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I’m concerned.

I’m concerned about what tomorrow will bring.

I’m concerned about what the future holds.

As an artist, I’m concerned about what the art world will become.  Especially about the business of art shows.

It appears to me and is quite obvious that the normality in the art world as we know it will never be the same again.

As a Florida resident, I usually do 18-20 shows a year. Most of them are in the South East US. My last art show was in March of this year with the balance of my schedule being cancelled due to the Covid virus.

Even though some shows are starting to accept applications for their fall and spring schedule in hope that some form of normalcy will return, most shows are being cancelled for the balance of this year.

But as of today, I’m concerned about even applying to these shows let alone accepting an invitation to participate. I’m concerned of not knowing what new CDC guidelines will be in effect and not knowing what to expect when these shows again open their gates.

Promoters of these shows, whether they are an Art League, Government Entity, or Privately Promoted, are bound and obligated to adhere to the new and ever changing guidelines that are being imposed by the CDC on a daily basis. These promoters are doing a fantastic job and are working tirelessly to provide a safe and enjoyable venue.

But I’m concerned, as the old saying goes, “If we build it, will they come?”  

I’m concerned about some of the CDC guidelines that promoters are looking at:

Controlling the amount of patrons allowed in the venue at any one time either by head count or by having patrons enter by a designated appointment time only.  Limiting the amount of entry points to better control the entrants. Conducting a Covid 19 survey (temperature check) of each entrant as they pass through the gate. Tents may be required to have two or three sides open for better air circulation and two to ten feet (or more) apart from one another. Controlling the quantity of patrons allowed in your tent at any one time. Obviously, face coverings must be worn by both vendors and guest at all times. Sanitation stations must be strategically placed throughout the event and most artists should supply hand sanitizer within their tent or close by (If you can find any and the artists expense). I’m not sure about the food court area, which I assume will warrant an exception to the face mask guidelines while eating. But this will cause a “no eating and walking” by art show guest while meandering throughout the art show. Perhaps food vendors will not even be invited to the event. This is still an item promoters are uncertain about. Musicians and other forms of entertainment is another topic.

I’m concerned about some of the CDC potential guidelines that artists may be faced with:

Most events will most likely reduce the number of invitees to gain the extra real estate for expanded tent assignments. This translates into greater competition for juried invitations.

I’ll talk about traveling and lodging while going to and while at the event later in this article.

When you arrive at the event, check in may be handled a little differently. They may require a temperature/health check and/or survey on all artists along with their associates. Most of the time when I check in, there is usually a crowd of artists and volunteers congregated at the sign in desk. Obviously, social distancing and masking must now be enforced.

Set up probably will go unencumbered due to the fact that your booth neighbor will be two to ten feet from you and should maintain that distance. The exception to your booth set up may be now you have to work with a new configuration to allow for 2 or 3 sides to left open. I’m not sure how this will allow larger pieces to be hung. But this should not be a major concern because artists are creative and will adapt.      

Establishing a “no touch” environment within your tent is going to be quite an adventure. Plastic sleeves and framed artwork will not suffice and is not going to be the cure all. I’m not sure how jewelry artists will get around this. Wiping every piece after a try on will be quite cumbersome. I think bins of sleeved photographic art, which in the past, has allowed patrons to shuffle through the bin will now be a thing of the past. And you can’t touch that piece of glass or ceramic.

A large concern will be when a customer is in your tent contemplating whether to purchase or not, and another customer is anxiously waiting to enter your tent. Of course with 2 or 3 sides open, this might alleviate this concern. Where do you complete the sale, do you take them behind the tent or relinquish the social distancing rule and stay within the public area. If your tent is set up in a normal fashion, perhaps a rope across the front will prevent unauthorized entry (Or at least controlled entry). You could have a sign on the rope that says “call this phone number for service” and the artist will come running,  (Kind of joking, but maybe not).

Where is the artist going to place themselves?  Where are you going to stand or sit. Behind the tent out of harm’s way is probably the safest place, but is not the best place to answer questions or conduct a sale. Possibly behind an acrylic shield would suffice, but obviously this would be a deterrent for an artist/buyer relationship. Are you going to wear gloves with your face mask, and how are you going to handle money transactions? Wiping every credit card with alcohol wipes would be mandatory along with your square or POS machine.  I’m not sure about cash sales though, but, I think it would be impractical to wipe every dollar bill with a wipe. J

Breakdown should go without much anxiety. The exception being, concerning yourself whether a particular item was previously touched while it was out of your sight and now possibly contaminated with Covid. Will every panel, shelf, display case, and every other item that may have been touched by a patron need to be wiped down? And before you get back in your van or truck, you should wash your hands and then wipe all of your vehicles interior space.

Florida is one of the hardest hit areas in the country right now for the Covid virus. Traveling to the various shows throughout Florida may be quite daunting. (Let’s hope things turn for the better in the 4th quarter. But as of today’s date, finding safe places to eat will definitely be a major concern. Let’s hope all waiters and staff are masked and customers are seated a safe distance apart from one another. If you need to use the restroom, be careful with what you touch. When you go into a restaurant (you should be masked also) and if you see unsafe CDC guidelines, do you leave and search for another restaurant or just go back to hotel room hungry?  Most counties in Florida have now mandated mask for the entire public while in a public place. But as I mentioned before, the act of eating while in public areas will pose additional problems.  

I think most hotels are providing safe welcoming atmospheres. Be sure they are maintaining social distancing requirements. And the receptionist and staff are behind Plexiglas or are well protected.

