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Patricia Von Niessen

Thank you for your review. I'm still new to the art fair business and am trying to pick a few that give a good bang for the buck. This one is close to where I live as well, but I don't think it will work for me.

Fletcher Dean

Medium: Mixed
Year you most recently exhibited at this Show: 2020
Your Estimated Sales at this Show: < $500
Price Range of your Work: $75-1250
Number of Years You have Exhibited in this Show:
5-10 times
Number of Years You have been doing Art Fairs overall: 5-10 years
Attendance: (1 is poor, 5 is great) 3
Location: 4
Facilities: 3
Ease of Participating: 3
Sales: 1 (poor)
Overall: 1 (poor)
Booth Fee vs. Your Sales Ratio: Poor
Estimated Attendance: 501-10,000 people

Good Things about this Art Fair: *
I wanted to title this: Catnip is not art. But perhaps that’s the entire bottom line on the A.B. Dow Museum Summer Art Fair 2021 in Midland, Mich. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. It was my second-worst art fair in seven years. Here’s my short summary: The good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good: Relatively low booth fee. Relatively easy load-in/load-out. Plenty of free water which was great when the temps were 90+. Some artists said they had an ok show (though I didn’t see a lot of art being carried out). Traffic was ok on Saturday but seemed down by at least half on Sunday. The local newspaper described the crowd as "in the hundreds."

What could this Art Fair have done better?:
The Bad: It was billed as a “premiere fine art and fine craft fair.” It was not. There were some good artists there, to be sure. A fantastic ceramic tile artist and very nice pottery. Some great painters and paper artists. But the organizers also allowed in very questionable vendors and didn’t follow their own guidelines.

One vendor was selling dog bandanas, for example. Another selling baby clothes. There was one booth selling bird houses with prefabricated plastic solar-panel tops and the bottoms looking like they had been dragged through a bedazzle factory. And the kicker? Stuck between a drift-wood artist and acrylic spin artist was an entire booth simply selling catnip. As I mentioned earlier, catnip is not art. Keep in mind this was supposed to be a juried show ($40 fee).

I’m not sure which art category catnip falls into. I was in Mixed Media. Perhaps catnip is Mixed Greens? The guidelines clearly say no prefab parts but on my quick survey walk, there were multiple vendors using obvious prefab mass production pieces and some blatant buy/resale. One vendor took two pieces of prefab and simply glued them together. Those are show killers for artists.

I’ve done this fair in the past and done ok. It’s close to home so there are no extra expenses. But even with that, I’m staying away until they come up with a show that supports artists better. It’s hard enough to get buyers to pay for art in the hundreds of dollars. But when the show’s price point is eroded by $15 and $20 items, it makes for a miserable weekend and miserable way to support artists.

It appears they let in everyone who applied – and that’s never a good sign on a show’s trajectory. Some shows improve over time; some slip. This one has slipped over the edge into the category of “I wouldn’t do even if it were free.”
I know the pandemic has made it difficult for some organizers to restart their shows, but this one sacrificed on quality which is the death knell of any serious “art” fair. They used to have more than 100 vendors, they struggled to get 80 this year (and even fewer on the art side of the ledger).

Oh, almost forgot The Ugly: To top off a really bad, hot, no-sale weekend, a seagull pooped on my hat just as I finished breaking down. It was THE most fitting ending to an art fair I’ve ever had.

Advice to Other Artists Considering this Show:
Consider very carefully where your price point is and whether you can compete with crafters. The show is labeled as an art fair but should more properly be an arts and craft fair. I do those, by the way, but I'm very selective and do only the ones with high-quality crafts.

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