Show Review of the Month - Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival

May 2022, by Sunshine Artist Editor

Attendees stroll through Seville Square in downtown Pensacola, Florida, or sit for a break during the 2021 Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival.
Photo courtesy of Sara Mitchell/Duncan McCall Advertising 

Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival
Pensacola, FL
November 5-7, 2021

Compiled from FastAudit reports 

Held in Seville Square in Pensacola’s historic downtown, this three-day, juried art festival draws more than 200 artists. It ranked FA33 in Sunshine Artist’s 200 Best list last year. 

Many of the artists who reviewed this show were pleased with their sales and how the event was managed. 

A fiber artist made $3,000 and was impressed with how the show was run and the care and attention given to artists without micromanaging them. “Buyers were there. High-quality show,” the artist said. However, this artist found the show’s layout a little odd and provided feedback about it, saying it “looks great on paper, (but) it is a little hard to find certain booths again in the park. All in all, it’s a great mix of buying patrons.” 

A fine artist said, “Load in was very well organized, as well as tear down. We were on the outer rows, so we were last to set up and first to tear down. It did feel a bit rushed tearing down, but we were able to drive right up to the booth and load up, then drive away.” The artist said they were new to the art festival scene, and their sales were not terrific. “But all the other artists and the festival attendees and volunteers were so helpful and encouraging. The city of Pensacola is easy to navigate and beautiful. We will participate again because it was such a wonderful atmosphere,” said the artist whose sales totaled $1,300. 

People check out some of the art during last year’s Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival, in Pensacola, Florida. 
Photo courtesy of Sara Mitchell/Duncan McCall Advertising

Sales for one ceramicist totaled $2,300. “It was well attended and fun to exhibit there, overall. I would like to see if support levels from patrons grow, given that this was my first year,” the artist said. This artist suggested bringing a floor covering to reduce dirt and dust. 

A fine craft artist described the sales and the group running the show as excellent and would participate again. This artist made $6,000 at the event. 

The sales for a fiber artist totaled $4,000. “Wonderful atmosphere overall, great location in historic downtown Pensacola. Draws people from entire southern region, not just Pensacola,” said this artist. 

A printmaker said sales were great, the staff was wonderful, and it was a nice time of year to do a show in Florida. “I enjoyed the three days at this festival. Hotels were expensive this year, probably due to the Blue Angels Air Show,” the artist said. Sales for this artist totaled $8,300, and the artist is unsure about attending in the future, saying, “It depends if it fits into my circuit.” 

A mixed media artist loved the show and would participate again. 

A photographer who made $1,300 thought sales were low this time, but said the festival deserves a second trip. 

Sales for a fine artist totaled $750. This artist would participate again due to more than $1,500 in potential commissions from the event. 

Promoter Post Show Report

Joy Ward said that considering 2021 was a comeback after canceling in 2020, the Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival had a wonderful year. 

“We ended up with about 10% fewer artists than normal, but the comments from artists who participated were overwhelmingly positive,” said Ward, chair of the 2021 art festival committee. 

Several artists said they had their best sales of the year, she said. “For us, when the artists leave happy and tell us they plan to come back, that’s as good as it gets,” Ward said. Attendance was estimated at 110,000, according to Visit Pensacola’s research company. 

People check out some of the art during last year’s Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival, in Pensacola, Florida. 
Photo courtesy of Sara Mitchell/Duncan McCall Advertising 

She commented on the feedback the nonprofit received from artists. “We conducted an internal feedback survey and had 66 artists (of the 181 artists) participate, a 36% response rate,” Ward said. “Of those, more than half indicated they made over $6,000 and ranked their sales as ‘Excellent’ compared to their average.” 

Ward explained what they learned at the 2021 show that they will improve at future shows. “Because we experienced a larger than anticipated number of invited artists who canceled, we will adjust the number of artists on the wait list during the jurying process. Also, we noticed that some of the newer tents were taller, allowing more space for hanging artwork. We love our old oak trees, but low limbs in a few places will require us to better plan space to accommodate tents more than 10 feet tall in those areas.” 

She said the best improvement made was changing which day winning artists received their checks. “The Great Gulfcoast Arts Festival Committee has always made an extra effort to have physical checks in award-winning artists’ hands before they leave the festival,” Ward said. “We were performing that task on Saturday, the day after judging. We moved it to Sunday, which took a little pressure off of us and still accomplished the goal. The artists were fine with the change.” 

The committee’s message to those who might consider participating in the future is to please apply. “This year will be our 50th anniversary, and you can help us make it special. We look forward to seeing our beloved artists that have been with us over the years and welcome new artists as well. Applications are open March 1 to May 31, 2022, through ggaf.org or ZAPP,” Ward said.