clearly have a vested interest in the outcome of these issues.

Whether any of the new show rules came about as a direct result of the paper, or whether they came about as a result of an indirect “trickle-down” effect, it can’t be denied that the paper’s publication played a role. NAIA should be congratulated for having the foresight, eighteen months ago, to print the paper, knowing its implications. The result, I was told, was a record thousand-plus hits on the NAIA forum in the first ten days or so, indicating the paper’s importance in the eyes of its members, the impact it had, and the high level of priority the members placed on the subject.

My Goal and the Benefits I Hoped to Achieve

That was my goal, to bring the issues as I saw them into the mainstream so that reasonable people would get together and formulate reasonable solutions. I concluded the paper with the one recommendation I felt was a good start in resolving what many consider to be separate issues: a strong booth slide component as part of the application process that would (1) ferret out those who would otherwise misrepresent themselves in the application process by helping to eliminate bait and switch (jurying in with one thing and showing up with another); (2) minimize buy/sell as much as possible; and (3) minimize or eliminate the use of inappropriate booth slides (most notably submitting a booth slide suitable only for indoor use as a booth slide for an outdoor venue).

In my view, a strong booth slide rule was, and still is, a win-win situation. For the director, the benefit of a strong booth slide requirement is knowing ahead of time how the show will look in real time. For the artist, the benefit is a level playing field for all at jury.

The Peoria Conference

At the Peoria conference, I presented the results of my informal study of show prospectuses in straightforward fashion, indicting no one, but recognizing those shows in attendance having a more comprehensive prospectus and set of rules. Unless a show director later contacted me, and several did, no further attempt was made on my part to contact anyone. The shows that made changes initiated those changes on their own, presumably because the director and his or her board felt there were issues that needed to be addressed and there were changes that had to be made, or that, simply, the recommendations made sense.

Although a few art fairs have adopted some of the paper’s recommendations, none has adopted everything. Each show that has since implemented changes and/or new rules tailored those changes to meet its own unique, individual needs and priorities. No one’s arm was twisted, nor was there any undue influence or pressure placed on any art fair director to adopt any of the recommendations.

The original paper contained several true-story examples of observations, meant only to point out principles and to serve as rationale in support of my conclusions. To embarrass or humiliate any one person or show was never a consideration, either with the paper or with the study, and until then, the booth slide was never considered a possible remedy for any of our industry’s ills. But because most artists, myself included, had become so accustomed to dressing up the booth slide to keep it as clean as possible, and because that practice had become so ingrained in us as the right way to do it, the concerns created by the paper’s conclusions and subsequent recommendations came as no surprise. It was a different way of thinking.

The paper was the result of several months of writing, of retrospective thinking, and of consulting others. It was not an easy paper to write. Since then, there has been much criticism placed against me for the positions I have taken. The criticism has come from both artist and art fair director alike.

The Response and a Simple, One-Solution Answer

Typical of emails I periodically receive is an email I received last year from an art fair director who was in attendance at the Peoria conference. The director took me to task, implying that I had not done my homework, saying, in so many words, that some of my conclusions were erroneous, particularly as they regarded that director’s show. But I had done my homework, and in my response I was able to set the matter straight, step-by-step and issue-by-issue.

At the other end of the civility scale, however, is the vitriol that has been painted about me under the guise of website forums. Rather than engage in constructive discourse, one writer in particular has disparaged me at every opportunity. To disagree with an opinion, even strongly disagree, is acceptable, provided the rebuttal is respectfully written. But rather than seek bona fide solutions to bona fide problems, the writer continues an argumentative and accusatory style, recently implying that I am profiting handsomely from my efforts, and by doing so questioning my motives and ethics.

On the other hand, a number of art fair artists and art fair directors have embarked on a mission of improvement by engaging others in respectful dialog. These are the artists and directors who now recognize that these issues exist and who are willing to accept the fact that something has got to change if we are to maintain the traditionally high standard of ethics for which this industry has long been known—and if we are going to eliminate or at least minimize the bait and switch guys and the buy/sell guys.

Regarding fees that I may be charging, there are none. Except for two consulting projects early on for which I received an unsolicited honorarium of $300 each after volunteering a total of about 150 hours of my time, most of which was spent on the street working with artists, I have never been paid a penny for my consulting and advisory services. Since those two projects, I have declined payment for such services when it has been offered, 100% of the time.

Prior to my original commentary being published by NAIA, I don’t recall anyone suggesting a simple but reasonable solution to the various challenges our industry faces, whether they are buy/sell issues, bait and switch issues, misrepresentation, or just out-and-out scamming of one sort or another. A strong booth slide rule is a relatively simple, one-solution answer to the multiple issues discussed in the original paper of 2009, and, with just slight modification I would make today, the original booth slide recommendations remain relatively intact.

The Fall-Out, Good or Bad?

Interestingly, I don’t know of any show that has been made worse, or more restrictive, or has been negatively impacted by the implementation of any of my recommendations, or by the implementation of variations of my recommendations. To the contrary, from everything I hear, the number of applications overall is increasing. Belleville’s Art on the Square is reporting terrific, if not record, sales. Houston’s Bayou City shows continue to generate rave reviews from artists since first adopting some of the paper’s original guidelines in late 2009. Whether the paper was a direct or indirect influence, or was any influence at all, Houston’s rules regarding “product mix” and booth appearance were no impediment to Bayou City’s increasingly stellar sales performance and popularity with patron and artist.

Rules and requirements concerning the booth slide may be changing or may be in the process of being modified, but there is nothing that keeps any artist, legitimate or otherwise, from complying with new guidelines. Nothing stays the same forever, nor should it. To do so is to remain stagnant and become stale. As the art fair industry evolves and continues to mature, so must its players.

Compliance Committees Must Exercise Good Judgement

As more art fairs implement policies requiring that the booth’s appearance at the show resemble the booth slide from jury, stories of overzealous compliance committees have begun to emerge. Overall, this was one of the primary thrusts of the 2009 paper: that we remain truthful in the application process. But in a world where we tend to overreact when presented with a pressing issue, it must be kept in mind that we must also be reasonable.

At an early 2011 show in Central Florida, one glass maker who was thought by his peers to be engaging in buy/sell, and whose hands were smooth and unblemished, was allowed to remain in the show while another colleague, whose hands revealed without question they were used to make his product, was forced to remove a small body of work because it did not appear in the booth slide. In this case, the body of work that was removed was in the artist’s lower price range of work, but the work itself was consistent in quality and design with similarly priced work from the same artist that was in the booth slide. The committee was insistent that the body of work in question be removed simply because it did not appear in the booth slide. Did the compliance committee, in this case, exercise proper judgment?

It must be recognized that rarely will the booth’s appearance at the show be an exact replica of the booth slide at jury. As stated in the original paper, “ . . . from show to show and from season to season, booth setup and appearance may change somewhat” and we should expect that. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that time has passed since the booth slide was made, in many instances a year or more, and that the work in the slide may have simply been sold. Other reasons include, but are not limited to, the execution of new work or a “remodel” of the booth to enhance appearance. Indeed, requiring or demanding that the booth be exactly the same as the booth slide is tantamount to demanding that the artist never move beyond his or her current level of inquiry, process, and expertise, and that he never move on to something new.

The professional artist’s psyche insists that he continually ask questions about things he does not yet know, and that he develop skills he does not yet have. It is that drive of searching for something new that propels the artist into territory he has never been before, rather than remaining in a niche of complacency that may be comfortable and profitable, but is nonetheless nothing more than relying on past success. In this process of growth, we must expect changes in the overall appearance of the booth, from the subtle to the not so subtle. First and foremost, the successful artist must also continually seek ways to generate sales.

It was never the intent of the original paper to suggest otherwise. It was the intent to prevent misrepresentation to the extent it had become prevalent, and to clearly prevent out-and-out scamming as much as possible.

Compliance committee persons must be given guidance and education in this regard. They must be given the proper tools to successfully complete their mission and, above all, they must understand that, in all cases, common sense must prevail.

Ugliness and Vitriol

A recent online forum commotion concerns a major mid-west show’s new rule requiring that the applicant’s full range of prices be represented in the slides of the application process. With absolutely no input from me, and with apparently no attempt of investigation or inquiry, my name was nonetheless mentioned as being somehow involved in the rule’s formulation and adoption.

Before I state my response to the new rule, let me say this to the online forum community: It’s unfortunate that pure vitriol and ugliness have been permitted to appear on occasion. A case in point is an essentially profane diatribe last year that unfairly slammed everything about Belleville that should never have been published. Very negative comments were even made against the town itself.

Why? What possible purpose could be served by such negative postings? These online attacks resolve nothing and do not speak well of otherwise well-meaning forum sponsors and individuals. They are nothing less than cyber-bullying and, in the case of the Belleville posting, clearly cyber-ugly.

This has been my response to the new rule regarding the inclusion of the artist’s full range of prices in the application process: It appears to be nothing new, but rather a carry-over from the director’s tenure at a previous show for which she served as executive director. The policies at her previous show were set in place well before the publication of my original paper on misrepresentation and its subsequent recommendations.

Art fairs that are modifying their rules, or that are making them more stringent, seem to have legitimate concerns about legitimate issues, and it should be reassuring to all legitimate artists that these shows are pro-active in protecting their reputations as top tier festivals. Further, directors and their boards have the right to adopt whatever rules they feel are necessary to protect the integrity and reputation of their shows. Similarly, every artist has the right to decide for him or herself whether or not to apply to any given show.

That said, there is nothing that prohibits a concerned artist from writing a polite, well-intentioned letter or email to any art fair director should a situation warrant, presenting the artist’s concerns regarding a new rule or policy, and even proposing alternate solutions for consideration. Discussion is one thing, but simply beating such matters to death on a forum may very well be a fruitless exercise.

In Closing

It remains my firm belief that a strong booth slide rule is in everyone’s best, long-term interest. It serves the artist in that it helps protect the artist’s ability to earn a living and most importantly puts everyone on a level playing field at jury. It serves the art fair director in that it assists the director in maintaining control of the show by protecting its overall appearance and perceived level of quality. A bonus for the director is hopefully less time spent the weekend of the fair addressing complaints and more time being productive.

No art show director is being forced to do anything he or she doesn’t want to do. Art show directors who are making changes are doing so because they feel the changes are necessary. No artist is being forced to apply to a show to which he or she philosophically disagrees, but if the art show world is indeed changing and adapting, the professional artist would do well to consider changing and adapting along with it.

Respectfully submitted,
Les Slesnick
February 22, 2011

This entire document copyright 2011 Les Slesnick. May not be printed, reprinted, or quoted (except for press purposes), in part or in whole, without express permission of the author. All opinions expressed herein are those solely of the author, and in no shape, form, or fashion reflect the opinions of, or constitute an endorsement by, (the name of your organization), or of any other individual, organization, or entity.

An Interview with Jerry Gilman

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
by Larry Berman

Refreshing your art

My big thing, now that I’ve juried about ten shows and after seeing a lot of artists over the years, is the idea of refreshing. The artist needs to refresh their work. The jurors are always refreshed (change each year) and then the director has to be concerned about what they’re doing to make the audience feel refreshed when they attend the festival. The audience doesn’t want to see the same artwork or they will blow it off like they’ve seen it before and stop attending.

I know that it’s hard on the artist, especially those that may deal in multiples that may be very appealing to people and have sold well over the years. But I think that as an artist, you always have to replenish or refresh your part of the bargain, so to speak.

Giving people a Reason to Attend

Giving artists the same prime spaces year after year is like the permanent collections in a museum which is usually the same work. You walk through the door and immediately think to yourself that you’ve been there before. I think that is a hindrance to the art festival and to the artists. The festival is entertainment and people can stay home just as easily and watch things electronically. They don’t have to go anywhere anymore, and sometimes prefer not to because of the economy. You don’t want to give them reasons not to attend.

As a collector, if I’ve bought a piece from an artist and then I came back a year or two later and saw the same piece, I would be offended, even though I know it’s a multiple. It would be weird to see the same thing over and over again, that you really didn’t buy something unique, only a slice of the huge pie of one particular image. It’s a difficult question and something that should be taught about on a national level. How do you refresh yourself, refresh the judges, and refresh the festival.

How do you make the audience come and see something they’ve never seen before? They’re going to see familiar artists but I think that so they don’t see the same thing, there should be a turnover every couple of years that you should have pretty much all new work. For most galleries and museums, or if you apply to a grant from a foundation, the work can’t be more than two years old. So for festivals, the work probably shouldn’t be older than five years. You might have some older work in your booth but you should never be able to get into a show with slides (images) that are ten years old. If you’re not making new work by then, you’re hurting your own reputation as an artist. There should be a natural progression as you keep experimenting and that also keeps you alive as an artist.

Giving People a Reason to Buy—TheStory

I think that there’s some real quality in these festivals and I also believe that artists do like the festivals more than dealing with galleries and museums because you’re talking one on one with the person who likes your work. Even if you don’t make a sale that day, you still implanted something in that persons mind about who you are as an artist. And when you see them again maybe next year, they remember you and might bring back a friend. Sometimes it takes two years to make a sale because the first year they just want to know who you are. I’ve always believed that the best thing you can do for a patron who buys one of your works is that they have a story to tell about you when that piece is on their wall. It’s a wonderful transfer of the stories from the artist to the collector and then to their friends. Then their friends may come to meet you and tell you that so and so has one of your pieces and now they want to buy something. It can be a slow process building a quality sale.

 What I’m Looking for In the Jury Room

I’m looking for something that’s unique to me, something that I’ve never seen before. I don’t give a lot of applause to someone who I know is copying someone out of art history. There isn’t a lot of time when you only have ten seconds, but I look for quality, uniqueness, and for me every time I’ve juried, I try to put a sense of humor into the final show. It could be child like, naive, or folk art. Something that’s going to put a smile on someone’s face, a fun piece to look at. There’s lots of serious artwork out there but I also believe festivals should have something for everybody so when families attend, little kids can get excited when they turn the corner and there’s those little robots or things like that.

On Site Jurying

I look for uniqueness. I’ve seen a lot of the same artists over and over, but when we jury in person (at the festival) I want to see something in their booth that I haven’t seen before. If it’s the same stuff than I won’t consider them for an award. They could be the best artist in the whole festival, but for me, I want to see them replenishing their ideas and work. I want them to show me some of the new stuff that they’ve done. If I’ve seen their work before, I would love to see growth and new work to get me excited. What artists may not understand is that, at the better shows, there are a lot of judges that travel all over the country. When you see enough of the top art festivals, you may see a high percentage of the artists repeatedly, so I want to see something different. I grew up in art so I’m looking for things that really floor me. Most of the awards I’ve given out over the years when I’ve been a judge are not to the most common people you would think of in the festival. They are people who are really pushing the envelope.

Multiples printed on canvas â�¨There was a discussion about photographs printed on canvas. The discussion didn’t sway me. I wasn’t bothered by price points or what it was printed on. I was only interested in whether it was original to me or not. Canvas is a new media. David Hockney built a xerox machine and now he Xeroxes his canvases through it. He’s a major artist and he did this a long time ago. He’ll paint a painting and make twenty images on it because he’ll Xerox it.

Prices in the Jury Room

I don’t care what things cost. That’s up to the artist. If you price your work too high, you’re going to find that out when you get to the festival and people may say “great work, but we can’t afford it.” You’ll learn that lesson. But you shouldn’t be taught that lesson by someone who’s saying that you can’t sell $5,000 pieces. Maybe you could, but you only have to sell one or two of them. I feel that idea of judging a piece of artwork on what it cost is wrong, because there are pieces of artwork on cardboard that are going to disintegrate but people are still buying them for hundreds of thousands of dollars. I don’t believe that as a juror, I should be putting any cost on anything. It’s what’s in front of me. Do I like it? Is it a fine piece of artwork? Do I think it has merit? Value is not my concern.

 There’s a Lot of Great Art out There

There are a lot of artists that deal in the avant-garde in the festivals. For maybe 20% of the artists, if you took them out of the festivals and isolated their work in a museum or major gallery, they would just pop. Sometimes the booths are so crowded you can’t see the good from the trees. ¦

 Jerry Gilmore has juried Cherry Creek twice, St Louis, Milwaukee Lakefront, Columbus, Vail, Telluride and Crested Butte twice. He received his BA in Fiber and Painting from Western Washington University and his MFA in Painting and Drawing from Washington State University. Gilmore has served as the director/curator at Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities in Colorado, and prior to that was the executive director/curator at the Fort Collins Museum of Contemporary Art. He is currently an independent curator, visual artist and writer.

Booth Images: Report from the NAIA Conference

Wednesday, October 12, 2011
By Carla Fox

At the recent NAIA Directors and Artists Conference, in Indianapolis, Indiana, May 26, 2011 , artists and show directors had extensive discussions of booth images in an effort to clarify what a booth image is and how will it be used.  There has been a great deal of confusion in the recent years associated with the booth image, centered around several questions:

What is a “good” booth image?

What do shows want?

How do shows use them?

How are booth images to be juried?

Should an artist “style” their booth image?

Is a great deal of Photoshopping required or discouraged—or what!?

Artists have reported previously acceptable booth images being rejected by some shows as unacceptable now—why? 

Shows are concerned about the lack of quality in some booth images and the increase of heavily Photoshopped images.

The goal of the session was not to come up with a standardized format for booth images for all shows or all artists. Each show has differing needs and each artist has a different type of set up. Rather, the goal was to let each side of the booth hear, understand, and discuss the benefits and problems of obtaining and shooting an acceptable booth image. And to have each show make clear to the artists who apply to their show what is required for the application.

The facilitators (see below) came up with four questions for the group to respond to and asked the show directors to be sure these were clearly addressed in their show’s prospectus, so artists would understand what is needed for a particular show.

What is the purpose of the booth image?

How is the booth image going to be juried?

To what extent will the booth image be used at the show?

What’s in/what’s out regarding styled booths and Photoshopped booth images?

Despite the range of shows, both geographically and in terms of size—with huge festivals, for-profit shows, and small non-profit shows represented at the conference—there was a surprising amount of consensus among the directors about what they wanted in booth images.

Here’s how the directors answered each of the questions:

1. The purpose of the booth image is:

(Top three answers)

To show the body of work

To show the scale of the work

To show how the artist will present their work to the public at the show.

(Other answers)

To show the consistency of the work

To show the professionalism of the presentation

Also, directors stated that the booth image is often helpful to as a tie-breaker if two or more artists are vying for one spot

As a tool for show staff to manage and assess/evaluate the quality of the show, during the show

2. How is the booth image going to be juried?

Will the booth image be scored, during jurying?

All shows present said, ”No.”

Must the booth be indoor or outdoor image?

The consensus was that it should be in line with where it will be at the show, inside or out. If it is an indoor show, an indoor booth image is best; if it is an outdoor show an outdoor booth image is best. However, they did not rule out or reject an indoor booth being used for an outdoor show if that is all the artist has.

On a side note: artists offered that by using an indoor booth image, they felt were often “better looking” and that this would give them an advantage over the outdoor booth images. At least one show director said that the indoor booth image was not an advantage over the outdoor booth image.

What the directors did agree on was that they want the booth image to be “authentic.” They said this in many ways and forms: Keep it real.

More thoughts from the directors as they were questioned by the artists:

Does the booth image need to be shot professionally (i.e., set up in a studio, styled, correctly lit, shot from multiple angles, etc.)? The show directors reiterated “keep it real,” keep it authentic. They did not see a need for shooting a booth image outside of a show setting.

