Somewhat unexpectedly on our final day in the Washington, D.C. area, we ran across a fall Art Festival in the streets of suburban Bethesda, Maryland. We were on our way to more sightseeing when we saw the banner on Wisconsin Avenue. It was the Bethesda Row Arts Festival, the 11th annual. Just shy of 200 artists were showing their works including all kinds of painting (oil, acrylic, pastel, encaustic), scultpture (bronze, steel, wood), ceramics, fiber, photography, and jewelry. A street scene of the festival is Today’s Image.
It made me think again that showing artwork at festivals around the country is one of the main ways artists have to sell their wares and get their work and name out before the public. It’s not only art, it’s a business and a lifestyle. I talked to several of the artists who said other than showing their work in a local gallery, if that, a festival is their main sales opportunity.
Many artists continually apply and are accepted to festivals that are happening year 'round, primarily in the spring and fall. They own or rent the street booth necessities, such as booth dividers, tents, tarps, hangers, tables, stands, etc. Not too far from the festival you can spot the artists’ parking area, which is full of RVs, trucks, vans, and SUVs. Although many of the artists at any particular festival are from the surrounding area, a good many travel regionally and even nationally to take part in the larger festivals.
In a previous blog, I had mentioned there are websites devoted to helping artists apply to festivals with sites for uploading artwork and paying application fees. The sites have a listing of participating festivals and email artist members with lists of upcoming festivals and emails that list imminent deadlines.
I don’t know how successful the average artist is in terms of sales at these festivals. They must do better than break-even because so many artists participate, and these are just the ones who are accepted. At least as many do not make the jury cut.
One thing I, and many others, like about the art festival as a venue is that you have a chance to meet the artists and find out more about their passion and methods. The Bethesda Row Arts Festival was held on a crisp, clear fall weekend, and by all appearances looked to be a success as there were crowds of people, and I saw several transactions in the time we were there.
I myself had applied to two art festivals in my region and was ‘declined’ by one and ‘wait-listed’ by the other. However, the night before we left for our Washington, D.C., visit, the art festival that had ‘declined’ me emailed to say they had two booths that had come available at the last minute, and was I interested. Unfortunately I had to ‘decline’ the last-minute offer. My business-head said they were just trying sell every last single booth space, but my art-head was saying I was good enough to be accepted (if only at the last minute). The deadline for the next spring event is the end of this week, so I might just apply again.
In the Studio
I have spent this week cleaning up my studio and organizing my supplies once again. It seems to be never-ending. But I added another drawer to my rolling cart--that makes seven now--and I think I can find everything easier and faster. I'll let you know. We'll see.