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I know next to nothing about the Arizona shows, but came across this article from AZCentral.com about Fountain Hills. I'm linking to it here because the organizer not only talks about the attractions of the event but has something to say about the economy, the number of artists applying and how she sees the economy changing.

Read on to find out about artist Robert Shields and his art career.

Okay -- the AZCentral site doesn't want to stay open or even reopen, so I'm going to do something that is frowned upon - copy the entire article here because it has useful info for you: 

The link if you can get it to work for yourself: http://www.azcentral.com/story/entertainment/events/2015/02/17/foun...

Robert Shields of Clarkdale is ready to talk about his art this weekend at the Fountain Hills Great Fair, which is expected to draw as many as 200,000 people.

Shields, who paints, sculpts and makes jewelry and glicee prints, knows they'll have plenty of questions.

"They ask, 'Can this be hung outside? Do you have this in green and blue? Where are you from? I love your work. This would be great for my sister. Where's your studio?' '' he said. "Then there are people who just look at you. It's all part of theater. Some people are very friendly. Others sort of look, and you know when not to talk."

Sheilds knows about theater, because he was half of the popular Shields and Yarnell comedy mime duo in the 1970s and '80s. Now he's an Arizona artist.

Shields and the other 500 artists at the 27th annual Great Fair will need their schmoozing skills. Sharon Morgan, events planner for the Fountain Hills Chamber of Commerce, described the setup as a "huge, huge mall" of art, with four rows of booths lining the Avenue of the Fountains.

"It's like going to the mall," she said. "You see something, maybe you buy it and maybe you don't. You walk around and look at the artists' work."

If you work up an appetite, 20 types of food will be available, she said, as well as a beer garden. Hot-air balloons also will be part of the festivities.

Returning this year is the Native American music group Brulé, which last played at the Great Fair in 2011.

"They are a big crowd favorite," Morgan said, and fairgoers had noted the group's absence.

Eight hundred artists applied to be part of the Great Fair this year, which is an indication of the toll the Great Recession took on the arts. Morgan said that before the recession began in late 2007, the fair received more than 1,000 applications in some years.

Now the number of applications is on the rise, "which tells us, evidently, the artists are happy because they see a reason to get back into their fields of art," Morgan said.

Shields know well that the economy has been tough for artists. In 2006, he had four galleries in Sedona and one at Paradise Valley Mall in Phoenix. They all closed, and today he sells at fairs and through his website (robertshields.com). He started selling at the Great Fair in 2008.

"I lost my world and it's just me doing it all. I decided to sell my art directly to the people," Shields said. "I make everything myself.

"I think Fountain Hills is phenomenal, and it's a beautiful venue. Sharon brings in new and interesting people."

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Comment by S Brian Berkun on February 20, 2015 at 11:17am

I've been in several shows with Robert. He's quite a character and he schmoozes pretty well. When I last saw him at Tubac he himself said that his work is gifty, people buy it to give to others, and that it is not "fine" art. He makes metal pieces to put on the wall or a table, they are colorful and more on the "popular arts" side then the "fine arts" side.

The conclusions I'd draw from the drop in applications, and my experience, is 1) Fountain Hills Chamber Show is too big, 500 artists? I'm looking to do smaller shows myself, more of a chance to actually sell something. 2) The quality of the Chamber show from what I've heard is very wide, with B/S evident. Who wants to be next to that? 3) AZ shows in general, with some exceptions, have not been buying mecca's. Artists are opting out of shows that don't produce buyers.

How could Fountain Hills draw 200,000 in attendance? It's snow bird season and they have nothing else to do. What are they buying? Something for the grandkids.

I throw down the gauntlet, what do those that participated in this show have to say?

Comment by JEFF LEEDY on February 20, 2015 at 6:14pm

I met Robert Shields when he had his many AZ galleries back when the public thought they had money. Now they realize they have less and art is not so important, my 2 galleries also closed due to same recession and I am now all there is in my efforts. I did Carefree for many years until things changed (except for the booth fees and hotel costs). So many 50-75s are not looking for art rather something for the kids/grandkids while the younger crowd seems more interested in functional stuff which they can rationalize. Fountain Hills is OK if you have a great location and lots of different price points. Did it several years ago, had lousy location and bombed. Too many artists even for 200K people mostly tire kickers. Artist, beware!

JL

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on February 25, 2015 at 11:40pm

We met Robert Shields at our first Tempe art show, liked his work well enough that we have his very colorfully painted coffee cups mounted on the dinette wall in our RV!! 

However, Fountain Hills is not  show we'll probably ever apply to again.  We participated one time, were called off the waitlist and placed in a horrible spot near the end of the show.  I certainly can't say that we saw anywhere close to 200K in attendance.  For a 3 day show, with the booth fee, it was one of our worst performing shows in the past 3 years.  And that's with free RV parking on site, taking advantage of the artist dinner for one free meal to reduce expenses and it's still not on our list to consider again.

One comment, and I know some of you will think this is repetitive, but they have way TOO MUCH jewelry.  I also agree they don't do a great job with jurying, B/S was evident, quality was all over the place, some of the work there was truly art, some of it was the kind of crafty items that I associate with Christmas shows put on by a small local organization for hobbyists.

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