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Des Moines Art Festival - Cleaning up after the storm

Just about my favorite art fair is taking place this weekend in Des Moines, Iowa, June 25-27. It is one of those shows that has inculcated all the "best practices" of art fairs across the country and has developed their own regional specialties, making it a destination event for art fair patrons who are thrilled to have en event of this caliber in their city and thank the artists for being there. How sweet is that?

The art fair opened on Friday and then Friday night as the artists were all tucked safely in their little beds a serious storm swept through the event site. One of our members, Carla Fox, who traveled all the way from Oregon, had such destruction to her booth that she (and three others) had to pack up and leave on Saturday.

Here's the rest of the story from the Des Moines Register:

And here's another story, more about the storms themselves:

Views: 242

Comment by CM Fox on June 27, 2010 at 1:40pm
Did my comment go thru? I'm sending this from on the road. Our canopy was indeed twirled, torqued,tossed, & destroyed. About one third of our display was also destroyed. But our inventory was with us so no art was lost.

We can't say enough good about Stephen King and his staff. Their quick action & thinking saved much of the art & they had tents rented should if we wanted to set up and keep trying. We had too much to sort thru & a very tight schedule so choose to go home to sort things out.

The wind itself was a surprise,it was predicted for the next day. If you were in a protected spot as most of the show was, you were fine. Tricky Mom Nature, keeps us on our toes. Such is life, this is the business we are in.

More later.
Carla & Dave on the road
Comment by Connie Mettler on June 27, 2010 at 3:04pm
Des Moines was always one of our best shows. It would have been so disappointing not to have the chance to make the sales! Hope you are fine and the rest of your season goes well.
Comment by Nels Johnson on June 28, 2010 at 7:16am
Connie. I only have one critical point to make about Des Moines. I was on the waitlist, yet never received one bit of info about my status and place on it. I find this quite "unprofessional." For example both Krasl and the Grove show your status on W/L right on your Zapp site. What' with Des Moines? Are we supposed to drive all the way out there and hope they throw us a crumb. It is a good show--but it is sorely lacking in that one crucial area.
Comment by Nels Johnson on June 28, 2010 at 7:41am
While I am at it, let me add one more comment. It was nice that you talked about the storms. But how about some meat, since you and Norm were there. What is the setup like? All on concrete, or grass? What kind of work sells there? You know, in my time at Florida shows I have yet to meet one person who said they were from Des Moines. Where do these people go? Do they buy tropical, or is it the prairie stuff. Sounds like this is a very conservative audience. What kind of $ sales go on at this show. Give me some info please.
Comment by mark zurek on June 28, 2010 at 11:49am
Nels: You hit on two good points. The first, the "meat" of the shows. You cut right to the chase,and I seem to be the same way. I asked one artist on this forum about just that. It was a show close to my Chitown HQ, a promoter I had heard both good and not so good things about. Checked out the artists work.Hmm.Not bad, her review was food, weather, happy happy. I asked, OK what were the sales? Got the long winded "not relevant, subjective" routine. How can sales be subjective? We all like good weather, some of us good food more than most, a promoter that promotes, but to actually hear sales reports means something to me. Not a matter of judging someome's talent, or marketing. We all have good better and crap shows, but as you said, if you are going to pack and drive 1200 miles to a cow town where tequila might be considered part of the illegal immigrant controversy, you want the hot skinny.
As to feedback from the shows. Whew. How much more valuable a piece of info is this. Status of the wait list is pretty easy. Ft. Worth shows you where you are at (within catagory) on Zapp. I have recieved heads up when I ask from almost every show I have been waitlisted on, and most seem to understand how difficult the logistics are residing in show purgatory. The judging, that's a whole 'nother smoke. I think one critera for a judge should be having lived the life, knowing how much their decision affects things on a human level, the emotional roller coster, as well as the planning of the year. Shows like Bayou that at least tell the score (they give your points total,let you know the cut off line) are of some comfort. No word, no contact, no acknowledgement that we live and die with every decision has become acceptable to most. Yeah, if you are gonna do this thing be ready for lotsa highs, and lows. But it sure feels good when somebody treats you like a human once and a while, flaws and all.
Comment by CM Fox on June 28, 2010 at 2:05pm
Nelson & Mark, while your posts are a bitofftopic from the storm in DM, lye me attempt to answer you, as I am an artist as well as a director of a non profit show in Oregon. Ie, I know this biz from both sides of the booth.

