Saturday, April 13, 2013

Art Shows 101: Seeking Shelter

Volume 4: Canopies

Art shows are about creativity, individual achievement, and personal style. Right? 

Well -- maybe not so much. At least not when it comes to display set ups.

Many years ago, shows were casual events. Painters laid their canvases on the sidewalk, potters stacked their bowls on homemade shelves, and photographers hung loose prints on A-frame stands. While you still may find that relaxed atmosphere at a small, local show or two, most larger festivals somewhat demand conformity in the size, shape and color (white) of your outer display canopy.

If you are just starting out, or plan on doing only a show or two, you may want to borrow a canopy from a friend or look into tent rentals. You can also check Craig's List and other Want-Ads for sales of used equipment rather than going to the expense of buying your own, brand new tent.

There are a number of canopy manufactures and styles and prices vary -- but from the research I have done, you will probably need to invest upwards of $500 to purchase a reliable 10’ x 10’ canopy with a roof and 4 water-resistant side walls. And yes, there are MANY canopies available under that price point, but keep in mind: you get what you pay for. A $200 canopy that's great for a backyard gathering on a sunny, windless day may not cut it as a show canopy on a rainy weekend.

Here are links to the best known canopy dealers:

And a few things for you to consider:

  • EZ UP, and other pyramid roofed canopies require less set-up time than dome roofed canopies because they are pre-assembled. The roof is attached to the frame and set-up is basically accomplished by two people pulling part (expanding) the frame -- kind of like an accordion. Side walls can be attached on all for sides once the frame is expanded.

  • Dome roofed canopies, like Craft Hut, have no pre-assembled parts. You have to connect poles, legs and roof rafters before attaching your canvas roof. They are more time consuming but, if set up properly, tend to hold up better in rough weather conditions.

  • the roofs of EZ UP/pyramid roofed canopies tend to collect water and sag during a rain storm. Many exhibitors use hulu hoops, wedged between canopy frame and canvas roof, to lessen this. 

  • Regardless of tent style, keep in mind that you are setting up a mini store that is at the mercy of the weather.  ALL tents MUST be anchored in some fashion! Stakes, ropes and tension straps are great but can’t be used on concrete or blacktop. In addition to staking, you should have 40 pound weights (or heavier) for each corner of your canopy (see picture below). Keep in mind that this isn't only for your protection. In addition to destroying your art or craft work, an airborne canopy can damage other exhibitors set ups, or worse yet, hurt other artists and show patrons. 

  • Always come to shows prepared for bad weather. Bring stakes and weights, bungie cords, plastic sheeting and dry towels. In this case, over-prepared is a good thing!

Until next time -- keep creating!


Vending Opportunity:


  1. Thanks for the advice! Now I'm a little scared of what I'll have to do to prepare for this summer, but scared is better than clueless ;)

  2. more great info! thanks Alison!!

  3. Great advice on tents! I have an EZ Up that I bought on Ebay and tested setting it up several times before I used it. I've been out in the rain and wind several times too so good weights to hold it down and waterproofing spray are essential. You've given everyone a lot to think about for the upcoming season...

  4. Ha ha -- Don't be scared Nicole! But DO prepare!

    Sara -- did you buy a new EZ Up or used? I never thought of looking for one on eBay. And thank you for the tip about waterproofing spray. I have a Craft Hut with heavy, waterproof canvas sides and roof so I had no idea about that.

  5. Great info! Good to know about the weights!