midwest (3)

Ive been waitlisted at the big ones, bayou, woodlands.  Are there any other decent shows for painters in texas or nearby in the spring. I'm either leaving florida to go to texas in late march for bayou city if i get in, or april then to the midwest for the summer. I travel full time so I'm flexible.  I've applied to many, but havent gotten a good schedule sorted out as of yet. 
So ya, looking for some recommendations, I havent done any in texas yet.

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I hate that my the first review I do for the Art Fair Insiders is a poor one, but I need to get the word out about this stinker of a show!

I spent the weekend at the Lincoln Park Art and Music Festival, in one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Chicago. As a first timer to this show, I didn't know what to expect, but I was excited about this one. I usually do well in urban areas. 

The second we checked in for set-up, I knew we were in for trouble. We were handed name badges and a booth number, nothing more. No info about booth sitters, sales tax, restrooms, parking, or where to grab lunch. Nothing. Bad sign #1. And when I tried to find someone to inquire about these things, there was not a member of the fair staff to be found. 

Set up was fairly easy and convenient. There was space right on the street to park and unload and the weather was cool and comfortable. The fair grounds were right on a street on the lovely DePaul campus, so the surroundings were nice. Unfortunately, this is where the the nice and good about this event ended.

The show opened on a perfectly lovely Chicago afternoon to a trickle of patrons. From experience, I that the first hour or so of any show can sometimes be slow, so I patiently waited for the buyers to emerge. I passed the time talking to my fellow artists and soon realized that this was the first time that any of my booth neighbors had done this show. Bad sign #2. If this was a good show, you'd expect to meet some returning artists, right?

An hour passed, then another, and then another, still just a trickle of people walked past my booth. After 6 hours, I sold just one $20 print and one $18 set of cards, so we decided to pack up early for the night. (The fair hours were 12 noon - 10, but artists were allowed to close at "dusk".) The non-existent event staff didn't seem to care that we closed up 2 hours early. Bad sign #3.

We came back Sunday, trying to be optimistic. Again, the weather was perfect...Buyers should be piling in, right? Not so much. By 5:30 pm on the second day, I was nowhere close to making enough to cover my booth fees, so we decided to pack it in. Most of the other vendors were doing the same. We weren't allowed to bring our cars onto the street, but luckily we scored a parking space right around the corner. As we walked past the entry gate with our things, the event staff just looked at us and continued to charge their admission fees even though most of the vendors were dismantling. They even joked that they were tired of seeing walk past. Ha.

In summation, the Lincoln Park Art and Music festival was a complete waste of time. There was obviously no promotion. (An event in this neighborhood on a beautiful summer weekend should be teeming with buyers!) The art fair website was a joke....Just listed event times and the bands playing. The event staff provided absolutely no amenities or support for the artists. They just saw us as a paycheck and didn't care if the artists were happy or not. Out of the 55 artists there were just a handful of good quality vendors and quite a few buy and sell booths. Boo! Artists beware! Avoid the Lincoln Park Art and Music Festival at all costs! 

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I haven't seen much information about shows here in the Midwest, so here's a short review for anyone who's interested.

Just 2 years old, the September Art Fair at Mellwood Art Center has a lot going for it. They began with the distinct advantage of replacing a well-established and respected art fair that closed. On the strength of that, they attracted some very good artists and filled upwards of 150 spaces at their first-ever event in 2009.

They advertise, promote, and draw good crowds. They have a GREAT venue on the grounds of an existing arts center, with both indoor and outdoor spaces, a huge parking lot, air conditioning, and INDOOR bathrooms!!!

So what's not to like? Booth space, at $260/$275, is a tad pricey. And although the fair is supposedly juried, I have seen no evidence of any selectivity. Instead, the organizers seem to be going for quantity over quality, which is sad. I'm a jewelry artist - a metalsmith working in sterling and gemstones, mostly at a mid-range price point - and I was infuriated that the booth right next to me was a "designer" stringing beads and assembling earrings out of garish purchased components. And it gets worse: further down the same aisle was a booth featuring cheap glassware painted with tacky slogans such as "Yes, they're real!" Imagine the feelings of the serious artists who got placed next to that!

I heard a lot of grumbling from artists in 2009, and a number of them did not come back this year. I gave the show another chance because I think it has so much potential, and I would really like to see it succeed. But unless the organizers learn to "just say no," I'm afraid they're going to alienate the serious artists, and turn this promising young event into something more like a flea market than an art fair.

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