Which show was it for you that looked like it would be disastrous, yet it turned into one of the best shows ever? For me it was the Lake Eustis Fine Art Show in Eustis Florida.
I had taken a one year break from doing shows, and was ready to re-enter the arena. Living at the time in northern Florida, the intent was to find juried art shows within a 200 mile radius. This one looked promising, and was within 2 hours of home. I filled out the paperwork, got accepted, and packed my van.
The day before the show I was talking to a friend who, as it turns out, is from that very town. He proceeded to tell me in a very colorful way that nothing good ever happens there, and that it’s the most unlikely place to have an art show. They were not very encouraging words, and they definitely put a damper on my mental state. But hey, I’d already gotten accepted in the show and reserved my hotel. Hell, my van was already packed! I was going.
Upon arrival it was a warm Spring day and the venue was a well manicured park on a lake. It was indeed a beautiful setting, and the feeling was positive about being in this show. After all, I had spent the last year researching shows and building inventory, so this one held promise. Around me were other seasoned, professional artists setting up high quality wares. This was my come-back show, and the vibe was good. I finished getting set up, met the neighboring artists, and went to find the hotel.
The first day of the show we were promised by the promoter “ fair skies and good crowds", including a very supportive and art loving local community. As the morning went on, however, the crowds were not showing up. A couple times I looked out at the park and saw no one, not a single person. The grumbling among artists began. Here we are in this beautiful park, and here is a group of artists who had juried into the show and were ready to sell. So where the heck were the customers?
To make matters worse, the weather took a turn. As often happens in Florida, a storm had started brewing over the lake. The skies darkened and the wind was picking up steam. Within just a few minutes it became a full blown monsoon, and was heading right for our park at full speed. People were running for shelter and artists were battening down their tents. I stood at the front of my tent waving and calling for people to come in. And come in they did! For the next fifteen minutes I had a tent full of people nervously but cheerfully waiting out the storm. I started showing my pieces and telling the story of how they are made. Since I had a captive audience, there was a definite interest generated and I sold my first pieces.
The storm ended as quickly as it started, and soon folks could venture out. The pleasant surprise for me was what happened after that. One of the benefits of doing a small community show is that everyone knows everyone, and they talk to each other. So apparently the buzz was about this lady who makes jewelry out of paint. One after another person would come by, see the jewelry, and decide to make a purchase.
Sunday continued with the same pattern. Even though the crowds were small, they all came to my booth. I had such a steady stream of customers I didn’t even notice how small the crowd was. It turns out to be one of the few shows I have ever done where I actually had a line of customers waiting to purchase!
Looking back, there were several reasons I should not have done that show. After all, who’s even heard of that community? It’s out in the middle of nowhere! It did not have a big turn out, and the weather turned bad. Three strikes against it for sure! Yet for me, as a comeback show, it was absolutely the right place to be. I’m glad I didn’t get talked out of it by my friend.
Anyone who has done juried art shows for any length of time can tell you, there’s really no rhyme or reason to shows. You may be wildly successful one weekend and feel invisible the next. The key is to keep doing shows, stay on the circuit, keep producing your art and looking for places to sell it.