show review (48)

What Happened at Long's Park, 2021

This show review was recently uploaded to our sister website I'm copying most of it here because it is an excellent example of the kind of review every show director hopes to see about their event, an aspirational review. Do you agree? 

9587288298?profile=RESIZE_400xLong's Park Art Festival, Lancaster, PA, Sept. 3-5, 2021

Medium: 2D mixed media
Year you most recently exhibited at this Show: 2020
Number of Years You have Exhibited in this Show: * 2-3 times
Number of Years You have been doing Art Fairs overall: Forever...
Attendance: (1 is poor, 5 is great) - 5 (great) Location: 5 (great) Facilities: 5 (great) Ease of Participating: 5 (great) Sales: 4 Overall: 5 (great) Booth Fee vs. Your Sales Ratio: Good

Good Things about this Art Fair: The people who run this show are so efficient and pleasant to deal with, it's unbelievable. They advertise widely and it pays off, the park is always crowded. The set up is incredibly easy, you have all day if you need it. The have 'ambassadors' that will booth sit and they check on you regularly. They also provide breakfast meals and a dinner, what more can you ask? What could this Art Fair have done better?: They could make the entrance from the highway a little more obvious, you can easily drive by when there is traffic, but it's easy to turn around, not a big deal really.

Advice to Other Artists Considering this Show: I would highly recommend this show. They can't provide sales, that's up to you but they certainly provide everything else.


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Just got back from the Bethesda Row Arts Festival in - you guessed it - Bethesda MD.  I looked all over this site beforehand for a good review of this show and couldn't find anything, so I'll try to fill in some holes for anyone else looking to do the show.  This was my first time here.  I heard the same folks put on another spring show here is Bethesda, but this review is specifically for the Bethesda ROW show in October.  I can't speak to the spring show at all.

I guess due to construction around the show site, there was a new load in plan this year and a new load out plan, so I don't know how most years go, but considering the tiny little space we are all cramming into and the busy metropolis we are in, load in went incredibly smoothly.  We were each given a load in time between 4a-7a (3:30-4a was a free load in time).  My load in time was at 5am, but on the way to Maryland from Ohio the night before, my truck had broke down 45 miles away.  After being held hostage by a mechanic for several hours, we managed to get the truck at least moveable and made it to Bethesda and parked in Waverly garage across from the Hyatt Regency where we were staying around 11pm.  The hotel had an artist rate and was just 3 blocks from the show.  If you do the show, I highly recommend it.  Parking there is $20 a night though, and right across the street there is FREE parking after 7p on Friday and through the weekend, so duh, park there...  ANYWAY... after all that drama with the truck I was afraid that it wouldn't start in the morning or it would break down on the site, so we decided to go in at the 3:30 load in time (hooray for 3 hours of sleep!).  Fortunately it did start.  We drove right up to our booth, unloaded everything on the sidewalk, moved the truck to the garage right off Bethesda/Woodmont (which is also free on weekends) and came back to set up.  There are tons of free parking garages around and an open lot for oversized vehicles about a 10 minute walk away.

The show is held on Elm and Bethesda (parallel to each other) and Woodmont (connects the two).  I didn't walk the show, but I saw on the booth map that there is a spur off Woodmont that I doubt I would want to be on.  I think other than that spur, the booths would get even traffic.  My booth was in the shade of very tall buildings and trees 100% of the time.  Next year I'd bring lights and my marine battery.  Not sure if Woodmont got better light.

After setup, we had plenty of time, so we walked back to the hotel, took showers and got cleaned up.  I love being within easy walking distance to the show! 

The show is well run.  Each street has a block captain if you need anything.  Seth was very sweet and helpful.  There is a nice artist hospitality building with bagels, fruit, nuts, snack bars, water, and coffee.  There are nice awards if you're one of the lucky ones.  I never had anyone come around offering to booth sit, but I had a helper with me so it didn't matter.

The booth layout is TIGHT!!!  Think 1" on each side and back to back to spare.  You are completely sandwiched in there, and there is not any space at all behind you for storage.  Depending on where you are, there might be some sidewalk room across from your booth, but I doubt many of the businesses would appreciate having their doorways used as storage.  I just moved my propanels in and made storage inside my booth.  It is something to take into consideration though.  When they say no storage room, they mean it!

So as for the show stats, this was sort of a perplexing one for me.  I had decided that with expenses factored, I needed to do a minimum of $3K to even potentially consider doing again, and then I had a personal goal for the show.  Plus who knows who much my truck will cost to get repaired - so that's looming over my head too.  Saturday is by far usually my best day.  I sat there all day Saturday and only sold prints and one $800 painting.  Didn't even make half what I needed.  Oh, and the weather is great too.  Lots of bags for the cupcake place nearby and Williams Sonoma going by, but no art bags.  Starting to get discouraged, but I was told by a few artists that Sunday is their best day here.  Alexandria is nearby, and both years I've done it, Sunday was better, so I was holding out hope. 

Sunday comes.  We open at 10.  I sit there until 2:30 and have only made $80!  I'm really getting discouraged now.  And then suddenly, a wave of people come in buying $500 painting after $500 painting and placing custom orders for even more.  The show closes at 5.  In that 2.5 hour time period, I went from less than $1500 to over $5000.  That's how this business rolls.... ended up selling 6 paintings in that 2.5 hour window.  So now I'm a happy camper.  Confused as to how I actually ended up with money in my pocket.... but happy nonetheless!

Load out was sort of hairy.  It seems from the after-show email that they had to do load out different than normal, but that this structure will continue for 2-3 years while construction is done to the area.  I don't know what its normally like, but this year you had to completely break down and move everything onto the sidewalk.  Easy peasy - done in less than an hour.  Then you had to find your block captain and they inspect your space and give you a load out pass.  My captain looked and approved, but then we had to wait for the load out pass. Everyone is so crammed in there that even if you are cleared and good to go, you have to wait for any cars who have come in before you to move out before being given an actual pass to get your vehicle.  So waited and waited.  Finally got my pass and miraculously my truck started!  By the time I got out of the parking garage though, I had to wait in a line of a bunch of other artists who had got their passes too.  More waiting and waiting and waiting while my truck threatened to break down right in the intersection of Bethesda and Woodmont.  Finally got in, and loaded everything up in about 10 minutes.  But THEN two other vehicles had blocked me in, so again had to wait and wait and wait until they moved out of the way.  Once we finally got out, it had been an hour of breaking down and an hour of waiting to get in/get out.  Could have been worse.  Next year I'll just go get dinner at one of the gazillion restaurants nearby and then come back after 6:30 when some of the booths have cleared out already.

In case you're wondering how the truck saga ended, with 4 cylinders misfiring, I wasn't about to travel 7 hours through the mountains back home to Ohio.  So my husband had left Ohio in the morning with a tow truck, met us 15 miles outside of Bethesda, and towed us back home.  Poor guy spent 17 hours in the car that day.  We ended up getting home at 5:15am and my 3 year old woke up at 7:30.  Hooray for 2 more hours of sleep!  Its an adventurous life we lead. 

So to wrap up, yes, I think I'd definitely do the show again.  I love that everything is right there.  Makes logistics nice.  Sales ended up being real good, despite what it seemed it would be just 2 hours prior to the show end.  Just goes to show that you can't give up hope.  Although its always nice when you sell a lot at the beginning of the day Saturday and can just rest easy.  OH!  One thing though, practically EVERYONE wanted a discount.  One guy pressed so hard for a 33% discount I almost refused to sell him a painting even at full price, and I've never got that way with a patron, but eventually you cross a rude line there's no returning from.  Someone even asked if I'd do a discount on a $30 print.  Really?!  Mark your stuff up if you must so people feel they are getting a deal.  It is the end of my show season now, so I'd actually already marked things down, so I was feeling a bit robbed.  I'll normally negotiate 5-10% but people were really asking for huge amounts off. 

In the end, all my neighbors ended up doing well.  None of us started off Sunday that way though.  So I'm glad Sunday came through for everyone, and I hope to be able to do the show again in 2018.

Hopefully I didn't forget anything.  I'm seriously sleep deprived and wine infused at this point, and dealt with 3 hours of a toddler's temper tantrums today, so if there's anything you want to know about the show, let me know and I'll respond back. 

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8869172276?profile=originalThis is one of Howard Alan's largest shows, stretching along A1A from Marcinski Rd. (on the north) to the south entrance of Loggerhead Rd. (on the south) in Juno Beach, FL--close to Jupiter on Florida's east coast. I don't cite the distance in "blocks" because there aren't any: These are the only two access points for the show. Setup began at a leisurely 10 AM on Friday and stretched as long as you needed (You could come at 6 AM Saturday if you wanted, but most took the Friday setup option.)

Artist parking is provided at each end, but so many artists had trailers (each requiring its own space) that the lots filled up by 9 AM when I arrived on Saturday. There was a Publix shopping center with lots of parking just west of the north entrance, so I parked there instead with no repercussions (despite the 24/7 towing surveillance signs).

The stretch of A1A has tall hedges on both sides. This was a warm, mid-80s weekend with high humidity and a predominantly south-to-north breeze, and the hedges funnelled the breezes along the road--making it nice for walking show-goers, but not necessarily for artists sitting in their booths. It was hot in there!

This is another show I'd categorize as surprisingly "meh" for me, though many others seemed to do well...a category I'm using for more and more events this season. Whether due to the heat, or the time zone change on Sunday (which always seems to make patrons a little sluggish, as though their wallets are on a time lock), this show never really got rolling for me. I had five sales on Saturday, all decently sized. But Sunday was a different story, with only one(!), as folks strolled by groggily and buying energy seemed to dissipate.

Your results may have varied:  My fine art bird work seems to fly better in SW Florida than on the east coast--particularly south of Stuart/Hobe Sound. Not sure why that is, but the hot spots for me in Miami/Lauderdale/Palm Beach are few and far between. Although I was profitable on the weekend, it wasn't the big payday I'd hoped for after not having been at this show since 2013.

