A Disaster and a Valuable Lesson

By Carolyn Edlund

Back in the 1990’s, I had a rather unsettling experience, and learned a valuable lesson in the process.  After setting up my booth at an art show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, I went to park my car. When I returned, my booth was missing – literally. Running closer, I found that my (former) canopy was lying tangled and twisted, halfway down the bank of the Susquehanna River, with an upside-down golf cart on top of it.

An employee of the show promoter was driving that cart, with a passenger, and had stepped on the gas rather than the brake. It took out half a glass artist’s booth and totaled mine. I realized how incredibly fortunate I was to have been out of my booth for the few seconds that it took to destroy it. However, two people were taken to the hospital on back boards by EMT’s, which was the worst part of the accident.

A few weeks later, I received a check for several thousand dollars for my loss, and promptly called Flourish Company and ordered the very best display canopy they made, with all the bells and whistles.

That disaster taught me a valuable lesson which could have saved my own business.  I was lucky in that I was the victim in that situation, and that the show promoter carried insurance. How easily could I have been in their shoes?  I’d been working without insurance for too many years, and this was a wake-up call. I had heard horror stories (like the jeweler at a show who had a gust of wind break their case, sending a flying shard of glass which cut off a customer’s nose). But could that happen to me? Could that happen to you?

Insurance covers both property (like your studio, and your inventory) and liability (any claims made against you for loss or damage others may suffer due to your negligence). The Crafts Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) reports that

about 69 percent of working artists are not properly insured against an accident or disaster that might damage or destroy their equipment, tools, supplies, or inventory.

  • Are you under the impression that your homeowners insurance policy will cover your home studio? It does not, unless you have a rider to that effect on your policy.
  • Do you believe that your personal auto policy will cover your valuable work while you are driving to a show or for business purposes? Think again. You may need a Business Auto policy.
  • Are you aware that if you sell work from your home studio, you are open to any claims from a customer who is injured on your property? Consider getting a Businessowner’s policy.

The Crafts Report features an excellent article by Patrice Lewis on this subject, which gives lots of useful information.

Sit down with your insurance agent and learn how you can protect yourself and your work by obtaining proper coverage. You can also visit sites like the Artist Help Network and CERF, which list insurance carriers who tailor plans for artists and craftspeople. Often artist guilds and organizations have plans which offer insurance plans at reasonable premiums to members as well.


  1. This is an excellent article on why we need insurance.
    I had not thought of anything more than the potential
    losses at the studio or possibly from theft at other venues.
    This is so comprehensive that it is almost scarey, but
    something we should consider.Thanks.

    • It can seem like an expensive proposition to get coverage, but you should get several quotes, and you may find it is very affordable. Think of the alternative – you could be financially wiped out if you get hit with a lawsuit or lose all your work in a fire, etc.

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