Art Festivals - The Beginner's Guide - From the Perspective of a Beginner

As I mentioned in my last post, I've decided to do a series on my blog about how to get started doing art festivals and outdoor exhibitions - as written from the perspective someone who just completed their first season of festivals.

Art festivals are not for sissies. It's really true.  There is a TON of work involved on the front end, especially in the beginning.  Let's break it down...

Applying to Shows
Emerging Artist Exhibits
Booth Displays and Everything that Goes with it
Payment Options
Resources - Online Communities, Managing Contacts, Blogging, Facebook, Websites

Today, I'd like to talk about Applying to Shows & Emerging Artist Exhibits...

emerging artist tent
Manayunk Art Festival 2012
I kinda fell into art festivals this summer.  I was part of a group show at my local art center and things went really well, so I started poking around for other opportunities in the community.  I happened upon a call for emerging artists on the Manayunk Art Festival facebook page.  It was their first time offering an emerging artist tent, so I applied and was accepted.  The table fee was low - just $100.  All I needed to bring was my work - everything else would be provided.  PERFECT!  For $100, I get to test the marketplace.  This is as low risk as its gonna get.  
my little space in the very back of the tent
Manayunk Art Festival 2012

Things went really well at the festival.  There was a constant stream of people walking through offering comments.  I sold my first large piece to a collector and was hooked.  When my husband saw the financials after the show ended, he was googling more shows that night.  So, that's how it all started.  

I HIGHLY ENCOURAGE YOU TO TEST THE WATERS BEFORE JUMPING IN!  Emerging Artist Exhibits are catching on - search for shows that offer them and apply.  Apply early.  Most shows have deadlines months in advance of the show.  

How do you find the art festivals?  Well, once you are showing at art festivals it is easy....it is the most talked about topic among vendors.  I have my target list already created for 2013 with application deadlines and application fees highlighted.  Not as easy for someone new to know where to apply....so here are a few resources that have been really helpful for me.

SUNSHINE ARTIST - a magazine that ranks the top 200 art festivals in the country as well as offers a wide range of useful tips and articles specifically for the art and craft festival artists.  SUBSCRIBE TO THIS, you won't be disappointed.

FESTIVAL NETWORK ONLINE - another great resource for upcoming shows and events - they offer a paid subscription, however, I find the list and manually look of the details

ART FAIR INSIDERS -  an awesome community of artists that show at festivals, has info on just about any topic you can think of

ZAPPLICATION -  a lot of festivals are now having you apply via zapplication, which is really quite easy and there is a great list of upcoming shows available on their site.  It allows you to save the postings to your favorites for future review.  

Now that you have a place to start - go do some research and figure out where you want to start.  Keep this in mind, art festivals are a lot of work.  Be sure that you plan ample time between festivals to restock inventory, do bookkeeping, and catch up on rest.  

Now it's time to figure out a tent for displaying for your work - next time.
Click here to read Part II - Tents


  1. Thank you for your article, I'm a beginner too, not easy but another "safe" way is to go and see the shows, sometimes promoters promise to much...

  2. Thanks for your post...you make an excellent point. I did a show this summer where the promoter detailed a crowd estimate in the show listing...and although there were probably that many people that were there over the weekend, the majority were there to site see. Only about 10% of people that stopped by our booth were there specifically for the festival. We will pass on that festival next year. Thanks again for making such a great point.