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Last weekend we were in Florence, Alabama for Arts Alive. It was a positive experience for us and our sales exceeded our expectations going in. Florence is a city of about 40,000 in the northwest corner of the state. It is located on the Tennessee River and is adjacent to Muscle Shoals. There is a rich musical heritage here. This show was recommended to us by a couple of artists friends familiar with our work. We were somewhat skeptical since it is a relatively small city and we tend to do better in larger venues. But, it was close to home and expenses were low ( booth was $170.00) so we decided to give it a try.

The site is Wilson Park which is located in the center of the downtown area surrounded by large stately homes. The arts center runs the show and overall did a good job. The arts center is located adjacent to the park in three large former homes. Load in started at 9am on Friday. There was no set schedule, just show up whenever. Two of the streets adjacent to the park were blocked off and the other two had street parking. We were able to pull up with our trailer and park about 50 feet from our booth. We stayed there for the four hours it took us to set up. Some were able to drive into the park on the sidewalks but most had to dolly. It was hot and humid during set up but luckily we had shade all day. Nevertheless, we were both spent by the end of the day.

The show opened at 9am but it is a free event so we got there at 8am to tie up some loose ends and be ready for any early birds. This is the big art event of the year so while the crowd was not overwhelming it seemed OK. Others who have done the show in the past said the crowd was down perhaps due to the weather. We had a pretty good morning with print bin sales. Then a former customer from another show came by and bought a piece off the wall and ordered some prints. It was shaping up to be a really good day....then the rain hit. It was about 2pm when the clouds cut loose. The show shut down early and everyone zipped up for the night.

There is a very nice reception for the artists on Saturday night. All the tables and chairs were set up in the backyard of the arts center. The rain ended the outdoor plans and everything was moved inside. There was a beer and wine bar in the art gallery. The drinks were accompanied by a jazz trio who were very good by the way. Next door was a buffet set up with BBQ. Awards were announced while we were eating dinner and we missed that we won third place. Despite the weather we had a good time.

By Sunday morning the weather had partially cleared and although rain was forecast for later in the day, it looked like we would get the entire day in. The morning was slow but picked up in the afternoon. Our sales were not very good until one customer came in and bought two large pieces. We sold a few other things and by 5pm when the show ended we were feeling pretty good about the weekend. Load out was OK and again we were able to park close to our booth. Unfortunately with about 30 minutes left before we were completely loaded it started raining again. For the second show in a row we were soaked.

We did not understand this when we applied but there are two shows. The first is the Gallery Show (separate application on Zapp). If accepted, you can submit up to three works for gallery display before and after the show. We checked out the gallery submissions during the reception and many of them had sold. The outdoor show is the Park Show. You can do both as long as you submit two applications.

The only negative about this show was security. In previous years there was on site security. This year security was limited to drive bys by on duty police. Four booths were broken into. It appeared that the thieves cased the booths during the show and determined what they wanted. Items stolen were parts of a set or related to each other in some way. In other words, it was not some random theft. There were substantial losses for those victimized.

While we were very pleased with our sales, we did not check around with others for their experiences. Security needs to be improved. None of us can afford to lose inventory to thieves. We will apply to this show next year as it worked out well for us and is close to home. The downtown is nice with several new restaurants and accommodations are reasonable. Despite our GPS taking us on an unwanted tour of backwoods Alabama in the rain after the show it was a good weekend. I am not sure we would have felt the same way if the thieves and hit us.

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Comment by Joel Lockridge on May 24, 2017 at 4:42pm

Congrats on a decent show despite the weather. I hate to hear the thieves hit so many people. Nothing worse in my mind than a thief.

Comment by Sandra J. Atkins-Moran on May 25, 2017 at 10:20am

Also count among thieves the patrons who walk through a show,take pictures, then go home and make prints for their own or commercial use.  Cellphones now take professional quality images. Beware!

Comment by Larry Sohn on May 25, 2017 at 11:59am

Cellphones now take professional quality images. Beware!

I would not agree with the statement about cell phones taking pro quality images. Unfortunately for us pro photographers, some others believe they do and therefore do not understand the difference.

The cell phone may capture the composition. They will not capture the gamut range, tonal quality, nor many other aspects. Nor will the customer print it on the media I use. I further doubt they will pay to have a high end professional print lab try to duplicate what I print in my shop.

I agree with those taking pictures of our work, as you mentioned, being thieves.

I caught a woman doing so with my work, at a show. When I requested she delete the image, she became irritated. She stated she knew I would do that. She was upset because she wanted the picture to print on her own, for her home. I offered to let her buy the print she saw in my booth from me, instead. She stormed out.

As long as customers falsely believe their cell phones will take as good an image as us pros are offering, it will diminish the value of our work and hurt our profession.

I have crayons, acrylics, palettes, easel, canvas etc. I can paint... However, under no circumstances would I EVER say I am an artist in that medium, nor would I ever state my work was good or professional.

As good as I am with a camera, I never take pictures of anyone else' artwork without their express consent FIRST. Even then it is not to make a copy.

As much as we don't want theft. Retail operations account for a certain percentage of loss due to theft, as a common business practice.

At times the cost of preventing theft is more than the loss due to same. I am strongly opposed to the types of theft aforementioned, however I am in business and handle it as a businessman. The costs of legal fees for that smashed cell phone just does not seem to warrant it :-)

Comment by Sandra J. Atkins-Moran on May 25, 2017 at 12:22pm

Valid points.  I should correct my comment about the quality of cell phone images.  However, the public perception of their quality does cause all of us many problems an does facilitate the aforementioned theft.  The people who do this kind of stealing really don't care about the quality of the image, just the image.  I agree about smashing the cell, but the thought is really, really pleasing. 

Comment by Larry Sohn on May 25, 2017 at 12:32pm

Absolutely... the satisfaction....the costs....the good feeling...the court time........the lesson it would serve.... the lost show time while incarcerated......the euphoria of breaking that thing in front of them.....

Decisions, decisions.

********* Disclaimer*********

The aforementioned was written in jest. It is not to be construed or implied to be a threat of any INTENTIONAL physical action suggested or to be taken. While in a normal stable state of mind.

***************************

Of course intent and normal stable mind are interpretive. We are artists, therefore who woud judge us "normal"  :-) 

Comment by Sandra J. Atkins-Moran on May 25, 2017 at 8:51pm

It's sad that someone would not realize that your comments were tongue-in-cheek.  Lighten up, folks.

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