Overall, this was an excellent well run show and an excellent weekend for us.
We applied to this show in 2013 and were rejected. We usually have our best shows in the mid-Atlantic so we decided to try again. Happily, we were accepted.
Bethesda is just inside the DC Beltway and traffic in and around the area is usually a nightmare. But, that also means lots of people in the area.
The show stretches over portions of two streets that make up part of the Woodmont Triangle area. The show is produced by the Bethesda Urban Partnership (non-profit) and is not affiliated with the also well-known/respected Bethesda Row festival in the fall.
We arrived on Friday to scope out the layout and look for our spot. We park the van, turned the corner onto the closest festival street, and started looking for space numbers. After staring at the curb for a few seconds, we looked up toward the middle of the street and discovered we were standing in front of our space!
And a perfect space it was. We were a few feet from the entrance to a parking garage that had plenty of clearance for the van, a few more feet to a building that had really clean, artist-friendly bathrooms, and a few more feet to the breakfast/lunch/show info desk.
We also noticed that the space next to us near a fire hydrant was not marked. A miracle – a free corner booth. The next day when the tents were all up, we realized the practically every booth was a corner with the tents set in pairs and empty space on each side. What a great way to set up a show. (The booth fee was on the high side - $425 – so I guess that corner wasn’t really free.)
Each artist was given a set-up time. Ours was 7AM, which meant we would have to hustle to get ready for the folks that showed up before the official 10AM start. We decided to test the waters and arrived at the site at 6:40. We were promptly told that 7AM meant 7AM. Good for them.
Observant folks that we were having noticed that fine parking garage, we asked if we could park and dolly in. The volunteers were thrilled that we were willing to do that. One less van on the street.
We got a prime parking spot at the top of the ramp into the garage and rolled it all downhill to our space just a few feet away.
We setup pretty quickly and were ready to go. Unfortunately, it was a slow start for us. The painter next to us had a $2500 sale in just minutes after 10AM and other large pieces started walking out as well. We had a lot of lookers and the promise of the never to be seen again be-backs.
As the day wore on, the crowd was steady but not overwhelming. All week the weather forecasters were predicting rain from dawn Saturday until late Saturday night. As it turned out, it didn’t rain at all until late afternoon and then only for about an hour. Still, I think a lot of patrons were holding out for Sunday, which was forecast (and correctly so) to be gorgeous.
This is an "originals only on the walls" show and people were clearly buying 2D. The matted prints/repros that were carried out seemed pretty big too. There was a glass artist across from us who seemed happy as well.
We were not happy on Saturday but the Sunday crowd was thick and buying and saved the weekend. We sold a couple of decent size canvases and a bunch of small ($125) framed pieces. We also had success with small repros (8x10 matted to 11x14). No one complained about tax and no one pushed back on prices.
We could have snared a very big sale if we only had the piece available. The customer wanted a specific size of one of our digital works. Sadly, they weren’t willing to wait and we saw them later walking out with somebody else’s very nice piece.
There are also decent prospects for after show sales once some measurements are taken.
Load-out was a very easy dolly. We thought that the garage ramp would have been a real strain uphill so we got to the venue early Sunday and got a prime spot on the street just about 100 feet from our space. We were loaded up and out by 6:15PM
The “Nels” data:
About 130-140 booths. Spaces are 10x10 but each has an open side. On our block there was plenty of sidewalk storage behind.
Breakfast (bagels/coffee) was provided both days, as was lunch (pizza, chili, BBQ).
Boothsitters checked in regularly.
Overall quality was excellent and the competition for patron dollars was tough.
There was music but we never heard much of it where our booth was. No stiltwalkers and no kettle corn that I could see.
There were three judges and some nice awards. Pet peeve – two of the judges were very interested in talking about our work. The third opened with “Do you make your own batiks?” When we said no, any interest disappeared. We use purchased fabrics the same way that other artists use purchased materials (paint, metal, etc.) to create their art yet we seem to get dinged for doing so.
Bottom line, we loved doing this show and will certainly apply again next year. We’re hoping to get Bethesda Row too as this is clearly a great market for quality art.
Nothing but the highest praise for the Urban Partnership, the show director, staff and volunteers.
We also got to meet AFIer Courtney Gillen who stopped by and practically guaranteed a great show!
Final unrelated self-initiated blog-jacking: I know some AFIers did Rockville a couple of weeks ago. We were waitlisted and never called. How about a review of this second year show???