Sunday, July 19, 2009

July 19, 2009 - The Local Art Fair

Jay Long Studio

If you were reading my blog last year around this time I told the tale of participating in the Art Fair on the Square. How the storm came up early Saturday morning and almost wiped my booth out. Luckily I had not put my lamps in the tent. When I arrived the next morning I was heart broken. All my stuff was soaked, the tent was bent out of shape—I almost gave up but persisted and got up and running on time. But then the wind tormented me over the entire weekend. Gusts blew my tent around and I was continually holding it down and stressing that sooner or later some of my lamps would be blown off the shelves. About 2:00 Sunday afternoon that's what happened, twice. Two big gusts in a row blew over my shelves and because people in the booth grabbed lamps as they fell only one actually hit the ground. But that was it, it was time to pack up.

What amazed me was that no one walking by even noticed I was taking down. People could only see that there was now an open space in the line of tents so they could cut through, like seeing a space in a long line they can cut through—and often as not the people in the line are not thrilled by this. These people, in their haste to cut through often tripped on my equipment as I was trying to pack up. I have to say I was angry at these people who had no clue as to what I was going through. I wanted them to know the trials an artist goes through to come to an art fair. That I had paid $500 to be in this space and now had to pack up and give up any more sales opportunities. But I also realized that if I were one of them—and had been in years past— I probably wouldn't have thought twice about why a person was taking down and seeing a path through the tents may have taken it myself.

This year I didn't enter the art fair fearing a repeat of last year. And because my sales are never that great at my local fair. One reason being that when people see that you're local they assume they can contact you at any time and buy a lamp. But they rarely call and truthfully there aren't that many opportunities to view my lamps. I don't do many shows and work out of my home, which isn't open to the public. These days people are so used to getting what they want quickly and easily—the next day/convenience mentality. You can order most anything off the internet and have it the next day. If you don't buy it now it will certainly be there tomorrow. Maybe Target has something similar and cheaper.

But that's just one of the challenges to artists. I don't think anyone knows how much work goes into attending art fairs. Art fairs have gotten pretty sophisticated. The fees for outdoor fairs range anywhere from $30 to $800. Indoor shows can reach $2000 quite easily, and that's just the space. There's still the transportation, housing, and food costs. And if you're inside there's carpet, drape, and lighting rental which some shows require. Now many artists have figured out ways around these fees but I'm still a newby and often am surprised by the unexpected expenses. And if you do lose your work in a storm or accident insurance will only pay for the materials you used to make the piece, not the time you put into it. Think about the materials needed for a painting, on the whole fairly minimal. But it could be worth thousands. Insurance will only cover a fraction of the value. I'm sure there is coverage that will cover everything but the cost of it is usually out of reach for the average artist and it's just something you have to deal with if you're wiped out at a show. Which by the way seems to be happening more often by unexpected wind gusts and freak storms. Global warming comes to mind.

By the way there was another storm this year early Saturday morning at the Art Fair on the Square. Pretty much a repeat of last year. A friend showed me pictures of crumpled tents and told of many artists who were wiped out. Another small disaster that the public never hears about. Luckily the rest of the weekend was perfect weather. A friend in the show was showing me pictures of the small disaster on his iPhone. We started talking about how the public has no idea what artists go through to bring their work to the public. He told me a story about a woman who came in his booth one year. She said "isn't it wonderful the local art museum supplies all the tents, shelving and structures for all the artists." My friends was very happy to disillusion her of these beliefs. "The only thing the artist gets from the main sponsor are the four chalk marks that mark the location of their 10'x10' booth." I was shocked but I guess in retrospect I shouldn't be surprised. We live in a society where everything is at your fingertips. Rarely do people look behind the curtain to understand what it takes to make it that way. Someday when those services aren't there it's going to be a devastating shock.

I enjoyed wandering through the art fair for once instead of worrying about my own booth. I love art and the chance to view it and see the artist who did the work—or even talk to them— is a pleasure. So this time I was the tourist and enjoyed every minute. I've included a few artists that caught my eye this year. Enjoy. And next time you go to an art fair think about what it took to bring all of this to you. But somehow I don't expect you will. m.

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