Art fairs are a curious experience. Hundreds of artists (and thousands of original, expensive creations) converge upon one spot, usually outdoors, and are viewed in temporary displays—makeshift galleries, if you will—and then taken down, often that same day, vanishing from the landscape.
In such a hectic and busy setting, finding good neighbors and being a good neighbor is incredibly important.
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Despite the stereotype of artists as “lone wolves,” we all need help at times, and looking for ways to be a good neighbor at your next art fair is sure to make life much easier and much more enjoyable for everyone.
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare for your next big art event:
1. Be friendly
Even if you’re busy, take time to shake your neighbor’s hand and introduce yourself. If you can, find out a little about your neighbor and take a minute to check out his or her work. Some people like to make the rounds and share business cards with their fellow artists, so keep a few of those handy for quick exchanges as well.
Starting off on the right foot with the people around you will make it easier for everyone to ask for help, should the need arise. And if you’ve brought a helper, don’t forget to introduce that person to your neighbors too!
2. Be mindful of your display and noise level
You’ll naturally want to show your work to its best advantage, but don’t forget that your neighbor paid booth fees too. Double check that your display is within your set space, and that your items won’t go flying into their space if the breeze kicks up.
If you’ve got an area in your booth that will encourage people to congregate (such as a demo space or a place to browse your items) try to arrange it so people won’t be tempted to knock into your neighbors’ displays—especially if you’re next to someone selling breakable, expensive pieces!
If you brought music, keep it at a level that won’t interfere with your neighbors’ conversations, and the same goes for any sales pitches or explanations you make to customers. Blowing customers away with a loud voice throughout the day as you pitch your wares can wear on neighboring artists pretty quickly.
3. Help your neighbors
I’m usually lucky enough to have a helper with me at shows, but I feel quite comfortable spending the day alone in my booth if needed—mostly because I’ve always had neighbors who’ve been kind enough to watch my booth if I need a quick break.
I try to return the favor, so if I see a neighbor working alone for the day, I’ll offer to cover for that person if he or she needs a quick restroom or snack break. I also try to keep an eye open for fellow artists who might need help, whether it’s to offer shade or water, or to help maneuver display items.
There’s a general air of helpfulness among artists showing at fairs (at least in my experience) and it feels good to be a part of that kind of atmosphere. Working an art festival makes for a long day, so knowing you can trust your fellow artists is a welcome relief when you find yourself needing a little help, too.
4. Share, share, share!
Art fairs bring a variety of artists together, each with a unique level of experience. To me, one of the biggest advantages of showing at an art fair is the opportunity to learn from the artists who have been there and done that. I’ve gotten tips on different events, display materials, customer trends, and local artist associations from seasoned artists, just to name a few.
Having benefited so much from what other artists have to share, I offer what I can if I have information another artist can use. As artists work together to share their knowledge, it increases the success of the artistic community as a whole, so take a little time for those conversations when you come together at an art fair.
As you attend your local art festivals year after year, you’ll probably begin seeing some familiar faces. That may be the best part of being a good neighbor. . . just a little effort now can go a long way toward helping create a supportive community of artists for decades to come.