I have been gambling at least 20 weekends a year for the past 25 years. By that, I mean being an artist at juried art festivals. The classic definition of a gambler describes the life of the traveling art festival artist quite well; "wagering money (jury fees) or something of value (time) on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent on gaining money or material goods. Gambling requires three elements be present: consideration, chance, and prize," elements present at every art festival.
The difference between a simple gambler and an artist who is successful largely falls on mitigating risk. As artists, the first risk is choosing which shows to apply for and hopefully attend. Any great art festival is a collaborative effort between the show and the artists, creating an open and honest process is key to the success of both parties. When choosing a partner to gamble with, artists should consider art festivals that provide the following:
Jury Process (when applicable): Shows f ind competent, knowledgeable jurors to conduct a professional jury process that reflects respect and impartiality. This mitigates the risk of showcasing at a poorly curated show.
Communication: Make all artist information readily available including show policies, instructions, and layouts so that it can be referenced easily. If an artist still has questions the festival should be responsive via email or telephone.
Safety: Provide security before, during and after the show to mitigate physical and mental risk.
PR and Marketing: Promoting an art festival takes creative thinking balanced with practicality. The artist has the right to ask where the event was publicized. The festival should provide digital art to the artist so they can market the information to their clients.
Layout Plan: Should be thoughtfully prepared so artists with a similar look are not placed next to each other.
Site Evaluation: The Festival should inspect the site before the event. Making sure that there are no hazards to the artists and if there are - reworking the layout to safely accommodate everyone.
Not all risk can be assumed by the festival, for once at the festival it largely falls on the artist to ensure they have a great show. Here are some basic items to take into consideration:
Market Yourself: You have purchased a storefront for the weekend. It is essential that you market your location, new work and your story. It is much easier to make a sale to an existing patron than acquire a new one.
Weather: Be sure you have the appropriate gear to secure your display and protect your art. Having insurance on your work also mitigates risk.
Put your best foot forward: Make sure your display is professional and unique as your art. A great display creates a welcoming atmosphere for your new or existing clients. When you are selling your art, you should dress as sharply as the situation allows.
Be Engaged: Being an active seller and sharing your story will result in better customer engagement that leads to higher sales
The combination of partnering with art festivals who are vested in developing strategies that benefit the artists and the artist assessing risk and analyzing what they can do to mitigate risk, changes the odds.