How to setup an art display booth on a budget

I’ve long been a fan of art shows, and I always had a great time walking through art venues and checking out all the works created by local talents.

This year, I wanted to challenge myself and I figured, why not apply for the Queen West Art Crawl event that takes place at Trinity Bellwoods Park every year?
After filling out my application and paying the fees, all that’s left to do for me is to wait for the jury results.

Couple months went by, and the results were in – I was excited to be accepted as one of many talented artists exhibiting at the event.
After the excitement subsided, I thought to myself: now what?

I have no clue what to do in terms of displaying art at outdoor events. All I know from past experience of attending art shows were that there were lots of white tents, and there were art works on all 3 sides of the tent. I never paid any attention to the construction of the tent, or how the art works were hung in mid air without any walls.

I started doing a lot of research online, and found some booth setup that I really liked. Some booths have professional mesh panels that provides a nice back drop for the background, along with holes to hang the artworks, but after finding out the cost, I knew I had to figure out an alternative that looks good, but cost effective.

I decided that grid panels are the least expensive option, but will still present my art work beautifully.
Given I have no experience in outdoor art shows, I decided to sign up for a local artfest and use the opportunity to try and perfect my booth setup.

Here’s what I did: (all items are bought at home depot, except for the table (canadian tire), the grid racks (a store in Mississauga) and the tent (can be purchased at amazon.ca)

  • 2′ by 6′ Grid Racks x 6 (I was imagining 3 racks for the back wall, and 3 racks for one of the side walls) – $30×6 +tax = ~$203
  • a bag of plastic ties (contains 100 of them) – $5
  • S-hooks to hang the art works on the grid (depending on the medium / number of art works, I needed 20 of them) – $1 for 5 x 4 + tax = ~$5
  • a 10’x10′ white tent (I got lucky and was able to borrow from an artist friend, but a decent tent will run from $100 to thousands, my advise is to borrow one if you can to try it out, see if art shows are for you before you commit to buying one. Popular brands to look for is E-Z Up: http://www.ezup-canada.com/) – big range: $100 – $1000+
  • a table to hold a guestbook, business cards, and additional stock for display (small items like postcards, greeting cards etc) – any folding table will do – $50
  • Cement Blocks x 4 (** very important to tie down all 4 legs of your tent. If the wind is strong and the tent is not tied down, your tent will be blown away, ruining your work and possibly other booths around you **) – $3 x 4 = $12

The total for this setup costs around $250 CDN (if the tent was included, it will be around $400)

Optional depending on your work:

  • Picture frames (I would go to Ikea as their RIBBA frames are solid and costs $9.99/frame)
  • Wood Crates (I had an idea to purchase 10 wood crates to assemble a display wall. But time ran out and the item was out of stock, so I ended up ditching the idea. They can be purchased at Walmart for $9.99/crate. If you go with the wood crate idea, be sure to stain them with paint to create a rich and professional look!

Considering Canada is a very expensive place to shop for goods in general (compared to the States), this setup would be great for beginning artist seeking for exposure and experience.

Here’s how my first art display booth looks like. I ended up using 2 panels to form a corner at the front of my booth (tied to the arm of the tent with plastic ties), and 3 panels at the back (same setup – tied them together tightly with plastic ties), and 1 on the side.

I received a lot of compliments on my booth setup, and everyone thinks I am a seasoned art show participant!

I’m glad to say I now have a better understanding of outdoor art events, and will be ready for Queen West Art Crawl in September 13-14, 2014! I’ll be setting up my booth in location E3, be sure to check out my work and say hi! My work can be seen and purchased at www.dreamsouth.ca

Art Booth Display 2 - Ken Yuen

Art Booth Display Ken Yuen

If you have any creative and budget friendly ideas on booth setup, please let me know by commenting below!

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