Planning For Outdoor Art Shows

Outdoor Art Shows are a popular summer activity for many people; artists and visitors alike.  Not only are they a great way to “put your work out there,” they are a great way to network with other artists, get ideas and inspiration and hopefully sell something. Here are some things to consider before applying:

Which shows are a good fit for your work?
It’s a good idea to visit shows you are interested in the year before you apply for them and talk to artists that have already done them.  Is the show is an Art Show or an Arts and Crafts Show?  Higher priced artwork cannot compete with artisans selling jam or soap.  Also, ask the organizer about the attendance of the show. You want a lot of people to be exposed to your work.

ClarkJulie_TarpandWeightsApply early!
Most juried shows have deadlines in the winter or early spring. Make sure you read their websites thoroughly and follow their instructions to a “T”.  All shows have different requirements and will more than likely toss your application if you do not follow their instructions. Consider that most shows have a hefty application fee. Can you afford to shell out $200-$300 per show knowing that you may not necessarily recoup it until the summer (if at all)?  Submit good quality JPEGS of your work so the jury can see what your work really looks like.  Have a good, solid Artists’ Statement and CV, but don’t make them too long… jury members have hundreds of applications to go through! Most shows ask for 5-6 sample images for submissions, so include a link to your website to showcase additional images.

Think about how you want to display your artwork.
Try to have a cohesive body of work that is displayed thoughtfully and tastefully. Your booth will look great and in addition to attracting people, you may also win a prize.  Many shows have cash prizes for various categories.  It’s also a good idea to have various sizes of work and different price points… something for everyone.

The first year you do Outdoor Shows, you should be prepared to spend quite a bit of money on your booth display. You will need a white 10×10 tent with zippered walls (any other colour will cast a hue on your work and make it dark inside). Costco has inexpensive tents online, but they are not very strong. For rainy days, a white tarp is essential (large binder clips and wooden clothes pegs are great for securing a tarp on your tent). You must have weights for your tent!!  10 gallon water jugs, sandbags or PVC pipes filled with concrete are some options. You will also need a hanging system. Metal display grids are sturdy, but heavy and difficult to transport. I started off with chains attached to the frame of the tent with plastic zip ties. I now use a heavy plastic grid that I got in the garden centre area of the hardware store.  It comes in a 30’ roll, so it will cover 3 walls of your tent nicely. Attach with velcro or plastic zip ties. I use “S” hooks to hang artwork on the grid and paper clips to attach price tags. You may want a folding table and a chair. A high stool or director’s chair is recommended so that you are at eye level with the visitors.

ClarkJulie_Chains Hanging SystemYou  will also need a cash float, receipt book and possibly a means of accepting credit cards. For those with smart phones, The “Square” or something similar is fantastic and economical. There is also a ton of other stuff like duct tape, paper towels, calculator, packaging, tablecloth, guest book, snacks, water, extra clothes, sunscreen, rope, basic tools, band aids, painkillers, raincoat & boots, etc. Make a checklist and be prepared.

Greet everyone that comes into your booth and be prepared to talk about your work. People are interested in you, your process, your inspirations and your gear. Be friendly and courteous. Hand out business cards and postcards with info on your next show… sometimes people need to get to know your work and see it a few times before they buy.

Finally, think about marketing.
A week or two before the show, send out an email blast, promote yourself on Facebook and Twitter, put up posters in your neighbourhood, hand out postcards, and generally tell everyone you know. Word of mouth works! Make sure you “Like” the show’s Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and share on Social Media.

Good Luck and have fun!


ClarkJulie_RiverdaleArtWalkJulie Clark is a Mixed Media Artist and Fine Art Photographer who attended RMSP’s Career Training program in 2009.  She is currently living in the historic village of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario where she spends her time puttering around her studio and taking way too many pictures of her puppy and two cats (she also specializes in Pet Photography). You can see her work at and



One thought on “Planning For Outdoor Art Shows

Genevieve Fix

Thanks for all the good info, it is something I was thinking of doing. It will help me plan for next year.

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