Fairs, festivals, shows, and other community arts and crafts events offer an ideal experience for everyone to see and learn more about art. Professional artisans especially consider them quite opportunitous, if not essential, in promoting their business and even earning a bit of profit. However, as with many public events, there are a few common rules of etiquette that often get overlooked. As a result, the enriching experience of an art event is ruined for those who want to get the most out of it.
Having been to a few art fairs ourselves, we’ve noticed this lack of etiquette and want to share our findings in the form of a quick go-to guide. Listed here are some basic etiquette rules that we believe everyone should follow while attending an art-related community event, comprised into simple do’s and don’ts.
DON'T have your group occupy a high-traffic spot or viewing space needlessly.
With nearly every large public event, there will inevitably be groups of people who will stop to chat with each other in places where people need to be able to walk freely on. If you plan to attend an art fair with a group of friends, we highly encourage you to be courteous to your fellow fair attendees by not blocking high-traffic walking areas. This also includes viewing spaces in booths where the artist is trying to display their products to passing viewers.
DON'T touch any of the products without the artist’s permission.
Artists appreciate it when you show interest in their work, but that doesn’t always mean it’s okay to touch it. Artists would like to keep their products in mint condition for all potential customers, so some may not want you to handle their products. Even if you’re considering purchasing the item, be courteous to first ask before touching products.
Keep this rule in mind especially when you view or are around items like these:
- Fragile items like glass or pottery
- Paintings, which includes the frame
- Any kind of furniture: tables, drawers, couches, etc.
DO be mindful of the food and drink you carry with you to a booth.
Foods and drinks are not only messy when handled carelessly in a booth, but they can also very easily ruin fine pieces of art. If possible, try to finish or put away your foods and drinks before entering a booth. But if you feel you cannot do this and you have to carry them, be sure you have complete control over its contents so as not to accidentally spill on the artist’s products.
Additionally, be mindful to not purposely set any of your food or drinks on their tables, especially drinks. Even a small water ring from your cold drink can stain furniture or make a booth table look unappealing. And lastly, out of courtesy, take care of your own garbage. Do not ask the artist of the booth to throw it away for you.
DO be extra mindful of children.
Children can be enriched by an art fair as much as an adult. However, they naturally tend to move around more actively and be curious enough to want to pick things up. Keep your children close by and under control as you view booths—and better yet, take the experience as an opportunity to teach them to look, not touch.
DON'T visit an art fair simply to critique the art.
Artists are very unappreciative of people who come to view their products just to tell them that their work is amateur, or that you are able to do better, or other such criticism of the like. One of the purposes of a community art event is to learn about other people’s art, and going around criticizing other people’s work does not meet this purpose. “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
DO make an effort to communicate with the artist, but to also be brief and specific.
While criticism is frowned upon, artists do appreciate any questions you may have about their work. Feel free to ask them engaging and honest questions about their art, such as their technique, their tools of the trade, how many hours they put into it, etc.
Understandably, there’s a chance you may end up connecting with the artist and want to talk to them about other topics. Out of courtesy of their business and other shoppers, try to keep your discussion brief and only on their art. The artist is still trying to work, and it would be impolite to keep them from communicating with other shoppers.
DON'T treat the fair like a flea market.
An art fair isn’t meant to be an opportunity for you to haggle a cheap price on someone’s art. Artists work hard on all of their products, and though they’re aware of what prices people look for, they will do their best to match the price with the amount of work they put into it.
A small exception to this would be to kindly (and perhaps indirectly) suggest a grouped price for purchasing multiple pieces of their work. It will still earn the artist good business to try and compromise a bargain price for a bundle of their work.
DO be decisive on your purchasing decisions.
Artists like that you’re interested in their products, but it’s discouraging to hear from someone that they’re not considering buying right away. If you really like their product and can honestly afford it, we encourage you to make that crucial decision to purchase it. The transaction will not just provide profit to the artist, but it will also encourage them to continue their work.
Similarly, only ask the artist to put a product on hold when you are serious about purchasing it. It’s also discouraging to hold a product for a customer who may or may not return when they can also try to sell it to someone else. Again, if you can afford it, go ahead and buy it.
In short: always be polite, mindful, courteous, and respectful of others and their work. Remember that there are other people wanting to enjoy the event as much as you, and that artists want to do their best to both market their products and engage with all of their customers. By following these etiquette rules, you’ll be able to enhance your experience of a community art event as well as keep it enjoyable for everyone else.
Do you think something else should be added to this list? Have any experiences with these? Share your thoughts with us on our Facebook page!