When Art is Secondary at an Event

Sunday’s entry brought this comment from Kathy Wasilewski:Davincis_secret_1

I found this posting rather interesting, especially since I’ve been pondering about an opportunity that has come my way. I was asked last fall, by an artist at an Arts and Crafts Show, to participate in a 1-day "Wine and Art Festival" in June. The thought of finally having my 1st art show really excited me…but now that time has passed….I’m not too sure.

In one respect, I hate to miss out on a possible opportunity for exposure, but on the other hand, there are too many variables that worry me. I would need to purchase setups and a tent, and although several sellers from the Art Show were asked to participate in hers, she has NEVER seen MY work, which makes me wonder how many other people she asked without seeing THEIR work.

My biggest concern, however, is that the show is being advertised as a "WINE and Art Festival"……notice that the word Wine is first in the title. In talking with her on the phone, she seemed more excited about getting at least 5 wineries so far to participate. My concern is that the artists are merely going to be "entertainment" for the wine-tasters, even though they are going to be scattered between the wine booths so that people would have to walk through several art exhibits before hitting the next winery.

A friend of mine told me that she did not do well in this kind of a venue. What is your opinon, or feedback, on this? Is it futile to participate in this type of an art venue?

Art is often secondary–serving as a backdrop in music and theater performances, coffee shops, restaurants, etc. Only you can determine if it’s worth it. I would look at the event itself. If it has a really good chance of being a success, go for it. But, don’t go blindly. You need to have the facts and be determined to make the most of the event. Set goals for yourself and make a plan in case it doesn’t pan out as expected.

Read Ask a Lot of Questions to empower you. I think you’ll find some good stuff there and the onus is on you to ask the questions.

I’ll be curious to hear of others’ experiences.

Image: Kathy Wasilewski, Da Vinci’s Secret. Collage.

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11 comments to When Art is Secondary at an Event

  • I participated in such an event, about two years ago. The demographic / target market was ideal! Exactly the type of people who generally purchase from me. UNFORTUNATELY, everyone (or almost everyone) attending became too (entirely too) caught up in the wine tasting. Most of the people were basically drunk — and who can pitch their work and sell to people who are totally inebriated! Toward the end, some late arrivals (still sober) came by by area and saved the evening by making two large purchases. Would I do it again? I don;t think so…

  • Personally, I would skip the event this year, and just attend as a visitor. This way you can see if it’s well attended, if artists seem to be selling enough to make it pay. If the event is successful, and you like what you see, then you can make plans to participate as a vendor/artist next year. If the thing’s a flop, they may not even hold one next year and you’ve saved yourself a bundle in the meantime.

  • Cas

    I agree with the comments given – it probably is your target market, but can be frustrating to sell to – especially if they’re inebriated (that works better for auctions). ;) I’ve often been warned by seasoned art fair artists of participating in events that feature food or drink heavily – and art secondary. We have a huge event in the summer here that’s called the street fair, and everyone attends for the food more than the wares. As such, many local artists don’t participate in it anymore, (and the quality of wares IMHO has gone downhill) and instead organized their own annual art crawl (no food involved) that happens a couple of months later, and another art street show a month earlier (that hasn’t had any food available….yet).

  • Beware the Wine tour! Santa Barbara has one each year and having a studio gallery downtown I felt compelled to pariticipate thinking, if anything, it would be good advertising whether there were sales or not. I can’t tell you the anguish each year of dealing with the wine tasters. One gal actually knocked several paintings off the wall because she’d had too much to drink and the year following someone almost pulled a display over, on top of themselves. The last and final year (my fifth trying) I had good clients inform me that they wouldn’t be coming to the opening because they didn’t care for the behavior of the wine crowd. Then one wine taster summed it up for me. She had been standing in the middle of the room with her glass of wine and I watched her do a full body flinch and pronounce “OH my gosh, is this a gallery?” The sad reality was that I didn’t even have an opportunity to talk with peole about my work or even give them a business card because they were mostly interested in the wines. A five year veteran of the tour, I would have to say I’m still a bit tortured by the memory. I had a much better experience at fine restaurants and coffee houses.

