Last weekend I participated in Meet the Artists, a small art festival held right here in Breckenridge. A few friends have asked me to share my experience since they enjoy attending art festivals, and wanted to hear how it went.
Although I’ve been an artist all my life, this was my first time exhibiting my work at an art festival. I’ve been wanting to try them, and it made sense to try one close to home (that way if I forgot anything, I could run home real quick!). I figured I would just stick my toe in the festival water by trying something small and relatively “easy”.
A few months ago I read a book called Art Festival Guide: The Artist’s Guide to Selling in Art Festivals. The book is by Maria Arango Diener, a woodcut print artist who has made a career of traveling to festivals all over the West to sell her art. If you have ever thought about doing a festival, I highly recommend this book. Festivals require a LOT of preparation, and this book really helped me get my ducks in a row.
Many people have asked me if the festival provides the tent or the display panels…the answer is no. As an artist, you are responsible for bringing your own tent and panels and setting them up by yourself. Luckily for me, I was able to borrow the tent from the Arts Alive Gallery (where I’m a member) and the panels from the Breckenridge Arts District. This was wonderful for me since these items are a substantial investment, even if you know you want to do festivals regularly.
My booth’s spot was on the corner by the main flow of traffic, so this was excellent for visibility, and it was great people watching for me! I was also lucky to have lots of help setting up. My husband, Brian, and Tom Kramer, the president of the Summit County Arts Council, helped me get my tent set up on Friday afternoon in the hot sun:
The festival was scheduled to run Saturday 10-6 and Sunday 10-5. I intended to wake up at 6:00 on Saturday to ensure adequate time for hanging my artwork, but I was so excited (and nervous!) I woke up at 4:00. I kind of felt like a kid on Christmas! After grabbing some breakfast and tea, I arrived at my booth around 7:15. I had just enough time to set everything up and make a last-minute run to the bank (to which I walked, since I scored a rockstar parking space only 75 yards from my booth).
Saturday we had beautiful weather. Lots of folks were up from the Front Range for the weekend, or just arriving for the 4th of July week. I got to meet people from all over the country, and I also reconnected with a few old friends. It was fun talking to folks, and I especially enjoyed the occasional canine visitor I got too! It was neat to see the response to my work en masse – people who come into the gallery seem to enjoy my work, but interacting with a lot of people at once was especially cool. Almost everyone who visits or lives in Colorado enjoys biking, skiing, hiking or just taking in the views, so a lot of people seem to connect with my paintings. It’s rewarding to be able to see people have a positive emotional reaction when they view my work!
Sunday was mostly overcast and cooler, which was welcomed by most of the artists after Saturday’s intense sun. It didn’t start to drizzle until mid-afternoon, but that didn’t actually seem to deter traffic too much. However, the drizzle later turned into a downpour and we all had to close our tent walls for a little while:
(I learned quickly that when I buy my own tent I need to get one that has walls that roll down from the top, not in from the sides – using gravity to help me would’ve been much easier in a rush!)
I was worried the day would be over with the bad weather, but the rain didn’t last long, and we were able to open up for business again (I even had a few people stick their head in my tent door before I opened up the walls again).
We had a good hour or so of dry weather, but then the REALLY dark clouds moved in after 4:00.
Ironically, I had my biggest rush of customers and sales as the dark clouds were threatening us above. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on how you look at it), the lightning, wind, and heavy rain waited until right when it was time to start tearing down at 5:00. Packing up my artwork was my first priority, making sure it stayed dry and undamaged as I transported it to my car. After about 8 trips of running to my car (note to self, need to bring a hand cart next time), I had all of my artwork safely stashed. Tom and some other gallery members completely took care of my panels for me, which I am SO thankful for. I was able to grab all my misc non-art stuff, like my table, cooler, shopping bags, bubble wrap, etc. Then some gallery ladies and I quickly packed up the tent and I threw it in the car with the tent weights. Whew! The whole tear-down process took about an hour, but on my own it probably would’ve taken twice that long. Thanks to everyone who helped me! (I’ll definitely need to employ a friend in the future if I venture outside of the county to do festivals).
So the end of the festival was a bit dramatic. But it was all worth it! I think I got a pretty good taste of what “doing” an art festival is like and I learned a whole lot, including how to deal with a curveball or two. I made some great connections with people, and I had fun! Not to mention I did pretty well on sales, despite the fact other artists said the show was a bit of a dud for them.
I feel a lot more prepared now to do other, possibly bigger art festivals, farther from home. Now that I’ve had a week to decompress and reflect, I think I’ll be applying to a few other festivals in the surrounding mountain towns next year. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on when and where I’ll be appearing as next summer approaches.
If you came to visit my booth at Meet the Artists last weekend, thank you for coming by! It was a great pleasure meeting you and I hope to bump into you again sometime.