The Art Expo was a huge learning experience for me. Unfortunately, I didn't sell anything, probably in part to not being able to actually attend due to having a bout of what I can only assume was food poisoning. From what I could see of the rest of the artists however, my art is just a bit too bold and macabre for the local market. But less about the negatives and more about what I learned from it!
1. Even if it says that the gallery will take care of "everything," bring your own necessities as if they will not, or directly ask what they'll be including and what you need to bring. Perhaps I assumed "everything" really meant everything because I had never done a show like this, but perhaps it was just this show. My only forms of comparison are silent auctions at conventions where they do in fact include everything: you just set up in your assigned spot using their provided materials, which includes the price tags/auction forms. For this art expo, I learned that I needed to bring my own price tags. Since I didn't have anything prepared, I ended up having to write my prices on my business cards. I'm guessing that the less professional appearance of my price tags hurt my potential to sell. I'm also glad I learned what sort of questions to ask about what I should bring, because I would have never thought to ask about price tags even if I had asked what to bring! From now on, I will be asking if I need my own hooks or price tags, and how should my art be prepared for hanging for the show. While the show did have hooks and didn't have an issue with the way my art was prepared, I feel like these are things that would be good to ask about for other shows.
2. If there is a set up time, go early. The expo gave us all a time frame to bring in your art. Unlike the auctions I've done where we had to set up ourselves, the expo said that they would set up for us. However, because I brought in my art towards the end of the first set up time, I feel like I was given a worse spot because the better ones had already been taken. It almost seemed like it shouldn't have been a spot at all! I'm betting that if I arrived earlier, I would have been able to select my spot and potentially set up my art in a way that would be more visually appealing to potential customers. However, this is all conjecture. It is possible that I was assigned that spot due to it being my first show with the expo, and more senior artists got assigned the "better" spots just for being a part of the expo for longer. Either way, I think arriving earlier would have helped a lot, if only to network with the other artists more.
3. Make sure you can actually go to the show. I know getting sick wasn't anything I could change, but the show probably would have gone better for me if I had been able to attend and mingle with potential customers. While the expo handled all of the selling, including any purchases, I still should have been there to market my art. Even if I still didn't sell, I would have learned a lot more about selling at these kinds of events!
4. Learn about what sells locally. The art that I chose to put into the expo all featured animal skulls and flowers, which in hindsight I feel was a bit too macabre. I also use rather bold colors, which didn't do anything to help soften the fact that the subject of every painting was a dead animal. Perhaps choosing softer colors and having some art that doesn't feature skulls would make for more marketable art. I was hoping to sell to the hunting crowd, but I'm not sure this event even brought in the hunting community, or even that my style would be marketable to hunters anyway! Seeing what kind of people attended the event would have helped me better determine what kind of art I should try to sell at the expo next year.
5. Don't let setbacks turn you away from future events. Overall, I thought the event was a fantastic learning experience. The person who put it on was wonderfully helpful and understanding, so I certainly don't want my issues to come across as complaints about the event. Everyone in this town who I talk to about my art is so incredibly supportive, so I am excited to learn from the few negative aspects of my first show and make my next one even better! I know I can normally get pretty embarrassed by setbacks like these, but I cannot let them bother me if I am to live my dreams. Using these as learning experiences will help me grow as an artist!