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Columbus, IN is a sweet little town about 45 minutes south of Indianapolis and is known for its wealth of architecturally significant buildings, both vintage and new.  So it seems like a perfect place for an art fair.

For many years the show has been held the same weekend as Penrod, a Saturday-only monster of a show also in Indiana.  The Columbus folks apparently decided to quit fighting the beast and changed their date to three months earlier.  Having done so, now the location on the streets of the charming downtown wasn't available for the new dates, so the venue was also changed to a beautiful park on the outskirts of downtown.  The show went on, and on this particular weekend the temps were well into the 90s with suffocating humidity and not a single shade tree in the show area.  Thus the perfect storm occurred.

The organizers did a good job of coordination and planning.  The guy in charge is a show-going photographer himself, so to my mind the little details like set-up hours, driving to the booth to unload and load, quality of art, etc were done well well.  Best, I have to say, were the indoor artist-only restrooms with incredibly soothing ac cranked up to a luxurious level.  Ahhhh.

But the show just couldn't overcome the perfect storm.  Very few shoppers appeared.  Everyone's sales were dismal.  It was what it was.  I did meet some delightful customers, however, so that was the shining light for me.

To his credit, the organizer took it hard and said he would be soliciting artist input by email in a few days, in addition to meeting with the board to discuss changes for next year.  If I had to guess, the location was too remote ... when you're downtown, people who didn't know about the show have the opportunity to trip over you and slow down for a look ... to be able to overcome the other obstacles.

This was my first time doing the Columbus show and, in spite of this year's problems, I think I would actually try the show again.  They get it, so it's just a matter of getting all the pieces in the right places.

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Comment by Roxanne Coffelt on June 27, 2016 at 9:47pm

I have been keeping a eye on this show (figuratively, not literally) for a while now.  Someone told me a few years back that they just don't have the market there in that town to support a show.  Of course, with a big storm, it's hard to tell.

There's a show not far from me that I haven't done for a few years now.  I enjoyed the show, and I had no complaint about the fees or the organizers.  They just didn't have the market to make the show worth doing.  I figure I'll try it again one of these years and see if anything has changed.

Comment by Robert Wallis on June 28, 2016 at 9:11am
The show has gone through several changes over the last several years. I did it two or three years ago when it was downtown and the first year it had gone from a one day show to a two day show. The weather then was beastly. The year after that it changed to the same weekend as Penrod. They do try hard to make a go of it, but I have to wonder if the sort of clientele they need is just not there. I remember selling very little except some small $20 pieces and one customer tried to talk me down on those. I did it the one year and that was it. My report from then mirrors yours in many respects.
Comment by Karen Holtkamp on June 28, 2016 at 12:07pm

I thought of you, Bob, as I sat in the heat.  I had read your review but decided to give it a try anyway because, you know, hope springs eternal and all that.  I should have known better -- you are the king of finding the out-of-the-way shows and you know damn well which ones work. 

Comment by Robert Wallis on June 28, 2016 at 1:45pm

I still break out in a sweat thinking of that show =8-O

It was in late August then and even worse heat than the past weekend. I remember artists leaving their booths and finding shade under store overhangs. The jewelers were screwed as they couldn't leave their tents unmanned like the rest of us. They need to find a park with trees and advertise it as such or make use of the visitor's center in town; two floors, wide open, and air-conditioned!

Comment by Travis Turner on June 28, 2016 at 4:55pm

I agree with you Bob on the clientele. I just don't think the buyers are here. It's a tiny manufacturing town owned by an engine company, full of engineers and blue collar industrial workers. They're a practical sort of folk. Not the type who see the value of art. I should know, I'm one of those art-illiterate engineers who lives and work here! 

