Your Art Fair was Canceled due to the Coronavirus – Now What?

You are an artist, a maker, a freelancer. You sell art in public venues, at church functions, art fairs, farmer’s markets, in galleries. And now, due to the coronavirus, the public is told to avoid these types of venues. The art fair patrons are not sure what to do, do we stay home or continue with life.

What do you do as an artist, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic? Do you have a plan b to earn money if your event cancels?

Each morning we awake to public events canceled. 

The mayor of Austin, Texas, canceled SXSW a week before the start date. A projected 450,000 people planned to descend on Austin. Money spent on venues, lodging, and transportation is all now wasted. Individuals and businesses had spent money planning to make money by attending. Now SXSW was canceled.

Magnolia’s Spring at the Silos also canceled days before it was to begin. Makers and artists from across the country created inventory, packed their bags, and headed to Waco, Texas. Again, time and money were used to create items to sell. Money was spent on a booth, lodging, and transportation to the show. Now all of it is gone with no chance to earn it back. (Magnolia is graciously helping their vendors with compensation. They have also posted their vendor’s websites so customers can still shop them.  Not all events can or will be in the same position to offer compensation.)

This story of events canceled will continue to happen as the uncertainty of this virus continues.  

We aren’t sure how to protect ourselves and our communities, but we do know there is a higher possibility of people contracting this virus if they are in contact with others who have it. In our not knowing who has it, if we limit human interactions, we may keep people from getting ill. So, with this in mind, events of all sorts are getting canceled.

 Small and large businesses will continue to feel the effects of this over the coming months. The loss of revenue at the events or the potential revenue from meeting new customers will continue to plague all businesses this year.

As a maker who primarily sells at events, how will you continue to make a living? What will happen if events continue to cancel? If your show doesn’t cancel, will you even make money at it? Are your customers willing to risk getting sick to come out to your show?

And if your show organizer chooses to host their event, should you even go? What about your health? Is it worth potentially contracting this virus and being quarantined for weeks? If you choose not to go, what is the organizer’s policy on pulling out of an event?

There are so many unknowns right now. Organizers do not want to cancel. They know the importance of their event for the community. But they also do not want to cause harm to their community either. Fair organizers are in a no-win situation and forced to make difficult decisions. Cancel and cause a loss of revenue for so many individuals and businesses? Stay open and risk lives?

It is a difficult time. And during this difficult time, you are wondering, how will I make a living if my events keep getting canceled? How long will this go on? Should this be over by summer? Should I only apply to fall/winter shows?

There are a lot of questions and, unfortunately, not enough answers. You will need to do what is right for yourself first, but here are a few things to consider for your plan b:

 1. Decide on your shows in the next few weeks, is it worth it to work them given the current circumstances? Contact the organizers to see if they are thinking about canceling. The earlier you know, the more money you may be able to save by canceling travel reservations. If they aren’t canceling, are they willing to forego typical cancellation issues if you choose not to attend? Are they willing to refund booth fees? Ask questions. Then decide if it is worth it to you to vend at a show. Money needed for rent, insurance, food vs. the possibility of becoming ill. Not an easy decision.

2. Apply for shows later in summer/fall when there will be more known about this virus.  While searching for shows to sell at this year, focus efforts on securing fairs in the latter part of the year. Hopefully, there is a vaccination for the virus, or it will have already run its course. Also, reach out to the host organization to see what if any policies they have in place for withdrawing from the show if the virus is still an issue.

3. Contact your customers through email or social media to let them know what is going on. If you have an online shop, list inventory and let them know they can still purchase from you in your shop. If you don’t have an online shop, you may want to consider setting one up for now. There are many options which you can do relatively quickly, Etsy and Shopify are two. Both have online guidelines on how to set up shop. You could easily be ready to sell in a few hours. Once up and running, link your online profiles to your shop. Provide a way for your customers a way to still buy from you if your fair cancels. (You can always close your shop once the uncertainty of this time ends.) 

Do not panic. I know it is scary both from a health perspective as well as a financial perspective. Stay informed and proactive. Keep washing your hands, stop shaking people’s hands, and avoid leaving home if you are unwell. Keep yourself informed on real websites, such as WHO. Again, don’t panic.

I am sending good thoughts to all through this. May we all come out on the other side of this healthy in all ways.

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