Most likely you will need to purchase gasoline sometime in your travels. You should have an extra pair of gloves with you so you can handle the gas nozzle safely. And don’t forget your credit card. It should also be wiped after you use it.

IN SUMMARY:

As an artist, I’m concerned about accepting and utilizing all these new guidelines. I’m concerned that the art shows attendance will be substantially less than previous years. Some patrons may feel the guidelines are sufficient and may attend, but some will still be concerned about their own safety and will not attend an art show no matter what. So I think it is quite obvious that attendance will definitely be off. I’m mostly concerned about exposing myself to groups/crowds of people at the risk of my own safety while at the show, or while traveling to and from a show. And if you’re doing a show every weekend, or every other weekend, or even once a  month, you increase your health risks substantially.   

I’m concerned even after all these points are considered, booth fees will remain the same. Even though promoters are doing an excellent job in trying to bring the best and safest art show to their locale, I understand they have their own set of expenses to contend with.

I love art shows.

I miss my friends.

I miss the public.

I want art shows to be the same as always.

But, I’m concerned.

I’m concerned about what tomorrow will bring.

I’m concerned about what the future holds.

As an artist, I’m concerned about what art shows will become in the future.  

It appears to me and is quite obvious that  normality in the art world, as we know it,

will never be the same again.

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Replies to This Discussion

You have covered everything. Nothing I know to add.

At my perch I admire those that are trying to get back out there and do shows, but for me, everything has been cancelled 2020, and I am leaving it at that. 

Larry - you did a fantastic job with information and questions - THANK YOU !

Believe it or not every show of ours but three have been cancelled -maybe the rest maybe not -

but we know one definitely is hanging in their . Im worried about how I should set up , stufflike do i mark the ground with X's ( thinking Duct tape )  signage -and ways to keep people from touching our puzzles ( thinking commercial zip lock bags ) and putting plastic in front of our displays - not sure how to go about from keeping people from handling our work- honestly the fact that they did before helped sell our work .

thinking posting something like " please dont handle the Art work - ask for help ! " but from real life people pretty much do what they want to . hoping people are smarter than that -but real life has proved that wrong.

Their are no sites for artists to go for reference -except when you type in -how do I set up for show during Covid ( how do i do this- or what do i do ? )- i keep getting stuff like -all shows are cancelled etc. which doesnt help .

It is pretty much a known fact that art shows will never be the same as they have been in the past. Art shows in the past have all been pretty much the same no matter what part of the country you were in. True, some had better layouts than others, some had better customer service than others, some had Saturday nite award dinners, but all in all, if you participated in a show in California or Virginia, you would know what to expect and what was expected of you.

Every artist will have to make their own decision as to if and when they want to participate in a show again. How much risk are they are willing to take in relation to the expenses involved

If you are driving in your car, you have to make a conscientious decision as to whether you want to drive under the speed limit, or whether you want to drive the speed limit, or whether you want to drive over the speed limit. Each decision has its own risks and rewards.

Your article portrays a very bleak time right now for artists.  It does sound so hard to navigate all the things that have to be thought of to do a show.  

Larry, are you able to sell your work online?  Do you have a website?  If not, Connie has a series of very helpful podcasts on her Art Fair Calendar that are all aimed toward artists making sells online. 

One thing we know, we are not stronger than this virus but we can be smarter than it is.  That is the only way we are going to get beyond this, we have to out smart it.  To do that, we need everyone's cooperation.

Larry, I am sure many artists feel exactly like you do.  You are not alone.

Having been a scientist in my dual life, I canceled all my summer CO mountain shows and housing reservations back in March sensing what was ahead. It was the right move for me. I am expecting a vaccine to be developed and shows will be back next summer with business pretty much as it was pre-virus. I tend to look at the glass as half full. Folks have to handle my product, leather, for it to sell. You don't sell a belt unless they try it on. I wrote the following for a Face Book art group about surviving the interim.

Diversification of income streams leads to survival and prospering. I've pursued my artwork part and full time for 61 years and have been in business for 47. Summer art shows were 1/3 of income but word of mouth spread pretty quick that I would be available for other work when I canceled them in March. Just sold a $4K saddle still under construction - almost unheard of in this business. Working with clients on financials as their performances resume with rodeos reopening. Plenty of horse people looking for repairs as small retailers have gone under. Collectors are still buying antique gear at auctions which need restoration. Geez, I thought I would have a whole summer to build show inventory for 2021. No such luck.

"The exception to your booth set up may be now you have to work with a new configuration to allow for 2 or 3 sides to left open. I’m not sure how this will allow larger pieces to be hung"

This discussion about revamp booth display for three outside walls isn't that bad if a little thought is put into it. The main thrust of that is that people no longer go inside your booth. My feel is that the front wall doesn't have to line up with the corner legs.


The front wall can be placed either 30" or 38" back inside, far enough to get a little extra room on the inside, but not enough that someone has to walk inside to see your work. The entire idea is that it's basically the old layout flipped 180 degrees. A doorway can be placed inside and the artist can sit there with another panel behind them where signage or flat work can be hung above their head on that back panel. This is just a thought, but this gives just as much room as the pre-Covid layouts would give, except you lose line-of-sight for the outside walls. This layout gives just about 31 feet of wall space.

Flip bins can go in the front just inside the front edge of the tent, keeping them somewhat out of the weather. Awnings are going to be essential. Flourish has awning for a variety of tents and hardware adapters for pop-up tents to make awnings so the outside walls can be protected.

Here's the layout I described;

Richard, it sounds like you are plenty busy.  That is a good thing.  Keep busy and pass the time and hopefully we will be coming out of this on the other end.

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