On the other hand, maybe it's not a case of avian aversion: Most folks around me weren't that excited about their sales. But I talked with other artists down the long, long row who eventually made out OK--some because of that one big buyer that we artists increasingly seem to target. Several jewelers I spoke with wound up happy; large paintings started moving past my booth in late afternoon on Sunday, but I didn't see that much functional art or photography moving out.

Gotta give big kudos to the HAE on-site team. The show logistics were well-communicated; coordination with the local police was solid, and staff handed out coupons for local-restaurant discounts along with their pleas for patience. Timetables were distributed, and to artists' credit, were followed: Many artists were invited to park their vans behind their booths, space permitting, with the promise of an earlier exit. Everyone had to break down to the ground, get a pass from staff, get their vehicle, and surrender the pass upon entry to A1A. If you wanted to dolly out--well, it was a long one!--but many show vets chose to do just that. Big vans came in last. And despite the dearth of access points and the breakdown plan's complexity, everything went smoothly, if a bit longer into the night than we normally see.

Finally, a personal note of thanks to Chick (I don't know his last name), who lent me a spare corner/rooftop connector part for my Trimline so I could get set up after I discovered at setup that mine had come loose from the pole atop my Ford Transit somewhere along the trip to Juno. It wasn't a perfect fit, but nothing that duct tape and a couple of snug bungee cords couldn't make good as new.  I'm really appreciative. Artists are the best!

(Picture: The scene at the north gate just before sunset on Sunday night. Artists lined up patiently while a single lane was expertly kept clear by HAE staff.) 

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Winners from the 2015 Seawall Art Show, held Aug 22-23 (left to right):

Kristine Kennedy, Savannah, GA,  Jewelry (4th place)

Michael LaRoche, Christiansburg, VA, Clay  (J. Howard Johnson Award for Clay)

Jacob Pollock, Williamsburg, VA, Mixed Media (Best in Show)

Susan Wolf, Toms Brook, VA, Gourd Art (5th place)

Elise Iglio, Prince George, VA,  Digital Art (3rd place)

Ernest Taliaferro, Virginia Beach, VA, Wood (Albert Morris Artisan Award)

Matt Leverett, Virginia Beach, VA, Wood (Arengee Design Award)

Paul Stevens, Achilles, VA, Photography (2nd Place) 

Jana Baker, Pelham, NC, Acrylic (Labyak Award for excellence in acrylic) 

(Photo: Geoff Coe) 

Prize money ranged from $500 to $2000, I believe: Not bad for a show with an under-$300 booth fee. 

This show is held literally along the seawall of Portsmouth, part of the Virginia Beach-Hampton Roads-Norfolk area.  Portsmouth is rich in nautical history, has a charming downtown area, and several hotels within easy walking distance of the show.  

Weather this time of year can be a factor--brutally hot, squally, or just downright windy--but it wasn't this year.  Blue skies and cirrus clouds all weekend, with gentle breezes from the southwest and temperatures that peaked in the low 80s made it a pleasure for artists and show goers alike.  The show is kind of a Y shape, with the base of the Y a double-row of booths, back to back, along a single block of High Street.  The southernmost booth (mine, this year) is in direct sun all weekend, but most of the rest of the booths in this row get shade nearly all day, afforded by trees lining the street and the urban shadow from surrounding buildings.  (Not a bad idea to bring battery-operated lights in you're on High St., just in case, especially if your walls and/or work are dark.) 

Much of the show runs along the seawall itself (a tiered area that forms the "arms" of the Y).  Here, it can be a bit windier even on nice days, but this year the breezes were gentle and didn't cause any issues.  There's a nice student art program here, an easy-to-find Show Headquarters booth, and, at the end of the harbor, live music.  Although the bandstand is about 100 yards or so from the closest booth, the sound easily carries across water.  And yet, on only one occasion was the band too loud.  I walked over to show HQ, let them know, and the director was on her walkie-talkie to request a volume adjustment before I'd even finished talking.  

Many of the artists have done this show for years, and the incredible dedication of the volunteers is a big reason why.  This show truly gives you a first-class artist experience: They'll remember your name when you check in on Friday night for setup; you'll get a barbeque awards dinner on Saturday night, a coffee cart with juice and pastries makes the rounds each morning, and volunteers bring chilled water throughout the day.  Plus, the prize money ranges from $500 to $2000 (I think)--not bad for a show this size.  

It's a small show--about 90 artists, total, with about two-thirds from the immediate area--and yet sales were perplexingly so-so for most artists I spoke to, and for myself.  Portsmouth can be difficult to get to on weekends, with a long-term construction project on the downtown tunnel often closing westbound traffic from Virginia Beach and Norfolk.  There is an inexpensive ferry that comes right to the foot of the show with regularity.  Although many ferry passengers visited the show, it's not a given that passengers would want to carry heavy, bulky, or large artwork on a return trip.  (I sold several pieces that I wrapped in oversize plastic bags for just that reason.)  People enjoyed it, were complimentary, and overall were pretty art-savvy...but generally, they didn't spend a lot of money.  

Setup: Friday night, with checkin 5-8 pm. A few chose to set up early Saturday morning.  The show volunteers and police assigned to this detail know what they're doing, and they've been doing it for years.  Very easy to manage, despite the narrow street.  Ditto, breakdown on Sunday.  
Hours: 10-6 Saturday; 10-5 Sunday.  The hour between 5-6 was S-L-O-W for everyone. In that, Seawall is not alone; I've done VERY few shows where extended Saturday hours were worth it.  

Recommendation: Quality show and great artist amenities. OK for artists who live locally or farther-flung artists with a place to stay. Can't recommend it for out-of-towners with hotel bills and road expenses. 

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I mentioned when I checked in to the Bonita Springs Art Festival on Friday that "doing this show is like going to grandma's house.  It's warm, comfortable, and you know just what to expect." 

Nothing I experienced in the next two days shook me from that state of mind.  I found the second installment of Barry Witt's 3-show event to be just about everything I could hope for:  Beautiful weather, knowledgeable crowds (tainted only by the see-'em-at-every-show Sunday morning sleepwalkers--what is it with that, anyway?) and what Nels Johnson calls the "good shoes" people.  The crowds were far from elbow-to-elbow at any time, but in general they were motivated to buy/ And that, as Martha Stewart would say, is a good thing!

So, where to start?  First of all, the pre-show communication is brief, but to the point: You have all the essential information via email and the website two weeks before the show--all but your booth location, which is given to you upon arrival.  It would be nice to have it in advance, but Witt compensates by giving you a booth near your previous location, even if your previous location was at last year's show. So my customers from 2013 and 2014 had no difficulty locating me.  Nice!

Then, there's the matter of the layout in general:  Centered along "Old 41 Road", which spurs off the heavily trafficked US 41 several miles to the west, the show takes place in Riverside Park, in "Old (read: Historical) Bonita Springs."  Some artists, myself included, are along the Old 41business district; others are set up a block in either direction along two or three perpendicular streets.  Still others are set up in Riverside Park itself, a very pleasant, verdant couple of acres on the NW side of the show.  Although the booth numbering is a bit confusing, IMHO, volunteers hand out a nicely designed map to all show-goers (who pay a $5 optional donation to the Bonita Springs Art League when they arrive.)

Artist parking is in several lots directly adjacent to the show.  Accordingly, load-in and load-out were easy-peasy.  I was set up in two hours on Friday; torn down, packed up, and on my way in two hours on Super Bowl Sunday.  It was a relaxed vibe throughout the show.  No boothsitters, but no hassles setting up or tearing down, either.  Breakfast was provided both days until about 9:30 at the artist check-in building at the north end of the show grounds. 

As for sales: I was busy enough that I didn't have a ton of time to canvas many other artists, but from what I observed, sales were OK for most, lousy for a few, great for some others.  I know that's not all that helpful, but hopefully others will chime in with their results.  I did a bit over 2.2K on the weekend, and had an appointment on Tuesday morning that netted me another $1500, so it was a fine event for me.  Gallery Wraps (large ones) sold well. 

I loved the Sunday-afternoon buying energy, and overall, I liked the crowd.  And the judging, in my view, was superb: A photographer up the street from me won best 2D, and his work was other-worldly.  I've never seen anything like it!

Have all the show-goers from the old venue at The Promenade made the jump to the two-year-old location at  Riverside Park?  I don't know, but the borough, Witt, and the ominpresent-but-understated police force certainly made this an appealing venue.  I am looking forward to the third installment in March!

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For those of you--no, wait, make it BOTH of you!--who have been wondering "What the heck happened to Geoff?", here's the scoop:  After seven years in the art fair biz, my show schedule has a lot of repetition in it now, and it seemed silly to keep reviewing the same events year after year.  But I promised the esteemed Connie Mettler that I'd re-review a show if I felt that the old reviews were no longer a valid barometer for readers.  And that may be the case with Howard Alan Events' Coconut Point New Years Weekend show.

A brief history: When this show first came on the scene, it was a late-November affair, one of the earliest shows on the Florida circuit.  But snowbirds aren't down in force in SW Florida until after Christmas. So a few years ago (after the powers-that-be in Naples took the reins of the Naples New Years show from HAE in favor of their local art association), Alan was quick to slide the Coconut Point venue (a swank mall about 15 miles to the north) into its slot on the schedule.

And although in my experience, this show has never quite produced the revenue of Alan's February Coconut Point show, it has been, for the most part, a pretty strong kickoff to the Florida show season.  But for most folks this year, it wasn't.  And there are some possible reasons worth noting. 

* One of the most welcome aspects of this show is that setup is normally a leisurely all-day Friday affair, providing time to chitchat with artists newly-arrived from Northern climes, pull right in front of your booth, take your time getting unloaded and set up, and maybe even spend some bucks on a nice meal at one of the many fine restaurants the mall provides.  But this year, the usual setup date fell on the day after Christmas--Black Friday, when stores everywhere are packed with shoppers exchanging gifts and pounding the limits on their gift cards.  So the mall, wishing to maximize parking, requested a Saturday show setup. 

Unfortunately, that decision got made after the deadline for artists to withdraw from the show.  So those artists, particularly those who want or need extra time to set up, suddenly didn't have it.  Most years, obviously, that won't be a problem. Alan's show manager said that it will return to a Friday setup in the future.  But I would hope that the mall and HAE can work it out in advance next time Black Friday intervenes, so the schedule isn't changed after the payment deadline.

