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Big Bear Lake Art on the Lake Fine Art Festival---Not

Not a festival, not a happy place, not a fine art show...This was my first official show. It was small but smaller than expected. Matter of fact the promoter and another promoter are at odds because said promoter #2 was kicked off the team of Promoter#1. It seems the Fine artist of this show that got the memo moved over to Promoter #2's show. I had talked to promoter #2 and I was accepted but opt out of her show because she didn't want me to bring my nudes to the show. By the way most of my nudes aren't nude(long story) anyway so I stayed at Promoter #1 which was enlightening. 

I set up for the first time and just thought maybe I was there early, we we told we could set up at 10 am. I got there at 2pm. Yes my husband and I saw only 4 other booths up before ourselves. I set up in the wrong place and had to move my booth. How did this happen? I looked at the number wrong and there was no one to ask questions to. So I re set up. By 6:30 there were about 8 booths set up, and 7pm was suppose to be the deadline for setting up. Free booze and food that night at 8pm so I showed up with my hubby.

More people now had set up but there were only 11 people at the Artist opening, I'm not much of a drinker but at that point I managed to down 3 Corona beers and some of my husbands drinks. The map online indicates spaces for 94 artists. Once I received my map for the show it indicated 50. By the time of the show there were 32 booths filled but not all were artist. Some were timeshares, buy sell, crafts and that sort of thing. There were 12 Fine Artist and really not in my opinion there were 3. Mine was the most professional booth. How does that happen when it's your first show?

I had lots of people wanting to know where I get my ideas, if I take drugs (NO) and if my photos on my website were clear enough so other artist could copy my work. RUDE.

I broke 2 of my sculptures and lost it on a woman talking on a cell phone who picked up one of my sculptures by the head. I turned from pleasant sweetie to rabid dog B in 5 seconds. I shooed dogs away, concerned just one leg lifting would send my husband into a fit. No peeing on the pedestals.  

I sold $25.00 worth that day and it cost me about 3000.00 if I cant fix my sculptures. In actual money out it cost me about 900.00.

Day 2 the Forest caught on fire so 2 hours into the show I began to pack up slowly, since campsites were evacuated and people were either watching the fire or fleeing for their life. Last year apparently there was an earthquake instead! 

So I look at what I learned.

  1. If you get right into a show without an effort, ask why.
  2. I was able to set a goal to get ready for a show and I made the goal.
  3. I set up and learned about anything that might go wrong. I should change my banners and get an easier website address. Now I know why I needed in my list a fire extinguisher. I need to find a new way to move my sculptures.
  4. I learned how to use square for credit cards.
  5. I talked to many people that I feel I really connected with.

I had people come to the show. One my mother which means she also brought her husband. Which means next time come up with another way for them to visit cause there is not enough room for visitors and what people talk about that are visitors can make me look bad. Politics, Race, Other People. Uggh I had to tell them to shut it.

Also, by husband has a man he is doing a lot of construction work for and he told this guy, his wife and him knew the show wasn't what I said it would be and they felt sorry for me. I was a little embarrassed, they traveled 2 hours to get there and stayed over night. They bought us an expensive dinner. All this time I was trying to be positive.

So I found out at least the promoter will yell at the vendors and cuss them out. The promoter wanted us to not start packing until the end of the show at 4pm.  I never asked his permission.

I am like the animals, when the forest is on fire I flee the forest. I was calm and began to slowly pack small things. One other woman moved her truck closer.

The promoter yelled and screamed carried on like a banshee. The woman was selling candles in the sun of 100 plus degrees. No customers in sight. She yelled back. She wasn't trying to leave, she was by herself and wanted to be able to leave quickly at the right time, so she moved her truck closer. My independent self openly with a smile began to pack quickly. That was it for me. Why do people ask permission? Why hide it, why be subtle? for who?

The Promoter might have a nice part to him but I didn't experience it. When I made it obvious I was leaving he walked past taking notes. One artist asked me if I was leaving I said no, I was packing and it takes me a long time. The stores around us had already been told to volunteer to close early. I said I was a free individual who doesn't ask permission. That artist sat until then end. Yes I was still wrapping my sculptures and I could see the flames.

George my husband said the man who bought our dinner was stuck in traffic trying to get down the mountain. We got finished just in time to cruise without fighting traffic. We could see the flames above the tree line and the fire helicopters were diving down to scoop water next to us in the Lake where the festival was. Definitely something to remember.

Views: 1095

Comment by Connie Mettler on August 29, 2015 at 4:10pm

Great story, Kara! Congrats on your first show and your first show review. We all appreciate it.

What a story ... forest fires, local stores get to close and you are supposed to stay? Yikes! 

Where was this show? what city, what state?

Nice job at the artist opening. I can see why you helped your husband out with the drinks ;)

And a good analysis. Yes, you learned a lot and since you are noting that clearly you have learned those lessons for good. So, a $900 class - Art Fair 101 ... not good, but it happens. 

Got another show lined up?

Will you be able to fix your sculptures.

