Art Fair Insiders

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Carefree Art & Wine Festival ~ January, 2012

I'm ready for the "I Survived Carefree" T-shirt. Okay, so maybe I'm being a little over dramatic about it. I was hoping that my experience this year at the Carefree Fine Art & Wine Festival ~ January, 2012 would be at least as good, or perhaps a little better than it was last year, my first year of participation, but it was not to be. Friday the weather was fair and saw many of the local Snowbirds roaming the festival grounds as if they were sleep walking, to say the least the energy was not frenetic. The festival promoters include wine as part of the festival which I understand is a nice way to create an ambiance of casually viewing art while sipping wine. (For more on the art of selling art and ambiance see this link from smARTist: Click here for Part I  from Jack White-> http://smartistcareerblog.com/2012/01/part-i-buying-art-can-we-retu...)  There was a lot of sipping and very little buying which is not unusual for a Friday crowd. Saturday was the warmest day and saw many more festival visitors (and the bulk of my sales) with a higher tone to the crowd, you could tell by all the chatter in the streets. Sunday was overcast and never got beyond mid '60's it started out slow but gained some momentum through the middle of the day but by 3:30 the crowds thinned and by 4 most vendors were ready to go but the show must go on till 5. One vendor was packing up at 4, the promoter saw this and took her to task, probably wont see her there again! Sales in general were spotty at best, some very large pieces walked out with the bulk of what I saw being reprints of originals. Some artists sold nothing, others, like myself, sold a few. Although, on Sunday, I did have one customer who commissioned some of my work which was a highlight of the show and, who knows, may actually push my figures over last year though I'm cautiously optimistic. I'm not going to count the chickens, etc...

Logistics; Load-in, depending on where you were located was either easy or chaotic. If you were at one of the entry points it was easier, if, however, you were in the middle of the show, like we were, it became somewhat chaotic. The streets were narrow and there wasn't much space to park and unload. If you had parked near your space earlier in the afternoon, like we did, it was easier to access your spot. In some areas the booths had been moved into the middle of the street as compared to being pushed into the parking spaces on either side of the road like last year. If you got your vehicle in it was probably more difficult to get it out! Setup didn't start until 5:15 when most of the stores were closed. As restaurants were still open there were still some cars parked in vendor spaces causing people to wait and later leave in frustration as they couldn't set up. Artists were rotated around a bit this year from last which, quite honestly I think was a good thing. Last year we were at one of the quieter entry points without a lot of visitors, this year we were placed more in the middle of the show so we had quite a bit more visibility. Some of the vendors did not appreciate their new locations and felt it may have impacted their sales. Some areas of the show did have a lot of congestion built into the way booths were setup and so some artists may have gotten overlooked. Load-out was pretty much the same congestion. I had stacked my boxes in one of the nearby alley's so when the bell rang at 5 I was ready to pack up before I brought in the van. It started to drizzle a bit before tear down time and I was fretting over we would have to break down in a heavier rain, it didn't materialize thankfully but by then I had the van moved in closer with the discovery of the secret back way to my booth. We had to carry most of the work a short distance to the van but it was easier than trying to move onto the street till some of the neighbors were packed up and moved out.  Others had to wait longer for those ahead of them to clear out. We were packed up and out by 7 which is typical for us.

Amenities: Don't expect them, no water, no snacks, no booth sitters. The show had two nice food vendors (and popcorn) besides the wine. One vendor served variations on a Greek menu, gyro's, hummus, etc. Very good stuff with the sauces "home-made". Another vendor had variations on salmon, wraps, etc. We had some of their fare last year and really enjoyed it. Nearby restaurants were $$ but we found one little place around the corner with a good $7.50 burger and fixins for lunch. Apres the show we always like to go to Harold's in Cave Creek at least once. The brisket plate with salad was enough for us to share. The next night we found a new place, Alberto's Italian Restaurant. Though reservations are probably a better idea we found one non-reserved table and enjoyed sharing a salad and linguini with meat ragu, again plenty for two.

Reflections: I would probably do this show again, at least give it a third try. Besides it being about 25 degrees warmer than Denver at this time I really enjoy the area besides what other shows are there to do in January that don't require over 1000 miles to drive?



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Comment by Stu Braks on January 19, 2012 at 12:44pm

Thanks for the input on this Carefree show. I visited on Friday and did buy one print, but was mainly there doing last-minute observation on set-ups, etc. My very first show is next weekend (27th) down the street in Cave Creek. Trying to plan out the season (Cave Creek, Fountain Hills, Surprise, so far). It really helps to see these comments. Maybe I won't try so hard to get into Carefree now. Thanks!

Comment by Jim Parker on January 18, 2012 at 5:30pm

I think there are just too many shows in the Carefree/Cave Creek area. Two or three shows by Thunderbird, a couple by the  Arts League, two ten week semi-permanent shows in Scottsdale... the list goes on.

Comment by Lawrence Levy on January 18, 2012 at 2:48pm

My experience with this show is not positive. I did the show in November and found it to be a very unpleasant experience. The weather was unbelievable bad and created damage to many booths, including ours, which forced us to close up show and head for home. This however is not our major gripe.

Yes, the promoter appears to be non existent after your do your initial check in, which amounted to telling you that your space is somewhere on the street. No directions or guidance. Load in required us parking on the highway and bringing in our equipment thru a cactus area in the dark. No lighting of any kind except for your own flashlights. The promoter packed us into an area with exactly zero space between the booths, no space behind, except for the cactus area, other booths down the middle of the roadway which did not provide access for a vehicle. Forget about them  coming around and offering water, booth sitters or even asking how you are doing. 

Traffic was virtually non existent and we saw very few people buying. We went back as visitors on Sunday and traffic and buyers were few. Booth fees started at $450 for a 10x10 plus $50 to the city for a temporary business license. An expensive show that may have been good when times were better but definitely one that we would not do again.

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on January 17, 2012 at 8:56pm

Brian - thanks for the review.  Which promoter put this show on?  I know there are several shows each year in Carefree, any insight into how this compares to the other shows in the same town?

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