To be a part of an art show, you first have to apply. For many shows, this process begins 3 to 6 months in advance, and in some cases up to 12 months ahead. Most shows have an online application process, often facilitated by third-party sites like Zapplication; others require a printed and mailed application. There’s an application fee, along with questions about the category of your art and a requirement to upload images of your work along with a shot of your booth setup.
After you submit, you wait. The show promoter or organizer responds to your application in a predetermined amount of time, typically by a specific date. Art shows have a jury process, in which a panel of judges review your application and artwork to decide if you’re a good fit for their show.
If you’re not accepted, your application fee is kept and the process is over. If you are accepted, you let the promoter know whether you accept their invitation. You might be thinking, “Why would you decline a show you just paid money to apply to?” Good question.
Most full-time artists on the show circuit apply to multiple shows, and often more than one falls on the same dates. If you only apply for one show and you’re not accepted, your weekend is left open with no show. It’s a mistake many artists make in the beginning of their careers, myself included.
Show season doesn’t run year round, especially in Florida, where it becomes too hot for outdoor shows after the middle of May. My show schedule goes from early October to mid May at the latest, and every week in there that I’m not booked at a show affects my ability to make money.
For shows in the beginning of the upcoming year, I begin applying during the summer of the previous year. Since not all shows can be applied to online, and because I use multiple avenues to apply, I keep a yearly calendar with art shows penciled in that I applied to.
Once I have a response from a show, I make the decision to accept or decline (if I receive an invitation). When I have multiple applications in for shows on the same weekend, I wait for all the answers and accept the show that’s the best fit. I then pay my booth fee. These vary by show and can range from $165 to $1,000, depending on the show. Once confirmed, I update my calendar and begin making arrangements for the show.