How To: Art Festival Set-Up
Last weekend I participated in DubuqueFest Fine Art Festival in Dubuque, Iowa. I have shown my art many places and at a variety of types of events, but this was my second multi-day event for which I had to provide my own setup. Last year Art in the Park in Elkader, Iowa was my first ever art festival and since it was in my home town and was literally five minutes from my house I decided to use wood pallets which I got from a friend for free.
This is my second year and I will be participating in five art shows which will require a bit of traveling. I have done a few single-day outdoor events, but when you need to be able to confidently set up for multiple days and a range of weather, and leave your tent overnight, you’re talking about a different type of infrastructure.
After much deliberation, my husband and I decided to go the “halfway route.” We didn’t buy the professional $1,000-$1,500 tents that most artists on the festival circuit use. Nor did we buy ProPanels or Uline's grid wall panels, which are in that same price range. I’m not planning to become a full-time festival artist, but I definitely needed an upgrade.
New setup review
Day 1 at DubuqueFest: 83° hot weather + no breeze. We were sweaty and keeping ourselves hydrated. No complains on the set up.
Day 2 at DubuqueFest: 50° chilly weather + windy. We got a thunderstorm the night of Day 1. I took down all the framed pieces but left the canvases hanging on the walls. Due to the thunderstorm one canvas fell off but all others were up on the wall and didn't move a bit. Pretty good result considering we got thunderstorm.
We purchased this tent second hand from a friend but on Eurmax site its for $280. It was definitely a steal for the price I got it and it was one used once. It also comes with side walls, which was a required upgrade since we were going to leave the tent overnight. Additionally, the walls prevent the sun from coming in and shining through your hanging apparatus.
We find the tent very easy to set up and take down. It fits easily into the bag it comes in. It’s heavy, but too much. (I still wouldn’t want to carry it very far.) The side walls do not fit into the bag. One of the side walls has a zipper in the middle that allows you to have the wall down, but open, in case of inclement weather (see below). We used additional clips to open the door wider. We had mist and a few short periods of heavy rain. We didn’t have any water come in, but if you want you can spray waterproofing spray on the seams.
Securing the tent
The tent comes with stakes but not weights. I made weights out of 4 PVC pipes. I bought two 10’ piece of PVC pipe, used drill because I didn't have a circular saw to cut it in four and then I drilled holes to put 4 handles in the middle of the pipe. Then glued caps to one end of each piece. I drilled a hole on the cap to add eye hook. I used glue on the eye hook for extra insurance. I then filled the pipes with concrete and let it dry. I used glue inside the other cap and closed the other ends. We tied rope between the eye hook. The weights can be tied to each cornet of the tent. I noticed that many artists hung their weights from their tents with cargo straps. We didn’t have a lot of wind during the weekend, but the tent didn’t budge with the few gusts we had.
We bought mesh panels from Flourish. They are easy to install and apparently can hold 300 lbs each. I think they look clean and professional (Definetly better than pallet walls). I really wanted a white background for my paintings. You use S hooks to hang wired paintings from the mesh. I am curious to see if the holes in the mesh stretch out after multiple uses and begin to look ratty. The wind blows through and wiggles the paintings around a bit, but I was never concerned about the paintings coming off. Additionally, the poles that these require at the bottom of the tent (you buy these and the hardware from Flourish) add structural integrity to the tent. The panels fold in half lengthwise to five feet and then roll up. They come with a nice, heavy-duty carrying bag.
If you're just getting started, I would still recommend the $220 pop-up over the $100 kind, but you can make a cheap hanging system with plastic lattice and S hooks.
I did all this set up -- including the research -- with my husband. If you are solo, you will need to grab someone for just a few minutes to help you expand and raise the tent. Otherwise, you can probably do it yourself, but it will take a while. Hope you find this useful. And no, unfortunately, these aren’t affiliate links.