Most hoped to see all three walls.

They realized displays will morph and change between when the booth image is shot and when the artist arrives at the show. What they want to see is a similar set-up and art that is similar in size, scope, style as to what was juried in.

They realized art will be sold, so that what is in the image may not arrive at their show.

The question of browse bins was raised for 2-d. The directors suggested that the image be consistent with the shows rules—or if an image isn’t available, then the artist explain. For example, “While ABC Art Festival does not allow bins, my booth image shows them. For your ABC Art Show I will not be bringing my browse bins.”

This conversation went on to cover “bread and butter” pieces that are often the 3-d media artists’ versions of browse bins. Again, most show directors felt that bread and butter items were acceptable (for all media) if they were not the majority of the items in the booth and if they were in the same style of the accepted juried work. That is what concerned them about the missing third wall. Was it loaded with low-end pieces the artist will bring that was not part of the juried work?

Again, back to keep it real, keep it authentic, do your best to show how the booth will look at their show.

3. To what extent will the booth image be used at the show?

Much of this was covered in the discussions from question number 2. The feeling was that the booth image is a visual “contract” with the show as to what they can expect artists will come with. But the directors did not expect it to be an exact duplicate of the booth image. They know things change from when the booth image is shot and the show finally comes. If major changes are made in one’s booth the show directors asked to be called and told about it.

4. What’s in/what’s out regarding styled booths and Photoshopped booth images?

Back to keep it real, keep it authentic. Show directors said that jurors were not impressed or swayed by heavily stylized booths if they did not look “real.” They said the heavily Photoshopped or poorly photoshopped booths fared poorly with jurors. Photoshopped images were fairly easy to spot by jurors and jurors did not like them.

One director said it best and many heads nodded…”Do not send a booth image that will make the jurors question it.”

While there was a relatively small sampling of artists and show directors at this conference, it was a pleasant surprise to see how much common sense and consensus this diverse group brought to the subject of what makes a good booth image.

It is hoped that, while there will be shows that will have very strict booth image requirements and artists who continue to stylize or heavily Photoshop their booth images, the conversations and understandings reached at the conference will help clarify the booth image “issue” with the vast majority of shows and artists. ¦

The facilitators for this session were Stephen King, Executive Director of the Des Moines Art Festival, in Des Moines, Iowa and Carla Fox, Director of Art in the High Desert in Bend, Oregon as well as a show artist with fabricated metal jewelry.

The Dragon

Monday, July 23, 2012
by Carroll Swayze

I started thinking about writing this article a year ago January when I flew to Detroit for my first NAIA meeting. I was being brought onto the Board of Directors as the newest member and I didn’t really know what to expect. I have been a member of the NAIA on and off since it’s beginning back in 1995. I was at the Festival of the Masters that year when I think Banister Pope, Bo Sterk and Woody, put a call out to all the artists who were there that year to tell us about this new artists organization that had just formed. A tired, overworked, scraggly group of artists sat on the bare concrete seats of that little amphitheater on the lake at Disney Village that day listening to the rumblings of artists organizing for the good of artists. All kinds of ideas were thrown around and lots of discussion ensued. The very essence of being a true artist is kind of the antichrist of organizations but we all sat there anyway, interested in what this respected group of artists had to say and hopeful that maybe finally someone could make our lives a little better on the road. Odd as it may have seemed, I joined that day, and as I said have been a member on and off ever since.

My winter flight went well and in just a few hours I found myself whisked away from sunny south Florida to winter central, the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan. The Detroit airport has been completely revamped since 9/11 and although I had no bags to retrieve I found myself moving along with my flightmates to the baggage claim area. Before I knew it I was outside the airport with not nearly enough warm clothes for the weather and no where to wait for my ride. Try as I might, they would not let me back inside to people watch, so I was forced to wait in the lobby of the only hotel at the airport exit.  It was boring and quiet so it gave me yet more time to torture myself with the thoughts of what I had gotten myself into. My trepidation about the meeting had nothing to do with the new position I was to hold on the Board of Directors, I’ve been on lots of boards in lots of art organizations in my 42 years of doing art shows. It had nothing to do with meeting new people, I was raised in a coffeehouse in the 60’s and socializing with new people was the norm. It had nothing to do with travelling the 1500 or so miles north from my home, I have been travelling since I was a small child, in fact, I carry my passport in my purse just in case a travel opportunity comes along. My trepidation about the meeting had nothing to do with any of those normal concerns. My trepidation had to do with one thing and one thing alone. It was the first time in my life that I was meeting “The Dragon” face to face.

Now I am not new to this lifestyle. I was raised by a writer and a theater director so I started painting when I was 8 years old. I did my first art show when I was 14 and it wasn’t a small local show, it was The Allentown Outdoor Art Festival in Buffalo, New York which is now in it’s 55th year. I have been doing shows ever since. I am 56 years old now so my show experience is extensive. I have participated in most of the art shows in the country at one time or another and I know lots of show directors and chairmen personally but this was the first time I was going to sit at a table facing not one, but three, show directors, alone.

For my entire life the show director has been thought of as “The Dragon”, the most feared and revered person in the art show industry. Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, most artists believe that the show director holds their very livelihoods in their hands. The show director can make or break our financial lives for a year or forever. The show director is the one person who has the power to keep you in a show or not. The show director controls the layout of a show and has the power to give you a good space or a bad space. The show director is the ruling king of their show and if it’s a show you want to be in, they are “the dragon” that must be catered to and avoided at all cost! At least that is the myth.

Artists are a solitary breed until it comes to talking about the show director. For the most part we live our lives alone in our studios creating artwork happily every day but the mere mention of “The Dragon” and we will all band together in private conversation trying to figure them out.

Here are some of the more popular myths:

Any Noise and You’re Out!

Most artists have the fear that if they voice their opinions they’ll find themselves ostracized from the very show they need in order to pay their bills, so for the most part artists try to avoid the show director.

Shoot the Messenger!

There are many things that can go wrong with a show, from bad placement of entertainment to buy/sell booths. Most artists will complain and squawk about it to their artist friends but never to the show director because the myth is that they will get tossed instead of the imposter.

A Bad Space is Better Than No Space at All!

The myth is that if you complain about having a bad space in a show, you will more than likely get an even worse space next year or not get in at all.

The Dreaded Survey!

The comments on the survey usually depend on whether an artist has to write their name on it or not. If you want artists to be honest, don’t ask for their name. If no name is required, artists will generally give you constructive comments, sometimes more than you wish for. Of course they’ll fold their survey in half when it’s picked up and hope to get it in the middle of the pack so they can’t be identified. Perpetuating the survey myth; even if the show is bad, the theory is that it may not be bad next year, so you don’t want to cut off your nose to spite your face. If you have to write your name on the survey, be on the positive side for fear of repercussions next year.

The Fabled Black List!

The myth that has been circling forever is that all shows have black lists of artists the show director has chosen to single out for one reason or another. The myth is that some are on single papers, and some are heavily guarded little black books full of names like a Vegas bookie. They list artists they don’t like, artists who complain, artists who dress funny, artists who frame behind their booth, artists who park in the wrong place, artists who take too long to set up, artists they think are buy/sell, artists they think are production studios, artists who write too much on the show survey, artists who tear down early. I could go on and on all the way down the line to the absolutely absurd, I know, I already said artists who dress funny, I was just testing you. In my 42 years of doing shows I have never actually seen a black list although I have heard of one that someone else saw, but I’ve never seen one. Does that make it real? Maybe, maybe not.

The Bad Weather Syndrome!

If you have never noticed this you must not have been at a bad weather show. If the weather turns ugly and the show director doesn’t close the show, many artists believe they will get blackballed if they pack and leave early.  I’ve seen artists lose artwork and damage their displays many times over the years by not packing early enough in a storm for fear of facing the show director, even though the show director is usually long gone by then. I saw it at Winter Park in March of 2011 when the rainwater came up to artists’ knees in parts of the show after a storm hit. We were packing and I actually had another artist tell me that I was going to be put on the feared “Black List” if I didn’t stay. I might have laughed out loud were it not for the fact that the booth was floating away and I had to catch a box of art as it got caught in a fast moving river down the sidewalk. The same thing happened in Ann Arbor a few years ago when the committee sent volunteers around to tell us a bad storm was coming and that we all should take cover. I zipped my booth down and was heading for a sushi bar across the street when what looked like a giant black and yellow claw came over the top of the building we were facing. It looked like that scene from Ghost Busters when all hell broke loose so I yelled for my neighbor to get out of there. She told me I was crazy for leaving, that she didn’t believe the volunteers and she didn’t want to get blackballed. I couldn’t believe it. I’m from Florida, I know a bad storm when I see it and that was a monster. I sat safe and sound in the window of that sushi bar, with a cold beer and a spicy tuna roll while I watched my neighbor lift off the ground trying to hold her booth down when the wind and driving rain hit. It was idiotic.

By the end of it all, I had had a nice lunch and she was soaking wet and could have been killed by her own booth. And guess what. Neither one of us was blackballed the next year!

Together we will try to understand why they make the decisions they make, why they choose to run their shows the way they do, why they lay the show out a certain way. There are rumors that have become almost myths about what it takes to get blackballed from a certain show, even though no show director that I know has ever admitted to having a black list. Everyone has theories about how to handle each and every show director and although we all know that our slides and images have to make it through the jury process, it’s the show director that gets the majority of attention when it comes to getting in a show. It’s hilarious really, because for the most part artists avoid show directors like the plague and try to be completely invisible lest the “the dragon” turns their way with their fiery wrath.

These are just a few of the more common myths that I know of. Many artists will accept a bad space, a bad show with no crowds, a buy/sell jewelry booth next to them without turning them in, a whole myriad of injustices from a show because they are deathly afraid of rocking the boat. The reality is shows need us and we need the shows. It’s our livelihood, it’s how we pay our bills, and it’s how we send our children to college.

I’ll use myself as an example. There is a show in Florida that was consistently $7-10,000 of my yearly income. 23 years ago I was at that show alone with my three sons, my youngest was a tiny baby. On Sunday morning one of those horrendous Florida spring storms blew up and looked like it was socked in for the day. The wind was howling, the rain was torrential so I decided, as did many other artists, that I needed to pack up and get my work and my children out of harms way. Well guess what. I have never gotten back in that show. Never! It’s been 23 years this spring. Is it because I left or is it because it’s a great show, my competition increased and I simply haven’t made the grade? Who knows!  Let’s look at it from an accountant’s eye though. If I had continued to make what I consistently had made at that show for the past 23 years, even if I use the least amount I had ever made there, I have lost 23 x $7,000. Which comes to a whopping $161,000. Let’s say I do about 20 shows a year and that’s a small number in the reality of this economy. Let’s say my average gross income in any year is roughly $90,000. If I lost half of my shows because of a cross word or a mention of my bad space to the show director, I have the possibility of losing $45,000. If you multiply that by 10 years which is realistically about the number of years I think I could possibly still do shows, I would lose $450,000. Can any of you afford to lose that?

Well, back to my story. I had decided while sitting in that hotel lobby waiting for my ride that I was going to face my show director board mates with optimism and strength no matter what. I am a board member of the NAIA, but I am always an artist first and my responsibility is to the artist members that I represent. I have always been of the opinion that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. I’ve never been one to keep my mouth shut when I thought there was some inequity afoot. I’m an intelligent, glib person and I have more experience than many of the young show directors out there when it comes to our livelihood so I decided to face the dragon head on and be myself. I walked into the meeting room that day and was introduced to Stephen King, Executive Director of the Des Moines Art Festival; Lisa Konikow, Director of Art, Beats & Eats; and Lois Songer, Director of Old Island Days Art Festival in Key West. To my great surprise they were all delightful. They were funny and smart, they were caring and hopeful, they were insightful and above all else they were human, just like us. No scales and sharp talons, no fire coming out of their noses, they were down to earth people trying to do a difficult job in a questionable economy. Their shows represented the two basic art festivals in the country from a small community show like Key West to the huge multi media festivals of Art Beats and Eats and Des Moines. It was interesting to talk to them face to face, I was full of questions about their side of the art show business and they were eager to hear more about the artist side of things. The Des Moines Arts Festival is a large 3 day family event in June every year which features a highly Juried Art Fair with 200 artists from all over the country. The festival draws an average attendance of over 200,000 patrons to downtown Des Moines, Iowa. The Festival donates $50,000/year to the Des Moines Art Center, and they have an award-winning Community Outreach Program that provides opportunities for up to 24 non-profits to showcase their organization for free in exchange for providing an arts-related interactive activity. They underwrite the Emerging Iowa Artist Program that provides opportunities for young artists to have their work juried by the same professional jury and if selected, to exhibit at the show free of charge. They provide underwriting for the Des Moines Art Center to produce and present the Festival’s featured interactive art activity every year and their beverages are sold by community-based non-profit organizations. All of these partners receive a percentage of the proceeds that help ensure continued arts education or community development. While the art fair is the focus, the festival also features live music, interactive art projects, children’s art areas, dance performances and a film festival.

They have a great emerging artist program and also, in my opinion, one of the most clear and concise show prospectuses in the countr y. You may remember Stephen King from the horrific storm event of 2010. When a freak storm hit the show in the middle of the night, knocking down 4 booths and mangling many others, it was Stephen and his staff and volunteers who were on site for most of the night scrambling around picking up artwork and protecting it from any further damage. It was Stephen King who called and ordered rental tents so that the affected artists could stay and sell at the show the next day. It was also Stephen King who started an artist’s relief fund to help the artists recoup some of the losses they incurred as a result of Mother Nature’s wrath that night.

Stephen King is one of the good guys! He cares about his community, he cares about the artists, he cares about original art and he truly cares about his show and it’s reputation. In my opinion, his prospectus is one of the best ever written and he’s serious about his rules and enforcing them, always trying to make his show better. I’ve come to respect and admire him greatly. Art Beats & Eats is a 3 day family friendly art and music festival on Labor Day weekend in Royal Oak, Michigan. The festival offers more than 200 performances on ten stages, a highly ranked Juried Fine Arts Show with 155 artists, the finest local cuisine as well as international, regional and local attractions for the more than 300,000 visitors.

Each year the hard working staff of Art, Beats & Eats raises more than $350,000 for local charities and art advocacy’s. Lisa Konikow, it’s director, is a passionate artist friendly human being that I have come to know and love this past year. She works as hard or harder than anyone to try to make things easy for the artists who participate in her show, because she truly empathizes with the lives of the art show artists. She realizes the parameters of her show, being a huge multi media festival, but she works very hard to make sure the artists have a good, lucrative experience. She studies the artists’ surveys and actually listens to the artists in her show, always looking for ways to make the art festival better.

She too, is one of the good guys.

The Old Island Days Art Festival is a two day juried outdoor fine art festival in beautiful historic Key West, Florida. The show started 47 years ago as a fundraiser to renovate the building which now houses it’s sponsor, The Key West Art Center, where the artwork of over 60 local artists is displayed and sold in it’s gallery. This annual art festival hosts just over 100 artists and is well attended and supported by the community and visitors to the island. The festival supports the many programs and community outreach projects of the Key West Art Center whose main goal is to promote the arts and the artists in their island community.

I have participated in this show for many years and have come to know its Director, Lois Songer well enough to call her a friend. She is a diligent, hard working woman who cares deeply for her artists and her show. Add to her show director skills the fact that she is also an artist and you have a winning combination. She is a talented lampworker, creating glass beads and designing jewelry. Lois is tiny is stature but giant in character and she has worked hard to bring this show from a small community affair to the nationally recognized art festival that it has become.

She also, is one of the good guys.

It’s been a year and four months now since that first meeting and I have to laugh when I think of my anxiety on that plane trip. It was completely unfounded and most of the myths about Show Directors were busted almost immediately. Meeting “The Dragon” face to face was truly one of the best experiences that I have ever had in this business. I learned so much about the other side of art shows that week and I have been learning ever since.

This year has given me the opportunity to connect with show directors across the country. As an artist first, I always advocate for artists’ rights and concerns. I have managed to not only learn about the back side of running a show, but I have been able to express the concerns of the artists when it comes to our needs and experience. I have managed to tell them that free granola bars from a sponsor booth anywhere near artists, is the kiss of death. Ecuadorian flute playing or slow melodic easy listening music can put an entire crowd to sleep and extinguish any buying energy that may have been out there. Everyone needs the port-o-potties but keep them separate from the art because they smell and detract from the booths. The same goes for street performers, chalk artists, dance stages, sponsor giveaway booths, lemonade stands, food booths and face painters. While they are all wonderful in their own right, they draw attention away from the artists and affect their sales at the show. I have been able to talk to many show directors about how important a clear prospectus is to us when choosing which shows we do, and have been able to express my concerns and make suggestions for shows that have a hard time enforcing the rules they do have. And guess what, I have seen some positive change this year.

I learned the best ways and the worst ways to approach a show director if you have a problem. Before the show even happens is the best time. If you look down the accepted artists list before a show and you think the show has buy/sell vendors or production studios in it, find the black and white proof about that imposter and email it to the director ahead of time. If they have the proof, they’ll toss them. They can’t do anything without proof, it’s illegal. You can’t just throw them a name at the show and expect them to have the resources or the time to research it then. Most are too busy putting out fires. Also, if you do have a problem at the show, be calm and cool when you talk to the show director. Trust me, you’ll get a better response if you’re calm, instead of looking like a raving lunatic. They’re already dealing with lunatics, you’ll just get put on that list. Try to remember that they are human too, and in general, they are exhausted and overwhelmed at show time. As Communications Chair for the NAIA I am constantly in contact with show directors and artists all over the country as we all try to make the art show world a better place for everyone. I am always astounded by the honesty and caring that I hear from the show directors that I talk with and I really would like everyone to know that they are approachable and for the most part want to hear from artists.

They are just people, like us, trying to do a difficult job. If they hadn’t taken that job, we wouldn’t be on that street or in that park making money. Many are paid professionals, many are volunteers who change every year, and many are heads of non-profit organizations that come from all walks of life. Some are lone wolves, some have to answer to a board of directors, and some have to answer to sponsors. Each show director is unique for his or her show. For the most part, they are kind, helpful people working hard to do a difficult job of organizing shows for a strong willed independent group of artists. The connecting factor in most cases is that they all have a great passion for art, just as we do. They are not to be feared. They are not “The Dragon”!

The next time you see a show director, try smiling at them.

Buy/Sell: Full Immersion

Monday, July 23, 2012
by Carroll Swayze

 I have been working on a booklet for over a year now about some of the real problems facing art shows in this millennium. There have always been issues but the economic stresses combined with higher prices of everything have caused a strange phenomenon to occur. Back in the day there used to be four basic types of retail opportunities for the arts of any flavor. Original art had galleries and the art festival, production studio art had the wholesale market and buy/sell crafts had the flea market. We were all pretty satisfied with that situation.  We all had opportunity for sales and therefore could support ourselves in our self-employed workplace. Many of the art festival artists developed artwork for the wholesale marketplace that was still original art but never did the buy/sell merchant appear in our world. Well times they are a changin’. Enter the imposter.

