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My Florida Journey:

I had not done a show in Florida since 2011 (when I did just 2) so this year when I managed to string two shows together so I could spend a 'working 10 days' in the sunshine I jumped at the chance.  After the kind of winter we've had up north here I was ready to drive straight south out of the snow!  Both these shows were a proverbial 'crap-shoot' for me with no FL mailing list really and unknown market but I am always up for a challenge.

First up was the Boca Raton Museum show February 8 & 9.  Without having a clue who else was going to be there (except for one good friend), I was pleasantly surprised to find a good number of fellow artists I knew participating in the show so I got to catch up with people I normally only see in the summer. One of my first observations: why did the show not publish a list of exhibitors? 

Parking was close but a 40.00 fee for my SUV.  I heard if you were pulling a trailer it was double.  I scoped my booth spot out with my friend on Friday evening after getting my parking ticket.  I had paid the considerable extra fee for a 'corner booth' location.  I realized I had ended up in one of those 'alone' spots across the road from the line of other tents.  Ok, I thought, kind of weird but the patrons could see the side of my booth a block away.  For those who don't know me, I am a painter with very color saturated works and some are very large so I had an 8' wide piece on the outside wall.

Set up for me started at 5:30 am but I understand you can start as early as 3 am.  Not being a good morning person at all this was intimidating at best and not having set up my tent since last September I found myself retraining my brain in the dark that morning. 

My show started off with a small bang as I had a sale to a client from Chicago who came specifically to see me.  I thought "well, this is going to be a good day".  Well, from there it was tough at best, and the weather was hotter then normal.  First let me say that there was a 'no giclee' rule for the show that was blatantly ignored. I chose to follow the rules but there was display after display of print racks out.  Now, I don't know what if any difference to my show that would have made but there was certainly no policing of it.  I think I met every amateur painter in SE Florida asking me about my techniques etc. which happens at lots of shows. 

I will say that I have never had that many people blatantly taking photos of my work at a show either.  One man took a close-up of the large work on the outside of my booth when I said "excuse me, what are you doing"? replied: "I'm going to print it out....lots cheaper then buying the original" oh and laughing.  I did however enjoy all those nice Canadian tourists I encountered (my dad was a Canadian so we had 'commonality').  I think about every other person at the show was from Toronto but those people were not necessarily looking for large 2D. 

Attendance was much lower on Saturday then it was on Sunday and the weather was nicer Sunday.  I did also have that issue of the patrons sticking to the other side of the road but again, if someone wants to see the art, I was wide open.  There were very few people walking around with purchases but of course I was reminded by a neighbor that this is a 'delivery' kind of show.  I also learned a few lessons about 'show awards' and artists who specifically go after them...interesting. 

Well, lets just say we enjoyed some of the restaurants in the area Friday & Sat., got in a great evening walk on the beach after the show Saturday, and just enjoyed being warm for a change of pace in my life.  I was hoping Sunday would be a better day for me but it was not to happen.  I do custom work too and hoping something will come out of it eventually but as of now, nothing yet.

The only other observation to make is that there were random cars of restaurant patrons that managed to get through the barricades on our end during take down.  Most eventually were moved after some negotiating but that was awkward and honestly, not safe.  Overall, I would add that this was a show that looked good.  Lots of wonderful artists there who I hoped did well.  A few of my neighbors did for sure.  Yes, as always there were a few booths of the buy/sell offenders.  It just didn't work out for much 'instant gratification' for me unfortunately.

I hauled across 'Alligator Alley' after take down that night to meet my sister in law who the week before decided to join me in Naples for a few days.  Nothing like a few days in Naples of dining, visiting old friends in town and a bit of gallery-peeking.  Then I was off to Bonita Beach for another few days to stay with friends and sit in a lounge chair :).  Well, a moving weather front sent us scurrying for the outlet mall at Miromar on Thursday instead of the beach so now I have a pile of new summer clothes eagerly awaiting the snow to melt.  Enjoyed the beautiful sunsets etc., took photos to use in future works.  My week was great.  Ate grouper in every form, loved all the birds outside the condo and the tropical foliage but mostly enjoyed hanging out with friends and for a few days, turning off work for a change. 

We decided to go over to Sanibel for dinner at my friends favorite restaurant there the night before set up and see where I was going to be at the show.  Our 22 mile/45 minute drive from Bonita Beach to Sanibel turned into a 1 3/4 hour excursion through the horrid traffic on Ft. Myers beach.  Now, I was supposed to stay with another friend on Sanibel but when they missed their flight on Friday I kept staying in Bonita until Sunday evening.  While the drive was not quite that long again, it was not fun making that drive across Ft. Myers beach so many times. 

