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Broad Ripple, Indiana – mostly thumbs up

In the spirit of better late than never, here are some observations from this year’s Broad Ripple Art Fair held on May 21 and 22 on the grounds of the Indianapolis Art Center.

First and foremost, the staff and many, many volunteers were absolutely awesome.  Smiling good mornings.  Yummy donuts and coffee.  Express line passes for artists to use at the food trucks and very friendly food workers.  Volunteers coming by your booth during the day asking “do you need a booth sitter?”… “how about some water?”… “is there anything I can do you?”  Yes, you can come home with me and be my mother.

The show layout is unusual.  The artists are in four separate locations grouped around the art center building, and after acceptance you’re given a numbered map to make booth requests.  Having not been to the show before, I chose the area with the most artists, figuring that the customers would be least likely to skip the area where the majority of artists are (I believe it cost $13 to get in the gate). I got a space in exactly the area I asked for (!!) and it turned out to be a good choice. 

There are two entrances, and the big Artist Field and cozy, tree-filled Artist Green are both easy to see.  The Field is a big, bare baseball field with unattractive stuff around the perimeter but it is the place all the customers go.  The third area is Artist Terrace, a line of booths next to the Green and stretching behind the back wall of the art center, a pretty area but impossible to see unless you stumble upon it while visiting the Green.  The fourth location was the Artist Lot, with a lovely arbor stretching down the length of the lot.  Trouble is, it’s on the far side of the building, out of sight from the rest of the show, with no booths or food trucks going down the street toward that lot, so unless you know it’s there you’d never see it or expect it.  Maybe this is such a well-known show in the area that it’s not a problem, but I thanked god for small favors and scurried back to my booth, where the friendly volunteer said “oh, you’re back so fast!  Is there anything else you need?”  Yes, you can go home with me and …

Load-in was all day Friday and at least on the baseball field you could drive directly to your booth space.  Artist parking was an “on your own” affair, however the adjoining neighborhoods with the exception of one were fine with our vehicles and trailers clogging up their streets for the weekend.  It was a distance of maybe two blocks between my tent and my van, and I made it a point to arrive early in the mornings so my van could be parked in the same zip code.  I did wonder, though, where the patrons parked since we had snagged all the close spaces.

Another big plus was the attendees.  Almost to a person they were friendly and polite, interested in seeing your work, they oohed and ahhed and asked questions, etc.  You felt like they were really there to see the art.  Novel.  I could count on one hand the people I saw who were so busy talking that they weren’t looking in the booths they passed.

Okay, so here’s the part that gets a sideways thumb.  Money.  All weekend I fretted because I saw few bags walking around.  As I said, the people were nice but I don’t need more friends.  What I need is more money.

By the end of the weekend I had squeezed out about $2500 in sales, and others around me were mostly in the mid-2s as well.  Not so great, considering the booth plus jury fee is $400 and my travel expenses by the time it was all said and done were almost $800.  Some did poorly and failed to cover booth. Several artists had told me beforehand that this is a “really good” show and, yes, the quality of art was mostly very good.  But in terms of dollars and cents it just didn’t feel like a $400 show and the amount of buying going on wasn’t a $400 show. 

Except for one artist who mentioned to me on his way out that he had an 11-hour drive home.  I asked incredulously, “11 hours?  Is it worth it?”  He smiled and said “For $5,500 it is.”

Oh.  Well that puts a different spin on things.

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Comment by margaret luttrell on June 22, 2016 at 12:33pm

Thanks for the great review Karen....I was there too- in the field, under the trees to the right. It's true about the field...More people park on the streets leading in and therefore it gets more action. I have done BR for 4 years now and this was the first year I walked the show ( I am always by myself and never get away). I was truly surprised that so many booths seemed to be off the beaten path...especially the ones behind the Museum. Nevertheless I think that the patrons get to everyone....the show has been around for a very long time and there is a map. Having done the show I previously have made about what you made this year. It's always been about a 2.0-3k show for me. I can live with that. I did a lot better this year...maybe being there this long makes you a proven commodity. I have no idea. Don't give up on the show...The crowds comes out to support it and it is one of the steady well run good shows. 

Comment by Karen Holtkamp on June 22, 2016 at 6:12pm

Good to hear, Margaret.  And yes, the show organization was so good and the shoppers were so engaged that I would probably apply again just for those two breaths of fresh air.  Sorry I didn't get to meet you; I'm always on my own too.  Maybe next year.

Oh, and the guy who whipped my ass in sales has been doing the show for 10 years, so maybe this is indeed a show that gets better with some tenure.

Comment by Connie Mettler on June 22, 2016 at 6:30pm

We did this show many years ago. Nice work, well run. In more recent years I've attended to visit and shop making it a very pleasant place to spend the day, and some money. Concerned about where those people are parking? They come in on shuttle buses .. a very well organized system. The locals know where to find them.

Comment by margaret luttrell on June 22, 2016 at 9:34pm

And those shuttle buses are dropped off the main road and right next to the field... It's is a good spot...You are right about that Connie! I have been in the same spot for the last four years. Karen...If by chance we both get in next year-maybe we can request a both close by. When you are by yourself it's nice to have another artist that is doing it solo also. Would love to meet you.

Comment by Karen Holtkamp on June 22, 2016 at 10:02pm

Good idea, Margaret.  I'll put a note in my 2017 app file as a reminder.  It's a date!

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