* Unexpectedly, the Saturday setup put some artists, including me, directly in the line of fire of lawn sprinklers, which came on at the worst possible time--6:30 am, just as many of us had our tents partially erected and our work stacked up--you guessed it!--on the lawn. I didn't have any long-term damage, and I didn't hear of disasters from other artists, but it could have been really bad news.  And I could have done without a half hour spent drying artwork with paper towels, or working the full day in wet clothing.  (I was grateful for the extra shirt I brought, but my shorts and shoes never recovered.) Again, I'd like to see a note added to the show-mall agreement stating that both parties will double-check the sprinkler schedule so that never happens again. 

* This year, the show was migrated away from its usual spot in the center of the shopping area, toward the perimeter of the mall, which has less foot traffic, and where the show isn't as visible to shoppers.  This had to do with parking, too, but nothing to do with the holiday.  Many large anchors at uber-malls like Coconut Point have a contract clause that guarantees a certain number of available parking spaces in proximity to their store.  Most times, the anchor store informally waives that when the mall holds special promotional event, in the interest of being neighborly to smaller stores that get a boost from the additional customer traffic.  But one of the major tenants squawked about a recent event and invoked their parking clause...leaving the mall no contractual choice but to move the show toward the mall perimeter.  And this is likely to be a permanent arrangement.

Soo, with all that said, how the heck was the show?  Saturday sales were pretty meager.  Whether folks were fatigued by gift card redemptions, returns, and shopping the 60% off sales at the brick-and-mortar stores, or whether it was psychologically just too-too-close to the Christmas holiday, it's hard to say. But the crowd was generally incurious, and definitely not spending money.   I was able to make booth fee back, at least, but even my neighbors, who kill it at this show nearly every year, were struggling to make a buck.  Reports from other areas of the show were similarly glum. 

Sunday, happily, was a bit better, at least for some of us: By noon, art buyers were in evidence: folks browsed, asked good questions, and expressed interest, but (perhaps because of my location at the front of the show) most everyone told me they wanted to see the rest of the show first before they bought.  This is where you have to count on your experience and a willingness to have a good attitude, even when you're not closing sales.  Although there were a couple of times I had to take a deep breath, leave my booth, and stroll the show for a couple of minutes, ultimately I reasoned that if enough people loved my work--and they seemed to--that I'd get my share.  And around 2 PM, the tide started to turn, culminating with a 5 PM cash buyer of two large canvases, capping a respectable, show-saving payday.

I didn't have time, post-show, to canvass lots of artists, but the sentiment I got from most of those I spoke with was that Sunday was a far better day...but that the holiday hangover and the new location may have scuttled the big kickoff show people had hoped for.

As for me, I feel like I dodged a couple of metaphorical bullets, and I'm happy to get out with a decent profit and undamaged artwork.  And there are some lessons to learn: For artists, you can't make a sale if you are out of your booth complaining. And for even the best promoters--and HAE, for my money--is one of the best--s*** happens.  Let's see how Alan, and the mall, can work out these issues and have this continue to be a successful show. 


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I'm going to write a VERY brief review of this show, for reasons that will be revealed in a paragraph or two.  This was my first visit to beautiful St. Simons Island, GA.  Although the state has less than 200 miles of coastline, it boasts beautiful wide barrier islands teeming with birdlife.  I've driven past their exits countless times on I-95 but never had time to stop.  So after Connie posted a call to artists a few months back, I jumped at the chance to apply and was accepted.

Glynn Art hosts two shows yearly in Postell Park, which is in the downtown of St. Simons.  This time of year, anyway, this is a tiny hamlet with relatively light traffic, lots of small eateries and retail shops, and the art association HQ, which occupies a pretty space right across from Postell Park. 

The spring show featured about 60 artists, in facing rows along the brick pavers (bring a rug!).  By admission of the director, it is "lightly juried" and  heavily skewed toward country craft, low-end craft, and a smattering of manufactured products.  There was lots of jewelry (some quite nice, some cheaply made).  A few of the Art Association members exhibited paintings and watercolors, but generally speaking, 2-D was hard to find. 

The overall ambience is laid-back, relaxed, and friendly. The show was laid out in maybe five sections of artists, scattered throughout the small park.  When I first arrived I wondered aloud about the discontinuity, and whether attendees would miss a section, but one of my neighbors, a show veteran, said it wouldn't matter...and it didn't.  Although booths were tightly pole to pole, the facing rows are quite short (maybe a dozen booths long) and you have lots of storage space behind.  Setup was Friday, from noon until 5 (you could stay later to set up if you wanted); security (local police) was provided from 6 PM to 8 AM each night).  It was an easy, beautiful three-block walk along the two-lane street, lined by live oaks, to the artist parking lot...though I noticed many artists with oversized vehicles used a commercial parking lot on one end of the show and were not bothered by anyone. 

Weather was beautiful, the booths were comfortable even in mid-day, and yet attendance was light.  However, for most of the show it was comprised of the affluent residents of this laid-back island.  They were casually but neatly dressed, knowledgeable, and friendly. (Sunday afternoon was dominated by day-tripping familes from inland Georgia, who were mostly browsing, and more interested in spending a day with the kiddos.)

I made only two sales on Saturday, but they were my largest, most expensive canvases.  Sunday brought smaller but still respectable sales through mid-afternoon. I wound up, surprisingly, with my second- or third-highest sales total of the an invitation to have a month-long at the art gallery on nearby Jekyll Island sometime in 2016. 

Demographics:  As noted, the demographics here skew to the very high end.  Housing is expensive, surroundings are beautiful, and many of the homes are quite large.  It was sort of a interesting mix between Sanibel Island and a small New England town. Seemed to be an equal split between vacationers coming from other parts of Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas) and residents (many of whom were year-round).  I talked with only a few Midwesterners. 

Everyone I spoke with, including the director, said that the fall show (Oct. 11-12) is even smaller (about 50 artists, tops), much more tightly juried, and better represented by 2-D art. I don't know if I could recommend it to an artist from far out of state, but if you are in central or panhandle Florida, Georgia, or South Carolina this might be worth trying. 

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(Wow, I reviewed this show four long years ago! And it's still valid on the show particulars.  Check it out for more details.)

As perhaps the only artist in Florida who has never even applied to Winter Park, much less exhibited, I headed to Sanibel Island this weekend for its third, and last, show of the winter season: the Sanibel-Captiva Lions Arts & Crafts Festival.  Although I really shouldn't call it a "weekend"--it's a Friday/Saturday event (with an easy Thursday daytime setup), the timing of which throws off an artist's oh-so-regular show routine and makes even remembering when to put out the trash and recycling a week-long challenge.

As you might expect given the location and the organizers, it's a casual, community-friendly, intimate show on a postage stamp-sized, sandy layout that is pretty easy to navigate for show-goers despite its apparent randomness.  Tents are pole-to-pole in some sections, spaced apart in others--the layout driven largely by the configuration of palm trees and shrubbery.  On a sunny, cloudless weekend like this one, you'll get every bit the tan you would on one of the nearby beaches, so sunscreen and umbrellas are a must. 

The show starts at 9AM, and on day one (Friday) there were about 50 folks lined up at the gate to pay their $5.00 admission (benefiting Lions Charities).  Traffic and sales were fairly brisk until just before noon, when folks departed for lunch and beaches, leaving artists mostly to talk among themselves and take heat breaks in the air-conditioned Community Center.  I did somewhere north of $600 in sales by 12:30, and that was it for the day. 

Saturday brought a nearly precise repeat of the sunny weather, but without many folks waiting at the opening bell.  Traffic never really got heavy, but buying energy picked up around 11 AM and continued for a couple of hours.  Most of my neighbors reported that traffic was lighter on day 2, but sales were much better.  And that was true for me, too, with six good-sized sales (including both of the uber-large works on the back wall). My hunch, based on conversations I had with booth visitors, is that vacationers comprised most of the crowd on Friday, and homeowners on Saturday.

I wound up with my strongest show of the season, and some valuable contacts in the community (especially since I live only 20 minutes away). The customers were, nearly without fail, a joy to work with: knowledgeable, friendly, relaxed--hey, they're on freakin' Sanibel, why wouldn't they be??--and best of all, their wallets were wide open and access was haggle-free.  A nearby painter of superb Florida landscapes and wildlife sold at least three high-priced works.  A photographer friend who had struggled most of the weekend told me that he sold three large images ten minutes after the show closed. Both of my neighbors--a jeweler and fabric artist-- were satisfied (although both said they had done better in 2013).

Although there were some very fine artists in the mix of offerings, this show lets in a lot more inexpensive jewelry (see  comment below), beachy buy-sell and manufactured stuff than the other two art shows in this space (Thanksgiving Weekend's Sanibel Masters, produced by Richard Sullivan, and the local Rotary's mid-February offering). The show prospectus says that that buy/sell and manufactured items are prohibited, but my guess is that the show committee is not trained in this, nor willing to risk irritating a long-time "vendor" by throwing them out of the show.

As such, the show is a bit more targeted toward impulse-buying vacationers than the homeowners. But still, I got the impression that many residents, seasonal or year-round, realized it was their last chance this season to pick up work for their homes, and came prepared to buy.  Overall, it was a Chamber of Commerce weekend on a first-class Florida beach, with just enough buyers to go around. And when even the friendly, helpful traffic cop regularly booms out "It's always a great day on Sanibel!" to street-crossers, it would seem unsporting to argue. '

To sum up: The amount of buy/sell and manufactured stuff is concerning.  It's not a show I would travel any distance to do.  If you are in the area, you're trying to build a client base nearby, and you have the "right stuff" it's not a bad change-of-pace option.  And if enough quality artists applied, who knows? Some of the junk jewelry and kit crap might not make it in.
I just might ask the friendly Lions about their jury process, give 'em some feedback, and see what I can learn. 

What sells best?  2-D (beaches and birds abound); warm-weather wearables. Small stuff (for vacationers).  Jewelers did well if they were already known to the islanders.

