Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Michael Craven was one of my best friends. A phone call from Michael meant you would be "involved" for a while. His perception of this business was always interesting and often controversial. Our last phone conversation was just after Larry Berman published his interview with him. He had just finished jurying the Longs Park show. Michael had stated that a booth slide should be limited to a sanitized gathering of images with maybe a bin below; no canopy visible. I always thought a booth slide should be taken at a show, as your booth appears, open for business. At the end of our conversation neither of us had changed our minds, but we had a wonderful dialogue. We disagreed about many things but were never disagreeable. The first time I met him was at the Gulf Breeze show sometime in the '90s. I won second place in photography and went looking for first place.... The blue ribbon was on Michael's booth. A few years later, I couldn't find him at a show we had planned to do together. A phone call found him broken down in his RV somewhere on the east coast of Florida. He thought the RV was dead and he was in a jam because all his inventory was in the trailer hitched behind. He needed to get it back home to Charleston, SC. Sunday night, I packed up my booth and drove to meet him. I pulled his trailer home for him and we stayed up all night drinking Jack Daniels and talking "shop". That night, we disagreed on whether an artist should display his whole body of work or just his newest work. I love producing new work, but feel I slight my patrons if I don't show "my greatest hits" as well. Michael thought an artist should be producing great works all the time and should retire older images. He never wanted to be falling back on the tried and true.... And, he could do it! My wife always referred to Michael, affectionately, as a curmudgeon. And he was, in the sense that he didn't suffer fools lightly. I remember being in The Plaza with him one year and during a sale my customer said he had tried to buy a photo from a photographer down the way, but the artist had treated him with such disdain that he had to walk away. Kim chimed in, "Oh, that's just Michael. He's a bit of a curmudgeon!" When Larry asked Michael and me to join his Yahoo group "Artshow_photo" Michael made many enemies and had to quit the group in disgust. Here is an excerpt from one of his postings: "What would be beneficial to those beginning a career in the arts, more than an encouragement to find a place at the trough, is an exaltation to realize themselves as artist. That is find a voice that is uniquely yours, depart from the well worn trails and often trendy subject and/or technique such as the "wall and window" photographers or as I call them the "portals to mediocrity lot" and most importantly be about valid expression and communication which is supposed to be what it is all about to begin with. Communicative art first, decorative art second. As I walk the rows of plastic booths at a show I play a game when passing all the 2-D artist...upon looking in does the art DEMAND that I interact visually and mentally or is it just posing as art (and often for arts sake) very few booths grab these jaded eyes and beckon that I enter." To read more go to the very beginning of the group's postings (January '03). In the Autumn of 2000, while loading out of a show in Gulf Shores, AL. I suffered chest pains and Michael insisted I sit down while he and some fellow artists finished my load-out for me. Within a few months I had to undergo bypass surgery. He may have saved my life. Michael had bad knees and he couldn't get around as well he would've liked; hence the motorized scooters and cycles. He always tried to get to a show early enough to get a parking spot close to his booth. He told me the story of going all the way from Charleston to Memphis to do a show and when he got there they had put his booth where it would've been difficult to set up. When they wouldn't move him he gave them a piece of his mind and drove home. Michael burned a lot of bridges! I'm proud to have displayed his work in my Saugatuck gallery (Nels & Ron too). My personal favorite piece of his was one that showed a bowl of Cheerios; the bowl is cracked; the milk spilled... the title? "Cereal Killer" We have lost a great artist and advocate of excellence. I will miss him.