Brandywine Festival of the Arts E-mail



DATES: September 10-11, 2011


ATTENDANCE: 12,000 plus 2000 children and about 500 dogs (BFA)

BOOTH COST (10x10): $350




In 2010, with new management basically dismantling the old show and working hard to build a good quality show that a city the size of Wilmington will support, the results were better than expected - especially after the debacle of brandywine11-1a no-show in 2009. In fact I was so juiced about the 2010 show - I live in Delaware - that I ended the CSN review of that show with “I’m looking forward to an even better show in 2011!”

Yeah, well, better didn’t happen. As good didn’t happen either.

That’s not to say it was a bad show. I guess it suffered from what is called the Sophomore Slump. For an athlete, this happens usually when a rookie has a great year beyond what is expected. The next year, thinking they are all that, they don’t prepare as hard and end up having a down year.

There are two places I believe the producers of this show took the easy road. One was in the total quality of the work. Simply handing out applications to all the exhibitors at the end of the 2010 show and accepting down payments on 2011 booths does not a juried show make. As good as the show was last year, there was room for improving the overall quality of the exhibitors. I mentioned that in the review.

Unfortunately, when a show allows lower quality work in a juried show, what happens is that the good artists notice and don’t like it, and pretty soon the reputation of the shows suffers. It just doesn’t work when you have artists selling quality handmade work competing with either/buy sell or cheaper lower quality crafty crafts.

Some of the artists I spoke with told me that the expanded show, from a just over 200 to 250, was “overbooked.” Artists complained that their booths were in odd locations because more artists showed up than expected. Because brandywine11-3the setting is alongside a river it is a challenge to find room for the rows of booths and make room for the crowds, too. Another change this year was that the festival opened an hour earlier—at 9am—on both days which those I spoke to felt made no difference in sales.

The second area I believe didn’t get as much attention from the producers this year was in advertising the show. I live about 10 miles from the show and I can’t recall seeing one billboard advertising the show, nor did I receive any direct mail. I did see an ad for the show in the weekend section of the newspaper, but by then I was looking!

Many artists I know that are local had the same complaint. If it was out there I didn’t see it.

In an email to artists following the show, the producers of the show mentioned that the weather could have affected the attendance even though, according to the press release “Bright skies and warm temperatures helped build crowds . . .” There was a concern that the wacky weather we had in August apparently had an impact on attendees that would have come from NYC, North Jersey and DC.

Would I recommend this show to an artist thinking of applying to the 2012 show? Yes, provided the producer re-evaluates what they can do to get the show back on track.

Being from the area I see the potential this show has to be one of the better Mid-Atlantic shows. This show has the brandywine11-2potential to equal or surpass Long’s Park, which has a solid reputation for attracting quality artists. Long’s Park takes place in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which ain’t exactly on the beaten track between NYC and DC. It’s not easy to get to Lancaster if you live in Philly either. For serious festival-goers and collectors, Wilmington is really easy to get to from all the major cities on the East Coast.

The Wilmington population proved last year that we would support the Brandywine Festival of the Arts. In 2010, with what seemed like a ton of advertising, the place was jamming. And that includes one day when the weather was bad. It could happen again.

The producers of this show have built a solid reputation producing the local film festival and I know are serious about the Brandywine Festival of Arts being a continued success.

So forget about handing out applications offering discounts for early signups and set up a jurying process that will improve the show. The good thing about a Sophomore Slump is the opportunity to learn from mistakes that were made.

I know I look forward to visiting the show next year because I know the place will be crowded and the work will be superb. Right?




#2 Claire Lamberth 2011-10-12 10:04
The picture above of the 2 people represents the problem I had with the show. These people laid out sil scarves and had cutomers squirt paint on them to make their own scarves. This took business away from true silk artists.
I thought it was a gimmick and was disgusted with the show quality. My location was terrible and my sales were a third of 2010. I will not be returning.
#1 Judy Jones 2011-10-12 09:50
Seems that most exhibitors agreed with your statement about quality and jurying. Any chance you can give us an update as to changes that Brandywine will make as a result of comments and suggestions from you and artists?

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