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(May 14-16, 2010): We drove for 9+ hours to get to Belleville, IL, but we would probably be considered local as other artists drove for days from Washington, Oregon, Santa Fe, etc. I had breakfast with an artist who came to the show from Honolulu.

On the last hour of our drive we passed through sparsely populated farmland which took us to the City limits. I couldn't help but think, "could this show really be as good as is claimed... where are the people?" I make no bones about it... this show is a gem for any artist fortunate to get in.

Belleville is a small city of 43K and Art on the Square has become its main event...the pride of the city... a total community event. As you will learn, this goes beyond an art show. It is a community that is building itself around the arts, the show is the catalyst.

First about the art show

The Art Cash Program: Before the first artist crossed the city line, more than $87,000 in pre-purchased Art Cash had been sold. So when the show opened on Friday night, 87K had already been collected and reissued to patrons for the sole purpose of art purchases at the show (turns to confetti on Monday). I have attended many Friday pre-show openers with indifference, but not this time; it was the best Friday open that I had ever been a part of. In a few hours, I was already at my average take for a small weekend show. BTW, we set up in the rain but by 5PM when the show opened, the sky broke clear to a beautiful evening. Patrons of the pre-purchase program were treated to wine and beer which only added to the joy of buying art.

Saturday was not so good weather-wise. It poured most of the day, miserable and cold - by day's end, the chill ran deep. It was the type of day you just wrote off as an artist and hoped the next would be better. But... in Belleville folks came out in spite of the rain. Granted, I'm sure not near as many as would normally come, but a very decent showing and they bought art! By the end of the day, I had made good sales.... amazing considering how hard it rained at times during the day.

Sunday, the threat of rain hovered over us again but it held off till the show's end and most of the breakdown... a fantastic day for sales. I sold across all of my price points. There was a good mix to the crowd... all ages and hair colors. When the toll for all three days was made, hummmm doggie, this was by far my best show. Not everyone had a stellar show but I did not talk to one artist who didn't think they would return if given the chance.

I mentioned earlier that this is a community that is building itself around the arts and the show is serving as the catalyst. Here are a few examples:

1) Artist in Residence Program: Several of the selected artists were asked to come to Belleville early. They were sponsored by area businesses and paid a stipend to participate in an educational outreach program to support the arts within 12 of the area schools. A sponsor's sign was hung on the artist's booth during the show, indicating the artists who participated in the Artist in Residence program. A jeweler across from me participated in this program... his work was outstanding and I would have loved to have been a part of any workshop he would have done. What a great way to leverage the artist's talent coming to their city.

2) High School Art Show: Also built into this show was an art show for the local schools. On Saturday evening we were treated to our fill of shrimp and sandwiches and cheesecake and wine/beer, etc. We were also given a clipboard and asked to rank a best from the many pieces of high school art work that hung on the walls of a bank lobby where our reception was held. I now understand the pain that judges must go through in judging our work. A lot of this work was really outstanding. If they start doing art shows, watch out. BTW, I sold a few pieces of art to high school students who had displayed at the high school art show... an appreciation for art at a young age. 

3) Corporate Collections Program: Business Owners, Attorneys, Physicians, Executives, City Hall, etc, are encouraged to purchase art work to enhance the design of their office space. I was the beneficiary of one of those sales. 

Now a word about the army of volunteers that treated us like royalty. This entire show is organized by volunteers from the Director, Patty Gregory, on down. They baked cookies, made sandwiches, etc.. I lost count of the many treats that were brought to our tents throughout the weekend, almost hourly... even the rains didn't stop them. I'm certain that they have ruined the rest of this year's show season for me -- I have been spoiled.. 

There is more to say... I think you get the picture and I didn't even talk about the awards. I was surprised to read in another post on this forum how over-rated this show was. In my opinion, this show has the rating it deserves, a top show. Everyone from Patty on down should be proud. My thanks for a job superbly done.


Comment: I don't know what this show could have done to make things better. How many shows have you participated in that pre-sells $87,000 in coupons that can only be used at the art show? Provides a free dinner with unlimited food and drinks? An outstanding Awards Breakfast with award money totalling around $25,000. Hospitality like no other show I've ever been at. I don't know what could have been improved, other than the economy and weather

Views: 464

Comment by Emily Sims/Rona Fisher Jewelry on September 7, 2011 at 10:45am

Hi, there! Just want to thank you for this great review and helpful info! We will continue applying. Glad to hear you did so well. Best, ~Emily



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