My fiance is the artist. Although she is consoled that it wasn't just her who was struggling, we are still very disappointed in our town. There was zero advertising or promotion. Of the 100 or so people that showed up, I probably invited half of them myself. No one I knew in Columbus had heard of the show until I told them about it. I think the organizer honestly did everything he knew to do, and while he took it very hard, it takes more than just one person to put on a good show. It takes the town. And Columbus made it clear where their priorities are by closing the entire downtown for a concurrent and and hugely popular Blues and BBQ festival (neither of which have any significance in the history of the town...) and shoving the ArtFest a few blocks away from the masses who were none-the-wiser. Why not close two more streets for the artists and join forces? 

We will take a good hard look next year before deciding to do the show again. I feel bad saying that about a show that's so convenient to us, but we have been trying for years to find the "art community" in this town, always on the lookout for gallery openings, shows, exhibitions, any signs of an art community! It's gotta be here, please just let us find it! (Spoiler - there isn't one)

Comment by Robert Wallis on June 28, 2016 at 8:21pm

You might check out the WAMM festival up in Greenwood. It's close and fairly inexpensive but it's a multi-focus festival with wine, micro brewers, music, and art. I got the impression it was more about music and beer, so I've never attended. There are several small shows in the Indy metro area that bear checking out, and most are not on ZAPP at this time.

Comment by Shari Jardina on June 29, 2016 at 10:07am

I've done this show the last 4 years in a row mostly because it's close to Indianapolis where I live.  I only do about 4-5 shows a year because I work full time and don't travel out of state at this point because it's just not worth the extra costs involved. All 4 years it's been a 2 day show. The first two years (2013-2014) it was in August and downtown.  The first year was miserably hot, much like last weekend and sales were blah.  The second year we had beautiful weather and sales were much better but still not a big crowd.  The 3rd year it was moved to September as someone said, the same weekend as Penrod.  Not sure why that date was chosen, but it was a big mistake.  Crowds were bad and sales were not good.  This year, was another new date and new venue and horrible weather.  But I still had high hopes for this one, especially since I was somehow lucky enough to get one of the few booth spaces that had morning shade.  As someone else said there were probably about 100 in attendance and I noticed about 75 of them were probably older than 80 or younger than 12.  Not a buying crowd.  The organizer is just at a loss as to what to do.  He did solicit ideas from some of the vendors on Sunday.... such as adding a concert, beer vendor or extending the show to later in the evening.  Who knows what will work...maybe nothing.

Mr. Wallis, you mentioned several small shows in the Indy metro area.  I've been trying to find more of those shows since I stay close to home, but without much luck.  Any suggestions on where to find them or ones you've done?   I'm doing WAMM this year for the first time. (wish me luck!)  I know a fellow photographer who has done it with ok sales..  Hoping no one spills wine or a beer on  my artwork.  :) 

Comment by Robert Wallis on June 29, 2016 at 10:53am
There's a Monument Circle one day fair at the first part of October but the deadline is past. There's another up in Noblesville at the first part of August. Garfield Park has one in the summer/early fall but not sure of he date or deadline. Fountain Square area has another in early summer, but again. It sure of the dates. None of these are on ZAPP and are mostly word of mouth or local calls for artists. None are expensive but are also small shows of less than 60-70'artists. Don't expect huge sales but expenses are very low so at least you don't have to sell $600-800 just to cover expenses. It's what's left over after expenses that counts.
Comment by Karen Holtkamp on June 29, 2016 at 10:53am

Thanks for all the intell, everyone. 

Adding on to the Blues festival (as long as the artists are close to the action) or using the Visitors Center both sound like good ideas. 

It's always discouraging to hear that promotion didn't happen.  If the Columbus residents aren't the arty type, perhaps the promotion needs to spread to the Indy area and other surrounding towns.  I would surely drive 45 minutes from Indy to attend an art show, back in the days when I actually attended art shows for fun.

Comment by Shari Jardina on June 29, 2016 at 10:58am

Thanks so much, I appreciate the suggestions.  I'll check those out and keep them in mind for next year.  If I can make my expenses and walk way with a few extra bucks in my pocket, I'm usually a happy camper.  And if there are a lot of shoppers and people to talk to who are interested but don't buy, then I can always hope for after show sales. 


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