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My First Art Fair: Downtown Overland Park 2024

The Downtown Overland Park (DOP) Art Fair had been on my radar for, well, literally years. This was the third annual DOP fair, and I had every intention of preparing months in advance and applying early. The application fee and booth rent were affordable and a safe option for my first fair.

Well, life happens and sh*t storms brew and before you know apply with minutes to spare and somehow wind up with just two weeks to finish 15-20 original paintings for your very first art fair.

You being lil ole me.

As thankful as I was to have at least applied in the nick of time and to have been accepted, I was stressing to prepare. Though I technically moved out of my DOP townhouse on June 1st, my new bedroom and studio were entirely in boxes.

Thankfully, my parents graciously offered to house me for the few weeks leading up to the show, so I had a clean space to sleep and paint comfortably without the anxiety of moving boxes and disarray.

I painted morning to night on every day that I could and ended up with 19 sellable pieces for the weekend. With the help of my parents, set up went fairly smoothly, and I received so many compliments on how welcoming my booth space was.

To have strangers peruse your work can be daunting, but I felt nothing but love from the crowds. Absolutely amazed how many familiar faces stopped by, too! I am beyond lucky - beyond grateful - to have such a loving community.

You can shop and explore my latest collections online at the studio shop here.

What I Would Do Differently

  • Rain Plan

On the morning of Day 2, we were hit with a pop-up thunderstorm on an otherwise hot and sunny day. Though my pieces were mostly safe, I didn't feel well prepared for bad weather.

Next time, I am bringing tent sides that can be easily pulled shut, ensuring that my paintings can be quickly protected in case of severe winds and/or flash flooding.

  • Dress Rehearsal / Street-Facing Display

Though I was happy enough with my booth, there is a lot that I would do differently in terms of layout. Because I was painting down to the wire, I didn't know exactly what pieces were going to be included. This meant I couldn't well prepare for set-up ahead of time. Next time, I am doing a "dress rehearsal" and setting up the tent/booth in my garage well ahead of time, so I can work through functionality and curb appeal.

  • Staging Table

I would have a second table in the back just to keep packaging off the ground and have an open spot for bagging purchases, packing paintings, counting change, etc. Having a clear space for whatever purpose would've saved some headache and been more professional overall.

  • Packaging

I would make sure I knew I had specific boxes for specific paintings ready to go. There were a couple of unique-shaped paintings that didn't fit in the few cardboard boxes I brought. I also didn't have near enough glassine paper/bubblewrap. Next time, I think I will bring a roll of self-adhesive corrugated wrap to simplify the process.

  • Socialize with Other Vendors

It pays to have friends, and it is always beneficial to get to know professionals in your industry. I didn't chat much at all with the vendors beyond the ones on either side of me. Next time, I will take the time to explore the fair, if/when I have help to cover my booth.

  • Paint Ahead...Obviously

Now that I know what it takes to have a successful fair, I can better manage my time for future events. Next time, I am working at least 6 weeks out, but preferably 3-6 months out for oil paintings.

  • Kansas City Art

It can feel cheesy or tourist-y to make art of local landmarks, but the truth is - they sell well. Though I had a few pieces for Downtown Overland Park, I think KC-themed pieces would've been bought up fast, based off questions asked and overheard conversations from potential buyers.

What I Got Right

  • Local Themes and Landscapes

My Downtown Overland Park originals, prints, and postcards proved to be quite popular. I am glad that I embraced the location and highlighted the landmarks I love in Downtown OP. By far, though, the California Collection was the most popular. Landscapes sell super well. I've been told it a thousand times and it's proven to be true.

  • Prepared for the HEAT

I used four battery-powered fans to keep the tent as cool as possible. Even though they were basically just moving hot air at times, they at least offered an artificial breeze. I also had a cooler of water and made sure to prioritize hydration. When you are sweating that much, dehydration can come on quick. Hydrate hydrate hydrate.

  • Email List Sign-Up

Newsletter sign-up sheets may seem unimportant, but shoppers were actually asking for it, when I forgot to set it out at first. When people love your art, they want to be the first to know when a new collection drops. Building your client base is essential and a little email list can go a long way.

  • Multiple Payment Options

I accepted cash, Venmo, and card (through Square). If someone forgot their credit card, if the wifi stopped working, if my phone overheated...whatever happened or could have happened, there was a back up payment option.

  • Variety of Price Points

I believe art should be accessible...and I believe artists should be able to make a living. In order to make a living, I sell my originals for what I know to be a fair price, which may not be affordable for many. On the flip, I also offer inexpensive prints and postcards - starting as low as $2.00/each. I want anyone who wants my art to have access to it. By offering a variety of price points, I am able to share my work with the world and make a small profit.

  • Brand Consistency

My overall booth aesthetic, business cards, signage, stickers, packaging, art themes, etc...all worked well together to create a consistent brand image.

  • Accepted Imperfection

It is easy to waste time and ruin the experience getting caught up in the details. It is also way too easy to overspend on trying to perfect those details. I learned that I can do an event, even if I am scared. I can say yes, even if I don't feel 100% prepared. Because...perfection does not exist. It is unattainable and trying to achieve it ruins the fun! I have a high standard of excellence, no question - but, I am also still learning, which naturally comes with imperfection. The booth didn't look the way I envisioned, and yet I was constantly complimented on the layout. I didn't get the expensive holographic labels and certificates of authenticity that I wanted....and no one cared. For the price point I am selling my originals, that is an unnecessary cost at this level anyway!

  • Was Generous with Buyers

When an original sold, I encouraged the buyers to snag a few postcards for free. A small gesture, but it would make them so giddy. I also made it apparent how grateful I was for their purchase and shared the story behind their piece(s). Sharing those genuine moments and building those relationships is not only part of the fun, but an essential part of good business. I event offered discounts here and there, if I noticed someone was enamored by a piece but on the fence about the price. Offering a small discount can be that little nudge to sell a piece that otherwise would've come back home with me. To be clear, I was not pushing a sale and making shoppers uncomfortable with bartering. I think that is tacky and does more harm than good.

  • Asked For and Accepted Help

I tend to try to do a lot by myself and, inevitably, it makes life more difficult. This time around, if someone offered help, I accepted it. I borrowed the tent and some organization bins from my parents, the tent sides and fans from my sister. My parents were massive helps with packing up for the show, setup, teardown, and unpacking. They brought me food when I needed it, refilled my water, watched my booth when I needed to run to the bathroom. I had a lot of help and I am BEYOND grateful!

Overall, I am proud and thankful that this first fair was a success. I nearly sold out of all my originals and sold out of several prints. I learned valuable lessons, met incredible people, and proved to myself that this career path is not only viable but enjoyable.

You can view my upcoming pop-ups and events here.

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