How to set up for an art festival

Do you know what I really enjoy about summer time?

The myriad of outdoor activities that are available, taking trips or just sipping on a drink by the side of a pool. But there is one activity I have a love/ hate relationship with: outdoor art festivals.

Love Love Love…

Meeting new art enthusiasts, sharing my work with a crowd, listening to live music, discovering new artists and eating food truck treats!

Hate Hate Hate…

Setting up my booth!! 99.9% of  outdoor art festivals, will require the artist to have a tent and unless you have an assistant, or a significant other you can guilt trip into helping you, this can get pretty intense to do on your own, especially in this Houston heat. So lets start by saying I have no assistant nor a significant other to sweet talk into putting up my tent. It took a while, but I finally did get a hang of how to rock it solo…not without my fair share of “Ugly ducklings”.

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Early attempt at a booth setup- aka #epicfail

 

The first couple of times I set up my booth, I was able to find a random kind person to help, another few times I had a friend with me, but let’s be honest how long you think they will want to be stuck doing that? So I had to get my life together and figure it out; here is how.

1. Buy a tent:

“Duh!” right? Yes, that is obvious, but what I did not know is that most places will have a preference for white tents. Notice how the ugly mess up there is BLUE? Soooo…yeah, I had to buy another one and get with the program. A couple of good places to find a tent without breaking the bank completely, are Academy (in store) and Walmart (online). The most common size and only one I’ve had to use so far, measures 10’x10′.

2. Tent must haves:

  • Foldable chairs: trust me that heat gets ridiculous at times, and you will need to take breaks while setting up, and of course you probably wouldn’t want to stand all day either.
  • 6′ foldable table: its a very good way to receive your guests, set up your payment station, have your mailing list sign up book on display, show prints or smaller work you might have while also giving a flow to your area. Use a table cloth to add a nice touch.
  • Weights: there are a lot of option here, but to be on the safe side and be in within the guidelines of most festivals, the best options are weighted sand bag. Again, since I am solo most of the times, carrying around heavy weights did not sound fun so the easiest option for me has been buying empty bags and filling them up with sand as needed.
  • A trash bag: most likely there will be trash bins in the area, but if you are holding down the forth on your own you might not want to leave. Have a trash bag handy, and properly dispose of it at the end of the day.
  • A cooler: we all know that most events overcharge for the basics such as water. As a vendor you will be there long hours, I don’t know about you, but if I have to pay extra for something I’d rather it not be water. Bring a cooler with some water bottles, fresh fruits and your favorite snacks.
  • Protection: again, this is Texas folks! have sunscreen and mosquito spray handy.

3. Hacks:

Being that I do not drive a truck, or a huge car there is so much that can fit in my car on top of art work, the tent, the cooler, the chairs and a table. As you saw in the above picture I was not quite sure on how to set up without mesh walls or rigid panels to hang my work, but I also could not transport them in my car.

Well, yey for resourcefulness: chicken coop fence to the rescue! They are light weight, easy to roll up when you are done, and best of all, they are cheap. I bought mine in black from Home Depot and have used it multiple times. its 3’x15 so with 2 of them you can easily accommodate 3 sides of your tent.

 

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Much better tent set up!

I used zip ties to attach the net to the tent, S hooks to hang my wired paintings and scissors to cut the net to the right length.

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The fence working its magic

4. Lighting:

If you are part of a festival that goes on after sun down, then you are going to need some lighting. I am still playing around with this, and looking for my best option. Some shows provide electricity, but when that is not an option solar lights or battery led lights are a good option. On my last evening festival I used the latter. They were ok but not bright enough ( in hindsight I probably should have gotten more than just the three that I had).

The most important thing of this process, is to have fun with it. The first few times it was quite frustrating and tiring, but the more verse I got with the process the quicker it got and the more creativity I was able to put in the way my work was displayed.

Hope this was helpful!

Be art,

Aby

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