What struggles?:  Functional 3-D, abstract and modern work of any kind

Other stuff:  Awards are limited to a $350 best in show and three other awards that award varying percentages of credit toward next year's booth fee.  Artists are urged to donate a small work to the show for the silent auction, announcements for which are regularly made over a loudspeaker.  "Raffle Ralph," as he calls himself, is pretty loud for conducting business but has a good sense of humor, so artists generally take it in stride.

Survival tips:  Book your hotel room / campground early; it's peak season in SW Florida, and rates are at a premium but deals, I'm told, can be found if you work the Web. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses, plenty of water, and a way to get dust and fine-grained sand off your work. Be willing and able to ship and to deliver on-island after the show (given the oh-so-tight parking and heavy traffic, many show visitors walk or bike)

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The third and final installment of Barry Witt's Bonita Springs National wrapped up yesterday.  A beautiful, cloud-free weekend with a fine stable of artists at a show where (in delightful contrast to what we find so many other places) A-R-T is the focus, not the music, the munchies, or the dog-walkers.

And yet...attendance was moderate on Saturday and--perhaps due to the aftereffects of the Insidious Daylight Time Change--lighter still on Sunday, with a two-hour mid-afternoon burst of energy salvaging the show for me and for many of my neighbors.  I wound up with about $500 more in the till than I did at the so-disappointing Naples National two weeks earlier: Another paycheck show, at a venue where, based on past experience, I expected much better. 

There was some grumbling in the ranks about how great this show had been when it was held at the Promenade, an upscale venue just off heavily-trafficked US 41 that, like much of the art show business, fell on hard times when the recession hit in 2009.  The former crown jewel of high-end Bonita shopping fell victim to poor management, which raised its rents to loyal small-business tenants as anchor stores abandoned it for the trendy Coconut Point mall not far away.  In the end, it was home to the Bonita Springs Art League and little else, and was sold at a bargain-basement price to a new management group, which promises to revitalize it (about which, more later).

This year, Witt moved the Bonita Springs National to Riverside Park, a city-managed facility that is only a few miles away by automobile but light-years away in perceived swank and reputation.  The park--and the show-- lies along Old 41 Road and the "downtown historic area" of Bonita Springs, home to mom-and-pop businesses, ethnic restaurants, and the Everglades Wonder Gardens, an aging tourist attraction of bygone days that recently shuttered its doors and was purchased by a Florida photographer who--stop me if you've heard this before--promises to revitalize it. 

For those of you who don't frequent shows in SW Florida, Barry holds three Nationals each year, second week of each month, January through March.  I did not apply to the January show, figuring that a new venue would have some kinks to work out.  That turned out to be the case, but give Barry credit for listening to artists and making quick adjustments--some that very weekend, others by the time the February show rolled around. 

The February installment is a relatively new addition, and although it had a superb art roster it butts heads directly with Howard Alan's Coconut Point show. Attendance, accordingly, was quite a bit lighter than I'd expected it to be, as were sales.  Although some artists I spoke with did well, overall, show veterans definitely noticed a downturn.  Nonetheless, the show garnered high marks for a smooth check-in procedure, lots of friendly, knowledgeable volunteers/boothsitters, an easy Friday load-in (drive-to-your-booth convenience, at least if you were located on the street and not in the park.  I am not sure if park artists could drive in or not), and ample parking. 

I didn't notice any tweaks to layout or procedures at the March show, so I assume the kinks had been worked out.  I had exactly the same booth location as in the February show--helpful, since at the National you don't get booth assignments until you check in, so any notification you do to past customers is necessarily last-minute. (The show does provide a detailed, relatively easy to read map and artist roster, however. But more than one patron and artist commented that some directional signs--"booths 145-193 thisaway"--would be appreciated.) 

Crowds were moderate on Saturday, but--after 90 minutes or so of the "browse mode" I've come to expect as early arrivals stroll the show to see what's available, I began noticing quite a few packages being carried about, including some pretty large 2-D work.   We were optimistic if a bit drowsy from the switch to Daylight Time as we opened up on Day Two.  But the crowds were thin indeed--late in arriving and definitely not in a buying mood once they came.  In my area of Old 41, there was a welcome burst of buying energy between about 1 and 3 PM, which saved the show for many of us. I was reasonably satisfied with both shows I did; they were certainly profitable enough to warrant a return in 2015. Yet, the consensus among those artists with a much longer track record at this show than I have seemed to be: "Not quite what it was." 


So what's the verdict on the change of venue?  It would be easy to draw a conclusion, as many artists feared, that the move from The Promenade to the park would be the beginning of the end for this show.  But that would be short-sighted, in my view, and flat-out wrong.  Let's take a look at a few of the concerns that were expressed when the move was announced:

* "The park is in a bad part of town."  Truth is, it's a lovely park, well-used, well-maintained, with lots of restrooms, a refurbished amphitheatre, and even its own wi-fi.  It hosts a regular run of community events; there's fine security at the show, and  even a Sheriff's Office substation right on the grounds.  There was a lot of (well-marked) patron parking on site and along nearby residential streets.  (A few patrons--just a few--complained that there should be even more.)
Does it bother the golf-course and yacht club set that this area of Bonita is a working class, ethnically diverse community?  That's a question I can't answer.  One of my show neighbors, an artist from multi-cultural Miami, shook her head in bewilderment as she considered the issue.  "Those folks should just get over it," she said.

At any rate, it might be too early to make a call on this one.  There was certainly money around--my average sale was, in fact, up considerably from the last time I did the show.  I did not consistently ask my customers if they had come to the show before, and that's my fault. (I did, however, mail my mailing list, and I saw about the usual number of repeat customers: so either my past customers aren't 'good-shoes people' or the venue wasn't a deterrent.)  Perhaps some of you who did the show, and DID ask, could weigh in below. 

* There's a bigger reason, though, why I think this show will not only survive the change in venue, but emerge bigger than ever.  And that's because there are changes--big changes--comin' to River City Bonita.  

Bonita Springs and its neighbor to the north, Estero are on the verge of a boomlet the likes of which Southwest Florida hasn't seen since the late '90s.  Last year Hertz Corporation--yes, the rental-car folks--stunned the business world by announcing that by mid-2015, they will locate their corporate headquarters in Estero, bringing about 700 jobs to the area at an average salary, it is said, of close to $100K.  (And it isn't a pipe dream: groundbreaking has already happened near Coconut Point Mall, and key corporate personnel are already relocating to a temporary building in North Naples.) That's some serious moolah. And its impact won't be just those 700 salaries, but also, in many cases, jobs for their spouses, and--here's where we artists come in--new homes that have to be furnished and decorated. 

Beyond that, you can bet that a whole host of service businesses will spring up in its wake.  There are other changes afoot, too--things having to do with tax codes and annexations and zoning--that I only partially understand.  But I've lived in expansionary times in big cities several times in my life, and I've seen this play out before.  

Taking an even WIDER view of our industry as it pertains to SW Florida: What might this mean, not just for Bonita Springs National, but for the glut of shows in the area?  The  oft-expressed downside of "too many shows" doesn't quite tell the whole story.  It's also been a problem of not enough money to spread around.  To the extent that economic expansion solves that problem, that could be good news. 

Surely, show promoters are taking notice. It's too early to tell, and I don't want to speculate in print (or whatever the heck the cyberspace equivalent of "print" is),  but I suspect there will be a few adjustments in the market before next year's Florida show season rolls around. 


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The first cold of the new year, symptoms of which I'd been pounding with Zicam since Christmas Day, finally took root on New Year's Eve and made the first two days of 2014 pretty miserable.  But one of the advantages of age is that you know pretty much how well you are going to throw off illnesses, and I knew I'd be OK to participate in the Naples New Year show.

Which was a good thing.  I hadn't done the show since 2010, and lots had changed with my work since then.  Plus, I'd seen declining sales at the competing show at Miromar Outlets run by HotWorks/Patty Narozny over the last two years, so it was time to roll the dice 20 miles further south.  

It turned out to be a decent, if not spectacular, show, despite being much soggier than forecast on Saturday, with precipitation that progressed from a brief sprinkle during setup to intermittent showers around noon, to steady rain after about 2 PM.  And there were some good lessons learned from that:

* Never, never, bring work in cardboard boxes to shows in Florida.  I had received a large shipment of new, larger canvases on Friday.  And given how I was feeling and the partly cloudy forecast,  I was tempted to just load them into the van in their original shipping containers.  But instead, I forced myself to spend two hours cutting custom containers out of aluminum insulation and bubble wrap. When the rains hit unexpectedly at 7:30 AM Saturday morning, I was glad that I did. The work was safe and dry in its custom bags; some would have been damaged in soggy cardboard.

* Don't leave your booth because of lack of customers, rain brings out serious buyers.  This advice was echoed in Melanie Rolfe's post on Las Olas.  Folks on a mission for new art won't let a litle rain stop them.  You may find, as I did, that these buyers are there despite the rain because they've got flights out on Sunday, and they want to get their place ready for the season before they leave. 

Case in point:  Among my new, larger pieces was a 45x30 canvas of a shot I'd been selling successfully at 30x20 for several years.  I had it hung on my back wall, and it was attracting lots of attention from folks sitting at the outdoor seats at the Starbucks directly across from me. (So much so, that I joked about calling it my "Venti" sized canvas.  I didn't, for fear of arousing the ire of Starbucks' lawyers, who are demonstrably serious about  protecting their trademarks.)

But I digress.  About two hours into the show, a very nice lady strolled over, clutching her latte, and expressed interest in this $795 piece. The only sticking points seemed to be: Would it fit in her SUV(!), and how would it stay dry during the ride home?  She went off to measure her cargo space; I fetched the custom bag I'd spent a half hour making only the night before.  She returned in ten minutes, reporting that she just had room.  I took the work off the wall, slipped it in the bag, and happily took her check.  For a sale like that, I'll cut custom bags every day, and twice on Sunday. 

So the new, larger work would sell. . .that was a relief.  And an hour later, I sold a custom order for a smaller version (16x20 of another large piece on display.  And because I'd priced up the large piece, the price I put on the small piece looked like a bargain in the customer's eyes--even though said price was nearly double what I charged in 2013. 