Now, to the show.  Set up was easy.  My heart sunk though when I realized what my booth location was going to be.  There are these little 'cul-de-sacs' for a better word and I realized I was in the corner back of one of them.  Now, as a first time artist to the show I thought that I had been stuffed back there just because of being a 'newbie' so thought I would make the best of it.  I had written them when I paid asking them please, please for a corner location or spot with an outside wall to show off my larger pieces but this wasn't to be.  Keeping an opening in the back of my booth gave me a breeze, a place to sit out of the sun and I was able to prop one large work against the side of the building. 

Off to my right kiddy-corner was the Kettle Corn booth (ugh, all my work still stinks like popcorn), to my left was a nice but chain smoking jeweler.  Now, having asthma, I try to avoid food booths and smokers but that was not to be this weekend.  And, as an added bonus, there is a fine layer of dust coating everyone/thing from the sandy soil! 

Again, there was a nice mix of work and some really fine quality artists there.  Now I had those prints out but sold just a handful of them.  I did give one of the prints to their silent auction.  Not sure what to make of that auction either as I know it makes some money for the Rotary but doesn't it take away from booth sales?  Had lots and lots of interest in some of the pieces and managed to book one commission job so the show wasn't a loser although it certainly wasn't what I was hoping for.  I actually saw people (on vacation) there from my youth in MN so it was fun to catch up. Again, hoping for some follow-up business.

The biggest surprise of the show came in the form of something I never expected on Sunday:  I was hit by flying hotter-then hell popcorn kernels from the kettle.  Yes, you are reading that right.  See, having that chair out back of my booth with that kettle corn off to my right, I was eating lunch in my chair when suddenly I thought I got stung.  A 'yeoww' turned into another and one more before I realized I was under attack from the popcorn!!  I did mention it to the vendor laughing (one burned a small hole in my new pants) trying to make light of it.  Of course she said "well we can't manage where those things go".  Of course not.....they shouldn't have been put right next to artists booths in the first place!

Take down was not too bad but a really tight cluster of vehicles and I had a group of visiting friends there to help who were eager to go out for cocktails so I had to get it done fast. 

I did get to stay the night on the island, enjoying the evening at the beach.  After a late breakfast and a long beach walk, I had to get into that SUV and drive away north to begrudgingly come home.  I have dreams of maybe one day spending a few months down there doing shows because I believe a little more visibility there could make a difference in sales (not to mention a few months less of a cold winter).  However, spending that much time down there won't come until I get a bit older and my family in a different space, so for now, I will continue to contemplate how I can better make that Florida show thing work for just a few weeks.

Now, I'm off to work on those taxes I've been avoiding!

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Comment by Cat Fenner on March 5, 2015 at 10:38pm

Shame on Boca Museum organizers. Lee and I did the show last year, and I reported the same problems in my Sunshine Artist Report (April 2014)-- no policing of traffic at closing, no staff on site during set up, no artist listing, a good bit of buy/sell, etc. I had heard they had since hired a new director, but it sounds like he/she was following the status quo of the previous one. One would think at least the Board would be interested in fixing problems noted in the SA reports. Glad we didn't apply and make the same mistake this year. And like you, Mary, Lee paints 5'-9' paintings, and we did not do well there either.

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on March 3, 2014 at 11:17pm

Thanks for the "Two-fer" Mary.  I enjoyed your report.  I can't say I would be very happy getting nailed by scalding hot popcorn  kernels.  They could have burned a hot right through your tent!

Comment by Connie Mettler on February 24, 2014 at 7:30pm

As I am reading through this, I'm thinking to myself, Mary usually writes good reports with interesting details and info, but this is unusual. Now I know why. Mary, like me, is avoiding the taxes ;)

I think this is the first report ever of an attack by hot popcorn kernels. That will have to be added to the list of hazards in the business. Didn't that "vendor" think she was responsible for them? 

Good reports, Mary. I am intrigued by this statement:

I also learned a few lessons about 'show awards' and artists who specifically go after them...interesting.

Are you going to explain that? Was there prize money at Boca, enough to bring in some really artsy folks? or was there some other visible clue?

Yes, and now you have the charm of doing the Florida shows. Oh, beaches, sunsets, drinks with friends in the sunshine, lazy days between shows when you can get away from the day-to-day stuff. Putting together a viable group of shows to make the drive worthwhile is a challenge. Are you thinking of doing these two again next year?

Comment by mary johnston on February 24, 2014 at 7:04pm

Thanks Geri! I meant to touch base with you too and not only was it crazy getting ready to go but then as you see I had to go to Naples and it just changed what I was doing. They should have published a list. It could definitely bring people to a show if their favorite artists are there.  I will include that in my letter to them.

Comment by geri a. wegner on February 24, 2014 at 6:38pm

I am so sorry we didn't get together.  Life got crazy with a lot of relatives that were tired of the north coming down.  As you said, Boca never published a list of the artists and we decided not to drive up there.  

Love my trees!!

Hope to see you this summer.

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