Saturday, August 17, 2013

ART SHOWS 101: Survival Tips for Show Artists and Crafters, Vol. 21 Theft and Vandalism

***Please read this note too: REVISION ***

One of our team members had some questions about security at the upcoming Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Here's some of the info I shared with him and more......

I don't know if I've addressed this topic in the past. If I have not it's because, at least for me, it's never been much of an issue. But, as with all things in life, art and craft shows are not immune to criminal activity, so I guess it's worth a few words.

Over many years of participating in shows, I've had only one major theft from my booth. I was set up at the Allentown Art Festival and had a line of people waiting to cash out when I noticed a young woman trying to catch my attention -- or so I thought. She darted in and out of my booth several times and I told her I'd be with her in a few minutes. When my line of paying customers had left I noticed that she was gone too, along with 3 of my small framed works!

Well -- that stunk! But it was an isolated incident more than 10 years ago. Since then I may have had some small thefts. Small items that could easily go into a pocket, like note cards or magnets, may have been taken. But if they have I have not noticed.

Here are a few of the other issues friends and neighbors have had:

• unattended cash box stolen from booth

• $1000 ring a neighbor "claimed" was stolen from under her nose. The exhibitor planned on filing an
   insurance claim and the whole thing seemed a bit shady to me.

• tent walls slashed overnight at an otherwise sleepy suburban show

• morning finds that indicate a booth was used for an overnight party -- like unzipped tents, empty
  beer and liquor bottles, and ugh, urine puddles/odor.

So yes -- crime does happen at shows -- but, from my experience,  it's not a regular thing.

Here are a few safety tips:

DO NOT leave money or cell phones unattended in your booth!

• show days are LONG days and you WILL need to walk away from your booth from time to time. If you're doing a show alone it's a good idea to get to know your neighbors. Ask them to watch your booth while you make a quick run and do the same for them in return.

• if you have a product that can easily be turned into cash by a would-be thief (e.g. gold and precious gem stone jewelry) DO NOT leave your product in your booth overnight! Invest in a locking display case and have someone work the show with you if at all possible.

• like anywhere -- always be aware of your surroundings. If you are in an area where you do not feel good about leaving your stock overnight then don't do it! Taking the extra time to load your work back into your vehicle at the end of the night is well worth it!

• if you DO leave your work in your booth over night (I often do -- and many exhibitors ALWAYS do) make sure that you seal your tent up well. Use electrical zip ties to close up your tent zippers. Tarp up your work, do anything that will make a would-be thief think twice about breaking into your booth. Most thieves are opportunists and will move on if you don't make yourself an easy target!

• Use common sense and trust your gut!

• ask your show neighbors about the show's reputation. The cash box theft and overnight party issues that I mentioned both happened at the same show, a Rochester show that has a reputation for being a big street party. It's located right in the middle of college rentals, frat houses, etc. and exhibitors often complain about blasting music and drunken party goers.

DON'T PANIC! Most thieves steal items that can be turned into quick cash. Let's face it! MOST of our work does not fall under that category. And we're not selling Van Gogh or Picasso level work -- at least not yet :-)

Be safe, have fun, make money!

Until next time - keep creating!


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