Preparing for Weather at Art Shows

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If there is one sure thing about art shows it is not the weather.  We have set up our tent with beautiful bright skys and not a cloud in sight only to watch a fast approaching storm move in.  Or after carefully checking the weather for projected weather problems nothing occurs.

Weather is one thing that has taught us to prepare well.  In the event you have not thought this through, and wish to do outdoor shows, here are some recommendations we found helpful in preparing for any situation.

  1. Waterproof your tent – most waterproofing has a life of about a year.  On the easy up tents you can buy a can or two of spray on waterproofing, and when dry the tent will shed water easily.  Be cautious if you have the heavier vinyl light dome models, as the waterproof spray will break down the vinyl.
  2. Tie downs and weights for the tent.  The ideal situation is having your tent on grass because you can stake down the tent.  We use the big cork screw dog tie outs and nylon cord to insure stability.  In addition we made weights out of 2 foot lengths of PVC pipe, capped and filled with concrete.  These weights hung at each corner of the tent insure the tent has weight to stabilize it. Click here for instructions on how to make your own.
  3. Waterproof packaging for your art:  If you have merchandise (such as soap, in our case) make sure to have containers that are waterproof.  We use a qualtity of the same size plastic tubs with lids… they stack easily, can sit on the ground under the table hidden from view, and not permit damage to the soap.  One caution is to survey your plastic tubs periodically for cracks and damage… and take them out of service.  We had a tub that had a slight crack we did not notice, and sadly we lost about 5 pounds of soap for the leakage into the tub during heavy rains recently.
  4. Rain gear – boots, slickers, umbrellas and the like.  After spending one very wet show with my sandals sopping wet i vowed to pack for every situation, and have waterproof alternatives as needed
  5. A change of clothing.  You never know when the weather will impact you.  It is a nice option to be able to change into clean dry clothing to face your patrons, rather than look like a drenched animal.
  6. Hoodies, jackets, blankets – In the event that that bright sunny 85 degree day suddenly plunges to the 60s after a storm it is nice to have something warm to wear.
  7. Event Emergency Plan – Some fairs are very organized, and provide you with a plan should the weather turn bad suddenly, others leave you to make your best judgement on what to do.  Have a plan of your own.  Know your options.  A solid emergency plan should include:
    • Strategy for handling your tent.  Most recommendations i have heard are to drop the tent to the lowest settings you can, and stake it down if you will be leaving it up and riding out the storm.  Remember not to touch any of the metal frame if there is lightening in the air.
    • Strategy for your art.  Do you need to protect delicate pieces?  Is your backstock safe where it is stowed in the tent or do you need to make emergency trips to the vehicle to secure it?
    • Strategy for yourself.  In the event that the weather becomes violent (such as a tornado) what is your plan? Is there a shelter you should run to?  Has the festival provided direction on this?  Is there an emergency contact number for such questions?
    • Emergency contacts – Make sure you know who to call if needs arise, and who has your number to notify you.
  8. Documentation – Always keep a copy of your state vendor’s license, and your insurance policy # and contact information should you need to reach out to them.  You may also wish to have documentation of your vehicle available should the need arise.  I have a copy of the vendors license and the insurance policy info in my wallet, and now we keep a copy in a plastic zip lock bag in our money bag.
  9. Tools, tools, tools – We travel with a number of tools in our plastic tub… a roll of duck tape, a roll of electrician’s tape, scissors, a sharp pocket knife, a roll of nylon cording, scissors, large clamps, screw driver, pliers, bungee ties, zip strips, and a very sharp cutter for the zip strips.  You never know when the need might arise to quickly repair something, or deal with repairing something.  Its good to be prepared.
  10. Weather tools on your cell phone – There are a number of weather applications that are worth downloading to your phone.  “The Weather Channel App” is one of the apps I use.  I set it to follow me by gps, and that means wherever i am I will get warnings and alerts for the changing weather.  I can also  get a prediction hour by hour of the weather, and a radar map that runs in real time.  Its helpful to turn on the radar view when the skys look intimidating.  The radar has helped us strategize if we stay or pack and go.
  11. Pack a good attitude – Weather is one factor you cannot control.  When weather invades and interrupts the art fair all you can do is make the best of it.  Keep your attitude in the positive, look for options for how to ride out the storm, and make others smile.  Oddly attitude is the most catchy thing about art fairs.  People can sniff out a bad attitude at 100 paces, and will either wallow with you or run the other way.  Be that sunshine on a rainy moment.  You might find that builds community, encourages others who are struggling with the same thoughts you have about the weather, and you may win customers.