Southwest Arts Festival E-mail


SHOW: Southwest Arts Festival (Indio, CA)

DATES: January 27-29, 2012


ATTENDANCE: 10,000+ (Indio Chamber of Commerce)

BOOTH COST (10x10): $250




It pays to be first (or almost first). Especially in the craft/art show business.

If you are the first show of the year you get the benefit of attracting artists that are eager to pack up the RV or pickup truck, set-up the EZ-UP canopy, layout their work, and get the outdoor show season started.

It’s even better if you are first (or real close) in the desert area southern California where the scenery is second to none and the average temperature in January is 72 degrees.

The Southwest Arts Festival – which offers all of the above - is one of the first west coast shows to open the new year. It takes place about 70 minutes south of Palm Springs, has built a solid reputation as a jumping off point for artists, 

swartsfest-3especially those in-state and from nearby Arizona and Nevada. It’s also built a following among the residents of Indio, La Quinta and other adjoining towns. Unfortunately most of those towns skew to an older population, which translated can mean (for many) fixed incomes.

Over the past 25 years the show has slowly morphed from a primarily fine arts show into a true fine art and crafts festival. Although this change seems to be a thorn in the side of a few exhibitors we spoke with, it appears the producer (Indio Chamber of Commerce) believe that a more balanced show will help the show remain successful.

If you walk the show you will, not surprisingly, see more Western/Southwest style of art and crafts than you would see at a show on the East Coast. Even so, most of the work displayed throughout the show is contemporary with the overall quality of the work comparable to the best swartsfest-6fine arts and craft show anywhere else in the country.

According to the artists we spoke with, most were disappointed not so much in the attendance at this year’s show, but in their lack of buying. While the economy most certainly has an affect on the buying habits of everyone, retail sales have been climbing and that money is being spent somewhere.

The challenge for the Chamber – if they want the show to grow - is to come up with creative ways to reach out and attract a broader audience.

This means using the bulk of their marketing money to target that population which is spending, and forgoing that segment of the population which treats the show like a social gathering and not a place to buy some great work. This may result in a smaller turnout but, at least for the artists, one which will result in them having a successful show.

If you are interested in applying to next year’s Southwest swartsfest-5Arts Festival, you may have to stand in line.

Although there will be spaces available for this very affordable show, and regardless of their concerns over this year’s festival, most of the artists responding to the CSN survey want to come back in 2013.

That’s a testament to the history of the show and the management.



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