Those were the only two customers I had on Saturday, but I had over $1000 in the till.  Pretty good first day return on my "go big or go home" initiative.  When Sunday dawned to sunny skies and warmer temps, I was expecting a gangbusters day-- but it didn't materialize.  Crowds were moderate, but nothing approaching wall-to-wall, and the buying energy wasn't there.  For most of the day, I saw more pocket pooches being carried than fine art purchases.  Some late-day buyers boosted the day's totals into respectability, but overall, the results were another decent paycheck--much like last week's show at Coconut Point. 

Many of the artists in my area of the show reported decent sales; few folks zeroed; others did pretty well. It was tough to draw conclusions from what I heard, but if I had to take a stab, I'd say that sales were slightly down from, or even with, 2013. 

A couple of other nuggets worth knowing about this show:
* Set-up is Saturday morning only (no Friday), beginning at 3 AM.  I drove down from Ft. Myers and arrived a little after six.  Check-in a few blocks away in a large, dark vacant lot lit only by a blinding floodlight, get your packet and parking pass, then drive as directed by the volunteer and von Liebig museum staff to your spot.  Well controlled but not overly so. 

* The show is laid out along Naples' swank Fifth Avenue shops and eateries in a single line; booths are back-to-back, with enough storage space behind to make things workable.  The show sets up the booths so that everyone can have an outside side wall for display, weather permitting.  I think it's safe to say that there isn't a bad booth location in the show, and even though the visitors definitely skew toward the cane-and-walker side of the demographic profile, most navigate the entire show.  Devoted. 

*Show quality is uniformly high: about 225 artists, and a wide variety of categories: painting the largest (20% of show); jewelry was about 11%; photography and sculpture, about 10%; closely followed by glass and mixed media.  You can also find a decent representation of furniture and woodworking.

* It's a conservative crowd.  Abstract art doesn't sell well here; never has.  They loves their birds and Florida beach scenes,  but there were a lot of artists, including myself, chasing that particular buying niche.

*It's also a cash crowd.  There are lots of Europeans (not just Germans and British, but eastern Europeans as well).  They pay cash; they write checks; they haggle (a little, but nothing like you'd find over in Boca Raton).  I did very little business in credit cards.  If you ship to Europe (I don't), you definitely want to advertise that in your booth.

So, I'm but one artist out of many AFI'ers that did this show.  Jump in with your experiences.  And if you opted for HotWorks' show in Estero this weekend (a half hour drive on Rt. 41 North),  how about letting us know how things went there this weekend?  The next three months will bring us lots of opportunities for same-weekend competing shows; it will be helpful for future generations to know what's what. 

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As always, the Winterfair show in Greater Cincinnati was held on the Friday-Sunday after Thanksgiving.  A loyal following of shoppers routinely spend Black Friday at Winterfair rather than at the malls. 

Put on by the Ohio Designer Craftsmen (ODC), many out-of-town artists make the two Winterfairs in Cincinnati and Columbus a one-two punch since they're held on consecutive weekends.  The Cincinnati Winterfair is the smaller of the two with just 200 artists of high quality work.

As an aside, the Cincinnati Winterfair is actually held in Covington, KY just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.  Years ago the show was held at the Cincinnati convention center and it was always packed with shoppers.  Then the center began renovations so ODC moved Winterfair to the Covington convention center and never returned to Cincinnati.  I'm sure the rent is lower in Covington, although their center is fine in terms of design, cleanliness, etc.  Having a Cincinnati event held in Covington doesn't seem particularly weird to the locals, since Cincinnati's airport is also in Kentucky.

I hadn't done this show for three years or so, and that year my sales were pretty good on Friday but Saturday was half of Friday and Sunday was half of Saturday.  This year Saturday sales surpassed Friday's and Sunday was the usual snore.

The crowds are thinner in recent years than they were in the good old days when the show was in Cincinnati.  But the booth and app fees come to only about $350, so it's not too hard to turn a profit.  I have the impression that many artists can bring home $2000-$3000 and of course some do quite a bit better than that.  If I'm wrong on this point someone please correct me.

The organizers make set-up as easy as possible given the logistical difficulties of the building.  You can set up on Wednesday before Thanksgiving or all day on Thanksgiving day or early Friday before the show.  The center has available quite a few large/long carts which help cut down on the trips to and from your vehicle.  However the loading dock and its parking that serves the back half of the show is quite small so there's a long line of vehicles lined up in the street waiting for their turn to enter the lot and unload.  A freight elevator takes you up one floor to the event hall, and when the elevator isn't working (which happens off and on) there's a ramp you can take to get into the hall.  I set up on Wednesday, arrived about one hour before the announced set-up start and was able to snag the fourth spot in line.  Artists in the front half of the hall must park on the street in front of the center and dolly their stuff in.  Some park in the lot right across the street and dolly from there.  Not an ideal situation but the artists make it work.

Upsides of the show include booth sitters, a nice environment and a Starbucks off the lobby.  The booth layout offered several corner booth possibilities as there were a couple of cross aisles across the eight rows.  The second floor of the center holds food exhibitors and food vendors for hot and cold lunches.

Downsides included the storage area that was only about the size of two booth spaces; way too small for 200 artists.  And, like the Columbus Winterfair, I believe that the Cincinnati show needs more promotion to rekindle shopper interest in attending.

All in all, I count this as a decent show at a reasonable price that allows you to make money on Thanksgiving weekend rather than spend it.

As a final aside, this was the show that rocked the exhibiting artists when word spread of the sudden passing of Indiana potter Jim Kemp on Friday evening.  Jim was a phenomenal talent and strong advocate for the local clay arts community, so his death was a sad event for many of us.  Jim was in the midst of preparing for the Columbus Winterfair show the following week, where he was memorialized in the booth space he would have occupied.  Rest in peace, Jim.

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This was a weekend for singing the blues, as 400 artists desperately looked up and down the aisles for three days wondering when the crowds would arrive.

Winterfair Columbus comes courtesy of the Ohio Designer Craftsmen guild.  It's held in the Bricker building at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, a sizable facility with ample parking and several exits for load-in and load-out.  But the area outside those exits is fairly cramped, so there's lots of jockeying for a parking space and multiple trips back and forth with your cart.  The artists at this show seem to always be remarkably courteous though, and work together to get the job done.

Set-up is all day on Thursday from 11am until 8 pm.  The three-day show has fairly grueling hours -- 10-8 on Friday, 10-8 on Saturday and 12-5 on Sunday.  Booth sitters make it easier to make it through the day if you're on your own. The shopping crowd is usually pretty hefty, especially on Friday and Saturday, so the artists grumble a little less about the hours because a few more sales trickle in during the evening.  But there's a traffic jam of artists who are leaving after the show and many don't make it back to their hotel or home until 10 pm or later.  Therefore the show can be exhausting.

The quality of art is on the high side, with very few booths that make you wonder how they got into the show.  So at that quality level, and with a booth fee of $480, artists expect a healthy ROI of a few thousand at the least.  Some, of course, have solid collector followings that allow them to reach 5 figures regularly.

But this year it was not to be.  Friday brought the killer snow/sleet/ice storm that, at an accumulation of only about 6", would have made any reasonable person in the northern states just laugh and move on.  But apparently Winterfair shoppers are a meeker sort, because by mid-day artists were rolling bowling balls down the aisles and hitting no one.  Thankfully, the light crowd who showed up were prepared to shop, so some lucky souls were able to cover their expenses on the first day.

Surely Saturday will be slammin', we thought.  We'll have the usual Saturday packed house, plus all the scaredy-cats who wouldn't go out on Friday.  But alas, we forgot about the undying love affair between Columbus residents and their Ohio Sate football team which was playing in a championship game late Saturday.  Apparently it takes all day for the fans to prepare for their viewing parties, or get pre-lubricated or whatever, because Saturday was another slow, slow day.  Now the artists are getting antsy and depressed, lethargic and annoyed.  It was a bad day for most of the artists, and also for the OSU team, as it turned out.  The shortened Sunday hours were another typical-Sunday light showing, so in the end the Columbus Winterfair never quite materialized this year.

In general -- that is, other than this year -- this is a pretty good show with both high and low points.  Amenities include the aforementioned long set-up window and booth sitters, plus fairly savvy buyers,  food that's better than festival junk, artist-only restrooms, ample behind-the-curtain storage area, and a McDonalds right next door to pick up your morning coffee. 

Low points include: 1) the deteriorating condition of the building (especially in the restrooms where some of those faucets have been dripping for years); 2) the relatively low number of new artists each year, which seems to be getting on the nerves of the shoppers because they remark more and more about wanting to see something new; 3) the need for more promotional oomph to re-kindle the interest of the public for this long-running show; and 4) the huge number of artists who must be fed by the dollars of a too-small market.  Even in good years, the total revenue pie just isn't big enough to slice into 400 pieces.  The consensus heard in the artists-in-the-aisles conversations was that the number of booth spaces should be cut by at least a hundred to give the remaining 300 a fighting chance.

Most artists I talked to said they would probably apply again next year. Some were so disheartened or disgusted that they hoped they could find something else for their calendars.

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Under the Oaks, Corolla, NC (June 19-20, 2013)

This is my second straight year doing this unusual mid-week (Wed/Thurs) show in Corolla, NC, a coastal town (aren't they all?) along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, about 2 hours south of Virginia Beach.  Last year's show--which I could have sworn I reviewed, but I can't find a link anywhere--was brutalized by high, high heat and humidity, and the few folks brave enough to venture forth to the show were none too keen about stepping into an art show booth for more than a nanosecond.  Not surprisingly, sales in 2012 were dismal.  But the area has so much to recommend it that I thought it warranted another shot. 

I was praying to the weather gods during the entire 970-mile drive from Fort Myers, hoping that the forecast held and that I wouldn't have that kind of budget-busting experience again.  And we lucked out--though it was humid for setup on Tuesday, there were light breezes and somewhat cooler temps on Wednesday, and Thursday was perfect Chamber of Commerce weather--mid '70s, cool breezes, clear skies. 

But enough with the meteorology.  How were the crowds and sales? 

