This is a three part series to help you get started in the art festival circuit.
You know your target market. You are ready to jump in. Now comes the hard part. Getting into these festivals. I kid you not this can be a very frustrating experience and limit your show list. Here are my tips for the application process.
The application process
Getting into an art festival is so much more involved than most people are aware. As an artist, you must apply yearly to the fine art shows and festivals and the application process can be rather daunting at first. First things first. Know the application deadline! This is usually several months before the actual event dates. If you miss the deadline, there is almost no chance of getting into a festival. Once you know the deadline, you can begin the process. Usually you will answer a few basic questions such as artist category, name and address. Then you’ll need to submit 3-5 images, including a booth shot. Next up you pay an application fee ($30-$50). Then you must wait for a jury to look over your work and pass judgment as to whether or not you get to participate in that show/festival.
How is all this done you ask?
Many fine art shows use Zapplication as the source for artist applications and jurying. Another website shows use is EntryThingy. I find way less who use this one, but it is out there. Others have their own application process which you’ll need to discover. Reach out to the show director with questions. If the shows uses its own process, chances are the application is on the show website. Again, do your research. If you haven’t already visited Zapplication, check it out. You’ll need to create an account to apply to shows, but can use some basic calendar/event features without a login. Zapplication allows you to upload photos of your work and your booth. Set up your address and basic information. Then you search for shows to apply to and submit applications. It will give you application deadlines, show dates and more.
Creating your application
As an artist, it is equally important to know the difference between what can jury well and what sells well. Look at the technical aspect of your work. If you do photography, is it 100% in focus, creative and unique? Is there a theme or collection? Create a grouping of your work. The jury images should have a theme or group together somehow. Maybe you are a photographer of nature. For your jury images include all images of trees. For a painter this might be easier since your work is probably related somehow by its very nature. Be creative. Afterall, you are an artist, right? Make sure the images are professional and the lighting is good. There shouldn’t be any distractions. Keep the background simple – black, white, etc. For digital photography this is super easy. Your images are all ready to upload. For a painter, potter, jeweler this is way more important. Hire a professional to take jury images for you. Trust me this can make or break your acceptance.
For your booth shot, there should be no name or identifying marks. It should be clean, simple and reflect your style. This may not be the way you set up your booth exactly at a show, but it should be similar. For painters and photographers, less on the walls is more. Again keep the pieces in the booth shot a collection. Arrange them in line and neat. Your booth should look professional. This is where the research comes into play. See what others are doing at fine art shows and use them as examples. Even with all that preliminary work for the application, there is still no guarantee that you will be accepted. The competition is fierce. Larger, well established art festivals can get well over 1,000 applications for the 150-200 available spaces. The most popular categories? Jewelry and photography. This is why I stress the research part. So, you’ve sent in your applications. What next?
The waiting game
So you’ve applied to festivals. Now you get to wait to hear back from the jury. It can be a grueling wait full of anticipation. Don’t fret too much about it. The email or notice will arrive. I struggle with this part the most, but after a few years I have also learned that it is what it is. I used to write the date on my calendar and eagerly await the notice. Now I try to forget the dates of acceptance notices, so I don’t sit around waiting when I could be doing something else. Once you have been juried in, you get to accept or reject their decision. If you accept, you pay the booth fee for the space. This space can be anywhere from $150 to over $600 for a 10×10 space. Although I have seen them refund fees for medical emergencies, many times the booth space is non-refundable. The booth fee is usually paid months in advance of the show. Keep this in mind since you need to budget for booth space. I hope these pointers were helpful in getting you started with the application process. What else would you like to know about?