Dear Artists: Greetings From the Festival Dark Side

(Interested in our perspective on gallery images/booth shots?  See 12/2/12 “Four Gallery Images, a Booth Shot and French Cigarettes”)

Artists!  It’s application season, and we bid you greetings from the Festival Dark Side.

Gah.  Sorry, sincerely.  The process is impossible.  As an administrator, I know applying to a show can feel like throwing money at a bonfire.  The Marion Arts Festival hosts 50 spots, and typically receives 350-ish applications.  Our entry fee is $25 – one of the lowest in the realm of shows, but twenty-five bucks multiplied by the number of shows to which you apply pretty much equals your whole morale budget.  I have a very experienced artist pal who once declared, “If you’re not regularly getting rejected, you’re not applying to enough shows.” (It only took me, like, fifteen times before I figured out most artists don’t find it all that comforting a statement.)  Ego and your livelihood are both on the line.  And the line.  And the line.  It’s not ad infinitum, but still.

As your jury fees are helping to fund the festivals to which you’ve applied, here’s what else is happening behind the scenes.  Most of us are nonprofit organizations.  To produce our specific event, we work year around to raise more than $115,000 in cash support (with further in-kind contributions), almost two-thirds of which we spend on promotions, e.g. getting your customers to the park.  Grants (applications to foundations and corporations) comprise about half that $115,000, with another quarter coming from local business sponsorships.  The remaining one-fourth is income – we host a half marathon and 5K run (which serve as event fundraisers), and see revenue through t-shirt and poster sales, artist application fees and exhibitor/food vendor booth fees.

Breaking it down another way, each artist application fee contributes one-sixtieth of one percent (1/60th of 1%) toward our budget.  It’s not a lottery – your talent matters, above all else – but with an all-things-being-equal 1 in 7 chance of getting in, it’s a gamble, no question.  The payoff (we hope) for you is that we work hard to make a good show for the artists we’re able to invite.  Our festival has been ranked among the Top 25 in the nation, with every show everywhere offering its own unique jackpot.  Festivals are a business we’re all in – artists, and the events themselves.  You’re in the business of art-making.  Our business is to play some small role in keeping you alive.  If you don’t thrive, there’s no point.  We’re out to create a rockin’ one-day marketplace because you’re our labor of love; if we could raise $100,000-ish and just give it to you, we would.  As it stands, our sponsors require that we throw a party.  The good news is, it’s fun, and people bring money.

Next post: if it’s interesting, there’s more inside perspective where this came from.  (Preview: your gallery images may matter less than you think they do, and your booth shot could matter more than you think it does).  Thank you for your interest!  Best wishes to you as you navigate the season!  We’ll be back.