Much better than 2012.  Wednesday morning brought respectable traffic and moderate sales, though crowds and buyers dwindled after about 2 PM.  For reasons unknown, this show stays open until 6 PM on its first day.  The extra hour can be profitable at shows where there's an early-evening draw, like restaurants, but there isn't an eatery anywhere on the spacious grounds of the Whalehead Club. Nor were there customers.

Thursday (day 2) had lighter traffic and (for most folks) lighter sales, and many of us were on the brink of writing this one off by 1 PM.  Then, out of nowhere, crowds materialized again, and brought their wallets.  I had a number of decent sales between 2 PM and 5 PM; although the customer count was down from Saturday, there were more dollars in the till. 

This is a show attended more heavily by vacationers than by Outer Banks residents.  There are a couple of reasons--one being that there's only one road (NC Rt. 12) onto the Outer Banks, and traffic can be ridiculous in season (that's why they hold the show mid-week).  Another reason is that there really aren't many residents, as one of my customers (a former physician and longtime resident, who does commercial and residental rentals now) explained.  "The Outer Banks turns over 10,000 people a week during the summer," he said, "but there are only a couple of thousand folks here year round". The homes along this narrow, heavily-duned barrier island are quite large, and most of them sit vacant for all but a few weeks outside of summer tourist season, he advised. 

A significant number of my visitors were down only for a week, and hailed from Pennsylvania and the Washington, DC area, with smaller percentages from Ohio and from central and western parts of Virginia.  Very few folks from other parts of North Carolina; likely because the NC schools were still in session.  That probably explains the high number of smaller pieces (2D and 3D alike) I saw being carried around.  It helps to have a shipping service and to advertise it.

Most of the artists I spoke with were reasonably happy with their sales, which were deemed pretty good for a midweek event by most.  Several artists who sold only large-format 2D had a tough time. 

Smaller, beach-themed items sold best; as for me, sales of pelican images saved the show. The few large pieces I sold, as you might expect, were bought by year-round residents.

The show is casual, small (85 artists this year, down from 100 in 2012), well-organized, and pretty high quality.  Amenities included an artist dinner on Wednesday night (which included an awards ceremony), two tickets for bottled water, and (if you had a trailer) free on-site overnight parking.  The staff of the Whalehead Club helped out before the show with discount deals at a few local hotels and an "artist lodging" program in which patrons volunteered to host artists during the show.  (I'm not sure how well that worked out; apparently there were more interested artists than there were available spaces.) In addition, artists could get a free guided tour of the Knight Mansion on the club grounds, which offers a fascinating look at duck hunting culture, architecture, Art Nouveau, tourism, and life in the 1920s on the Outer Banks...not only the life of the uber-rich, but also the local staff and families that they supported. 

This isn't an expensive show to do from a booth-fee standpoint (under $200), but it's a long, expensive trip from just about anywhere, and the hotels tend to be in the $150/night-and-up class.  (I stayed 70 minutes away, in Elizabeth City, for about $80 a night, including taxes.)   I like the area, and the way the show is run (the staff went out of their way to solicit feedback on things like start/end times, lodging, and amenities).  It's worth considering if you have appropriate work, you want to have a short working vacation, and especially if you can pair it with show(s) on the adjacent weekends.

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Small Town, Sweet Show

Saturday morning, what is a person to do? Time for an art fair fix.

Maple & Main Art Fair, Sylvania, OH, May 31 & June 18869112063?profile=original

About a 2 hour drive down the toll road delivers me onto one of those small town main streets that you see in the movies. I travel often to Los Angeles to visit my kids so whenever I find myself in a town like Sylvania I think "who even knows that these places are still here in our country?" Yes, artists know because we get to many idyllic places: think Madison (IN & WI), Lafayette (IN & LA), Columbia  (SC & MO), Cedar Key (FL), Northhampton (MA), Cape May (NJ), Estes Park (CO), etc. But people who are in the midst of large cities don't have this sense of discovery and renewal that artists encounter many weekends throughout the year. Another perk of our business, being in the heart of America.

Maple & Main is an art fair sponsored by the Sylvania Arts Commission and the Sylvania Chamber of Commerce. Frankly, I'm so used to seeing empty storefronts in the towns of the upper Midwest that it is a thrill to walk down a street with nice restaurants, high end clothing shops, a fine gallery (Hudson Art Gallery), no chain stores in a historic district that the trip was worth it just for that. 

This was the second year for the show and there were approximately 70 artists. Someone had done their homework because it had all the artists on the main drag with a stage at one end and sponsors and food tents on the side streets. Just what an artist wants and what makes a show work. 

Reported to me by participants:

  • easy drive up to load in and out
  • hotel a block away with easy parking and a quick walk to the booth
  • streets cleared and ready for set up
  • at early morning check in everyone received a breakfast bag with a bagel, etc.
  • plentiful volunteers

There were heavy rains (maybe 5") the night before so people were glad they had not set up on Friday night.

A few AFI members:

Kathy Funderberg                                                and Lou Ann Frey who does cool sgraffito glass



photographer Scott Pakulski                                         & his cool fan...




Although many of the artists were pretty local there were folks from Virginia and Tennessee, etc. 

On Saturday night they have a gala ticketed affair to honor a prominent artist from the region, drawing people late in the day to visit the show prior to the event. 

Easy to do, inexpensive, worth keeping an eye on for next year?

As a gardener I was fascinated by this shrub. Anyone know what it is?

Visit the show's website for more photos, a video of the event and lots more info:

and what the local press had to say:

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:  The original post of this story, and a substantial number of the comments that followed it, contained a one-paragraph reference to damage that occurred when a photographer's vehicle hit another artist's tent. 

The photographer contacted me by phone today to present his side of the story, which included some information that I was not aware of at the time. And he felt that I was unfairly painting him as a bad guy.

Although we disagree on whether it was appropriate for me to mention the incident at all, given that I was not in the vicinity when it occurred, the one point on which we do agree is that--whatever happened in the heat of the moment--eventually, the right thing is being done, and the issue is being amicably resolved through the parties' respective insurance companies. 

I took notes as he spoke.  And I offered to post a comment on his behalf presenting his side of the story and explaining his point of view.  He declined, not wishing to provoke another round of commentary. 

Many of you know I was a journalist long before Al Gore, or whoever it was, invented the Internet.  In the world of traditional print media, even today, reporters are taught to check their reporting with (at least) two sources before filing their story.  And although there are no such rules in the blogosphere, my instincts are always to do just that. 

Truth be told, I had the thought to try to get in touch with this photographer as I wrote that paragraph...and didn't do it.  And he deserved that. For that failure, I apologize.

So:  What to do to make this good?  As I promised the photographer I would do, I spoke at length with Connie Mettler (publisher of this site). She left it up to me. 

In figuring that out, I stepped back to look at the big picture--what was the point of writing the show review in the first place?  And that one's easy: I had found, on AFI and elsewhere, a decidedly mixed bag of opinions on this show.  And I felt that it was, and is, important to keep on the record that this show, for whatever reason, didn't give the vast majority of its participants a fair shot at success. 

So I'm not going to delete the thread.  I HAVE removed my account of the collision from the thread.  And, to address the issue of fairness, I HAVE deleted comments that mention the collision, or the photographer. To give everyone who posted a chance to read this update, I am going to leave it up for awhile.  At some future point, I'll delete the update so that all that remains is the post itself.

I understand that this may not be popular.  But I think it's the right thing to do.  If you disagree, you are welcome to text-message me and tell me.  (Please do not start another thread.) But just so we're all clear: The decision is mine, and mine alone.  Not Connie's.

Dismal attendance and sales at the so-called "Jacksonville" art festival, which drew 'way fewer than 2000 browsers, most from the immediate neighborhood. Although the festival was promoted by "the Shoppes at Avondale", the show itself was held in Boone Park, a pretty park in the Avondale neighborhood which unfortunately was some blocks' distance from the shops.  Very little signage to lure patrons from the surrounding streets, and no major arterial close enough to the show to afford visibility. Not that, in this 1920s-era neighborhood, it would have been easy to accommodate outsider parking, anyway.

The weather can't be an excuse.  Granted, it rained most of the day on Saturday; hardly anyone attended, and you couldn't blame them.  But Sunday was nice show weather--cool and partly cloudy--and most the folks I spoke with on Sunday had planned to come the day before, had the weather not been bad.

One fine artist near me--and I DO mean fine!--sold a single $4 notecard in two days. The jeweler next to me barely made (under $200) booth expenses, and said she "got price resistance all weekend." The photographer next to me sold about the same, and is retiring from the business.  The painter who won "best in show" sold a $7500 painting, but as one artist commented, " Good for him!  And that's probably more than the rest of us put together."

The organizers did a great job communicating before the show. But that's where communication ended, pretty much--they didn't even come by and thank us for attending, let alone ask how things were going.

Although there were some schlocky booths at the show, there were also some really superb artists and fine craftspersons, whose time and talents were largely wasted this weekend. And that's a shame. Based on the level of pre-show communication, I certainly expected better. 

You have been warned. :-(

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"March Madness" on the Florida show circuit

The last three weeks have been busy, so I'll try to wrap up three shows in a single review, and maybe by the end of this typing exercise a glimmer of a trend will have developed, and I'll feel smarter about this business than I do at the outset.

But first: Context!  As I've written earlier, with varying degrees of accuracy and/or persuasiveness:  This has been a puzzling Florida season. 

* Local (SW Florida) shows at which I've always killed 'em, have gone flat--leading me (and others) to speculate that 2-D artists in this overcooked market should "sell big...[hoping for that one big fish] or go home."

* More distant shows have largely held their own compared with 2012 totals.  So I've wondered, aloud, if it pays to travel more and assume the guise of "artist from afar." 

* Buyers are pickier, especially at the big shows that present more choices (and any show that has competition right down the street (i.e.: Howard Alan v. Barry Witt, "The Battle for Bucks in Bonita Springs", which is definitely a blog title I wish I'd written).  This buying behavior, taken to the extreme by market conditions, leads to lots of "be-backs" throughout the weekend, and, for too many of us, praying under our collective breath for  "4 o'clock miracles" on Sunday afternoon. 