My research into the world of buy/sell has taken me many places in the past two years. The Internet is an amazing invention and a fantastic tool as it can take you all around the world in seconds. All you need is the time it takes to do the research. I have found amazing things that never would have come up had we been on the telephone and the snail mail network. I have been able to prove without the shadow of a doubt that many imposters are out there sneaking into our shows, replacing artists who create original art. They are there because it’s a great source of money, why wouldn’t they try to tap into that, especially the cash part of it. They are smart and sneaky, they know how to fill out an application and they know how to take slides and apply through ZAPP. They have learned what to say to the audience of a show so they don’t get discovered and they are getting better about concealing the “Made in China” boxes that they carry their work in. They are there because we let them come. First there were a few here and there and we all blamed the show directors for allowing it, but now it’s becoming an epidemic. I used to maybe see one or two suspicious people at a show once in a while, but lately there have been more and more. I counted 21 at my last show, 7 I could prove, 4 I could almost prove and the rest will take time to prove. But I’m bound and determined to stop this trend or at least make a good attempt to slow it down as much as I can. I have been doing shows since I was 14 and I’m a little protective of my livelihood. I don’t want to share it with the buy/sell vendors. It hurts all of us. It not only hurts our sales but in the long run it hurts the reputation of the show. Art lovers and collectors will stop coming to a festival if they see buy/sell, and heaven forbid if they get conned into buying something they thought was original, only to find that it was made in a factory, they’ll get mad. Everyone loses in this case and it’s important to me to try to weed them out.  I’ve had an interesting year since I took on this project. I have had quite a few altercations at shows when I have confronted someone representing buy/sell product in their booth.

One of my favorites was the man who was selling “hand painted lazer nail files”. It was at a prestigious art festival in the northeast and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what he could have sent in as his Zapp images to get past the jury. His booth consisted of three folding card tables covered with cloth then covered with piles of the same boxes with a lovely “hand painted nail file” on the top. He had a better space than I did, he was on the main street and I was on the side street. When I heard one too many times that his wife painted the little flowers on the nail files I couldn’t help but ask him if his wife was in China? He glared at me angrily but he really couldn’t answer me because he was too busy wrapping those little nail file boxes for the lines of women buying at his booth. And we all have seen the letter photography. You know what I’m talking about, they appeared a few years ago and we all thought they were so clever. Why didn’t we think of taking photographs of images that look like letters of the alphabet?  Then a few years later we all realize that it’s the same exact setup every time just different people in the booth depending on where you are. You’ve seen it. There’s one person in the front of the booth talking to customers and taking orders for words. In the little back factory another person sits at a folding table filling empty mats and frames with words made out of these cute photo letters that they have in cellophane bags categorized by letter, type, style and image in boxes at their feet. Filling custom orders on the spot for the many excited unsuspecting customers who can’t wait to see their baby’s name made out of these clever letters.

I walked into a letter photography booth at yet another reputable show, and while I made small talk with the person manning the booth I memorized one of the letters. I walked away and got on my iphone and found 4 websites with the exact same image so I couldn’t help myself, I walked back to the booth. This time I asked the guy who took the photographs and of course he told me that his partner did. That’s when I said “really” and showed him the images on my phone. It was about that time when he told me to leave the booth. I couldn’t help but stand my ground for a minute, long enough for the guy in the back to come out and the two of them to start yelling at me as the show director approached. Busted!

I don’t think this was one artist at all, but a group of people in a factory in another country (probably China) working together to fill who knows how many booths all over the country. I watched as this “artist” nearly sold out the first day of the show. Another red flag was when they set up on Sunday and they had completely filled the booth again with exact copies of the work they’d had the day before. I can’t do that, most of us can fill a few spaces but I don’t know about all of you, I come to the show with everything I have finished. I don’t have a spare van full of art. What I’ve noticed with a lot of the buy/sell merchants. They usually refill the booth the next day, instead of as they sell the work, mainly because you can’t park a semi anywhere near an art show. Two people do this particular work supposedly but of course there is only one at the show. I decided I would test the girl a bit, so I sent three different artists into her booth to ask her how she did the work. As I expected, each time her description of the process was completely different. She had no idea how it was made! Busted!

I decided that rather than just research buy/sell from my desk at home, I wanted a closer, clearer view of the world of buy/sell so I booked a show that is notoriously full of it. I had a hard time writing that $400. check because I realized it was a giant crap-shoot for making any money. I was actually paying to put myself in the middle of the buy/sell world, full emersion as I put it, and wondered if I would make any sales at all in that situation or would I just look like an idiot. I was worried that some of my art patrons might happen to come to this big “festival” and be shocked and appalled that I was there, but for research’s sake, I bit the bullet, sealed the envelope and put it in the mail. The jury process for this show consisted of four emails back and forth, sending a few photos and an explanation of what I did, then finally being accepted and sending money.

I loved the acceptance letter I received; it was one of the best ever. Besides the normal parking information and other relevant facts, they actually said, “no fighting with the show director.” I could be tossed out of the show if I fought with any of the show organizers. It was awesome.  Am I to assume that fighting is a normal happening at the buy/sell carnivals around the country? I loved the paper; in fact I may keep it and frame it for my wall of shame along with some of my other more notable letters from shows I’ve gotten over the years.  Most of my artist friends laughed out loud when I told them what I was doing. The show was on a good Florida weekend taking me away from a real show that I actually make money at. They all thought I was nuts. I, on the other hand, think it’s good to miss a show now and then because it makes your patrons miss you and look harder for you next time. Besides, the show I was doing was a huge seafood festival in a very cool spot I like to hide out in so how bad could it be?

I made the commitment and I booked myself a room at a small local motel that wasn’t terribly nice the last time I stayed there but happened to be the last room available in the town. That was a good sign, the place was already sold out, surely there would have to be some art patrons there so I started wondering what I was going to see. I was excited. I imagined all kinds of crazy garbage, like you’d see at a flea market, but I assumed that there would be a fair number of artists who had applied by accident assuming it might be a good show because of the number of people who attend. My friends kidded me about coming up with some kind of a gimmicky production art piece to sell but I told them no.  I was going there with my actual work, my hand painted etchings.  Again, they thought I was nuts.  More nuts than that, I had conned my boyfriend who is a glass blower into joining me.  Two artists are better than none.

Finally the day came to pack the truck and take a ride south for this new venture.  I was excited.  I had researched about as much about buy/sell inventory as I could get my hands on and I thought I was prepared.  I was armed with a laptop and a camera and lots of pens and papers to take notes along the way so we drove the 3 hours it took to get to the quaint little town where the show was. We got to the hotel, which to my amazement was beautiful, the whole place had been completely redone and it was as nice or nicer than the Indigo in downtown Fort Myers, (which is one of my favorite hotels).  That was a great surprise. We unloaded our bags and headed to the show site, which was right around the corner. The first thing I saw was something that no artist wants to see at a show, a Ferris wheel. Yes, the show was on the far side of a full-fledged carnival complete with kiddie rides, cotton candy and carnies hawking games at the entrance.  There was a big stage in the center for the bands, then a huge food area after that and then the art show.  Oh my, now I was starting to get nervous.  It’s not that I didn’t need money but my research into buy/sell was getting a bit stagnant and I needed some live models to look at.  I guess in the back of my mind I really was hoping that there would be lots of artists and a few vendors and it would be possible to not only do research but also make a little money while I was at it.  The possibilities of that were getting slimmer the further I got into the show site.  We pulled in and parked so that we could walk to check-in.

I couldn’t believe what I saw. There was everything you could imagine in that show, everything tacky and bought overseas that is.  I was overwhelmed as I walked to my space.  There are about 150 spaces in this festival and we were literally the only two artists in the whole show.  I’m not kidding, it was amazing!  Here is a rundown on what you could buy at this Festival.  There were beach chairs, ball caps with fake hair attached to them, cheap imported clothing, African woodcarving, which changed to light up plastic swords when the sun went down, glow in the dark stars, Bob Marley Bananas, sunglasses, chinese clay flowers, spinny things, bangles, hats, collapsible baskets, sliced stone wind chimes, bandanas, more feather hair clips, hair bands, letter photography, and a lotion booth.  There was a man selling little rough plates that you could grind fresh garlic on, which he did non-stop for three days and nights like he was on a TV infomercial.  There was a man hawking plastic arm bands, which he claimed would give you new strength and balance while his wife sold hideous beach cover-ups as she continuously put makeup on in the mirror of her booth.

There was every kind of imported jewelry you could imagine of every shape and size.  There were glow in the dark Chinese glass jellyfish, a guy selling sea life that he said he had caught and coated with plastic and glued to big shiny boards.  Everything and anything you could possibly imagine was there.  My favorite was the Ecuadorian balsa wood sculpture seller and his face painting wife.  He told everyone that he did the carving and his wife did the painting while she put hideous little creatures on the faces of children and bikers alike from her table at the edge of their booth.  They were no more Ecuadorian that I am a Martian.  I happen to know a lot about this exact buy/sell enterprise because one of my best friends used to import the stuff and sell it at flea markets all over Florida.  I am very familiar with the customs part of getting a container into the US because I have been with her when she picked up the hundreds of boxes of the exact same sculptures that the guy next to me at this show carved and his wife painted.  I couldn’t help but listen to the guy ramble on and on about how his carving skills have gotten much better and how his wife has become such a great painter.  I did watch them as one of the parrots fell off the table and he picked it up right in front of the crowd and glued it back together.  His wife then picked up a couple of colored markers and “painted” out the crack.  I guess that’s a skill.

Finally I could stand it no longer so I made contact.  I started the conversation by asking him how he liked Ecuador.  At first he was hesitant and within a minute he was ranting on and on about his difficult life.  He told me how hard it was getting to find a good price in any of the villages now because the damn Ecuadorians had finally realized that they didn’t need to work for peanuts and could demand higher prices.  His other problems were that customs had gotten tougher, the price of shipping a container was skyrocketing and then he said my favorite line of the whole weekend.  While describing his competition in the USA he exclaimed the ultimate: “And let’s not forget the Chinese. They are taking over everything!”  I watched and wondered about what kind of satisfaction these vendors would get from selling their wares.  As artists, we spend a great deal of time alone in our studios creating artwork that we are ultimately very proud of.  Part of our grand satisfaction when we sell our work comes from the great feeling it gives us when someone likes what we do.  The buy/sell vendor pulls his wares out of a box and puts them on a folding table for the most part.  There is no emotional attachment to the work at all.  It’s only about the money, no strings attached.  I wondered how they felt when they went home after a bad show.

At least we still have our work and our pride in knowing we did a great job, it just wasn’t our crowd.  We spent three days in that environment.  There was an air of frantic insanity.  I don’t know if it was the sounds from the midway or the loud noises from the crowd but it didn’t feel the same as an art show.  It was crazy and busy and ridiculous all at once.  Almost before the show started one of the food booths was robbed at gunpoint of $30,000.  I found that hard to believe, as there were more police at that show than anyplace I’ve ever been in my life.  They had four eyes in the sky, mounted police, regular walking cops and who knows how many undercover officers on the scene.  I got an amazing amount of information about buy sell, enough to write another book.  I learned about how they get into it, about where they buy their product, about almost everything you can imagine.  They too are a family, just as we are.  They all know each other, a lot of them travel together, they all bitch about bad shows and bad spaces, they all talk about their families and their vehicle troubles.  Their biggest problem is the rising cost of the marketplace, but once they’ve phoned in their order or ordered their product online, they get to go hang out at the pool until it arrives.  We spend our weekdays creating real art in our studios so that we have enough to go to a show on the weekend and make our living.

There were a lot of similarities between the two venues except of course, the big one.  We make our work.  They don’t belong in our shows!  The odd thing is after everything was said and done, we both made money there.  I don’t know if it was because of the massive crowds of people, or if it was because we were certainly the anomaly at the show.  I had a better show than Rich, but I saw more of my people than he did.  Apparently my collectors like big crazy festivals as well as art shows.  I probably saw 20-30 people that have bought my work in the past and I sold to a whole new group of art buyers that I have never met.  Only one person asked me what I was doing there, all the rest seemed happy to have found me.  The weekend was successful for three reasons.  I got an enormous amount of information for my buy/sell research project, I had a great time and ate some wonderful seafood and believe it or not, I had a better show than I had in Ann Arbor last year!

A Letter from the NAIA Board Chair

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
New Challenges, New Goals to Go Forward

At our annual retreat, the board concluded, after a lengthy discussion, that the primary focus of 2012 would be to increase membership and work to bridge the gap between art shows and artists. This sounds easy and even a no-brainer, but is far more challenging than many realize. To have an effective plan, one must look at the desires of membership, the goals and mission of the organization, then decide on a plan of action that is achievable with tools available.

To help us toward our goals, we considered a number of sources from which we drew input: our own forum on which many members have posted; other forums such as Art Fair Insiders; a conference held in May, attended by both artists and directors at which issues were discussed openly, and ideas, agreements, and disagreements were shared; and emails from both artists and directors which have been received, shared, and discussed. After consideration of all data, the board endorsed a three part communications plan that will identify and disseminate information about:

1. Effective jurying,

2. The Value of the Prospectus and

3. Defining medium specific processes and techniques.

The communications plan will include:

1. Developing a document.

2. Posting the information on the organization web site.

3. Create webinars to educate membership

We agreed that artists and art show administrators need to know more about their respective fields in order to understand each other’s expectations. Currently there is considerable dialogue among artists and between artists, and dialogue among show administrators with show administrators. What is missing is the critical information across both platforms.

Providing more facts about the jury process, information needed and expected in the Prospectus are critical steps in this communication. Further, we will address the buy/sell and production studio concerns of artists and show administrators though a comprehensive communication of medium processes and techniques, utilizing expertise of working artists to educate and inform show administrators.

The board focused its immediate efforts on item one of the three part plan, Effective Jurying. To date, a survey has been distributed to show administrators, both members and non-members of NAIA to get the greatest input from the industry. After the survey is returned and data gathered, we will begin work on the second phase of our goals, The Value of the Prospectus, which will be sent to both shows and artists.

The third phase of the goals, Media Definitions and processes, is addressed below.

It is our belief that knowledge is power and that when many work together, much can be accomplished. Lately a lot has been said about buy/sell and production work, as well as reproductions. Many “solutions” have been suggested to stop it, but it’s difficult to offer something that would enable all shows of all levels something they can use effectively. We believe that in order for shows to be able to more easily know what they’re seeing it will be helpful to provide them (and other artists) with tools — media specific definitions and descriptions of processes used within that media. By providing such information, directors and jurors can have a reference for jurying as well as on-site compliance, among other uses.

We would like our members, as well as all other artists, to volunteer some of your time to submit definitions of terms relating to your media, definitions and descriptions of processes used, as well as any YouTube videos relating to your media that you might find. We will compile these submissions and make them available on our web site. You may submit your definitions and/or YouTube videos on processes to [email protected]

If you would be interested in helping compile and organize the data received in your media, please contact me at [email protected]

Teresa Saborsky
NAIA Board of Directors, Chair

Through the Eyes of a Small Art Festival Director

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
by Lisanne Robinson

This past year has been interesting. I became a board member of the NAIA, attended many conference call meetings, took part in the NAIA Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana and spoke with countless artists and show directors about the art show business. All of this interaction has resulted in reflection of my 40 years of experience participating in art shows and the current changes that have affected our industry. Indulge me for a moment as I reminisce about one of my first shows, the Johns Hopkins University art show in Baltimore Maryland.

We spread our work out on blankets and A-frames, sat on the ground, and sales were probably about the same as they are now. I smile every time I remember going to the American Craft Council show several years later and talking with the same artists from JHU only this time they were in professional booths with great lighting and some even wearing suits. Imagine. Change has always been a consistent factor within our industry. The question then arises. Is change for the better, does it make things different, or is it hurting the art show venue? Twelve years ago my hometown wanted to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of Sebastian Florida. A birthday event was planned with about 30 artists (whom I had to beg) exhibiting their work. The response from the community was fabulous, so I was asked to become the director of the Sebastian Riverfront Fine Art and Music Festival. Twelve years of baby steps waiting for artists to make money the show has grown into a small, but viable venue for artists. We now host 120 exhibiting artists, a music venue, great food , beer, and 35,0000 attendees. Our budget has grown to $15,000.00 with about $10,000 in-kind sponsorships. We operate as a 501-3-c not for profit organization to promote cultural enhancement in the community, donate $3,000.00 for art supplies in the public school system, and are currently working on an art in public places project. The Sebastian art show is still in its infancy with a very small budget. So why does it work?

I made a decision the first year that I wanted the atmosphere of the show to be like the small shows I started exhibiting in 20-30 years ago. My feeling was that so many art shows have changed over time into events that no longer focus on the artist as its main priority. Change for the better is good as is change that is different. Yet, I watched shows evolve with huge budgets, literally hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to produce an event I have to wonder. I know these large shows have a higher attendance, but is the artist benefitting financially?

Typically, people who carry in lawn chairs to listen to music do not buy art. Sponsor booths that hand out freebies to the public create a distraction. How many times have you worked with a customer in your booth only to have little junior spot the ice cream truck across the aisle, start screaming, and kill the momentum of a sale? There are certainly some large, professional shows that have grown gracefully, but I feel the virtues of the small venue can be used as an educational tool.

As an artist who wears a director’s hat I know what my peers want and need for a successful weekend. Granted, I can’t pull wallets out of pockets, but I can lay the groundwork. Advertising is the most important aspect of the show. I have never met an artist who has an issue with show fee dollars spent on advertising to get the maximum number of potential buyers on site. Ease of set-up and tear down. Most of us are getting older…not a good change when it comes to hauling work. Friday setups are great, parking near the booth even better, and during tear down let the artists do their job. Supervise those with no consideration of others, but don’t micro-manage especially during times of bad weather.

Most artists feel they are very special (and we are) who expect to be showcased at an art show. Only one section of my show is near food and music and those artists know ahead of time and can choose to move elsewhere if they want to. As people walk the street there are no food, sponsor, or port-o-lets next to or directly across from the artists.

Art patrons need to focus on the artwork, they need to engage with the artist without being distracted by solicitors, sponsors, street performers, golf carts, politicians ,or dogs….just dealing with the natural elements, rain, wind, heat, and cold are trying enough.

Fewer exhibitors make for a healthier financial environment for the artist. Let’s face it there are not as many dollars being spent as of late. Smaller venues are not as exhausting for the public, or confusing, and gives the exhibiting artists a better percentage of a sale. I have always limited my categories no matter how many jewelers and photographers apply. Creating energy for a healthier buying environment happens when artists are happy.

Maybe it’s the toys in their “goodie bags,” or the countless hours laying out the show so that friends are together, and “ex’s” are not, but mediums are mixed. Everybody gets space behind their booth, and a couple of feet in between. We are not sardines.

My most important rule is “no whining.”

My reflections of the past are intended to help the newest of shows understand the needs of the artist in order to create new and viable venues. I also hope that the larger shows do not lose sight of artists as the focal point of an art show.

Opening communications and perhaps embracing some of the past can only be a change for the better. New technology is creating marketing and image techniques that are different, but are being embraced by both the artist and directors. The virtues of the small show hold the passion of the artist. For most of us it was where we first made enough money to realize that our talents could become our livelihoods. As artists we have a responsibility to make sure our talents are not being overshadowed by our livelihoods.

The integrity of “the art show” is the responsibility of the artist and the director no matter how big or small the venue. Change has always been inevitable; however through respect for what many artists have spent a lifetime creating, the show venues must also balance their purpose and commitment to the art show history.

