Art Fair Insiders

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How I am surviving in these Covid Times...and how I spent my summer

Well, I went north to Saugatuck,Michigan in Late June.

I live there and have a studio, usually there about five months doing my midwest circuit of shows

In case you do not know me, I am a photographer who does both color and handcolored black and white images. I have been on the circuit for 45 years and do about 27 shows per year.  I actually earn a living from this, I started shows when I was in my late twenties.

This past Sunday, I turned the Three Quarter Century Mark.

This has been a totally different year due to Covid.

My last show was mid March at Vero Beach.  We got in one day and then they cancelled it and told us artists to get the hell out of Vero.

The art committee was for us staying but local authorities said “Adios”).

I went north expecting to do five shows, they all got cancelled.

I lost a couple of biggies like Uptown Minneapolis and Kansas City Plaza.

I had applied for a number of fall shows in Florida where I am a native.

None of those shows are going to happen due to Covid.

I am in three shows in Florida in January and Feb. Time will tell whether they go on.

Florida is not doing a great job of masking and distancing due to our idiot governor.

Howard Alan was able to successfully produce an art show in Ft. Lauderdale in October—Los Olas.

Amy Amdur was able to pull off a number of shows around Chicago, some with almost 100 exhibitors.  Same with Howard, he had 100 artists.

So it shows it can be done, pardon the pun.

Ironically, my hometown show, Images in New Smyrna, cancelled their Jan. Show.

I guess they did not want to spread it out with less exhibitors.

So far,I am In Bonita Springs and Naples in January.  I have Ft. Myers in Feb.

In March I have been reinvited to both Vero Beach and Winter Park, waiting to hear from Gasparilla. 

I have a reinvite to Des Moines in June.

So I have potentially  great shows to make moola at.  If they happen.

If the shows happen I am going.

I will mask up.  I will have hand sanitizers at my booth.

I have a solution to the print bin problem due to Covid.

I am in the age group most vulnerable to Covid, I had open heart surgery eight years ago.  But I feel confident I can survive and not transmit to Ellen, my wife.

Here is how I have dealt with Covid and been able financially survive.

I finally got approved for unemployment six weeks after I applied, so I got &125 per week.

A month later I got approved for the Federal PUA and got the $600 per week backdated to late April.

I was able to get the EIDL grant for $1000.  Which then made me eligible to apply for the SBA loan o small businesses.

I applied, and in early June I got the loan: $22,100 at three and a half percent for 30 years. Next August I have to start paying back on the loan at $108 per month for 30 years.

Good luck on that getting totally repaid. I am 75 so go figure.

The loan can be used for business expenses like booth fees and paying myself a salary.

I plan to start paying myself a salary in January.

So far, I have paid out almost $2000 in booth fees. I had to pay the 2021 booth fee for Des Moines in September.

My hope is to be able to do at least two shows per month next spring.

This loan has given me a small cushion.

I also collect Social Security

During the summer I worked on the average four to six hours a day in my studio.

In four months I have finished over 120 new handcolored images.

Some of them are going to be winners.  New moola coming in.

In my next blog I will talk about how I am going to display and sell work in the Covid era

Give me three days and the next blog will appear.

Stay healthy and Aloha, Nels..

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Comment by Nels johnson on November 3, 2020 at 6:23pm

Barry.  I am in Ft. Myers, looking for reasonable lodging—want to share a room if I can find one, get back to me, my Cp is 727-515-1600.

Comment by Barry Bernstein on November 3, 2020 at 1:27pm

Nels, I just got off the phone with Tracey from Howard Allan. There had been some grumbling about shows being cancelled in Florida in and around Sarasota. I called because I wanted to know what was going on with them. Their shows have not been shut down as of today. Howard is trying hard to accommodate the local governments to keep from cancelling. Last year I did 4 shows. That's 4 weekends in three weeks. I got into Ft Myers, again, which a lot of really good artists got rejected because they had cut down the amount of booths. I will leave at the end of February unless I get in to Gasparilla off the wait list. If not, no big deal. For me, it's more of a challenge to find cheap housing in Florida. I didn't even apply to Winter Park because the extra 2-3 weeks I would have to hang around.

Comment by Wallace Fuller on October 30, 2020 at 12:20pm

Lu is still painting and we are living on our farm in Kentucky. I have been in and out of hospitals since September of 2018. I just returned from my fourth left knee operation on Friday. I have had two knee replacements and two clean out the knee joint because of infection. 

It was a good time to go out of the Art Fair business with the downturn in the economy followed by  Corvid-19.

I still like hearing about shows and artist.

Comment by Connie Mettler on October 30, 2020 at 11:51am

I've enjoyed seeing your new images on your FB page, Nels. This art fair business has been tougher and tougher for sales for many years now, but it is still a well-loved life style for those who can afford to continue. I think many have been surprised at what happens when you stop traveling to art fairs. The overhead goes way down and that helps. 

It seems that there are art fairs happening in many places, outdoors. All smaller than year's past and carefully marketed and socially distanced to provide safety to all involved. What I am hearing is that at those events (New England, Michigan, Virginia, Florida are the ones I'm referencing) is that people (much smaller crowds) attending are the ones who are attracted by the art, not the music, food, sideshow, stages, kids activities, tire kicking, etc.) AND they know the crowds will be small and they'll be able to park nearby and have time to talk to the artists. These are your "good shoes people" that you like so well, Nels, and they are buying. Smaller events, smaller crowds do not necessarily mean smaller income. 

The economic shock artists received, especially the disappointment when they got into a BIG show that was cancelled has begun to wane, as people like you make the adjustments and figure out what next. Two people I loved died in the last couple of months, taking that into perspective helps clear your vision for what's ahead.

I've been hosting Zoom meetings with show directors and they are determined to keep their events alive, many of them adding virtual shows as they are planning their street events. 

My unemployment still hasn't been approved. The state insists that I had no income in 2019! Guess they can't read my tax return and didn't cash the check I sent them in payment. Like you, I continue to work and am planning for the next thing, whatever that is.

Good to hear from you Wally. I know you and Lu have completed your art fair career and we'd love to hear about life after art fairs from you. I know you're not alone in making that choice. Robert and everyone else stay healthy.

I'd love to hear from some of you. What's your next move?

Comment by Wallace Fuller on October 30, 2020 at 11:29am

Glad to hear you are doing well. Just remember that getting old is not for the weak. I always enjoy reading your reviews. Stay  healthy and have great shows.

Comment by Robert Wallis on October 27, 2020 at 10:00pm

Glad to hear the plan is working out! There was only one show I had this year that didn't COVID cancel, and I had to cancel that one for health reasons back in February. I just sent the app in for it under the deadline by a couple of days for 2021. 

Stay healthy also!

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