Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Last weekend we participated in the 4 Bridges Art Festival in Chattanooga, Tn., a city of about 180,000 people at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains along the Tennessee River. The Association for the Visual Arts runs the show and supports a very vibrant arts community.
There is a lot of civic pride in Chattanooga. The downtown has been totally transformed since our last visit about 10 years ago. There are new condos and apartments going up everywhere you look to the point that it was hard to navigate around all the streets closed for building construction. In the Warehouse district alone, there are so many new and interesting restaurants it was hard to pick one to try. On Thursday night, between the traffic from people leaving the baseball game and other downtown venues we gave up trying to scout places to shoot later in the weekend. In other words, Chattanooga is a happening place.
The show venue is the First Tennessee Pavilion which is an old factory building converted into a sort of indoor/outdoor event space. There is a very high roof and short side walls. Chattanooga was hit with the same storm that caused havoc at the show in Knoxville. Some on the outside rim of the pavilion got some water in their booths but I did not see or hear of any significant damage. On Saturday we had several strong storms in the afternoon between which there was some calm weather. At about 7:00pm a strong storm blew through and it rained hard the rest of the night and into Sunday morning. Because of the venue, I do not think the weather impacted attendance.
There were strong crowds all weekend of buyers not just lookers. On Sunday I was thanking everyone for coming out in such bad weather. One lady said "this is the biggest art event of the year. If I don't come today I have to wait a whole year." There is a parking lot around three sides of the building reserved for the artists and vendors. You have to dolly in but that is not a big deal. Just find a spot nearest your booth and park your vehicle. We scouted the venue the night before, parked our trailer within 30 yards of the closest access point to our booth and left it there all weekend. Single booth spaces are 10 x 12 so there is about 2 feet of storage at the rear.
Set up is Friday morning starting at 8:00am. Everyone has to be open and ready to go by 6:30 for a preview party that runs until 10:00pm. A dinner was served for the artists at 5:30 but if you have an assistant they are on their own. At check in they made sure to tell us that if we wanted to drink during the party we had to wear the checkered wrist bands included in out packet. That's right, free drinks for the artists. It was an open bar and the bartenders were quite willing to take input on how to mix your drink for your satisfaction. We took full advantage of this opportunity.
Unlike other preview parties we have been a part of, the attendees were making purchases. We saw many packages go by. We made a couple of small sales but others did better. The oil painter next to us sold five pieces.
This event has an admission charge so there were no early birds. By the time we arrived at 9:00 am, other artists were taking advantage of the free breakfast. In fact the show provided breakfast, lunch and dinner for artists on Saturday and Sunday. In addition there were food vendors just outside the pavilion that gave artists discounts. I had some of the best BBQ I have ever had from a local guy with a beat up trailer smoking meat on site.
There was music all weekend on an outdoor stage and several bars inside. A nice size glass of wine was $5.00. But, it was clear that the focus was on the art, not the other stuff. The music and beverages just made for a nice experience for everyone.
Our sales were very good, bordering on outstanding. Others we spoke to were very happy as well. I did not hear one complaint about sales. The folks who attended this event asked excellent questions and wanted to engage with the artists. I did not have one person pull out their cell phone to show me their outstanding photo. Many were interested in the story behind the work and how it was done, refreshing.
Load out was a breeze. There was a light intermittent rain but nothing too difficult to deal with. We were all packed up and on our way to dinner by 7:00pm.
Accommodations in the area are reasonable if you get outside of downtown. We stayed at a renovated La Quinta off Browns Ferry Road. It had a new memory foam bed, beautiful bathroom with a large walk in shower, and was very quiet. It is a dog friendly hotel, so if you do not like dogs do not stay there. In our world if you do not like dogs there is something seriously wrong with you anyway.
A word of warning, the lobby coffee is out of a machine.. stay away at all costs no matter how desperate you are for morning caffeine. We ate at a place called the Feed Company in the Warehouse district Thursday night. It had a good bar and the food was OK. Lots of young folks socializing and drinking beer. It was a fun environment but loud.
After long days at the show we opted for a place called the Acropolis about 6 miles from downtown on Saturday and after break down on Sunday. As you might expect from the name, they have Greek fare along with other great options. I had lamb dishes both nights. Sara had beef and salmon. All of it was outstanding to the point that she sheepishly had to tell me that their salmon was as good as mine. The truth comes out after a martini. For breakfast you cannot beat the City Diner downtown next to the Days Inn. There are no stand alone Starbucks downtown but there are several local coffee houses.
This show was a major success for several reasons.
So, there you have it. We had a great experience and hope to be invited back next year. Thank you Chattanooga and the AVA.