How Shows Avert Buy/Sell

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
By Teresa Saborsky, NAIA Board of Directors, Chair

The NAIA corresponds with art show directors about many different issues with many different questions. In the course of correspondence with one director, the discussion turned to one of the answers she gave on a survey we sent out on Effective Jurying (it was an anonymous survey, but she asked us to check some responses so the breech of anonymity was her request). She commented that their show “took care of buy/sell during the jurying process”. She was asked to expand on that comment. Her response was so inclusive and forthcoming that we decided to ask other directors the same thing.

Though the responses were far from the number sent out, we received a terrific sampling from shows across the country, large and small. All were glad to have the opportunity to let all artists and other shows know they are serious about keeping their shows legitimate as showcases for original art and how they do it.

The following are the responses:

Show name withheld by request:

One of the ways we tackle the buy/sell issue is by selecting a group of jurors who each have expertise in specific media. We run our show by artists, for artists, and we seek to have folks on board who can not only help us select the best work, but also identify problems in the area they are most knowledgeable about.

Further, in a process that takes place before the full jury convenes, a person on the fair committee runs though the entries to identify any potential issues. Applicants supply their website information with their application, and this has been helpful in identifying artists who, for example, describe their work as the product of a cottage industry on their website while representing it as their personal handiwork on our application. Google can also be our friend–when one applicant submitted a couple of too-good-to-be-true examples of his work, a simple web search describing the work produced links to a few different suppliers of the kits from which his work was made. Since our application criteria specifically prohibit mass-produced items and those made from commercial kits, we had to disqualify these applicants.

Of course, it’s also important to have jurors who keep up to date on trends in the general art show industry. For example, I first heard about the wooden watch people at the conference in Indianapolis! They haven’t tried to hit our humble little show yet, but if they do, we’ll know better.

To our minds our approach, which is heavily focused on identifying issues before and during the jurying, is better than having to deal with a complaint at a show. The latter could involve a false accusation (with little ability for the accused to defend themselves), or the disruption that accompanies removing an exhibitor from a show. We find the best way to enforce rules at a show is to keep them from being broken in the first place.

We spend much more time per applicant on our process than is the norm, and we have more jurors than the typical show. That makes this hands-on process possible, and keeps it fair. A small, completely blind jury looking at hundreds of sets of slides for just a matter of seconds each couldn’t replicate our process.

In short–keeping buy/sell out of shows requires much more up-front time from jurors and show organizers. But it can pay off: when our organization first started managing this show, there were many more buy/sell and otherwise iffy applicants. We see much fewer of them now, as word appears to have gotten out in our smallish community that we’re serious about keeping it out.

LaQuinta Arts Festival, La Quinta, CA:

What has worked exceptionally well for La Quinta Arts Festival is that we select 3 peer artists who are consistent high sellers, command respect from their peers and are award winners in one specific media – for example let’s say Fiber/Textile and then also select 2 professional jury members – in this category it could be: the Director of Fashion Week Palm Springs, or an up and coming designer such as Michael Costello from Project Runway who happens to live in the Coachella Valley, an Instructor from Fashion Institute of Design Los Angeles, or a Fashion Editor from an upscale publication to jury this one category. All jury members judge independently from their homes or studios using their lap tops and the images from Zapplication. They have three days to review the one category and then turn their scores into LQAF. These 5 jury members per media have improved the overall quality of art that is exhibited at La Quinta as well as being able to identify work that is buy/sell. If there is any question about rumors of buy/sell, we immediately to the applicant’s website to determine how many shows do they participate in over a year; is it possible for one individual to create this much product? We also speak to our Artist Advisors about the individual. If any of the jury members are uneasy about an applicant or we are not comfortable with the feedback that we receive, we do not invite the artist to participate in our show.

The negative for many shows may be is that you are working with 55 jury members and need to have a dedicated phone line with a staff member proficient with ZAPP available to answer any questions 24/7 for the three days of the jury process. Also to ensure that the show is fresh, you are consistently seeking new jury members each year as well who will bring credibility to your show. This is a lot of work but we have been pleased with the results. But we realize that many shows are just interested in booth fees and having a high number of artists in their shows so this system would not appeal to them.

Show name withheld:

We do take care of this during the jury process. Our jurying includes web searches of new applicants – both to see if we’re missing something in their presentation of their work (this search is often to the benefit of the artist, especially the younger ones who can’t afford expensive photography), and to make sure they are who they say they are, which certainly means no buy-sell. Should something slip through somehow, we are on the floor of the show all the time. If we don’t catch it ourselves visually, you can be sure that one of our exhibitors will report it to us. This method also works for artists who aren’t buy-sell, but misrepresent their work in other ways.

Question: So do the jurors do the searches or do you or your staff when they come in?

Answer: Our jury process is more of a curating process. We bring in jurors separately as we need their expertise in a particular media(s). So if a question comes up while a juror is present, we do a search. If it comes up while we are curating, we search then. Occasionally when an application comes in, one of our staff will flag it while processing as an artist who seems questionable or inappropriate, and we return their application and jury fee if that’s the case.

To be honest, as directors of very high quality indoor shows we rarely get buy-sell applications. In fact, the vast majority of applicants submit highly professional work of excellent quality.

East Lansing Art Festival, East Lansing, MI:

In our rules of participation and in our application we very directly state that we do not allow buy/sell, manufactured items or factory operations in our show. This is my 5th year as festival director and I have seen a decline in the attempt of buy/sell folks to even bother applying. One reason I think that is may be the high cost of our application fee $40 – However, we have identified that this is a hardship for true artists as well and we plan to cut that cost substantially for our 2013 show. I also believe the decline in buy/sell apps at ELAF is word of mouth that we’re tough on this issue and not easy to trick. [Soft Break][Soft Break]We conduct our jury process over the course of three days with 8-10 different jurors each day. We group each session of our jury by category, 3D the first night, 2D the second and finally Mixed Media the third. The jurors in each session have a background or expertise in the category of works they are scoring. We instruct our jurors to flag any application that seems to have questionable items so they are our first line of defense. Often times if the work submitted does not match that which is displayed in the booth – this is a red flag to jurors. Or buy/sell items are spotted in the booth shot.

After the jury scores all the applications the ELAF Artist Review committee made up of festival board members reviews the scores and the flagged applications. Any applicant that is deemed to potentially be buy/sell or manufactured is disqualified immediately. If an application is in question the artist review committee will review the artist’s website – if they have one. We will also do research online to see if any information comes up that indicates buy/sell or factory operations.  If anything looks remotely questionable the artist is not invited to attend. Even with all that due diligence we can sometimes still get tricked. If this happens most likely other artists will bring it to our attention at the show. We will question the accused artist and inspect their work on display. The board of directors reserves the right to ask an artist to remove offending items or to ask the artist to pack up and leave the festival. Thankfully I have never had to do that, and knock on wood I hope I never have to. But I am prepared to do so if need be. We try very hard to do our policing up front to avoid ever having to remove an artist from the show once the event is going on. We have had some artists rat out other artists during the event and after much investigation we could not prove that the artist was breaking any of our rules – so in those cases we did not ask the artist to leave. That has only happened to me two times over the course of 5 years – thank goodness! Since we err so much on the side of caution some artists may not have the opportunity to exhibit at our show – not because they aren’t creating original work, but because the way they market themselves may indicate a problem… for instance if I go to an artist’s website and it mentions that I can order unlimited copies of their work or states that they have representatives selling the work – that would be a red flag that the artist does not fit our rules of participation and they would probably be be flagged by the artist review committee as “do not invite”. So unfortunately the tough rules to keep buy/sell and factory work out can hurt artists who aren’t buy/sell or factory if they aren’t careful about how they market themselves – but it is such a pervasive problem that we have to tow a hard line.

Broad Ripple Art Fair, Indianapolis, IN:

We try very hard to eliminate buy/sell and production house work. We rely on our own research, word-of-mouth, and having at least one inspector check out the booths during the actual fair looking specifically for it. It begins in the prospectus (published on ZAPP).

Note that we have found an effective way to eliminate production is by checking the ID of artists and requiring all artists involved in the production present throughout the fair.

From the CFE: Entry Rules for Artist Booths

The Broad Ripple Art Fair is open to all fine art and fine craft artists. Work may be in any fine art or fine craft medium, but must be original and made by the exhibiting artist or artist team.

All artists MUST be present at check-in and in booths on both days of the Art Fair. Identification will be verified upon check-in and periodically throughout the fair.

Only one artist’s work per booth, please—we do not allow booth sharing. Work by collaborative teams must be the production of both team members sharing both design and fabrication tasks on each piece.  Each member of an artist team must be present for the fair.

Artists at the Fair must have an Indiana retail certificate and are responsible for collecting and filing Indiana sales tax. Visit to fill out the application. Artists MUST list their own address for tax purposes. Listing the Art Center’s address in your tax application will result in disqualification from the fair and future fairs.

Please note the following explanations and restrictions that will enable equitable jurying and consistent presentation during the Art Fair:

The following may not be sold under any circumstance: artwork not made by hand by the applicant artist(s) artwork made in a production studio or small business (defined by the organizers of the Art Fair as an operation comprised of multiple individuals other than the applicant artist(s) who are paid to design, fabricate, assemble and/or finish the artwork in question) We reserve the right to disqualify applicants that are deemed production houses. If you have any questions as to whether or not you qualify as a production house contact Kyle Herrington, Artist Committee Chair, at (317) 255-2464 x233 before you apply. artwork deemed to be made in production houses will result in the artist being asked to verify their practices. This includes but is not limited to requiring photos of the studio with the artist working on pieces that are representative of the work provided buy-and-sell items or imported artworks. Artists found removing labels identifying countries of origin will not only be ejected from the fair but will also be reported to the Customs and Border Protection as this action is a Federal Crime violating the Tariff Act of 1930. Kits designed to produce an object or artwork assembled from commercially distributed kits or patterns artworks constructed (in significant part or wholly) from commercially-distributed parts or molds images or designs for which the artist does not own the copyright or has not obtained permission from the copyright owner artwork that will be sold at the Art Fair by anyone other than the applicant artist(s) or gallery baskets; tie-dyed items; candles, soap, perfume or other personal care items; dried or live flower arrangements; bonsai; stuffed animals photocopied or laser-printed notecards or open-edition prints CDs/tapes of music performed by anyone other than the applicant artist selling handmade musical instruments at the Fair (Note: artists performing on our stages during the Fair are permitted to sell their music recordings adjacent to the stage.)

The Indianapolis Art Center reserves the right to question any applicant about his/her manufacturing or assembly process prior to jurying or during the Fair, and to deny the application of any artist or gallery whose work falls into any of the categories stipulated above or who otherwise does not comply with the standards and ethics of the Broad Ripple Art Fair. Since this doesn’t reach everyone who applies (i.e. the applying artist doesn’t read it) we monitor the applications very closely. We have a three month window to apply and check each one as they come in. This involves looking at websites if available or if suspicion arises from the work itself calling the artist. The hardest part is the last couple of days when hundreds of artists apply. We still try our best to keep up on it often making phone calls on the final weekend to apply.

I should qualify that in addition to buy/sell we are also trying to keep out artists who employ production employees. I don’t have anything against small business but we are really trying to support one and two person teams not an idea person with a team of makers. So some of what I am speaking to alludes to that. Anyone found to be outside of the rules before the jury or fair is declined.

After the application process and during the fair we have, as earlier mentioned, a buy/sell inspector. This individual is an arts professional that we contract to visit each booth and if suspicious talk to the artist about their work. They are quite effective in sniffing out artists making their own work but padding their sales with barely modified “similar” mass produced items.  I have found that the buy/sell inspector has been quite effective in cutting this out and most artists are very excited we have one. If the buy/sell inspector finds someone completely outside our rules or there is a question they radio me and the artist committee chair to gather at the booth and discuss. Again, the overall response from the artists has been overwhelmingly positive.

If we find work that isn’t allowed we ask the artist to remove it and check back on them periodically to make sure it stays out. If the artist isn’t present we give whoever is there a warning that we will shut down the booth if the artist doesn’t show up in a reasonable amount of time. If the work is all outside the rules we shut it down. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen very often, but when it does we try to do so discreetly as to not make a scene. The artist is allowed to load-out Saturday night (we have a two day fair Sat/Sun).

The last way we find this out is through word-of-mouth. If someone (or often multiple artists) complains we investigate the artist. This involves having a phone call in which I invite the artist to explain their method and if they have any employees. One of my favorite conversations was with an artist who was masquerading as a solo artist but when I talked to them they admitted to having a “couple” of employees. I asked what they did and the first response was well I don’t have many but there is “John” who does the payroll and… Again, this speaks maybe more to production line than buy/sell but they all blend together. If the phone call doesn’t lead to an admission or the subject is cleared up than so-be-it. I don’t have the resources to fly coast to coast personally visiting studios so I have to take their word. But most of the time artists outside our rules come clean and understand what we are trying to do.

I think the most important thing is that we are getting a reputation to be looking for both buy/sell and production house work. And because we enforce our rules we are attracting better, more original artists.

Question: I do have a question about #4. How do you know if anyone is in violation? You said you do your own research, but how do you know who to check? Is there anything that you look for when applications come in?

Answer: The majority of the work we really don’t know so we have to assume it is legit. But with having it clearly stated in our rules it allows to disqualify it if we are advised or discover they are outside the boundaries. To me this is most important. There is simply no way we could know everything about all the applicants.

That being said we look at websites to see how many shows the artist is doing and see if they tell a bit about their work situation, pricing, etc. We also google the artists to see what pops up. For example, a ceramicist that has a “unique” line and when googled we discover a full blown production studio of address tiles, etc. Other times we are tipped by other artists and if the suspect artist applies we begin a dialog. If something is suspicious we call or email. Again, we have to take their word if they deny it because we don’t have the means to do drop-in studio visits.

If we really feel that someone isn’t being honest sometimes we get a bit underhanded. We have done things like call and ask questions like: “Hi, are you hiring bench jewelers?” Or, “what’s the largest order I can place and have in two weeks?” This is used as a last resort if we truly feel the artist has been lying. But most of the time they come clean with a simple discussion and get what we are trying to do.

Ann Arbor Street Art Fair – The Original, Ann Arbor, MI: [The Ann Arbor Street Art Fair is the original of the four fairs that make up the combined Ann Arbor Art Fair. All four fairs are produced and juried independently]

At the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair (AASAF), we do all we can to prevent buy/sell at both the jury level and the exhibit level. As you may or may not be aware, the AASAF has a unique jury system in that we use four different media panels to jury the images. For example, metal and jewelry are juried by the same panel 4-5 jurors with expertise in those specific mediums score this work….it is not judged by painters or potters or fiber artists. We think this gives us a better than average chance of spotting buy/sell. Also, we use a 3-round system with the final round being a discussion round, where things like buy/sell suspicions can be talked about amongst the jurors and work scored accordingly. We have actually gone so far as to look up an artist’s website during the jury session to see if we could find out more information about their process.

Of course, this does not prevent artists showing up with product on-site that does not match what was juried (buy/sell or other scenario.) Our Jury Advisory Board walks the show on the first day, using the printed out images from the winter jury sessions, to ensure that what is on-site matches what was juried or complies with our standards as outlined in the prospectus. Each year there are at least a couple artists that we speak to. We do not expect the same pieces that were submitted as images to be in the booth, but the work has to be consistent with what was juried. We will ask that work that is not consistent with those images be removed.

Colorscape Chenango, Norwich, NY:

Obviously, the best solution is not to let buy/sell into the show in the first place. This is one reason why Colorscape makes use of peer jurors who are familiar with the region’s major festivals and their exhibitors. Many of these buy/sell people do the same shows as my jurors, and their reputations precede them into the jury room. They are rejected out of hand. This also works for production work.

A rather funny story involves a production artist who was in Colorscape during our first two years, until I learned the truth about his gorgeous laser-cut marquetry from a juror. I made sure that he was rejected [several years ago], and I heard nothing more from him until last year. When I got his application I recognized him, of course. So I checked out his address on Google Earth, and found myself looking down at the roof of a huge one-story factory. I brought a print-out to show the jury, but they were already familiar with him and it wasn’t needed. I’m told he (or others from the company) do some very large juried shows in the northeast, and I take some pride in the fact that he does NOT sell at Colorscape.

If there is a suspicion of buy/sell but no certainty, the jury monitors make a point to check out the booth as it is being set up, before the show opens. If there is a suspicion of buy/sell but no certainty, the jury monitors make a point to check out the booth as it is being set up, before the show opens. They report to me and if we are certain that we can prove buy/sell, out they go. Several years ago, I had a man with dozens of beautiful brightly-colored hand-knit sweaters in his booth, and every one of them had a tag saying “Made in Guatemala.” This was an easy one.

The worst-case scenario is that we can’t prove anything and are forced to leave them in the show for the weekend. But I keep track of these folks in my database and they will never be allowed into the show again. Sometimes that’s the best I can do. My jury monitors and judges are all asked to keep an eye open for buy/sell or production work, among other things. A space is included on their comment sheets for them to make a report and they are asked to let me know personally. I’m sure the bigger shows have more sophisticated methods, but we do the best we can. Hope this helps.

Question: Do your jurors view images in their own homes at their computers?

Answer: The answer to that is no… and yes. The initial viewing is as a group with projected images. But late entries are e-mailed to them at home. There won’t be much of that this year though, since the show is nearly full already.

Live Oak Park Fair, Berkeley, California:

Appreciation for the effort going into clarifying this issue. I will include the questions I ask on the applications to my 2 shows. This will tell you how I handle the buy/sell question.

If I see flagrant abuse of the rules, I ask the exhibitor to remove the items. Since I have a very good eye for these things, they are usually weeded out prior to the event.

Criterion for Exhibiting:

Craftspeople and artists participating in the Fair must not only be the designers of the work displayed, but must also be involved in the production of the work.

All of the work must have been produced in the United States. All participants must exhibit only handmade work, maintaining the high standard of this event. The creator of the work must be present at the Fair (no sales reps). Unacceptable for sale are audio or video tapes, imports, bonsai, embellished objects, and work produced from kits or commercial molds (work from original molds is acceptable).

We encourage all traditional printmaking techniques, produced in numbered and signed editions, to be shown in the Fair. These include photography, etching, engraving, lithography, monoprinting, serigraphy, and wood-and linoleum-block printing.

Unaltered commercial reproductions, including offset lithographs, digital prints (except for photography), books, posters, notecards and postcards may be presented in bins or other supplemental display props, but they must not comprise more than 10% of your total display.

Questions on the application:

What materials & methods do you use in your work?

What extent of involvement do you have in your work? (i.e. Do you make the clothes as well as decorate the fabric? Are you having the jewelry cast for you after you create the original?)

Which components of your work are you purchasing?

Question: Do you “weed” out in the jur ying process or a “pre-jury’ view of your applications:

Answer: I do not weed them out prior to the jury because each applicant has paid $15 to jury. I consider it an obligation to show their presentation because they paid to have it presented.

Question: If during the jurying process, do you leave it to the jurors or do you contribute to that process as well?

Answer: I do contribute in an organized fashion, for instance: I have a category called Fiber Wearables and another called Graphics on Purchased Wearables. This clarifies the work which is designed and made and often decorated (Fiber Wearables) and which work is decorating the clothes (Graphics on Purchased Wearables).

I also contribute to the process by asking provocative questions. It’s still up to the jury to discern if something is buy-sell. Sometimes it’s obvious, but more than likely it’s a component of the products in the presentation. With savvy jurors the weeding out process often happens almost through consensus, even though they are not allowed to voice opinions!