Shows do these differently. Some may make one wait list and pull the artist off the top as artists drop out. It's easy for them to give artists their wl position. Other shows maintain wait lists by category and may even break it down further, by styles within the category. An example if a functional potter drops out of the show, the may skip past the sculptural potter and invite the next functional potter on the list to keep a more balanced show. In this case it's very hard to tell artists where they are on the wait list. one can always email the show and see if they think there is any chance of coming in off the wait list.

Reports of sales:
This is very arbitrary. It depends on so many factors, do you have collectors in the area, have you worked your mailing list, is it a low end price point or a high end price point show. We are jewelers....2 years ago we had a so so show at Des Moines. The 2d artists next to us earned 5 figures, at the same show, one booth down.

If you want good info on shows subscribe to Art fair source book (you can google this). It is the gold standard for info on shows.

As to comparing how one show does things to how another show does things this is silly. Running a show is a complicated process, and there is more then one way to solve every problem.

Ps this was typed on the move so please excuse any random typos
Comment by Nels Johnson on June 28, 2010 at 2:30pm
Carla, the storm was but one topic, the blog was still about the show. So far no info, from anyone. Yes, I understand the whole waitlist concept by category versus overall. Me too, have done shows for 35 yearsd. Have been in every majoe show in this country at least 3 times. Trust me, the really good shows let you know where you are on the waitlist. Des Moines did nothing. You got your status when Zapp notified and that was it honey--that is no way for a major show to operate.
Comment by CM Fox on June 28, 2010 at 2:46pm
You and I will have to disagree. Des Moines is a good show & lots of other good shows do not list wait list number. Flexibility and a more global view is needed to stay happy in this biz.

Comment by mark zurek on June 28, 2010 at 4:53pm
Carla: Honestly, I did not even read your post abut the storm, just followed up on Nels comments. Please don't take that the wrong way.Like Nels, I have been around the block, have done major shows, minor shows. Been thru more bad weather than I want to remember, and have been that guy that stays and helps people deal with and clean up the mess. Geez, once in Denver I'm holding someone's tent down from the wind while she gives an interview to the TV station. I know how the traveling community thing works, sorry for what happened to you, sorry you had to pack up and leave in addition to the damage.
I also subcribe to AFSB, and talk to as many real people as possible about their personal experiences, the fair, the promoters, the sales (which are indeed arbitrary, but not a difficult question to answer. Or not).
I have met and become friends with a good number of show organizers, and know this much, I am much happier on my side of the fence. Not for the weak of heart to be sure, but it's not that difficult to keep people informed of where they stand if you maintain the human, compassionate connection.
Comment by Jackie Russo on June 28, 2010 at 11:20pm
I was in Des Monies this weekend but in the air conditioned art fair at the state fair grounds, Artfest Midwest, the Other Art Show. I was never so glad to be inside! Des Monies as I found out is not all about corn and beans, it's one of the financial centers in the USA. Headquarters for Wells Fargo. This fair is relatively new (maybe 3-4years old) and has buses running from downtown to the state fair grounds. I have very contemporary work and I did what I usually do at a good show. The people were educated and friendly. Great restaurants in the area. Reasonable hotel rates right across from the fair grounds. It was a reasonable load in and out, with teen help provided at $10. an hour. The work at the show was mixed. Some very high end, many who had been in the downtown show in previous years, and some I believed to be buy/sell. I would do the fair again. Sorry about all the ruined tents at the downtown fair. I wish all my shows could be indoors!


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