By now you know that the Arts Festival Conference, presented by ZAPP®, features targeted professional and business development for artists and administrators in the arts festival field. But what does that actually mean? The wikipedia definition is long and amorphous. An internet search yields a lot of information from specific industries, such as education or healthcare.

So what makes professional development valuable? Why the heck should the art fair industry, artists, and festival staff care about professional development?

Development (professional or otherwise) means a continuous improvement process. Think of the person you were 10 years ago, and then five years ago, and then two years ago. Now think about how your professional self has evolved during that time. I know I’m not the same leader/writer/human/geek I was five years ago, much less two years ago. As change happens, we hope that we are getting better at our work. Growing. Adapting during this ongoing process. Understanding more. Becoming more competent in our chosen professions as either artists or administrators (or both!). Interacting with others. Because these actions allow us to stay relevant and contribute directly to the vibrancy of our field.

“I’m all for growing, learning, changing, moving to the times,” says Oregon jeweler Carla Fox when asked if she thinks professional development is important for artists and shows. “That’s how art shows will survive. And show directors need to keep up with the changes and educate themselves on all sorts of show related things.”

For 2012 Arts Festival Conference presenter and attendee Amelia Northrup-Simpson, attending events, reading articles, and meeting new people both in the arts and from outside vocations is a way to pepper her brain with new ideas. She thinks professional development is important for two reasons, “1) it makes you better at your job and 2) many times it renews your passion for your job.”

For me and for the rest of the ZAPP® staff, we find that meeting the people who attend each conference does more than put a face to our world and our work. We learn so much from the extemporaneous conversations and from listening and watching our artist friends and show-director colleagues interact. We work hard to select session presenters and topics that start or continue important conversations in the ever-transforming world of art fairs and festivals. Ultimately though, our goal is to create a conference designed specifically for you — the makers of art and the makers of events.

Whether you are a familiar face who attends the conference each year or are only able to come when the conference location is convenient, one thing is guaranteed: attendees will either walk away with some new knowledge or a new connection. Katrina Delgado of the Coconut Grove Arts Festival in Miami, Florida, hopes she never stops learning. “There is always a class, a group, a membership program that one can join to further enhance one’s knowledge,” she explains. “Why it’s important? Two-fold…[professional development] increases your knowledge and networking. You never know who you’ll meet…”

What should you expect if you decide to attend the 2013 Arts Festival Conference?

Your long term career aspirations might be to break into the business or sell more at shows; others want to move up to a new role or learn skills to allow him or her to better create the event they know their community needs. You might make a new friend, find a mentor, or network with peers who have bright ideas or can provide a sounding board when you need one.

Conference attendees can look forward to all the following and more this year:

What: Arts Festival Conference 2013
When: Monday, October 7, and Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Where: Seelbach Hilton Hotel
How: Register now and find more information at

–by Leah M. Charney
Leah M. Charney manages the ZAPP® system, which includes overseeing the ZAPP® team and managing operations for She also spearheads ZAPP’s outreach and workshop efforts, which include the annual Arts Festival Conference.