The Jewelry categories are especially tricky I have 4:

a) Metal Jewelry, including setting stones,

b) Non-Metal Jewelry,

c) Mixed Metal and Non-Metal Jewelry, where they must be manipulating 2 media, such as glass and metal, or metal and lapidary, and

d) Composed Jewelry, which is mostly strung beads and also includes beading and wirework.

I parse the jewelry categories very carefully. It helps the jurors sort out what they are seeing, and forestalls confusion. Over all, the jewelry made of fabricated metals including setting stones score the highest of all.

Rose Squared Productions, Inc.

We are in the unique situation that our jury process allows us the time to directly address the buy/sell issues. Other than jewelry, which has a set deadline for jurying, our shows have a rolling jury where categories close as they fill. With a traditional juried show, there is a director and a panel of jurors with a set jury date, sometimes with jurors completing the process, from a distance, on line. With our shows, we are the jury so we can take our time to do the needed homework before making any decision to even consider the application viable.

First, we require the price range on our application. If an exhibitor sends four images in the highest range only, we request additional images of the lower end work, unless you are talking about an artist with prints and cards, which usually comprise the lower range work. It is important, especially for jewelry, to see images of the full line of work to keep out lower end buy/sell.

We also take the time to check websites to learn more about the exhibitor and the shows they do. It is amazing how often and how easily one can discern if the work is artist created or manufactured and/or created by a cottage industry. An excessive number of shows can be one hint. Prices on the website is obviously another.

We can also take the time to closely examine the booth image. It is important to see the balance of work in the booth and to discern if there is work in a category that either they didn’t apply to or is not acceptable for the show. This is especially important with jewelry applicants. We do not allow strung beaded jewelry, which is clearly stated on our application, yet many applicants will have a booth with 70% beaded jewelry and apply with high end, one of a kind hand made pieces.  Doing a google search by artist name and by company name is also important. No, it is not always definitive but it can be helpful in getting the full picture.

Listening to input from other exhibitors (yes, a controversial issue these days) can also be useful. No knee jerk immediate reactions but careful research and requesting a studio visit can be very, very useful before allowing them into a future show. Our studio visits have been very interesting. The refusal to allow one is usually a clue to the work not being made by the exhibitor.

There are promoters who require studio shots and even bills of sale for the materials used but neither of these are definitive. Many years ago, we questioned an exhibitor about whether their clothing was hand made by them or imported. They produced bills and images of bolts of fabric etc. but we were eventually able to confirm that the work was indeed imported when we requested a studio visit and they backed off from their hand made claim.

A few years ago, we were told the story of a Carolina company that sells hand carved bowls to exhibitors to resell as theirs at shows. They will even provide the exhibitor with a partially carved bowl and wood chips so they can sit in their booth and pretend to be carving a bowl. These days, there are stories floating around about artists who have their work painted in China (yes, painted not printed). From a promoter’s point of view, these stories are quite dispiriting.

Visiting shows for us has been incredibly successful, both in finding great talent and in weeding out the buy/sell. One example is seeing the booth at a show of an exhibitor whose application was waiting to be considered. The work and booth looked nothing like the images submitted. This was likely not buy/sell but just awful quality work.

We all make mistakes in the jurying process, but facing them head on and immediately removing them is of the utmost importance. The more buy/sell tolerated by a show, the more the word gets around and fewer quality exhibitors apply, leading to more buy/sell accepted to fill space, etc., etc. These days, everyone has seen the decline, and sometimes the demise of a show for this reason.

Sometimes, the chutzpah (gall) of some of the exhibitors is mind-boggling. We had what we thought from the juried images, a high end wearable fiber exhibitor. Well, while the clothing was gorgeous, the “made in China” labels were quite upsetting. Not funny at the time, but hilarious and absurd now, that while the police were assisting us in removing the exhibitor, the exhibitor whispered into my ear, “I can cut out the labels.”

Other quick examples of exhibitors we have had to remove over the 31 years of our promoting shows: applying as a metal sculptor and arriving with buy/sell metal hair accessories; applying with images of fine musical instruments and arriving with Peruvian imported street show junk for less than $15 and claiming not to understand English (my Spanish came in handy that day); applying with fine fiber work and showing up with imported scented bean bag items for the microwave.

Production work is another issue but one that is usually obvious by the multiple shows participated in on the same weekend with other than the named applicant in the booth. Many years ago, we had a wood exhibitor who fit this category. While we no longer allow them into our shows, they are participating in some very high end shows without impunity.

We are more careful today than ever before to jury out buy/sell. It is imperative for all of us to work together, artist and promoter/director, to be successful in this. NAIA’s endeavor is this regard is much appreciated.

We look forward to hearing the input you received from the many other directors and promoters you contacted.

Show name withheld by request:

I do many things and not necessarily in any order:

1. I walk every show I do and see what’s being shown. If I have questions, I talk to other artists in the same field, I talk to the show director….etc. I keep myself educated on what’s happening out there. I take photos, so I have proof when I see “irregularities.”

2. I have a loose alliance with other NW show directors and we talk amongst ourselves when we have questions about artists being buy-sell, or in heavy production work.

3. We check websites

4. We call artists and talk to them.

5. I have a committee of people who walk our show making sure artists are complying with all our rules, including proper staking. They have copies of the artist apps w/ booth photo. Any questions I go back and review the booth and if there is something wrong I ask the artist to remove the work. (Never had to have the artist remove themselves yet…knocking on wood.)

6. This should be top of pile:

I trust my jury…to spot buy-sell even before I need to act. I pick good people with a wide range of experience and art background. I have my jurying go slow enough that they can really look at the images. If someone has a question they note it to me & I investigate further.

7. I write a strong contract that allows me to remove an artist and/or their work. I will remove work or an artist during a show. I think this is KEY to stopping the cheating.

8. We keep checking the artists ALL WEEKEND long to be sure they keep complying.

9. The hardest thing I do is finding black and white proof…..I don’t want to do a witch hunt on an artist because of heresy.

10. We have artists send us their government photo id to us with booth request and double check the id as they show up.

11. Its beyond just buy-sell, for us. It’s also artists who have large production shops and are not the primary “makers” of their work.  Family “artists” where one there are several family members who do show, but all are showing the same body of work. So we work at spotting all this bogus stuff, some “artists” are trying to pull.

12. I always want to hear from artists about concerns. But they must know before I act I need to have actual proof.

Key West Craft Fair and Old Island Days Art Festival, Key West, FL:

Director reviews each application personally and if applicant is unknown to us and there seems to be any question about authenticity we do some or all of the following:

Check website if listed. Google if not . ( this got dings from NAIA forum artists if I remember)

Look for other shows, wholesale, continuity of work, numbers of products etc. If still suspicious we might call other show directors or contact other, ask? on forums etc.

Call applicant and discuss process, method, materials etc. (this seems to never help as they ALL make it themselves of course!) Also, if I see an application come through that I know is b/s or mass produced (Watches) I send it back, checks and all with a note saying why we will not jury it. (sometimes this is touchy. I can’t always say that I think it is not handmade, so I use terms like “it is not a fit for our show”.)

I believe it is the director and committee job to make sure any app we think is b/s does not even go to jury. Some are incredibly easy, others, incredibly hard! I don’t want to talk about someone when this is no proof. I can tell you this, it is incredibly difficult to question someone and have them say straight to you that they DO make their work and act hurt and saddened that you have accused them.

Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
by Claudine Kriss, 2012 GGAF Co-Chair

The first full weekend in November each year something magical happens in Seville Square in Pensacola, FL. Just as the sun starts peeping over the horizon that Thursday, dozens of people swarm into the park shaded by century-old live oaks in the center of Pensacola’s downtown historic district.

While one group begins assembling and putting up signs to mark off “streets” in the park, another is setting out hundreds of potted plants and another is setting up tables and computers in the gazebo, all preparing for some very special weekend park “residents” and another 150,000 visitors.

Yes, it’s time for the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival and before the day is over, the quiet park will have become a bustling tent city occupied by 225 fine artists and craftsmen selected from the approximately 600 who applied to be part of one of the top outdoor art festivals in the Southeast. This three-day festival, which features some of the best artists from all over the United States, also includes a Heritage Arts Show, a Children’s Art Festival and three days of music and dance performances.

And it is all possible because of the 75 dedicated volunteers who work year-round to put the festival together and another 200 volunteers who help out during the festival with beverage and souvenir sales and, artist relief and trash pickup. That’s right. Everyone who works with the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival is a VOLUNTEER – something not seen in most art festivals today. And it’s been that way for the entire 40 years the festival has been in existence. “Everybody who worked with the festival did it for nothing from the very beginning,” said Linda Gray, who worked to get that first festival off the ground back in September 1973.”

The festival was actually the brainchild of local attorney Don Partington, who was volunteer chair of the local arts council and had been to an art festival in Annapolis, MD. He thought a similar festival was just what Pensacola needed to wake the community up to what was available culturally. He contacted Gray, the 27-year-old wife of a young Navy lieutenant and fellow chair member at Christ Episcopal Church and suggested she put together such a festival.

That was June 1973. By September, Gray with the help of other Christ Church choir members, local Jaycees, Navy Seabees and others in the community, opened the first art festival at Pensacola’s Bayfront Auditorium.

That first festival was a two-day affair known as Festival Fever Days. It was the third year of the festival that the decision was made to hold a contest to change the name and Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival was chosen. And it would be several more years before the festival would move to the historic Seville Square. While the fine arts part of the festival fills Seville Square, the music and food concessions now fill Fountain Park directly across the street, Heritage Arts is spread out along an adjoining street and the Children’s festival which features hands-on art activities, a student art show and performing arts fills nearby Bartram Park.

J.O. Zachow, chairman of the GGAF Board of Directors and a past festival chair, said that the secret to the success of the festival, which draws 150,000 visitors each year, is having committee members whose personalities run the gamut from artists to money people and everything in between. “But there is a common theme among them, he said. “All of them like art and all of them like the festival.” Royal Miree, a Birmingham, AL, sculptor who has participated in the festival several times and is a 2011 award winner, agreed. “It’s obvious the people running the festival are there not because it is a job, but because they enjoy it. They are there to make it work. The artists and the people attending feel a comfort level there that you don’t find in a lot of shows.”  Russell Grace, a Tallahassee photographer and also a 2011 GGAF award winner, said he doesn’t usually know which shows he does have paid personnel and which ones are all volunteer, “but GGAF is the best run that I have done.

While the GGAF committee is all volunteer, four people associated with the show do receive a small honorarium – the two jurors and the two judges. Linda Nolan of Reno, NV, and a former director of the Pensacola Museum of Art, was one of the judges in 2011. She summed up her experience as follows: “I have judged a number of art shows and festivals of varying sizes and locales over the years. The Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival was the first experience I had with a festival that size run totally by volunteers, with no paid staff involved, working year round to make it a success. The planning and preparation that goes on behind the scenes to produce a festival of this size and complexity successfully, is tremendous.

“It was an honor to be selected as one of the judges in 2011 and from the first e-mail contact to the last offer of assistance at completion of my duties, my interaction with the GGAF Committee and several of the festival volunteers, was handled professionally and with great respect for the artwork, the artists, and for the guest judges. The general attitude of all the volunteers was to be happily and consistently supportive. “Every aspect of the festival was handled smoothly, volunteers cheerfully fielded a myriad of questions, issues, placements, assignments; whatever obstacles were presented – they were overcome effectively and efficiently.”


The 2012 Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival will be Nov. 2-4 in Seville Square. It will feature 225 fine artists and craftsmen, about 60 heritage artists and numerous musical and dance groups. Twenty-six awards totaling $25,000 are presented to the fine artists. Additional monetary awards are presented to the heritage artists. In addition, the GGAF committee awards several thousand dollars in scholarships to art students and grants to nonprofits for art programs or projects each year. The festival is free and attended by about 150,000 people each year.

The festival committee is made up of 75 volunteers who work on 25 subcommittees year round to organize the festival. The board of directors comprises 22 past and present festival chairs.

This year’s festival co-chairs are Jim Longsworth and Claudine Kriss. Longsworth was 2011 festival vice-chair and also serves on the Festival Layout Committee and the Performing Arts/Dance Stage Committee. Kriss was 2011 Art Show Committee co-chair and also serves on the Publicity Committee. Both 3rd and 4th Streets used to have art and craft buy/sell but they have gotten rid of those people and have stepped up the quality in the past few years.

Parking: You can park behind your booth space all weekend long on 3rd St. (Both South Third St. and 1300 Association). The other streets have off site parking—first-come, first-served.

Belgravia Court is pedestrian-only, so you will have to dolly your work in from your vehicle, but typically the distance is not very far.

NAIA New Website Up and Running

Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Stephen King, CFEE, Executive Director, Des Moines Arts Festival®

In January 2010, the NAIA board of directors adopted as its primary objective that the NAIA be the “go-to” organization for information and resources for the art show industry. The existing web site was identified as the primary vehicle for achieving this objective. As a national organization the board took the position that it was critical NAIA have a strong web presence since its membership and leadership originates from different parts of the country. Further, that the web site reflect the vibrancy and creativity of its members.

With this goal in mind the Web Site Committee set out to re-build a web site that features a web-based Content Management System (CMS) so that anyone with the appropriate credentials could update or change content anywhere at anytime with an internet connection. And because NAIA is a member organization, the new website needed to provide members the opportunity to update personal information and have that information populate the web site.

Other goals of the project included re-designing the site to provide user-friendly navigation, limit scrolling and require date-specific postings to ensure outdated information no longer displayed on the site. The Committee set forth on a multi-phase mission to complete the re-design and re-build. The first phase of the project focused on creating a new look and feel for the web site, building the CMS, and populating the site with current information. Other projects during this phase included archiving the old site so historic information was not lost.

The Committee turned to Visionary Services, Inc., a full-service web design, consulting and hosting firm with offices in Miami and Des Moines. Their council and experience encouraged the committee to develop its web-based Content Management System that, as a result, enables staff and board members across the country to continually update, modify and populate the web site with information and content that is relevant and timely.

After several months of design, editing, testing and populating, the new site was launched in June of 2011. The launch marked a major accomplishment for the organization. The new web site features artwork of its artist members and images of its show members.

For the user, the new site is easier to navigate, has more concise information about the organization, and provides members with the opportunity to update information on their own pages as well as post information about upcoming events for both shows and artists. For the administrator, updates can be made in real time, membership can be managed easier, and the learning curve for writing html has been eliminated.

Many of the features of new web site can’t be seen, but are critical to its success. For example, the new CMS is accessible in the background and allows for administrators to manage the site from an internet connection. The CMS tool allows for seamless integration of design and data. With its new secure database integration, the new web site ensures data is safe with multiple layers of security from member names and login information. The site is dynamic, meaning information can flow freely. No longer are volunteer administrators bound by a knowledge barrier of web software. Instead, anyone who knows Microsoft Word can make updates and changes to the web site. And best of all, each and every member has access to their password-protected personal information page (PPP) making updates and membership renewals easier than ever for both the member and the volunteer administrator. Once you make your changes on your PPP, the information is automatically populated on the live site.

The board is continuing its efforts to build a web site critical to the organization’s success. Phase 2 is concluding with updates made to the shopping cart, analytical tools added, and educating membership of its new uses. And because the new site is web-based CMS, updates can happen daily, including upgrades and information. As the board continues its work serving its membership, any number of dynamic challenges arises. Currently, the board is working towards developing the site’s Resources Page to provide membership easy access to information it needs most to make the day-to-day decisions of the arts industry easier to navigate.

Personal Profile Page (PPP)

One of the best features about the new NAIA organizational web site is the Personal Profile Page or PPP. Each member of the NAIA is afforded their own PPP and the ability to update the information at your convenience.

Go to: or click on “Admin” located in the bottom left-hand corner of the web site.

(TIP: Be sure to BOOKMARK this page so your PPP is just one click away!)

Tip: Your User Name will always be your email address.

Don’t know which address to use?

It’s the address the renewal notice is sent to you.

• Enter your User Name and Password.

• Once your login credentials have been authenticated you will be directed to your PPP.

(TIP: To be assured NAIA is accurately promoting you, it’s important to review all the details and keep them up-to-date.)

Renewals Made Easy

The new NAIA web site makes renewing your membership easier than ever.  The all-new streamlined process takes just a few minutes and can be done entirely online. You can easily renew your membership by going to your Personal Profile Page (PPP). Your PPP will have all your information, including membership status, and allows for you to load images of your work. All you have to take the following steps:

Go to: or click on “Admin” located in the bottom left-hand corner of the web site.

(TIP: Be sure to BOOKMARK this page so your PPP is just one click away!)

Enter your User Name and Password.

(TIP: your User Name will always be your email address.  Don’t know which address to use?  It’s the address the renewal notice is sent to you.)

Once your login credentials have been authenticated you will be directed to your PPP.

(TIP: To be assured NAIA is accurately promoting you, it’s important to review all the details and keep them up-to-date.)

When your membership is up for renewal, a “Renew” button will appear between the “Save Changes” and “Cancel” button at the bottom of the page. It is here where you will click “Renew” to renew your membership.

Forgot Your Password? No worries, follow these instructions –

Go to: or click on “Admin” located in the bottom left-hand corner of the web site.

(TIP: Be sure to BOOKMARK this page so your PPP is just one click away!)

Under the Password field, click on “Forgot Password?” link. Enter the email address that this email came to and click the “Submit” button. You will receive a NAIA Reset Password Confirmation email at the email address you supplied. Clicking the link in the NAIA Reset Password Confirmation email will direct you to the Reset Password screen. Enter your same Email Address, a New Password and New Password Confirmation and click the “Submit” button.

You are now ready to log in.

Return to the Admin Panel Login screen at www.naia Enter your same email address as Username and new password. Next click the “Login” button.

Act Of God Becomes A Random Act Of Kindness

Tuesday, January 1, 2013
by Carroll Swayze, NAIA Board

Weather and art shows go along hand in hand and it is probably the one single thing that makes us the gamblers we all are. You can apply to the best show in the country, you can be accepted into the best show in the country, you can spend four months making artwork to sell in the best show in the country, you can drive thousands of miles to get to the best show in the country. But the one thing you have absolutely NO control over is the weather at the Best Show in the Country!

It’s the weather that is the one variable that can make or break any show for us in this insane journey we call a traveling artists life. It is the one and only thing that we cannot control in any way. We can watch it, we can pray, we can dream about it and we can all become junior meteorologists, but in truth it is the one thing we can never control. Just because we are all very positive thinking people doesn’t mean anything. We can’t control the weather!

I can’t think of one show prospectus that does not have the words “Act of God” in it, referring to  he shows lack of responsibility for returning show fees in case of bad weather. It is an “act of God”, no one can truly predict it and no one ever wants to take responsibility for it. The year the giant storm ravaged Columbus, that was an “act of God”. The year it rained all weekend in the Winter Park Fall Art Festival and nobody made a dime, that was an “act of God”, the year the mud and rain came down the mountain and filled the tents at Boston Mills, that was an “act of God.” Trust me, no one got a refund at any of those Shows.

It happened again this year at a usually well attended show in the northeast put on by Rose Squared Productions at the Westfield Armory in Westfield, New Jersey. The show was slated for November 10-11, 2012 when an “act of God” ravaged the north east coast by the name of Hurricane Sandy, followed by a second nor’easter which really put everything on hold.  They called it Tropical Storm Sandy as it came through the Caribbean, then Hurricane Sandy as it skirted the east coast, then Frankenstorm Sandy as it came ashore in New Jersey on October 29, 2012.

