Lessons from a summer of art shows

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My goal at the beginning of 2020 was to get out and show my work at events. Well...Covid had other plans and we we all know how that year went! So 2021 was the first year I really got to participate in art shows and events. I have done 11 events over the spring and summer, and as I wind down for the year I figured I'd write up some notes here, both for myself and others who may be looking to get into the KC art scene next year!

I had a goal to do on average 1 event a month, or 12 for the year. I've done 11 so far and I have one more scheduled in November so I will hit my goal! But it was a lot, and I don't think I'll do as many next year. I fit all these in 6 months, so I did on average 2 a month, although it was actually front loaded and super busy in the late spring / early summer. 

Art Westport set up 2021

This year was my time to try everything to see what worked & what didn't. I did some small, pop up style events last year, and I already knew that "craft" events weren't the right fit for me. I realized by doing those that I fit better in a "fine art" category since I don't do many prints and so my work is higher priced. (Still not as expensive as a lot of original art...but the pricing struggle is a post for another day!) However, I still did a few pop up events this year, in different locations and with different organizers, but I found that trend still held: anything on a sidewalk, or a pop up, single day event is not a good use of my time. I typically only make about $100 at those, and it's just not worth it to set up a tent, arrange all the art, and have two of us sit out in the heat for multiple hours.

Hot and sweaty at the Mission Sidewalk Sale

I did much, much better at art-focused events. My top events this year were Art Westport and Food. Art. Drink. in Gladstone. I will definitely be doing those again next year! I was surprised I didn't do as well as I hoped at the event closest to home, Art in the Park here in NKC, and I don't know if it was the heat, my tent location, or what. So I will probably do that one again to see if it was a fluke, and because it's just so close to home!

Jen with Cheryl Eve Acosta

Everyone I met through these events was super nice and helpful. They were a good source of networking and a way to find out about other events that had been good for them in the past. I've even made a few friends! And the visitors were nearly all great as well. There were of course a few dismissive folks, but they were few and far between. Everyone else had lovely things to say about my work and in general people enjoyed learning about how I paint with a palette knife. I got a lot of practice honing my pitch and figuring out what to tell folks at all levels of art knowledge and interest.

Overall, events are a ton of work! I am incredibly lucky to have my husband as a huge help and supporter. He pretty much puts up my tent single handedly and is a great promoter (better even than me at talking about and selling my art!) and I couldn't imagine doing these without him.

I wish I had figured out earlier that pop up events weren't a good fit for me, and that I'd been more comfortable claiming the "fine art" label, but otherwise I am content that at all except one event I made my money back, at least. The hourly rate though...yikes! No one's gonna get rich quick doing these events. Summer in MO is a miserable time to be outside for a lot of these events too, but there's no way around that. 

Next year I will pick my events more carefully, and hopefully spread them out a bit more if possible. I already have a multiple page list of events to look into after the new year! (I regret missing out on a few local ones because I didn't know the application deadlines, so I hope to avoid that in 2022.) I learned a lot about what to do and not, and got a lot of experience talking about myself and my art, which will help in all aspects of my budding art career.

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