Comment by Bill Kutcher on August 29, 2015 at 4:29pm

Sorry to hear your first show was such a disaster. I think in that situation, it was the right thing to do to pack up early.

Most shows have strict rules stating you can't pack up early. These are meant to benefit everyone. If people start packing up early it gives the impression to the customers that the show is over and they may leave, potentially hurting the artist that choose to stay. It can also be a major disruption to traffic flow and a safety hazard, especially if you bring a vehicle in.

Like most rules there should be exceptions. In the case of impending natural disasters, extreme!! weather, medical emergencies, packing up early may be the best and only choice to be made.

However, if someone decides to pack up early because they are personally having a bad show while others are doing ok, I think it is wrong and selfish on their part to pack up early. They should not be allowed to ever return to that show.

I have personally had many large sales that saved the day or show in the last hours of a show. Some customers purposefully wait until the end of a show hoping to get a deal. If I had left early, I would not have gotten those sales, and would have left thinking the show was worse than it really was.

It is a lot of work setting up a booth, why not squeeze every sales hour you can out of it.

I hope your next show is a vast improvement over this one.  Good Luck!!

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on August 29, 2015 at 5:50pm

Sorry for your first experience, it's been a really rough year for the West dealing with these fires.  The Lake Chelan (WA) Fine Arts Festival had to close down early due to the fire situation. 

I assume you were posting about Big Bear CA??

Comment by kara unland on August 29, 2015 at 8:44pm

I left because it was not safe to be there. Most resident artist left to rescue their animals and family. You have to be stupid to worry about a shows strict rules, instead of your safety. California fires light up like a match it's so dry and hot here. I am one of those people that will tough out anything, but not if I am going to be in the way of the fire fighters. One Artist had been drinking early and was yell "Fire Sale, Discounts here." This promoter didn't care that he billed the show as having been successful for 16 years, that it was a FINE ART Show, that he juries the artist in and that he had a long list of what he looks for. None of it true. 200.00 BOOTH FEE. Then he lets people set up the morning of the show when there were rules not to. He never kept one of his rules, then he wants us to stay when even the stores are closing and everyone is being evacuated. He never even had signs telling people we were there on the main drag.

One lady said that she makes usually 7000. a show, but she only made 400. at this one. She sold tie dyes. I never complained once during the show and I wanted very badly to squeeze a sale out, but I think you would have had to be there to understand.

Comment by Reid Watts on August 29, 2015 at 10:46pm

The good news is that your next show cannot possibly be worse than this show!  It's nothing but up from here!

Comment by Bill Kutcher on August 29, 2015 at 11:10pm

Kara, I think you may have taken my comments wrong. You absolutely did the right thing in packing up early. Since this was your first show, and in your comments above you mentioned

"Why do people ask permission? Why hide it, why be subtle? for who?" I only wanted to clarify

that it is generally not cool to be packing up early. However when life , limb or property are in jeopardy, heck with the rules. You need to do whatever it takes to be safe. I agree with Reid's comment above, It can only get better from here.

Comment by Richard L. Sherer on August 29, 2015 at 11:37pm

Boy, what a bummer for a first show. FYI for future reference: Status of forest fires can be found at:  I was watching this site as much as the weather site a couple years ago when fires were bad in Colorado.

Comment by Alison Thomas on August 30, 2015 at 8:10am

I have a policy for myself that I don't leave a show early unless my life or my work is in danger. Your situation definitely met that criteria.  I'm surprised the authorities didn't make the promoter shut the show down.  At any rate, you're not going back, right?

Comment by kara unland on August 30, 2015 at 2:05pm

I know not to leave a show early. It's bad business. I don't care that it was a bad show. I learned a lot. Bill, no I just wanted to make my point. There were several people mainly the buy sell that were willing to wait. Maybe it had to do with the fact they hadn't created their own art and it wasn't at risk. I have always been self employed, my husband and I own a business, my parents had a business. I understand the need to not cause people to follow and close a show if it isn't necessary. I was just amazed at the fact people would take being cussed at and yelled at, and told what to do and then sit down and shut up, during a situation like this.

I learned that there is finally something in me that doesn't wait for others to give me permission to stand up for myself. I didn't argue I simply packed. It took hours to pack my stuff. I knew that we would possibly be forced to leave and if we were asked I wouldn't have time to pack the way I needed to to save my sculptures. I made a judgement that was a good one. Lots of local artists that were there were pacing and worried and upset about their animals. When they finally packed they threw their stuff in their car and got out of there. I have lived next to a forest my whole life and when it goes up everyone floods our town, why? cause there isn't time to wish you had.

I am certain the promoter felt we could ride it out, but there wasn't any one to sell to. Everyone was fleeing the mountain.

The fire department issued a voluntary evacuation, but the promoter didn't wish to evacuate and so thought he was speaking for me and everyone else there.

No, I'm not going back except to enjoy this wonderful place as a visitor. 

Thanks for the inciweb link, that's just good to have out here.

Comment by kara unland on August 30, 2015 at 2:06pm

and yes it is nothing but up from here :)


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