As CNN described the storm: “Though no longer a hurricane, “post Tropical” Superstorm Sandy packed a hurricane-sized punch as it slammed into the Jersey Shore on Monday, killing at least 11 people from West Virginia to North Carolina and Connecticut. Sandy whipped torrents of water over the streets of Atlantic City, stretching for blocks inland and ripping up part of the vacation spot’s fabled boardwalk. The storm surge set records in Lower Manhattan, where flooded substations caused a widespread power outage. It swamped beachfronts on both sides of Long Island Sound and delivered hurricane-force winds from Virginia to Cape Cod.”

This storm was one of the worst weather events in the history of the northeast. Everyone was affected. People lost their homes, their livelihoods and their power. Everyone was talking about it, everyone was watching the devastation on TV and everyone was worried. Two people who were especially worried, were Howard and Janet Rose, the two people who make up the entire staff of Rose Squared Productions, Inc. These two people weren’t just worried about their own homes and their families, they were also very worried about their artist family as well because they had to make a decision about whether their show at the Westfield Armory was going to happen or not. Then had to figure out what to do. Howard and Janet Rose live in New Jersey. Their home was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. They had no power at their home for over 11 days. They had to go and live with other family members who also had been hit by the storm, two of their family members had lost half their homes completely. Add to that the fact that Howard’s mother passed away the night before the storm hit.

Along with the problems the art show presented, they had to somehow figure out how to deal with a death in the family as well. You have to start wondering how much these people could really take. Everything was in place for their show when they heard that Sandy was coming their way. All the signs and billboards had been put up so rather than lose them all, Howard and

Janet went out and took them all down. Then after Sandy came through they went out and put all the signs back up, thinking that they had been spared somewhat. That’s when they decided that the gate fee they would collect at the show would be donated to the Red Cross Relief fund for the storm victims. Then on Monday, only a few days before the show was scheduled to happen, they were informed by the National Guard that they Armory was needed for the relief effort and the art show was canceled.

It was brought to my attention on an artist-only Facebook site that something amazing had happened. A show promoter had not only canceled their show because of a storm but they were sending ALL the artists fees back. That is unheard of in our industry so I decided to investigate the story.

One of my jobs at the NAIA is that of Communications Chairperson. Not only do I oversee the production of the Independent Artist Newspaper but I am also in charge of its distribution after it is printed. For this reason I had spoken to the Roses on two occasions when I had sent them the IA for the artists in their shows. They had recently joined the NAIA as supporting members as well, so I did a little research on my own to give myself a base for the article and then I called them.

Howard and Janet Rose were not always show promoters. Janet was a high school English teacher for 26 years and Howard was a vocational graphics teacher for 27 years before they both retired in 2000. They both became professional potters while teaching and started doing art shows to add a second income to their teaching salaries. They participated in shows for 6 years during which time they started volunteering at their local Temple show, Janet recalls one incident when they were working hard to help set up the show when she told Howard that “Anyone who did this for a living had to be crazy, its just too much work.” 25 years later and guess what, they are show promoters.

After 6 years of participating in art shows they decided to form Rose Squared Productions Inc., to bring quality, juried art events to Essex County, New Jersey. They produce 6 well-organized, well-attended shows a year with between 120-175 exhibitors.

When I spoke with Howard and Janet Rose they both said that the reality of everything hadn’t quite sunk in yet. So much had happened in such a short time that they really hadn’t had a chance to process it. Here are my questions and their answers in their own words:

How long did it take you to decide to send the artists money back?  “There was no discussion. We sat at our daughter-in-law’s table with our son and daughter-in-law and all of us came to the same conclusion: We have to refund the artists money.”

Why?  “Artists are living show to show. We did shows, we know. It was the ethical thing to do. We’ve been in business for 31 years. We always do the ethical thing, the right thing. We don’t double dip. If we can replace an artist who cancels for a real reason, we refund their money too.”

How many shows do you produce?  “We only do 6 shows a year. We don’t know how anyone could do any more than that and do it right. It’s just the two of us, we do everything.”

What kind of a jury do you have?  “We have a rolling jury for our shows. We limit our categories, especially jewelry because we don’t want a show full of jewelry. Even though we get a huge number of jewelers who apply, we keep it at about 20% of our show, no matter what. That way we have the best of the best in the jewelry category and we don’t bore our clientele with the same old thing at every show. We can be very selective.”

How do you find new artists?  “We go to shows and are always on the lookout for new artists and their work. We try to care as much about our artists as we do about the public coming to our shows. We watch for buy/sell when we are out and about so that we don’t have to worry about them sneaking into our shows. We love our exhibitors, we consider them family.”

Describe what happened before and after the storm?   “It was a very confusing few days. We always try to stay in close contact with our artists because we feel responsible for not only their income at our shows, but also for their safety. With the storm approaching we sent out an email blast to let them all know that we would keep them posted after the storm passed. We sent another email blast after the storm to let them know that they show was still on and that some of the issues such as gas and access roads had were being resolved.

Then finally we sent out our last email to let everyone know that the show had been canceled. It was hard. When the show dates came and went we felt misplaced. We felt like we should have been setting up and should have our artist family around us.  We missed everyone.”

I think a note of thanks and kudo’s should be sent to Howard and Janet Rose for their clear thinking and caring of their artist family. I think their end of the year letter sent out to their artists pretty much sums up everything.

Dear Past and Present Rose Squared Exhibitor:

Where do we begin to thank so many of you for your support. We truly could not have gotten through these last ten days without the kind and understanding emails you have been sending. The offers to come help, the pride of being a part of what we promote, and the heartfelt condolences have touched us in a way we can’t begin to express.

As all of you know, this past week in the Northeast has been hellish for many with the repercussions of superstorm Sandy. It left many homeless or with horrendous damage. Many, many communities will never be the same. It left us, our friends, and family in New Jersey and New York without power and with tree damage. Some of my family members on Long Island suffered the loss of the contents and walls of the lower floors of their homes. My sister remains without power and they have no idea when it will be restored. We had quite the superstorm in our lives with Howard’s mom passing away October 30th, planning a funeral without power, keeping up with the necessary work on the show throughout this time, and then ultimately getting word on Monday morning that the National Guard Colonel was canceling the show.

I wish I had a photograph or video of the four Roses; us with our son, Jonathan, and daughter-in-law, Rachael, all in our PJs, sitting around my sister-in-law’s kitchen table Monday morning, brainstorming text and making lists of whom to contact and in what order to get the word out quickly and efficiently about the cancellation of the show.

What is so difficult to fathom is that a year’s worth of work was deflated by the four of us in two and a half hours. The opening paragraph of this “end of the year” email was supposed to be how fortunate we were that the weather universe was kind to all four of our Essex County outdoor events. We had hoped to add something similar about the Westfield weekend as well – the best laid plans of mice and men!!

We were fortunate that the number of participating exhibitors this year was higher than last year and the quality better than ever. The huge hit we are taking after refunding the entire booth fee to the Westfield exhibitors will be helped financially in a small way and emotionally in a big way with the success of the other four Rose Squared shows. We are so very disappointed for the loss of income the Westfield exhibitors are experiencing and for the loss of funds we would have raised by donating the gate to the Red Cross. It is all a poignant reminder of the lack of control life presents. We have always chosen, and will continue to choose, to treat all of you with respect and concern.

The relationships we have developed over thirty-one years in this business has sustained us through two very tough personal and professional weeks. We will miss seeing our exhibitor family this weekend, but hopefully we will see some of you as we visit shows from now until the April Westfield show. If you think there is a show we shouldn’t miss, please drop us an email and let us know the location and date. As many you know, we do travel to find quality exhibitors.

Stay warm, stay safe, and have a successful holiday season.

Wishing the best to you and your family and hoping that 2013 brings a stronger economy and good health to one and all.

– Howard and Janet

A Letter from the Chair, NAIA Board of Directors

Wednesday, May 8, 2013
by Teresa Saborsky, Chair

Some artists and show directors don’t know of the National Association of Independent Artists. You may not. The NAIA is a trade organization founded so that artists could collectively have a voice in the art show industry.

The founders of the organization spent years talking with show directors and working to put together a standard for art shows – one which began to promote high ideals and practices within the art show industry.

Those who founded NAIA did a huge amount of work and succeeded in making art shows an environment in which artistic integrity and creativity was showcased and in which artists could find economic success.

Since those early days, NAIA has continued to work to serve as advocates for the artist. The industry and the economy has seen a huge downturn in recent years and we have all seen practices emerge which have changed the face of many art shows.

NAIA remains dedicated to preserving the integrity of shows. One of the most unique experiences the public has at a show is the ability to talk with the artist, to learn how a piece was created and what inspired it. There is a one-on-one relationship developed between the artist and the buyer.

We want the public to know that when they see an art show, they will continue to experience the unique artwork created by those they see in the booths.

As you can see from the article in this issue, we are now working with shows and artists to strengthen the prospectus so that artists can know what to expect from a show. We also completed a more complicated survey at the first of the year on Effective Jurying, submitted by art show directors, to learn what kinds of juries the shows employed and why. The types of juries included awards juries and compliance juries in addition to those who select artists for a show. This survey was more of an “essay” type which allowed directors to write why they conduct juries as they do.

While the Prospectus survey was quantitative and more easily analyzed, the Effective Jurying survey was not. It’s taking us more time to quantify the responses, though once done, we’ll have a more clear understanding of how directors/administrators view their responsibilities to their shows and the artists.

There are many groups and forum in which many are able to take part in art show related discussions. There is only one site and forum that takes that discussion a step further and takes actions when they are necessary – those are the ones associated with the NAIA.

We monitor forums closely to learn the problems or what is done right at a show. From there we take action, whether it’s to promote the effective steps taken by a show (such as emergency policies) or encourage members to utilize our Action Line to resolve issues.

Any organization is only as strong as its membership and we encourage all of you to become members so that, as a whole, we can continue to help strengthen and maintain the integrity of shows. It is only in this way that we can all attain success.

If you want to know more about NAIA, visit our site at

Teresa Saborsky
NAIA Board of Directors, Chair

Art Show Spotloight – 29th Annual Melbourne Art Festival

Wednesday, May 8, 2013
by Carroll Swayze

The NAIA show spotlight gives credit where credit is due to Art Shows, Fairs and Festival who deserve mention for their high standards of excellence, their inventive new ideas, the many ways they contribute to their communities and for the innovative ways they help exhibiting artists showcase their work. Fabulous ideas and outstanding facets of these shows will be highlighted so that other artfestivals and their organizations will see what is being done elsewhere and possibly incorporate some of these great ideas into their events.

The Annual Melbourne Art Festival is a favorite of both Florida artists and out of state artists who have the luck to get in and the stamina to stay in Florida long enough to add it to their schedules. The Art Festival is held at the end of the Florida spring season, always the last weekend in April, in historic DowntownMelbourne on the east coast of Florida. It is south of Cocoa Beach and north of Vero Beach in a coastal town with a good demographic for selling art. It is held in a vital little downtown area with interesting cafés and thriving restaurants, clubs, shops and boutiques. The street is closed for the entire weekend and you can drive to your booth for an easy set-up.

Organized by an all-volunteer committee, the Melbourne Art Festival features a juried art show, continuous live entertainment, a 5K run, Kidsworld, a student art venue, a food court and a free concert on Saturday night. It is well attended by an energetic, young in spirit art buying crowd who flock to the streets to see what the artists have brought with them each year and to enjoy the rest of the festivities that the weekend has to offer. The entertainment stage is set at one end of the festival site, well away from artist’s booths so there is no noise pollution when trying to sell your work. The children’s art area is always busy with local kids creating all kinds of great arts and crafts, and each year 10 exhibiting artists are invited to demonstrate and share their talents with children of all ages, teaching them to make art. The show provides all the art supplies and a booth sitter for the artists who participate.

If the Artists in the show choose to donate a piece for the Melbourne Art Festival’s Annual Art Auction, be it known that the money raised from that auction goes to art scholarships for local high school and college students and for art supplies in all the local middle and high schools. The Art Auction is held off site about six months after the festival so it does not compete with the artists at the show selling their work. The show has one of the best Patron Purchasing Programs in the country with tens of thousands of dollars committed to art sales every year assuring that most artists will go home with a check. The artist dinner is held early Saturday night before the main concert and it is a full chicken and pork dinner with free beer so nobody goes home hungry. In general The Melbourne Art Festival is always a good experience, it’s fun, it’s easy and it’s lucrative.

The 29th Annual Melbourne Art Festival is put together by an all volunteer organization headed this year by President, Elise Vaughn who has been involved since the beginning. Lori Emly, Vice President of the organization, is also the Artist’s Co-Chair, a job she shares with Penny Sallinger.

Lori Emly is an artist and an art teacher who heads the Art Department of the Brevard Achievement Center in Rockledge, Florida, a non-profit organization that provides services for the vocational and social needs of adults with disabilities.

As Vice President of the Melbourne Art Festival, Lori works closely with the President, handling the relationships with the downtown merchants and also running the committee meetings when the President is out. As Artist Co-Chair, she manages everything to do with the artists, from the applications, to booth requests and assignments, to issues that may arise during the weekend making sure they take good care of their artists.

I asked Lori Emly to tell us about the Melbourne Art Festival in her own words:

How would you describe the demographics of your show?   We are an all volunteer event; we have no paid positions in our organization. We have 250 spaces total, with 34 allocated to last years award winners, which leaves 216 spaces available for our applying artists. We receive 400-500 applications for those spaces each year. We started in Indialantic 34 years ago. This is our 29th year in Melbourne and we have a great patron program!

What kind of a jury do you use?   We have a blind jury of 12 people with diverse backgrounds, both professionals and artists. No one knows whose work they are looking at unless the artist happens to have their name in the image. We want the jury to be blind. We use a projected jury, with all four images displayed on 2 screens for our jurors. Two of our committee members are on monitors during the jury as well, keeping track of everything.

How do you like the ZAPP system?   We like the system; we have used it for 7 years now. We were one of the first to use it – there were some issues in the beginning with how they handled the data, but they are good at listening to ideas for changes and upgrades. It has made our job much easier. Our jury process runs more smoothly and it is a much better presentation for the artists’ images. We can upload the artist info and do not have to enter each artist separately, we can monitor artist validity, by checking to assure they are exhibiting what they juried in with and we can notify artists of booth numbers and information easily by being able to send out mass emails. It helps assure that I do not assign booths to more than one person.

Does your show raise money for a cause?   We are lucky to have generous artists who donate artwork for our biannual auction. We provide scholarships for local students to take art classes at local venues to enhance their art education, plus at this time we are helping 3 college students with college costs.  We donate money each year to every junior and senior high school visual art teacher in our county.

Do you partner with others in the community to put the Festival together?   We have over 600 weekend volunteers that come from many companies and schools in our community and with that many volunteers we rely heavily on our community. We have about 50 committee members that start working on the event in September.

Tell me about your Patron Purchase Award System. What does it cost?   What do the patrons get for their money?   We started our patron program to help ensure that money is already available for the artists in the show before they even get there. Patrons pay $350 – $225 is allocated for them to purchase art. The remaining $125 provides the following: A big Patron Party two days before the show with an open bar, delicious food and a live band; Close Parking for the event; Access to our Private Patron Stage which is a raised platform in front of the entertainment stage with free beverages; free entry for their children and a champagne brunch on Sunday to be the first to view the award winning artwork on display. In 2012 we had $35,000. committed in pre-paid art sales.

What else would you like to say?   I have been involved with this show for 13 years. I have done many jobs: student art competition, student art workshops, scholarships, president for 4 years and artist chair for 7 years…

I love working with the artists…

I believe we are working hard to get rid of the buy/sell and the scam artists – we rely on you artists to help us do this, we need your help, you are out there all the time we are only involved for a weekend…

Please do not be afraid to approach us if you believe that we have allowed an artist in our show that is not showing their work! We will remove them as soon as we know!!  We do not allow them to stay in our show no matter what – we do not blackball artists who approach us with concerns or problems, we understand how hard you all work and we want our show to be a good weekend for all of the artists involved!

Melbourne Art Festival Award Winning Ideas:

Art Auction:
Donating is strictly the artist’s choice. No one will bother you about it, they simply ask nicely. The auction is held off site months after the show so the artist does not have to compete with their own work at the show for sales.

Artist Demonstrations:
There are 10 teaching opportunities, 5 per day, for artists to demonstrate and teach student workshops which are 45 minutes long. The artists who participate choose their media and can either send a supply list to the show for them to purchase or they can bring the supplies with them and be reimbursed.

They have a good work space and ample volunteers to help the artist handle their teaching group and clean up afterward. They provide an educated booth sitter for each artist while they are away from their booths, who will talk about the artists work and make sales while they are doing their demonstration. It’s easy, it’s always full and who better to educate about art than children.

Patron Purchase Program:
The Melbourne Art Festival has one of the best Patron Purchase Programs in the country. There are so many ribbons floating around all the artists’ booth that you wonder how they got all those people to participate until you do it yourself. It’s just plain fun.  They provide ample information way ahead of time and explain everything to the fullest right from the beginning. They start attracting people to participate very early on and their numbers increase every year. They provide two ways to get your money for your awards.  They send runners around to collect your purchase certificates, add them up and write checks which are available at the end of the show. Or you can give them to the committee and they will promptly send you a check the next week. Either way works great.

Art & Music & Food Coexisting Together:
The music stage is placed at one end of the show far away from artists’ booths sothat the artists do not have to shout in their booth to speak with people about their work. The food court is near the stage and also well away from the artists so the artists don’t have grease and food smells in their booths with their artwork.

Artist Relations:
This is truly a show where an artist can speak their minds freely with the showdirectors and committee members because they listen and want everyone to be happy. As an all volunteer group, they appreciate it when artists talk to them and give them constructive criticism. They are very receptive to new ideas because it is for the good of their show.

We Are All Artists

Wednesday, May 8, 2013
by Rich Fizer, Glassblower

People always ask where I get the inspiration for my work and I usually come up with something short and off the cuff but when you really think about it, it is a very complex question. As individual art show artists we are very different in almost every way, except for the one common factor, weall travel across the country seeking our fortunes.

Do you remember your first art festival? I remember it like it was yesterday. It was 1989, I was in college and I had four months of glass blowing undermy belt. The art show was in Allapaha, Georgia, the home of Hogzilla, and the money raised went to the preservation of a local train depot. I met a painter named Marshall Smith there, who happened to be in charge of the show.

Now Marshall Smith was no ordinary person. Marshall Smith was a graphic artist who became a painter, then an art philanthropist. While still in Grad School, Marshall Smith spent countless hours on anatomically correct drawings of the human body. A few years after his graduation, his drawings were chosen as the industry standard for the medical field at that time, and were published in student medical books, leaving him a lifetime of mailbox money at his fingertips which he used to buy art.

At that first show, with my newly found glassblowing talents, I made $1,800. in a small crowd of about 700 people, traded with a famous artist, Marshall Smith, and left with the knowledge that I had a career.

I learned a lot that first year. I learned that it was exciting to go to a town that you hadn’t been to before. I was excited to show off my new work to a crowd of people who had never experienced it before and I learned that the outdoor art fair is an instant critique. People of all backgrounds, from all walks of life, would come into your booth and make comments about your work. Some comments were great and positive and sometimes, not so much. It was like getting an instant critique by thousands of people every year and I learned that in order to stay in the game, I would have to have a thick skin. I also learned that I could make a years tuition in one weekend.