Thanks to an unusually early Easter weekend (which usually shoos the snowbirds back north until the first fall cold snap), we're now just about at the end of the season.  So, what have I learned in the last three weeks that will clear up the admittedly muddled view in the crystal ball?  Let's have a look. . .

Jupiter Art Fest By the Sea (March 9-10) is one of Howard Alan's biggest shows--well over 300 artists, extending pole to pole for over a quarter mile along A1A in Juno Beach (a.k.a. the slightly less monied suburb of Jupiter Island).  And an impeccably run show, it is!  With a location just down the road from Alan's Tequesta headquarters, the organization does everything it can to promote high attendance, manage artist access and egress smoothly, and bring in the very best artists it can.  A separate craft section on the south end of the show gives something for everybody, at any price point. And for the most part, this is a high-quality experience for patrons. 

HAE pulled out all the promotional stops, including having a special advertising insert in the local paper, strong signage near the venue, and great cooperation from both local police and the Florida State Patrol(!) in assisting artists and patrons alike getting into the show.And Howard, Debbie, Helayne, and the parking staff couldn't have done a better job.  They were on-site, accessible, and helpful throughout the event. 

Sales were decent for most of the artists I spoke with...though some commented that they fell short of expectations given the high traffic volume of attendees.  And, as you might expect with so many artists, a few folks I spoke with were raving about their totals, and a few were moaning.  Among the repeat exhibitors, it was more down (slightly) than up for most.

A first-time exhibitor at this show, I don't have any personal Jupiter history to reference.  But earlier this season I'd done an Alan show in Stuart and a month-long January exhibit at Dickinson State Park, and my Jupiter results were highest of all.  So overall, I was satisfied. 

The extraordinarily long show layout, coupled with limited patron parking close to the show, may inhibit folks from walking the entire show, or from buying large 2-D or bulkier 3-D items.  I'd like to see Jupiter implement  "patron pickup booths" so that visitors could buy a large or hard-to-handle item and get a claim check they could use to pick up their item(s) by car later. 

Next stop:  Key Biscayne Festival of the Arts (March 16-17): another Alan show, in another town where I'd never exhibited.  And what a different experience it was!  This event was founded years ago by the local Rotary, and (at some point in the past) enlisted the Alan organization to run the art festival while the Rotarians concentrated on providing food, music, and entertainment for the kids and families. 

Despite the hard-to-miss venue in a spacious downtown park, there just wasn't any buzz happenin'.  Crowds were light to moderate, at best and the show had barely 100 artists (small, by Alan standards).  There were very high percentages of 2-D artists, especially photographers, and about 17% jewelry.  Functional 3-D art was lacking. 

And so were buyers. Many who visited were on bikes or rollerblades, suggesting to me that they were planning on visiting the park anyway, and then, hey! an art show broke out, so why not wheel on through? 

I talked to probably 15 artists, and only two were happy with their sales results.  I zeroed on Saturday, the first time that's ever happened in nearly 200 shows.  Three customers on Sunday bought small, but at least they broke the drought, and one (finally!) enthusiastic late-day visitor called me on Monday to order a large canvas, meaning I'd at least cover the booth fee and the (expensive, but charming) oceanside hotel room. 

I love Miami's culture, but my largely Gulf Coast bird art doesn't tug their heartstrings.  As my neighbor Sally, a funny and wise jeweler, put it: "People down here are into how much concrete they own, not how much wildlife they can see."  And, sadly, development has rendered this longest of Florida barrier islands into something more like Boca Raton than a vestige of Old Florida wilderness.  So, for me, this is a show best avoided. For anyone else, the high hotel and travel expenses make it a crap shoot.  Frankly, if I were Alan, I'd leave this one to the Rotarians and the local artists and concentrate resources on his Coral Springs show 75 minutes north, happening the same weekend. 

My last stop, and by far my most successful, was the Englewood Rotary Art Festival (March 23-24).  Nels Johnson blogged last year that this was a show like art shows used to be, and after a weekend that included winning Best in Show for 2-D, I'd have to say Nels was right on target (as usual).  Strong crowds--perhaps not rivaling Jupiter, but astonishing nonetheless, considering that this usually-sleepy town is more than a dozen miles off the heavily-beaten path of US 41.  A solid mix of categories, with none too dominant.  This crowd skews to the older side--a resident told me during Friday-night setup that "Folks retire and move to Venice.  And their parents move here  to Englewood!".

But come they do--from Englewood itself, and surrounding enclaves like Rotonda and Gasparilla,  starting  before the show officially opens on Saturday morning.  And, in an area that hasn't yet been oversaturated with shows like the rest of South Florida, they come to buy.

The area doesn't seem quite as heavily midwestern (Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin) as the surrounding areas of SW Florida.  Many of the seasonal visitors come from the northern tier of states--Michigan, Massachusetts, Maine.  A number from Virginia and Pennsylvania and the Delmarva Peninsula. And lots of folks from the UK and northern Europe.   

The (mostly) Friday setup was cheerfully managed by the Rotary volunteers, and there are a couple of funky mom-and-pop restaurants along the usually-sleepy main drag that seem to love the show and the crowds they bring.  The show ended at 4 PM both days (which, after 12 straight show weekends, almost made it feel like a vacation.) 

It was a weekend well spent in every sense of the word.  And if it didn't completely answer the questions I'd had about whether shows can still kick serious butt in the Florida circuit, it sure pointed in the right direction.  If only one could roll back the hands of time!

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I've reviewed this show extensively in the past.  For more background, see my blogpost from 2011.)

Hot, humid weather and white tents make for an unsavory sales environment.  Artists get cranky; customers go brain-dead.   And the high temps and humidity, under mostly sunny blue skies, drove the buyers indoors and scuttled sales at the Estero Fine Art Show in Miromar Outlets, Estero FL this weekend.

Which was a real shame, as Patty Narozny and her Hot Works staff delivered a reliably high quality show, in the face of competition from the Naples show on Fifth Avenue south.  But the attendance and buying energy, which showed a bit of promise on Saturday, disappeared entirely on Sunday as the temperatures and humidity both rose into the mid-80s. By Sunday afternoon my row had only a couple of dozen browsers, and I could see that customers were resisting coming into my south-facing tent, even though I had two portable fans running in an attempt to lure them in. 

For the second straight week, I didn't even hit four figures in sales.  Sold one canvas at a fairly deep discount, a smattering of 16x20 mats on Saturday, and nothing but 11x14 mats on Sunday.  No be-backs, no cash sales, and not many of what Nels calls "good shoes people" walking around.  As a result, I'm several thousand dollars behind my year-over-year pace--the first time in five years I've hit a downturn.  I didn't talk to a single artist who had a good show, although some said they did "okay", without enthusiasm. 

The artist across from me, who makes charming containers from recycled materials, came back for a return visit after she wowed the crowd at HotWorks' October 2012 Miromar show.  She won an award this weekend, and deservingly so, but could count her customers on one hand.  Like everyone else in my vicinity, she was shaking her head in wonder.  Load-out was the quietest I can ever remember, as everyone worked with grim efficiency to clear out and put this one behind them.

I have had a few conversations since Christmastime with folks I know from New Jersey, New York, Pa., and Delaware, and we're all wondering if our customer base from the Sandy-ravaged Northeast will be making the trip down to FL this year.  As a decidedly unscientific experiment, I swapped my usual wide brimmed straw "show hat" for a Phillies cap on Sunday--lots of folks from the Northeast  can't resist making a comment.  Only one customer all day said anything. 

It's early yet, of course, but this is two lackluster shows in a row, at a time of year when that's never happened.  Luckily, I opened up a solo show at Jonathan Dickinson State Park in Hobe Sound, clear across the state, on Friday night before heading back to Estero, and my work sold briskly over there on opening night.  Maybe I should charter a shuttle and bring 'em to Cape Coral next weekend. 


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Sanibel-Captiva Rotary A&C Show (Feb 16-17, 2013)

(I reviewed this show in depth two years ago.  Much of the background information can be read here.)

One glance at the long line of show-goers queued up along Periwinkle Way waiting for the gates to open at the Sanibel Rotary show, and you couldn't help but feel a bit optimistic.  This show is worth doing, once, just to experience the crowds spilling into the Sanibel Community Center grounds at the opening bell.   For many of us, it was art show madness until well after lunchtime: this is a local show, attended by residents and vacationers who know it's coming every year, plan accordingly, and, for the most part, intend to buy if they like what they see.

Except for lulls on late Saturday afternoon (thanks to an approaching cold front, which squelched the attendance and buying energy a little after 3 PM) and Sunday morning (50-degree temps and chilly winds, plus the usual early-Sunday-morning malaise), the crowds kept comin'.  By the show's end I'd had my best sales of the season, by a significant amount. 

But that happy report comes with a disclaimer:  A wildlife/bird photographer, I shoot about half my images on this beautiful island, or within 20 minutes of it.  And Sanibel, which eschews big-box development in favor of sugar sand, shelling, and biking trails, draws nature lovers like nowhere else--especially those who can afford to pay for it.  So, on a weekend nearly perfect for an art show (mostly sunny, and cool enough to keep folks away from the beaches), I'd expect to do well here. 

And lots of other folks, did too!  But, as with most shows these days, not everyone did: my neighbor, a accomplished 2-D artist with sunny, bright semi-abstract paintings of birds and beach scenes, sold only a few reproductions.  Another neighbor, who sold beautiful copper wall hangings and copper/glass tables, covered his nut but didn't show much profit, and isn't sure he'll return.  One local photographer did quite well; another just made expenses.

The general impression I got was that folks who had done the show before did well; first-timers, maybe, not so much.  But I hope those of you who exhibited weigh in below with a comment on your experience. I didn't have much time to walk the show. 

The weather was both hero and villain.  The Saturday-afternoon cold front dropped temperatures about 15 degrees between 3 and 4 pm, and winds whipped through the area until mid-morning on Sunday.  Several tents (E-Z Ups and their ilk) were flipped overnight; just about everyone was nervous. But luckily, there was no rain.  Sunday, once the winds died down, was more beautiful show weather than anyone, including the weather forecasters, expected.