  • Hi have done several of these types events and they all vary depending upon location, amount of advertising and promotion. I’ve done an art show at a wine tasting for the past 3 years and its a fantastic event for me. I’ve actually found that wallets loosen a bit with more spirits! With these events you have to look at the cost (this one was free so it was a no brainer) and at how long its been going. I would say if you are apprehensive go to the first event as a visitor talk to the artists there then think about doing it the next year. Some of my best events have been secondary art events and I look at them as exposure opportunities and ways to get more names for my mailing list.

  • Wow..I can’t thank everyone enough for all of your valued input and feedback! I am enjoying reading everyone’s personal experiences with this type of setting. It appears that my gut reaction in being hesitant to participate is soundly justified, which goes to show you that you should trust your instinct in situations such as these. When the negatives outweigh the positives, then it’s time to reconsider. This thread has been most interesting and helpful to me, and I thank you all again for taking the time to share your experiences and suggestions.

  • I wouldn’t do another wine show with art after my first experience… The people *did* get awfully tipsy and I spent most of the show trying to make sure that people didn’t walk into the fan blade of a huge whirligig sculpture I had brought. The blade was big, shiny and obvious, but people had a tendency to stand right in its path. I didn’t make any direct sales, but the people hosting the show commissioned me to do a sculpture. They ended up stiffing me on the final payment… the only time in ten years that anyone has ever done that. Later, I found that they had done the same to three other artists before me. I’m sure that doesn’t mean that all wine shows involve bad business practices, but for me, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

  • If you have not shown before you really should get your feet wet…Artistically this will help you to grow…Good, bad or ugly, it will give you experience…Try not to spend too much or get your hopes up or drive yourself crazy with perfectionism…Just show up- maybe share a booth with someone who has all the stuff already…or do it ala cheapo…crummy or not, you will have your first show under your belt, and you will have learned invaluable lessons that can’t be taught…and you will feel braver next time…what is the worse that can happen?

  • There is a wine and art fair up here in the mountains in Twain Harte Ca every Aug. I have had a booth for the last two years.This is only because it’s free to me because the gallery I have paintings in has me set up in front of the gallery. I wouldn’t pay the have a booth. The first years was ok. I didn’t sell anything but I did get to talk to a lot of people that stopped and checked out my art. Last year was a downer because people didn’t take the time to even look at my work. I am going to set up again this year with a nicer looking booth and more paintings and see if I can get people just to stop long enough to look at some very good art. The first year I sat off to the side so people didn’t know I was the artist and could hear their commits. What I heard was very positive so I can say my art is very good art. I did move next to my paintings later and was able to talk to a lot of people about my paintings. Last years was the disappointing year because only four or five people show any interest in art.

  • Food/wine will always win out at any event over arts or wearables. I have found this to my cost. You get folks ‘a little over the top’ spilling wine on your goods, or they ignore you altogether. Unless it is very cheap to enter and you don’t have to buy a tent, panels, etc. don’t bother with it. Especially if the organizer has never seen your work. He/She is just gathering bodies to fill the space.

  • Patricia Bucko

    Last April, a friend persuaded me to participate in a similar event…dubed “Ladies Night Out & Wine Tasting” Since it was indoors, no entry/table fee and local, I signed up as a vendor. Spent weeks preparing special pieces of art that might appeal to women in such a relaxed “shopping” environment. The event director placed me close to the door. Good location, I thought. My table was also sandwiched between Home Interiors, Southern Living vendors and seveal whole-sale jewelers. Although I’ve sold at public events during past five years, this was the WORST experience of my artistic career! Shoppers blew by my display without a glance, headed for that wine & cheese! I was friendly, out-going, making eye contact etc but could NOT compete with ailk flowers, candles, cubic zarconia and merlot. It was a valuable learning curve and I’d never agree to exhibit at such an event again! Only wish I’d gone FIRST as a visitor, to get a sense of the atmosphere and crowd. All advice given prior to this post is VERY wise and prudent…trust your gut! PS There was another visual artist there, offering prints of her lovely watercolors; she packed up and left early too!