People come to art shows for many reasons. They come to take a walk in a beautiful park, they come to get a corn dog, and they come to support their community. They come because they need social interaction, they come to hear live music, they come to get free wine, and a lot of the time they come to buy some unique hand made art. It’s not all that much different than a gallery opening; it’s just a bit more casual.

One of the best things about being an art show artist is the opportunity to travel and meet new people all over the country. Everywhere you go the people, the scenery and the experiences fuel your creativity. We are all grouped in the one category: Artist, but each of us experiences life differently, which in turn makes our art and style unique to us as individuals.

The average art show patron probably thinks we all travel in packs, moving from one show to another, living in vans and driving across the country like a band of crazy gypsies. While some of us do like to hang out in little micro groups (parking lot pirates, sushi eating gangs, late night bar hoppers, back lot music makers, and the tired, peanut butter sandwich eaters in the room group) most of us are individual thinkers and doers, making our way across the United States in our own unusual style.

What they don’t realize is that we travel across the country to each little town, city and village to participate in that town’s one big event of the year, an art show, festival, or fair. Think about it. The hotels and motels are always full and expensive, the restaurants are at the height of their season, parking is a premium, ice is hard to find as is a good store to find snacks and drinks for our coolers as we sit and talk to the show goers. I have seen at least 15 fantastic fireworks displays this year alone!

Most of us have been up and down this great highway system of ours to the tune of about 30,000 miles a year. After doing this for over 20 years, I pretty much know everywhere there are cool places to see live music, I never eat at chain restaurants because I know where to find the real food in most towns, and if there is an interesting place to stay, I’ve slept there. I try to always stop and smell the flowers as I drive through life, clicking off the GPS and turning down back roads when I can, finding new and unusual experiences along the way. You never know where your next great thought for a wonderful piece of art is going to come from. It could be that huge bottle of ketchup on the factory roof just outside St. Louis; or the World’s Largest Chair in Anniston, Alabama; or the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi; or the Big Peach near the Rocket in Valdosta, Georgia; or the Giant Ball of Twine in Darwin, Minnesota; or Route 66; or Mammoth Cave in south central Kentucky; or Ruby Falls just outside Chattanooga, Tennessee; or The Worlds Largest Cherry Pie in Traverse City, Michigan; and lets not ever forget The Corn Palace in Mitchell. South Dakota.

I could go on and on…

I recently took part in Career Day at my sons’ school and had an epiphany of sorts. There were fire fighters, nurses, policemen, doctors, lawyers, businessmen and one artist, me. The kids were enthralled by the uniform of the policeman, by the picture of the fire truck with the fireman, by the stethoscope that the doctor let them listen to but it was my presentation that got their full attention.

They were fascinated by my slide show, they loved the descriptions of the way I worked with glass, I let them touch my glass work which is something their parents never allow.

But the words that won the show and captivated my young audience were simple and to the truth.

I asked this group of first graders how many of them were artists, and every one of them raised their hand. They all believe they are artists and they all related to me because of that. Their faces were filled with excitement and joy as we talked about making art and it was a lot of fun for everyone involved.

Since that day everyone that I meet in the grocery store or in the park with my boys relates to me as the Glass Guy who came to their child’s class. I feel a great sense of pride being an artist and being able to share my experience with everyone, both young and old.

After all, the more we relate and educate people about art, the better chance we have of that person appreciating and buying art now or in the future.

From the NAIA Board Chair

Thursday, August 29, 2013
Teresa Saborsky, NAIA Board Chair

In 2005, on the 10th Anniversary of the National Association of Independent Artists (NAIA), the Board of Directors began compiling a list of key issues for which the organization would advocate. Through much hard work and consideration, they created a document that was well-reasoned and complete. In seven short years, mainly due to technological advances made in the industry, some of the positions are outdated. The current board along with volunteers worked together to review and update the Advocacies while retaining its’ basic principles.

The Advocacies are important because they represent the ideals for our industry – goals toward which we aspire – and are the blueprint on which NAIA focuses much of its work. Much progress has been made since the establishment of the NAIA in 1995 and even since the writing of the Advocacies in 2006. We continue to make progress through the diligence of those who value the art fair industry and who know that, together, our voice makes a difference.

Once the updated version is complete, we will be asking artists, show directors, NAIA members and non-members, to comment on the proposed revisions of the Advocacy Statements prior to final approval by the Board in September. To give an overview, for those who aren’t familiar with these positions, the NAIA Advocacies are divided into three sections: The Application Process Advocacies, Operational Process Advocacies, Procedural  Advocacies. In these sections are key issues for advocacy. To read our Advocacy Positions and learn more about us, go to Advocacies may be found under the “Resources” tab.

Once our updates are approved, we will be contacting as many shows as we can to distribute the revised policies along with an invitation to contact us with any questions they may have. In addition, we will begin to move on the information we acquired with the survey on The Importance of a Prospectus (results may be found at asking shows to take a good look at their prospectus to make sure information they supply to artists is a reflection of the requirements, standards, and rules that will be enforced.

We hope that you will look closely at our actions and their results in the coming weeks and months, showing support for NAIA and our work for all in the industry by becoming a member.

Teresa Saborsky
NAIA Board of Directors, Chair

How to Thrive in an Unstable Economy as an Independent Artist

Thursday, August 29, 2013

It is a very interesting time to be an independent artist in the world.  Political instability is rampant and the world economy is changing drastically which makes it difficult to make a living for people who are not on the clock in a salaried, stable job situation.  Add to that the changing demographic of the art show attendee and the ever unstable art show politics and let’s face it folks, we’re on a big roller coaster ride.

I am constantly asked how I am doing in this up and down economy and I have to admit, that while it took a bit of time to figure out how to handle it, I’m doing pretty well considering what we all have to deal with.  The 80’s with its cash rich art shows are gone forever and that show list we all had that we could count on getting in and making good money has also dwindled down to a list of possible rejections and questionable sales.  The competition is stiff out there for the big shows and the expenses have risen to a high that none of us would have ever predicted.  The “Good Old Days” where we were accepted to every show we wanted to do and made good money every weekend have been replaced with a tentative schedule of possible shows where we all gamble with our show fees and hope to make a profit while driving thousands of miles crossing our fingers that the weather will hold and the crowds will come out and buy.

I’ve been an artist all my life, have been doing shows for over 40 years and I am pretty sure that at my age there is not one person out there who would hire me for a “real job.”  Like most of my peers, I am pretty sure I could run just about any company in this country with the business skills I’ve developed, but the “lack of freedom factor” would be very hard to get used to and would probably make any potential employer considering me, very nervous.

When sales started to slow a few years ago I listened to all the rumbling and grumbling that was going on in the art show community and I realized right away that I had to do something to survive.  Failure isn’t in my vocabulary and since I am a very proactive person I decided to take charge of my own personal economy and make sure I could get through this recession.  I know we’re not supposed to use that word, but let’s face it, it’s not a boom and it’s not a down right depression, it’s somewhere in the middle.  Recession seems to fit.

The first thing I did was to sit down and to figure out where my money came from and where it was going.  At the time I was doing about 22 art festivals a year, a show schedule that was as big as I could handle with the time I had to create original artwork.  I’m a printmaker and a painter and I show only hand painted etchings and original acrylics at shows and in my studio.  I work completely alone, no assistants, no employees; everything is done by my hand alone.  With the schedule I had, I worked about 10 hours a day when I was home and did everything from scheduling shows, creating new plates, printing those plates, painting the etchings, painting originals on paper, matting, cutting glass and building frames.  I also am very active in my community in the local art scene and have a big family life with three sons and four grandkids.  I have more energy than almost anyone I know but I was tired.  I decided to figure out exactly what it cost me to live and what it cost me to do shows.

This was the most important thing that I have ever done for my business.  It was astounding what I was spending to make what I thought was a living.  I figured out to the penny exactly what it cost me to live every month and then I figured out what it cost me to do shows, adding anything in that had to do with doing shows such as show fees, jury fees, vehicle expenses connected to shows, gas money to get to shows, hotel bills, camping bills, dinners out, dinners in, tolls, business percentage of vehicle insurance, materials and supplies to make and frame the work I sold at shows, etc.  I did not include the mortgage for my home and anything I spent when I wasn’t traveling doing shows.

I couldn’t believe it when I finally arrived at my cost of doing shows:  a whopping $2,657.00/month!  I was astounded.  What it meant was that if I stayed home and didn’t do any shows and only sold work out of my studio I could cut $2,657.00 out of my monthly expenses.  WOW!

The next thing I did was to make a list of all my assets.  I don’t mean money in the bank and 401K’s, I mean the assets I have to work with such as talent, drive, writing skills, a big studio with lots of artwork, a list of possible commissions, teaching skills, a big chunk of land in an affluent town, my reputation and long term relationships in my home town, a wealthy island within 14 miles of my studio, a beachfront full of possible art buying tourists right around the corner of my studio, etc. etc.  Once I had that list I went down it item by item and tried to think of how I might use that asset to make money.

This is what I did.

My Home:  The interest rate on my mortgage was too high so I applied for the President’s “Save Our Homes Program” and did a loan modification with my mortgage company.  I was turned down twice but I didn’t give up and finally they dropped it from 7.5% (that’s the single/female/artist rate) to 2% (with no fees) lowering my payment by almost half.

My Property:  I looked into the zoning of my property and realized that I can have a farm and a school on my land so I planted a big organic garden (which supplies most of my veggies & will soon give me a small income), I’m starting a bee farm this fall and I’m looking into worm farming.  I started teaching classes during the season every Wednesday in my studio because it’s mid week and doesn’t interfere with my show schedule.  My “Swayze & Sangria Adult Fun Classes” were full all winter long and my 2 week “Kids Art Adventure Camp” was full in the spring.  I also teach art to the Home School kids in three counties one morning a week which is quite lucrative.

Possible Commission Contacts:   Every artist I know has a list or a pile of paper scraps with names and ideas on them.  At almost every show I do at least one or two people ask me if I would consider doing something special for them.  Some are more serious than others and every now and then I write down a name, an email, a phone number and an idea to put in that special pile on my desk called “Possible Commissions.”  For years I have kept those random scraps of paper around thinking that one of these days I might have time to actually do one of those possible commissions.  Since this “asset” was part of my list, I decided to take it seriously and go through it.  I had names and numbers of people from all over the country, some of them dating as far back as 10 years, but I went through them and made a commitment to call each and every one of them even though some of them were so old they likely wouldn’t even remember me.  This was one of the best things I’ve ever done.  I made 47 calls altogether.  Out of that 47, 4 people had no idea who I was, 3 numbers were out of service and 1 person was mad at me for never calling before this.  But, out of those 47 possibilities I got 23 commissions, which kept me busy painting for almost a year.

Local Advertising:  I looked into running an ad in the local island newspaper and instead saw an ad for Bridge Lessons for $100.  I took a chance and started playing cards with a group of the wealthiest women in the world and guess what.  They were thrilled to be sitting with a well known artist and started buying my work and inviting me to meet all of their friends who in turn are now buying my work.

Make Your Donations Count:  I stopped donating art to my local fundraisers and started picking and choosing carefully to whom I donate.  When I do donate, instead of donating a finished piece, I donate a small $ value gift certificate so that the person receiving it has to come to my studio to use it.  Nine times out of ten, they buy something way over the value of the gift certificate and voila, I have a new collector.

Make Your Discounts Count:   I stopped giving any discounts, instead advertising a “Once-A-Year Only” sale in my studio every December where I have the remaining work of the year marked down slightly.  This helped in many ways.  I started this years ago for some folks in my local community who I realized could no longer afford my work.  I donate all my art scraps to the local schools and I always donate a small percentage of my sales at my studio sale as well which gets me enormous publicity for my event.  When people ask for a discount I tell them they are welcome to wait for my sale, which some do but most buy first and then come for a slight deal in the studio.

Do Your Own Press:  I learned to write my own press releases the right way and learned how to submit them in a form that every paper gladly accepts.  I always include a picture and they always print it.  For FREE!  I watch what’s going on in the area and create things to do that will catch the eye of the press.   The key is to do a little research, find out who the editor and the reporters are in your paper, make sure you meet them and spend some quality time with them.  Then the key is to learn to write an interesting informative narrative that gets their attention.  I am generally in the paper with a picture at least every two weeks.  The reporters love it because by giving them a finished article, you have literally done a days worth of work for them.

Use Your Skills:   I’m a very good framer with a full framing studio so I started a secondary business called “Simple Framing for Simple Prices.”  The cost of framing has skyrocketed at galleries and frame shops and I offer a simple alternative.  Since I frame my own work every week anyways it is not a big deal to frame for other people.  I don’t do anything fancy, I only offer the framing that I already use with one mat in one color.  No Frills.  I probably do about three or four small frame jobs a month and I make a huge profit without gauging people like most frame shops do.

Local Advertising:  I looked into advertising in the local paper on the island again.  I did a little research and found that I could buy a half page ad in the paper for one issue for the same price as a half page color ad in their 4-digit phone book so I chose that option.  My half page ad with two images of my work and all of my information is on Page 18 of the phone book and will be there for a year, much more bang for the buck.  I have gotten 32 calls from it and have made 9 sales from it so far this year.

More Widespread Advertising:  I decided that my van was the only billboard that I owned so I spent two days painting it.  I painted colorful fish all around it with my website on every side  and a big “Buy Original Art” on the back.  I can’t tell you how many calls I’ve gotten from that.  I used Behr acrylic house paint on the metal and it’s beautiful.  No matter where I am people are talking to me about my work which usually leads to sales.

Create Your Own Publicity Events:  I wanted to take my publicity skills on the road to other areas so I created my “Follow the Fish” Events where I research places I’d like to go and places that I think I might be able to sell artwork and then I pick a school or a new restaurant or a business and offer to come to their property and paint on a fence or the side of their building or sometimes on a removable wall that we auction off at the end of the event.  I bring paints and easels and brushes and advertise that I’ll be painting and would love people to paint with me.  I bring all the supplies and I paint on the building for free, but I get to set up my display with my artwork in it and talk about who I am and what I do.  I send my own press release beforehand to draw a crowd and let the community know what’s happening.  The publicity is enormous and I always sell lots of art.

Change Your Ideas About Shows:  I changed the way I do shows.  I stopped doing shows because I liked them.  I stopped doing shows because my artist friends would be there and I’d have fun.  I stopped doing shows because I thought I might have a chance of making money in that town and was willing to roll the dice and gamble.  I stopped doing shows because other artists told me they were good.  Instead I spent about two weeks researching shows and their communities trying to figure out if my people lived there.  I sat down and actually figured out who buys my work, not the demographic that I think buys my work or the demographic that I want to buy my work, but the actual group of people who buy my work.  Then I researched shows where that group of people might actually live.  Then I chose which shows I was applying to, very carefully.  I did a cost analysis of each and every show, figuring out exactly what each show cost me to do then I compared it to the demographic that buys my work and lives in that area. Sometimes it was a very hard decision to apply to one show over another.

I’ll give you an example.  I had applied to Uptown in Minneapolis and been accepted right before I did all this research.  The day came when I had to decide whether I was going to Minnesota or stay near my cabin in Michigan and do a small local show.  Uptown is a fabulous show full of amazing quality art in a bustling inland city, a show I’m proud to be a part of.  The local show is a mostly unjuried craft fair where I stick out like a sore thumb, on a beautiful bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.  When I ran the numbers I came up with the costs of doing both (travel, show fees, hotel, food, etc) and the possibility of reaching my people:  Uptown:  Costs-$1,540.00 with a small chance of reaching my buyers / Local Show:  Costs-$45.00 with a good chance of reaching my people.  It was a no brainer from the numbers so I chose the small local show.   I was right.  After the weekend my profit was enormous, I didn’t lose any travel time, I got to sleep in my own bed and I was able to take the next two days off and play.

The Outcome:  An artist friend once said to me:  “Less Shows, More Money” and I didn’t know what she meant.  I do now and it’s great.  For the past four years I have changed everything about the way I do business, from what shows I do, to how I deal with the community I live in.  My show list has changed drastically, last year I only did 19 shows.  I’m making more money because I know who I sell my work to and I go there, I get to spend a lot more time with my family, I am actually saving some money, I have been to Europe, the Caymans and the Bahamas this year, and I’m writing an art column for the local paper every two weeks which has always been a dream.

I made a business plan that only another independent artist could understand and then I went to work.  Thinking outside the box enabled me to change the way I do shows and broadened my horizon giving me more time to paint and create art.  It was extremely hard to change the way I had done things my whole life but it’s truly the best thing I ever did for myself because I am thriving, and I’m doing it my way with the same fantastic free lifestyle that I am accustomed to.  It won’t be the same for everyone because we all have different situations but I know we can all survive this economic glitch and live to laugh, make art and continue the adventure!

Copyrights and Wrongs

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The purpose of this article is to share with you some of our experiences in dealing with the dark side of the two-dimensional art business: Intellectual Property Theft. We are not attorney’s and do not give legal advice, but we want the reader to understand that your art is a business and an asset and occasionally, people will try to steal it.

A little background before we get into the nuts and bolts of this article.  My wife and I started our art business in 1998, right after I graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design with a Degree in Illustration.  We chose the street show marketing approach and have continued to do shows for the last 15 years.  We work for ourselves, book our own events, and define where our art is sold and to whom.  We now do some 30 shows a year from Florida to Texas.

I was 38 when I graduated from Ringling and had been running my own construction business for years prior to school.  Art is no different; it is a business of designing and producing your work, then selling it at a fair price. It is how we make our living.  We design original artwork, illustrated navigational charts, and fine art reproductions.  We also have licensing deals in place for apparel and household goods.  Some of our clients include: Bass Pro Shops, Coastal Conservation Association (Florida and Texas), Denali Performance Apparel, Paramount International Apparel, and Microthin.  Past clients have included Bealls Dept. Stores, Bertram Yachts, Hell’s Bay Boatworks and Century/Yamaha.

Be advised…there are a lot of pirates in these waters!  Intellectual Property Theft (copyright infringement) is takig billions of dollars from hard working artists every year.

Here is a prime example:  At a recent Sarasota art show, a company approached me, wanting to license artwork as open edition canvas giclees (reproductions on canvas with no limited edition).  I was busy, but not wanting to be rude, I listened to the pitch.  This company markets to furniture stores along the east and gulf coasts.  I was asked to email a few digital “samples” for review, which I did – 2 x 4 inches at 150 dpi – big enough to see but not big enough to use (this is very important).

I received a call for an appointment to come by my studio to see the original artwork and discuss royalty rates and details. Thinking I was hungry, and not doing any background research, this man offered 5% of the dealer wholesale, which amounted to $2.50 each – a great deal if you were born under a rock at night!  I sell the same lithograph reproduction at $100.00 (this was Red Flag #1).

He then tried to close the deal by showing me their company website. I was shocked!  The bulk of their site consisted of knock-off reproductions I recognized as belonging to a number of artists and photographers I personally know (Red Flag #2).

I resisted the urge to bounce this guy out my door on his head, because I didn’t want him to know that I was onto him.  After the meeting I contacted everyone I could, and was astounded that none of them had ever filed copyright on their works.  They can do little while this company continues to steal from them – forever! These people go online to the Library of Congress and do a copyright search of any artist they want to copy.  No copyright filed equals a green light to burn you, and they will.  It is how they make their living.

