I really wanted to say great things about this show. After all, they did some things right before the show even opened. For one thing, they worked tirelessly to get enough corporate sponsorship to keep the show fee down. Most shows, today, just pass those fees on to the artists because they are unwilling to go into the community to get enough funding. From my perspective, fees should be low because we generate millions of dollars for any city that puts on a show and that translates into revenues for that city by way of taxes on that cash generated. Secondly, they moved the show back by the museum, which, should have been a really good move. Thirdly, the $75,000 in prize money is second to none. Even a lowly honorable mention was $1300. The weather was great. We had blue skies, no wind, 70 deg, and no rain. Also, if you were willing to stay a couple miles out of downtown and use Priceline, room rates were very reasonable. I stayed at a Hyatt for $45 and that included breakfast. Before I launch into the Good, Bad, and Ugly, I want to say the Gasparilla show is easily tweakable and still has a lot of potential, especially as the economy recovers.
The Good: As I said before, the weather was perfect. I think sales ranged from OK to really good. I didn't get to talk to everyone but no one was really complaining about their sales. A few people I talked to had good figures. No one had great sales, though. The crowd seemed to know what they were looking at. Since I have to keep people from touching my pieces with greasy fingers from the crap the vendors sell, I judge the quality of the attendees by how many times I have to ask people not to touch the work. I am happy to report that I didn't have to tell anyone not to leave fingerprints and the people who picked up the work knew how to handle pottery. No one lifted the lids off the lidded pieces and very few people had to ask me what the material was. I'd say, by and large, the crowd was somewhat sophisticated.
The Bad: How one did at this show was directly due to where your booth space was. I think people who were on the street did much better than the people in the park. And, the closer one was to the river, the worse they did. There were 18 spaces that were horrible because they were behind the food booths and the stage. I don't think they got a whole lot of customers. The spaces directly in front of the food and the stage weren't much better. I, unfortunately, was right in front of the fried grouper stand and the stage, so I had a double whammy. The grouper people didn't bother to change their oil the whole show, so the smell of fried fish oil got progressively worse. I had a headache from the smell, the entire two days. My clothes reeked. I could hardly hear my customers over the music and I had a sore throat from having to speak over the noise. I think that aspect of the show was poorly run. I was told that the show changes directors every year. If that is true, then the show was run by an inexperienced crew. That shouldn't matter though. A little logic would have helped. A little change in the layout, by separating the food and music from the artists would have gone a long way to solving that problem. And it doesn't take a genius to know that it was wrong to place booths behind the food and stage. I had a decent show, but, I know I could have had a lot better one if I had been in a much better location. Also, when there is serious prize money, there should be at least 3 jurors. Most artists were not too impressed by what was chosen for prizes. I won't get specific about individual prizes, but, if you looked at final exhibit of prize winners and then toured the show, you would wonder how so many great artwork and artists were ignored by this juror. That wasn't just my opinion but also the opinion of most artists I talked to. In fact, I never brought up the subject. This is what other artists said to me. I have a real problem with picking the artists who are considered for awards, from the slides, especially now because they aren't even slides. They are digital images, which are easily enhanced. If I was to run a show the awards would always be determined by the total body of work in booth. The judges would have to look at the "real" artwork in every booth and pick the prizes that way. That is the only legitimate way to judge.
The Ugly: This show had absolutely the worst setup of any show I have ever done. They have always been a little anal about lining us up and controlling us getting to our booths but this far exceeded any other year. I always thought their insistence on controlling the load in a little funny because artists have done this many, many times. We know how to get in, get unloaded, and get out because we have done this many, many times. We can police ourselves. We don't have to be treated like children. The committee was adamant as to when we should show up and what to do. They decided, in their infinite wisdom, to let only 6 vans in at a time. All the people on the street had to wait until all the people in the park had unloaded before they could start to unload. There were 95 people in the park. It only took a third grade education in math to figure out what was going to happen. They allowed only 2.5 hours for all the people in the park to unload. At 6 per half hour, it would take over 8 hours for everyone in the park to unload. I had to wait 2 and a half hours in line before I could unload and it would have been much longer but they eventually realized they had to let more people in at one time. They blamed this on the fire chief who claimed it had to be that way because they needed a fire lane. We were in a field!! There were infinite fire lanes!! I blame it on the fire chief who obviously couldn't do third grade math and the committee who weren't smart enough to figure out a solution on the fly, until 2 hours into the fiasco. By the time they acted, everything was backed up. When I left at 6:30, people were waiting to get to their spaces on the street.
I left out some things that I would like to address, which I will in another post. I want to offer some solutions that would help fix things. But I'm staying with friends in Tampa and I have to sign off.