Art Fair Booth Fee Refund Policies


Lisa McClow Berry & Chris BerryHi, Connie: I’m delighted that I”m on your email list. Receiving your calendar is supportive and informative. I’ve been trying to follow up on some of your “call for artists” — very helpful.

One thing, though. I’ve been looking at D&W Events and find that their policy is such that once an artist is accepted in a show but decides not to do the show, D&W will only refund 50% of the booth fee. Because the dates for applying and being notified so vary from show to show, I sometimes apply to two shows happening at the same time, waiting to see if I’ll be accepted in either one — or both, in which case I need to make a choice. Because I have not come across a similar refund policy before, I wonder if this is peculiar only to D&W or do we find this in other event organizers?

I thank you for your ArtFairCalendar and for any information you can give me about this.


My letter to Debbie Netter:

Hi Debbie,

I just received this inquiry about D & W Events from a reader. Do you have a reply you would like to make? Please understand here I am not critiquing your policies, but thought this would be of interest to you and perhaps an opportunity for you to interact with a possible exhibitor, or if there is a reply you would like me to make.

Having run events I do know of the need to protect oneself from people backing out at the last minute and making havoc of your plans and finances. But it would be good to have something from a person who puts on a show as to what their thinking is. Thanks.

Hi Bonnie,

I hope you don’t mind but I sent your question to Debbie Netter at D & W Events to get her take on it. I am copying her answer here. Also, she would be happy to talk with you if you have more questions and can be reached at: 847-726-8669

Debbie Netter’s reply:

The policy was put into place to prevent folks from backing out at the last minute. Here is Amdur’s policy:

Jury/Application fees are nonrefundable in whole or part. Refunds for booth fees paid in whole or in part will be issued in the full amount received minus a $25. Per festival processing fee, if the request is made in writing such as e-mail, fax or certified mail on or before May 2, 2008. Any refund requests made after May 2, 2008 cannot be processed and are ineligible for a refund in whole or in part.

Howard Alan allows refunds if it’s 60 days prior to the event.

I think this is pretty standard but please ask the artist to give me a call, I can probably give them a pretty good indication whether they would be accepted.

My conclusion:

In addition, Bonnie, people like Amy Amdur, Howard Alan and Debbie Netter are running their art fairs as a business. This is their business, their livelihood, as your art is your livelihood. Most art fairs are non-profit affairs and the events are not their only source of income and they can afford to be more generous and take more chances because their personal income is not at stake. This, of course, does not mean they are presenting them entirely for charitable reasons, but there may be other financial resources for these organizations.

It is the free enterprise system at work.


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3 Responses to “Art Fair Booth Fee Refund Policies”

  1. Mike Says:

    The difference here is one of proportion. To lose $25 of a booth fee, which is not due until acceptance (in the case of the Amdur shows), is one thing, and an acceptable compromise. A similar policy is in place for many non-profit and for-profit shows, and is quite fair.

    To require the booth fee upfront (as in the D & W shows) , sent with the application, then permit only a 50% refund until shortly after notification (10 days: less considering mail delivery), is another. This I consider artist-unfriendly. If you were out of town doing a show in, say, Florida, you could easily miss the window of opportunity to get any kind of a refund and would be out the whole fee.

    Both Amdur, D & W and Howard Alan are for-profit promotors.

    I would like to see all shows going to either a fee-due-after-acceptance policy, as most of the top shows and all Zapp shows do, or a fee refund, less a small cancellation fee, with enough time to both receive the notification and make a decision after, like a month.

    Artists are hurting. If D & W would adopt a more artist friendly policy, they would find applications to their shows up and would make enough additional money in jury fees to defray the expenses of returning booth fees. Plus having a larger pool of more qualified artists applying.


  2. Constance Mettler Says:

    All good points, Mike. Howard Alan, last I heard, does not refund any fees if you change your mind about participating in one of his festivals. He keeps and you build up a kind of a bank account with him. The next time you apply to one of his events he applies your balance to the the new show.

    I have also run events and know the havoc a cancellation can cause it in the accounting when someone cancels, the later it is, the worse it is. Probably the organizer has had signage and name tags made, submitted your info for PR, printed programs, laid out the show for balance of media. All this requires changing databases, street jury forms, etc.

    Yes, fees due upon acceptance are a great policy and hopefully all events can do that. It depends on how deep the pockets are.

  3. bart Says:

    “Fees due upon acceptance” are not only artist un-friendly, but the practice speaks volumes about a show’s integrity. Let me put my comments in context by noting that they are limited to shows whose main intent, for the most part, is to sell serious art to serious buyers; not ply trinkets for uncle Joe’s birthday next month, or to amuse the public while they enjoy the bands, food or drink. For these types of shows, or street fairs, promoters may well have a hard time making ends meet if they don’t fill their spaces.

    Instead I’m speaking to the serious shows. If the show promotes itself properly, has solid judging, and has a decent track record, then they have little to worry about from artists changing plans.

    Its true that any show, whether for profit or not, has a business to run. But as with all business, shows rely to a great extent on their customers – in this case, the artists. It is not a privilege, or an option, or a matter of “hedging one’s bets” (so tactfully termed by one particular show) that an artist apply to multiple and often overlapping shows. Otherwise, the artist could end up with far fewer shows for the year. The best shows understand this and provide either a window of time to be fully refunded, or make some other arrangement that reflects the fact that they will not lose out from artist changes.

    If the public and artists consider a show as serious, then the best artists will line up to get in. It will have many more applicants than can be accepted, and will maintain a waiting list of artists that can be called on if accepted artists back out. It takes a bit more work on the promoter’s part to juggle these changes, but these “windows of opportunity” are usually scheduled to allow time to handle them.

    If the artist backs out after this time, then they are out of luck, unless there is some extenuating circumstance. In any event, there are shows that see wait listed artists show up on setup day to claim even these spots!

    If a promoter offers no refunds and fills the spaces anyway with wait-listed artists, well, that’s pretty dishonest in my book, and it just shows a total lack of respect for the artists. I’ve seen it happen.

    Unfortunately some shows are run by promoters that simply don’t understand the business they’re dealing with. Usually this boils down to one or both of the following:

    A. Lack of promotion

    Some shows have their own momentum, but even these continue to need a good deal of media exposure to bring people in. Paper, radio, local business, billboard, art industry media, etc.; a good campaign is not a simple task. Many promoters do not spend much time or energy on this, and it shows, by way of minimal attendance that is often just a fraction of what a well-promoted show can earn.

    B. Lack of consideration for artists

    These are the shows that define spaces for your tent as 10’ x 10’, as if no damage will come from rubbing up against your neighbor on a windy night; the shows that do not set or police standards for those tents, such as weights, staking, or other basic aspects of safety; the shows that do not weed out resellers; the shows that have no organization for setup and breakdown, or do not allow enough time; the shows that refuse to provide security (within reason.) The list goes on . . .

    The artists are what make the shows happen, a point best not forgotten . . .

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