In another recent case, I licensed my artwork for a large national apparel project.  All was going fine until the distributor and the screen printer had some differences.  The screen printer kept raising the prices and changing the terms of their agreement, demanding money up front before they would ship.  My licensing agreement was with the distributor, not the shirt printer, so I wasn’t a part of this.  The distributor eventually went broke and the deal died on the vine.  Since this deal was over, the screen printer decided to sell the entire shirt inventory online thru an online public seller’s site without consulting me or paying me a royalty.  They figured they were owed for the shirts – and I understand their point.  But it was still my artwork and trademark on those shirts.

This form of discount marketing can diminish your brand and your reputation and it is illegal. In this instance the screen printer refused my demands to pay my royalty, and also refused to cease and desist.  We filed a Federal Copyright and Trademark suit, which took months to finalize.  All in all, we spent over a year trying to get water from a rock.  The screen printer sold the business assets out from under us and it just got to the point where I needed to cut my losses.  I settled out of court for a small fee and confiscated about 600 shirts, which I later sold to a reputable dealer at wholesale. My attorney fees were in the thousands; fortunately for us he loves my work, but it still cost me an original painting worth about $8,000.  But there were lessons learned on both sides, and a less reputable company was out of business.  We had won the battle but lost the war.

Rule of Thumb: Don’t ever give out high-resolution files, or original art, prints or any other form of media without copyrighting first, otherwise you may be granting them the right to use them as they wish.

Your artwork is protected to some extent as soon as it is created but you must sign, date and place the copyright mark (©) on the piece. This proves it’s your creation and when you created it.  Unfortunately, if someone uses your work, copies it, or reproduces it without your permission, there is little you can do to stop it except demand them to Cease & Desist.  You can’t sue for damages or recover your attorney fees without copyrighting the work.

Officially copyrighting your artwork is like buying an insurance policy for your art.  It’s inexpensive to do and you do not need a lawyer to do it.  If you do not file with the Library of Congress you are just inviting someone to steal it from you.  The cost to copyright a work of art is $35 each (applied for on-line).  The website address is You can also mail in the forms, but the price is slightly higher (the form can be downloaded).  All the information on copyright is on the website – so spend some time reading the statues to get a better understanding of the law (it’s quite interesting).

Works initially created after 1978 are automatically protected for the lifetime of the author plus 70 years, without need for renewal. Once you’ve filed, and someone steals your work, you may be entitled to Actual Damages (what the job was normally worth), Statutory Damages (up to $150,000), Attorney Fees (can be in the thousands) and Court Costs. And, don’t forget, your copyright remains in effect until 70 years after your death.

Even with this protection some people will still try to steal your artwork anyway – it happens all the time.  We’ve been down this road a few times, and normally a Cease & Desist letter gets the job done, but not always. We highly recommend you find and retain a good Intellectual Property Attorney to handle this. The letterhead of a law firm tends to get peoples attention.  Note: As for international copyright infringement, it may very well not be worth the time, or money, to pursue it.

I may not recommend copyrighting to everyone as it depends on the marketability and commercial value of your work – it is your choice as an artist. But we are always shocked at how many artists we meet are misinformed about their rights and copyrights in general. Even at art school, I was told if you change something 10-15 % then you will be okay – WRONG!  There is no such rule.  It comes down to a court deciding if the image you did looks like the one someone else did, who did it first, and who filed copyright.  Spend the money and insure your creations. As a business owner you insure your equipment, studio and vehicles; why not protect the artwork that puts food on your table?

We own over 80 copyrighted images and two trademarks. We chose to copyright all our images due to the expansive use of our art (you may want to copyright only the art that is most popular).  We enforce any misuse of my art equally.  If someone is reproducing your work without your specific written permission, then it undermines your value.  Some artists believe it’s not a big deal; I am not one of them.  In every licensing contract we sign there is a specific clause that states that I have to enforce my rights in case of any “known infringement”.  This protects my clients from someone else using the same image I have given them the exclusive rights to.  The client will want nothing to do with an image if they believe I am allowing someone else to use that same image on the same product line.  If we don’t enforce our rights then we can be in breach of contract and it can be reason for termination by the client.

A good source of information for artists, graphic designers, and illustrators is The Graphic Artist Guild Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines (available online or in bookstores).  It contains valuable information you will find very helpful.  We also like artist and author Jack White, and his series of 6 art marketing books; many artists have read his books over the years.

We hope this helps you understand just a little more about your rights and any future infringements that may (unfortunately) affect you.  You might as well be in the best position to deal with it.  There is a good chance you will get burned – sooner or later.  Remember, there are a lot of pirates in these waters!

Marketing Your Art Through the News Media

Thursday, August 29, 2013

You’ve just received a call from a news reporter or journalist wanting to interview you for a story.  You’re thrilled, as you should be.  Then, you will have one of two possible reactions: 1) panic sets in: what if they ask me a question I can’t answer? What if I put my foot in my mouth? What if I’m taken out of context? or 2) No problem – I’ve done this a million times before – I can wing it.

If you had the panic reaction, relax. If you felt like you could just wing it, think twice!  This article will tell you how to take control of the interview, how to get your message across and how to utilize the news media as an effective advertising tool.  It will take a little of your time, a lot of perseverance, and will really challenge your creativity but in the end you will be better able to attract the attention of potential customers.

Your interview may be for print, for live TV or for a video.  No matter what the medium, the basic foundation is the same.

Preparation   The most important thing about preparing for an interview is to DO IT! If the interview is important enough for you to do, it’s important enough to make the time to do the homework.  Being adequately prepared helps cut down on the panic factor, gives you confidence, and will help you to better focus the interview on your messages.

If you feel that you need no preparation, consider this: the best professional communicators didn’t get where they are by simply ‘winging it’.  Robin Williams didn’t get where he is by just being a funny guy.  You can bet he’s spent many hundreds of hours rehearsing in front of a camera or mirror. If he wouldn’t just wing it, why would you?  Or consider your artwork.  Even though you were probably born with loads of natural artistic talent, you still didn’t get where you are today without a lot of hard work.  Why would you think you could reach your maximum effectiveness as an interviewee without some work as well?

Reporters   Luckily for you, your interview probably won’t be for 60 Minutes and the reporter probably doesn’t have a hidden investigative agenda.  You can relax a little in knowing that the reporter isn’t out to get you, he is simply looking for something interesting to report.  The reporter is your conduit to the audience that you want to reach; your mouthpiece to tell the world about why they should buy your art.

Know Your Audience   The first and most important issue you must address is knowing your audience.  Please remember, journalists are not the audience; they are only the person delivering your message to the audience.  You want to reach the people who read, listen to or watch what the journalist produces.  Small town or large, rural or urban area, age group, national magazine, gallery owners?  If you’re not sure, interview the journalist when they first contact you and ask them.

Remember that the audience immediately asks this question when they see your story in print or on television: “So you make leather goods, so what?  How am I affected, why should I buy one? Do I even want to read to the end of the article, or should I watch for a minute before I change the channel?” That question must be answered immediately and often.  Do you know the answer for your artwork?  It is critical that you do!

Communication Objective   Next you must have a communication objective.  What’s the headline You’d like to see?

“Unique, Stylish and Fun Jones Bags to be Featured at Art Fest.”

Once you know what your objective is you should then determine what messages you need to help you achieve it.  You will need messages that appeal to the journalist’s sense of news.  So let’s visit that subject next.

The definition of news   Certainly you have your own ideas on the subject but we have to work with how journalists define news if we are to attract their attention.  There are four criteria you must address.

1.  It must be timely.  That simply means that if you can tie what you do to trends, events, products or situations that are currently in the news you stand a much better chance of attracting attention.  Let’s say a new clothing sensation has been announced that is taking the country by storm and it features very bright and even whimsical colors.  If your artwork is extremely colorful perhaps you can tie into that trend.  Or, you could tie into the economy.  “Everyone is watching their dollars these days and the best way to save money is to purchase goods that last a long time.  Our leather purses and accessories do just that.  Made of the finest leather…..”

2.  Is it unusual?  Reporters don’t cover houses that didn’t burn down or cars that didn’t crash.  That’s the norm so you must position your artwork as unusual, out of the ordinary, unique or unavailable anywhere else.  Journalists have to know that what they are reporting on will get the, “Wow…I didn’t know that,” reaction from their readers, listeners or viewers.

If you say, “I am a woodwork artist and I make jewelry boxes.”  The news media are likely to ignore you because there are millions of jewelry boxes but, if you say, “My jewelry boxes are unique because many of them have hidden slide-on tops, so they can’t be easily opened by others unless they know the secret”.

3.  How many people does it affect?  Journalists want stories with mass appeal so you have to position your work in a way that meets that criterion.  “Everyone likes to have fun and my jewelry appeals to that instinct, that’s why my slogan, ‘Wear some fun!’ attracts attention”.  Position your product as not only having an effect on a lot of people but make sure that effect is positive and makes people feel good about themselves.

4.  How are those people affected?  The affect must be significant. “Customers tell me that my brightly colored tropical photographs make them feel like they’re looking out the window at the beach in an exotic paradise”.

The Story   In almost every article that you read about selling your art, the author is telling you that your art needs a story….and for good reason.  Tying in with the ‘unusual’ aspect, above, people buy art / clothes / jewelry because they like the way it makes them feel, and also because they hope people will notice it.  Giving them a story to tell with it gives them a reason to want to own it, or to buy it to give to someone else.  Would they rather say, “here’s your present, I bought it at a gallery”? or “These earrings were made by a woman who goes to Brazil and finds her own gemstones, and cuts them herself”.  Or, “How do you like my new painting – it was painted by a man who didn’t pick up a paintbrush until his 70th birthday”.

Messages   Before going into the interview, you must establish the messages that you want to get across.  Three messages are probably all that you will be able to work into the interview (if that many), so carefully choose your three messages.  Here are some examples:

•  My necklaces are one-of a kind so you will own a truly unique piece of jewelry

•  This bag saves your hard earned dollar because it lasts a long time.

•  All my sculptures are made from recycled metal so you can feel good about having a positive effect on the planet.

•  You’ll stand out as a person of exquisite taste and style and you’ll be stopped and complimented.

•  My neutral color palette makes these paintings ageless

•  You can mix and match your own picture groupings to enhance your own unique decor.

Don’t  just roll a few messages around in your head.  Decide exactly what they will be and write them down.  There should be two or three key messages – no more.  Once you have established your messages, you will be able to use them to focus the interview on what you want to tell the world.

Opening Paragraph   Once you have an objective and develop messages, your next step, then, is to write a short product positioning paragraph that incorporates the four elements of news.  This is also the place to insert a line or two about your story if you like.

“In today’s economy it is important to spend money wisely and to purchase items that not only satisfy a need but last a long time.  Our leather handbags and other products not only meet those qualifications but they are a unique design made of high quality leathers that you’ll find nowhere else.  We create our own unique colors from dye recipes handed down in our family for 4 generations.  Owning a “Jones bag” means something special because the 21st century design is not only stylish but will make you feel special and attract attention. Our customers tell us they are stopped often by strangers who are attracted by the look, the feel and the artistry of our products and want to know more about them. Be prepared to be complimented often on your good taste. Here, for example, is one of my most popular pieces.”  The statement should not exceed 150 words (about a minute).

This paragraph will serve two purposes.  It will serve as part of a news release you can send out to the media and it also is the first thing you will say in any interview you do.

Once you have written your positioning or foundation statement you are ready to contact the media or to respond to a contact from them.

Memorize the statement!  You may not have the opportunity to quote it exactly, but it will help make you less likely to feel tongue-tied, and will ensure that you make all of your points.

Bring Muffins   When you participate in an interview be sure you have your artwork with you.  If the interview is at your booth then it is easy and you can do a “walking tour” of your exhibit.  If the interview is on the phone, make sure the interviewer is looking at your web site and at pictures of your work as you explain it. We once worked with a client who was having trouble in interviews with getting the point across that his muffins were the best in town. He was very surprised by our question: “Did you bring muffins?”  You can’t describe the taste of a muffin, it has to be experienced.

Taking Control   One of the most often heard complaints about interviews from artists is, “She didn’t ask the questions I was hoping she would ask.”  You should never approach an interview with the objective of just being able to answer the reporter’s questions.  We have news for you!  It’s up to you to control the interview and steer the reporter in the direction that you want to go.  The reporter may be grateful for this.  Reporters are often overworked, under a deadline, don’t know much about your artwork or medium, and haven’t had time to do a lot of prep work for the interview.  This means that they will often ask generic questions, and will be glad if you give them an interesting story or a good angle to follow.

That means you have to do a better job of directing the interview from the beginning. If the reporter starts the interview with, “How did you decide to become an artist?”  You should answer briefly and then go to the positioning statement.  Here’s an example: “I’ve been interested in art since I was a child so becoming an artist was not a big decision but let me take just a minute to explain my art, what I do and why people buy it. (you have just set yourself up to give your positioning statement).  It is likely that follow-up questions from the reporter will be about your statement and that means you are in control and the questions you want to answer will get asked.

Get Your Message Across…Often!

Each question that a reporter asks should be answered, and tied back to one of your messages.  Remember that each message tells how your artwork affects the customer.  Notice that in each examples below, the better answer is about how the art affects the customer, not about the artist.

Reporter: How long does it take you to make one of your necklaces?

You (typical answer): My pieces take many hours to make.  I’m often in the studio until 2:00am working on a particular necklace.

You (better answer): Since all of my necklaces are one of a kind, they are each designed individually, and I have some of the designs in my head for months before they materialize on paper.  I want to make sure that each person who buys one of my necklaces has a unique piece of art to wear, and that takes a lot of time and consideration.

Reporter: What are your bags made of?

You (typical answer): they’re all made of leather with silk linings.

You (better answer): I use fine leather because I want my customers to be assured that their bags will wear well and last a long time.

Reporter: What do people like about your jewelry?

You: (typical answer): They like the fact that it’s bright and colorful and fun.

You: (better answer): It’s bright and colorful and sure to be noticed.  My  customers tell me often that they get complements every time they wear it.

Reporter: So your sculptures are all made of recycled metal?

You (typical answer): Yes, it’s all recycled and I go around to scrap yards and estate sales all over the southeast looking for metals to use.  I probably attend 50 or more estate sales a year.

You (better answer): Yes, I find that almost everyone is interested in making a contribution to saving the planet, and my customers are happy to save something from going into a landfill.

Reporter: So are you able to write off all your trips to take these pictures?

You (typical answer): oh yeah, it’s great – I go Europe every other year.  I’ve backpacked all over Europe and have been in all the major European countries at least twice.

You (better answer): Well every artist has business expenses, but people who buy my photographs love the fact that I’ve been able to capture the essence of the streets of Italy and often tell me that that it brings back good memories of their trip there.

Reporter: What’s the hardest thing about being an artist?

You (typical answer): Well, a lot of the shows don’t let you set up until Saturday morning, and I have to get up at 3:30am in order to be ready to open by 10:00.

You (better answer): Well every job has its challenges, but when people tell me they get compliments every single time they wear my woven jackets, it makes it all worth it!

Note: Don’t even think about answering a question like the one above, or any other question for that matter, with a negative answer.  Do you really want your headline to read: “Artist Dreads 3:30am Setups”?

Just remember the formula: question, answer, message.  Answer the question and tie the answer back to one of your messages.  This also helps you think of what to say if you’re afraid of the reporter asking you a question that you can’t answer.

Taken Out of Context   This is one of the biggest complaints from people whose interviews appear in print.  The fact is that unless they print absolutely every word you say, you will be taken out of context.  Well, they never print everything you say, so remember, shorter is better.  Keep your comments short, simple and to the point. The more you talk, the more they have to pick and choose what to print.  The more they edit, the more likely it is you will be taken out of context. If you remember the simple rule of relating everything back to your messages, then that will help focus the story on what you want your audience to hear.  Repeat your messages often and they will be more likely to get through to the audience.

Off the Record   Let us be very clear about this topic.  In an interview, there is no such thing as ‘off the record’.  You are ALWAYS on the record from the moment the reporter contacts you until you until the day you attend his funeral.  There is no such thing as casual chat before or after the actual interview.  Anything you say, any comment about a show, a producer, another artist, your ingrown toenail or the lack of toilet paper in the portable toilets is subject to end up in print.  The latter example actually DID end up in print on one occasion and of course the interviewee complained about being taken out of context.

Bottom line – if you don’t want to see it in print – don’t say it. 

Are you the right person to answer the question?   Occasionally a reporter may ask a question for which you are not the right person to give an answer, or a question that calls for speculation.   It may be a question that should really be answered by a show producer, such as why the show discontinued the shuttle bus service.  Just realize that you don’t have to provide an answer to every question.  If the question should be directed to someone else instead, don’t be afraid to say that you’re not the person to answer the question.

Energy and Enthusiasm   It’s important for any interview – especially TV or video.  You love being an artist – let it show.  If you’re naturally bubbly and excited about your work, don’t feel that you have to hold back!  You will set a good positive energy for the interview.

On the other hand, if you tend to be low key and laid back, work on showing energy and enthusiasm.  You have a cell phone or laptop, or you know someone who does.  Video your opening statement – it’s always good practice.  If you listen to it and it sounds boring, then guess what?  It probably is!  Picture calling your best friend to tell them about how Publisher’s Clearinghouse just came to your door with their camera crew.  Now video yourself again and see if you can talk about your work with the same enthusiasm.

Tips for Successful Interviews

•   Use as many examples as possible. Examples are quotable. “For example” is the most powerful phrase in any language.

•   Avoid technical or insider language; no one else really cares about cones,  annealing temperatures or skiving leather. Speak in terms a 13 year old would understand.

•   Remember the reporter is not your audience.  Her readers (your customers) are who you should focus on.

•   Repeat your messages.  The more you repeat them the more likely they are to get used.

•   Answer the question.  Don’t be evasive and work up to an answer, just answer it and move on.

•   Remember the question and answer formula. For every question there should be an answer and a message (question, answer, message)

•   Don’t ask to see the story before it is printed or broadcast.  If the reporter offers that’s fine but usually they won’t and asking to see it implies that you want to edit it and most of the media do not allow that.  You can ask when the story will be published or broadcast and you can also say, “If you have any further questions or need clarification please call me.”

Results!   Interviews are great publicity!  We can’t think of a single time that we were interviewed that we didn’t have people come to the booth and say that they saw or read the interview. Better yet is when they say that they came to the show just because they saw us on TV or read about us in the newspaper.  People love being able to say, “Oh, I saw that necklace on the Good Morning show!”.  It makes them feel like they already know you by the time they get to your booth, and that’s the first step towards building a relationship with a new, hopefully many-time-repeat customer!


About Bob & Robin Aronson:

Getting the attention of the news media is what Bob Aronson did for many years.  He started out as a journalist and TV anchor,  and went on to become a Governor’s Press secretary.  He was the news talk show host for the very first Morning Edition show on Minnesota Public Radio, and then went on to spend 25 years as a communications consultant in his own business.  He worked with some of the largest corporations and government agencies in the world, as well as working with non-profits and the art and music communities.  Robin is a former computer systems analyst and worked as Bob’s assistant for 6 years.  She has been making colorful anodized aluminum jewelry for 13 years, with Bob’s help in making the booth furniture, display items and jigs that she needs.  They travel together in their camper, with their two dogs, to art shows in the southeast and mid-west.  In what little spare time they have, they play music together on a variety of instruments, and have participated in spontaneous parking lot jam sessions at some of the art shows.

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