Overall, this is a well-organized, decent-quality show (with a couple hiccups), attended by locals and seasonal Sanibel renters... not weekend tourists who are looking for a beach, a bargain, and a bratwurst.  It may take a year or two to sell here, but if your work catches a wave, a home run is possible.  If it doesn't, it can be an expensive area to "miss" in...but hey, there are worse places to hang out for the weekend. 

Quick notes:

Jury/Booth Fee:  $35/$275, separate checks, both cashed on receipt.  (They promise a refund if you don't get in, but don't say by when.  Hate that.)

Entry fee for patrons: Yes ($4).  But this is Sanibel, hardly anyone would mind.

Setup/teardown:  Setup Fri., noon to 6 pm arrival time (gates closed at 6).  The truly strong-hearted (or light-loaded) could wait 'til early Saturday. A tight layout but access was well coordinated, if somewhat over-managed at times, by the Rotarians.  Parking was along the road just east of the show center, across busy Periwinkle Way, but the Rotary folks, aided by the local police during show hours, managed the traffic and logistics just fine.

Teardown started at 4 PM Sunday at show close. Again, well managed.  Nearly everyone was on the road by 6:15, despite the tight quarters. 

Artist amenities:  Awards (listed below); water, boothsitters available. Restrooms in the Community Center.

Marketing: They added a newly-designed website (very professional) and gave each artist their own web page featuring the works submitted to the jury.

Art donation request:  Yes, on Saturday morning.  But they weren't pushy about it. 

Bonus amenities:  A shipping service was advertised (courtesy of a local retailer, who touted the ability to ship to Canada, Germany, and the UK, whose citizens flock to the island).  But I found out on Sunday morning that they were a no-show. 

Other tips for artists: 

* There aren't any chain motels, chain shopping, or chain anything on Sanibel.  Best bet is to use Priceline, etc. and search in S. Fort Myers, only 15 minutes away from the show site.  Cheapest prices, such as they are this time of year, are along US 41 and in North Fort Myers, but it's a 35-minute ride, at best.  Trailer Parks are all off-island, according to the show organizers.

* There is a $6 toll to get from the mainland onto Sanibel (one way). Plan accordingly.

* The show takes place on fine-grained sand, so be prepared to dust and clean your work and your tent in the week after the show.  If it rains...even worse!

* There is ANOTHER show at the same venue one month later--run by the Sanibel-Captiva Lions.  Compared with this show, it's generally hotter, not quite as well attended (it's a Friday/Saturday event), juried to a lesser standard, and (although it's possible to have a gangbuster show) the Lions' show doesn't have the cachet that this one does.


There were awards, though (the judge(s) must have been incognito.  I never saw 'em.)  All winners got ribbons and a free jury fee ($35 value) for next year's show.  1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners got cash prizes ($300, 200, 100, respectively).

Two-Dimensional Art

1st Place  -- Katie Wilson
2nd Place -- Ronnie Phillips
3rd Place -- David Bruner
Honorable Mention:  Edgar Reims and Janet Searfoss

Three-Dimensional Art

1st Place  -- Kit Karbler
2nd Place -- Susan Livingston
3rd Place -- Russ Schmidt
Honorable Mention:  Ron Lemoine and Toby McGee

Creative Crafts

1st Place  -- Obayana Ajanaku
2nd Place -- Katie Gardinia
3rd Place -- William Greenwood
Honorable Mention:  Luc Century and Carol Clay

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(Bill Slade just reminded me/us to post a review of this first year show. Bill: Was wondering what happened to you guys--hope you're feeling better! Here's my review:)

It takes nerves of steel to launch a new show in Florida, the Land of Outdoor Art Fair Over-saturation.  It takes commitment and execution to pull off a winner. And based on what I saw and heard this past weekend, Bill Kinney/Paragon Events' Sarasota Fine Art Festival did the improbable, if not impossible: hit a home run in downtown Sarasota. 

This was a well-advertised, well-communicated show by any measure.  The ad schedule distributed to artists several weeks before the event listed heavy print and online media play, and included plenty of directional signs, flashing billboards (ART SHOW...TURN HERE) to attract the attention of traffic on nearby US 41 and shoppers nearby.  I didn't see the Goodyear blimp, nor dancing monkeys wearing sandwich boards on nearby street corners, but these are minor quibbles.  Kinney had done his homework. And it paid off with steady crowds, not of browsers, but ACTUAL BUYERS. 

I had five people browsing my bins as soon as I had them set up on Saturday morning.  And although my large canvas wraps still weren't selling on a par with my 2012 numbers, there were plenty of large matted prints heading out the front door late into the day. 
Sunday started slowly, but by 1 PM a repeat performance was in full swing, and some late-day canvas sales pushed my sales into high-water territory for this still-young 2013 season. . .in a town where, for whatever reason, I've had a tough time achieving strong results.

My neighbors all were at least satisfied, and several were quite pleased, "especially for a first-year show," said one.  "You never know what you're going to get.  Couldn't have asked for better." 

Kinney reported the show sales results on Monday morning in an email to artists, including breakdown of median and average sales by category for the 66 exhibitors (of 75 total) who reported their sales to him as he strolled the show, notebook in hand, late Sunday afternoon. 

Show quality was excellent, and that's not just my opinion; that's what a number of customers were telling me.  Traditional 2-D art, beautiful functional art, art that made me think, and quirky stuff that made me laugh.  Not a buy-sell booth anywhere. 

Paragon is developing a reputation for exceptional communication with exhibitors, businesses, and sponsors and for doing the little things fully and well.  I, for one, am glad to see it paying off.  And it looks like the buying public is noticing, too.  

Show notes:
* Booth fee: $395 single/$790 double/$50 corner. You can apply through Zapp, but payments are made directly to Paragon.

*Setup: Early Saturday morning. Drive in as directed, then pull right up to your booth. Simple.

* Teardown: Same as above, stress-free.  I was on the road by 7 pm. 

* Artist amenities: None, unless you count the catered artist party Saturday night. Delish!

* Areas for improvement: 

   --The show stayed open until 6 pm Saturday, which all agreed turned out not to be a money-maker.  Next year's show will close at 5, Kinney reports.

   --There was a little confusion over which parking garage behind the show was the one intended for artists.  Several of us pulled into the wrong one and were directed across the street (whoops).  An "Artist Parking" sign next year would be helpful.  (I also learned that my "high-boy" Ford Transit, with roof rack, is 86 inches high, not the 84 inches advertised.  Luckily, the Selby Library had a nice, big lot only two blocks away.)




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After a show-free December, I was anxious to get the cash register ringing at Coconut Point, Howard Alan's first event of Florida high season (or "last-show-of-the-year", depending on your perspective).  I'd invested not much money but quite a bit of time during the break installing the Square's point-of-sale software and Fresh Books cloud accounting and reporting software, putting all my items into its inventory and price point systems, and figuring out how I could tweak them to get an at-a-glance view of the business in 2013.  I was really looking forward to seeing how that improved the customer checkout experience.

Unfortunately, but through no fault of the Howard Alan folks, I didn't gather much data--or moolah, either.  Instead of my speedy, high-tech gizmos, I could have gone all retro and serviced my few customers with a stone tablet and abacus beads and not missed a beat.

The crowds came strong, as they always do, to this jewel of the Southwest Florida shopping scene.  And some folks sold very well, indeed.  But I was among the downtrodden on this trip, selling less than I'd sold at the much smaller Naples Thanksgiving show, and about two-thirds less than past experience here had led me to expect.

I didn't do a great deal of walking around during show hours, but I did a lot of asking around during load-out.  And it seems that the folks who fared best (sales of $4K and up on the weekend) were selling at high price points: Large paintings and photographs for the high-ceilinged, Mediterranean-style homes in this area (at price points of $800 and up); expensive glass sculptures, and the like.  Some folks, like myself, who didn't meet expectations were selling at middle price points, and, as more than one artist said to me, "the middle class folks weren't buying."  A jeweler near me had sold one item as of early Sunday afternoon; a painter finally had a $1200 buyer (for a half-dozen reproductions) in mid-afternoon of Day 2 to get her, more or less, in the black. A photographer friend had a decent show, thanks to a single large buyer.   Another artist nearby, like myself, struggled to crack $1K.

I had lots of traffic through my booth, to be sure: About a half-dozen folks who are about to close on new homes, but not quite at the "furnishing stage";  some potentially nice marketing opportunities (about which more later); but no buyers of my (typically) 24x30 inch canvases of Florida bird life, at price points from the low $200s to high $400s. (Last year, I sold seven.)

Matted prints moved slowly, too, as browsers didn't seem impressed with a "15% off both if you buy two" offer. I might have done better, had I adjusted on the fly.

Lots of the stores surrounding the show had 20 to 50 percent off signs in their windows; maybe that's what the middle-income shoppers were looking for.  But the word around the tents was that, if Joe Sixpack was made nervous by fiscal cliffs and bills from Christmas past, the upper-income buyers weren't.  And that may be an observation worth paying attention to as the winter season continues.

"Go big, or go home," as they say. 


Other notes:

*This is a Friday, all-day, setup show.  Easy and well-managed.  Artist parking was tightly restricted this year to the row at the far edge of the movie theatre lot that hosts it.  It's a brisk seven-minute walk to the near edge of the show, but an artist shuttle was provided to help out, and it seemed to do the trick.  

* It's a busy, busy shopping center, especially with the show falling only four days after Christmas. (I overheard a clerk in the Barnes & Noble store referring to "gift-card-from-Grandma season.") A few visitors mentioned that parking for the show was a bit of a hassle.

* Give yourself lots of time for tear-down: The shopping lots stay filled late at Coconut Point, so if you're hoping to find a spot on the edge of the show and dolly out, it can be a long wait to find space.  Many artists just ordered takeout from one of the restaurants and waited until they could pull past the barricades and up to the front of their tent.

* Show quality was very good, as usual for an HAE "A" show.  Maybe a little heavier on photography than in years past.  Quality may have benefited even more from the lack of a competitor down the road in Naples: The von Liebig's first Fifth Avenue show isn't until next weekend.


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