I did a number of art festivals in the San Francisco Bay Area for a few years, including the Marin Art Festival the year before last. What I have found as an oil painter is that the street fair style of events don’t provide a targeted market for what I do. After skipping last year because of the economy, I decided to go back to the Marin festival. It’s a well-established destination event held on a big, grassy field near the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Marin Civic Center.
I like that fact that it’s a flat rate for a space and that once you’ve been juried in, you are invited back and given a $100 discount on the entry fee. Knowing I will be able to count on participating year after year means a lot to me as far as my yearly planning. Communication from the people running the festival is excellent. They go out of their way to find ways to drive sales, especially this year. Besides postcards provided free to the artists in whatever quantity you request (each one good for a $10 free admission), they sent an email to all the artists with a free pass to print out that we could forward on to our mailing list. Other things they tried this year to drive sales were handing out “coins” that could be redeemed for a $10 discount on sales over $100 and a silent auction, which did generate sales. There is also a raffle.
Besides the artists and fine craftspeople, there is gourmet food, live music and members of a local “circus” who provide amazing stiltwalkers and costumed raffle winner announcers. Well-behaved dogs on leashes are allowed. Someone does face-painting for kids and there are special activities for them, too. There are lots of tables with umbrellas and chairs for people to plop down in for a break. It’s all calculated to encourage people to stay as long as possible.
I’ve decided that the Marin festival will be my one yearly Bay Area “appearance” due to time and distance constraints. My plan is to build up a following and identity as the artist who paints Mongolian and animal subjects. I feel that I made a good start this year. I had sales, got quality sign-ups for my mailing list and was able to tell my “story” and make myself memorable.