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Loosening the purse strings in Venice (Nov. 2-3, 2013)

The Venice Art Festival has been my launchpad for the winter season since I got in the business six years ago.  The crowds that visit this Howard Alan show are good sized, they come year after year, and many of them are newly-arrived snowbirds from the upper midwest and Canada who are looking to decorate the winter homes. 

I've never had a bad show here, but in most years the visitors buy small.  That wasn't the case this year: it wound up as the best Venice show I've ever had.   The buying energy persisted all weekend, except for an understandable lull as a cold front and squalls moved through late on Saturday morning.

When the front passed, it took the overbearing humidity with it: Sunday brought crystal blue skies and a feeding frenzy, at least in my space.  I sold six good-sized Gallery Wraps on day 2 (not a record, but typically the kind of sales I see in deeper-pocketed Naples and Sarasota). 

More tellingly, perhaps, I had no less than a dozen folks tell me that they had either just bought a home, they were redecorating one they'd bought a few years ago, or they had a new home under contract.  Last year, at the same show, I had two or three folks say the same. (And yes, I keep track by maintaining a New Homeowner's mailing list).  The numbers of artists who told me they had a good show was in double figures--not everyone I talked to, but pretty close.  The buyers didn't seem to discriminate: Jewelers, 2-D, functional pottery, glass all did decently, from what I heard.  I was 'way too busy to take a survey.

One show does not a trend make, of course, but coupled with the reports I'm reading about the housing market heating up, and what I hear from my brother (who is in the mid-to-high end furniture biz for a Fort Myers/Naples chain, and is writing business with both hands these days), maybe there's a glimmer of hope for the winter season.

I thought I'd reviewed this show last year, but couldn't find it.  So here's some additional scoop for the unfamiliar: 
* The show runs along Venice Ave., the main downtown district, filled with small-storefront retail and restaurants.

* As a Howard Alan downtown show, there's no Friday setup.  Officially, check-in starts at 5 AM Saturday, but some artists were around as early as 3:30 AM to get started.  Drive up to your space, unload, then move to artist parking in a bank parking lot.  (Some parts of Venice Ave. are divided by a concrete barrier dividing east-and west-bound traffic; if you have a space in those sections, you can park right behind your booth, on the east-bound side.)  As in most Alan events, the tents are pretty tight side to side, but most booths have some storage area behind. 

* There's a Costco booth where you can grab cold water, pre-packaged muffins (on Saturday), or fruit (on Sunday).  No coffee either day.  Lunch is on your own, but several of the enterprising restaurants delivered fliers offering meals at a discount. 

* There are a couple of hotels (Best Western Plus, Holiday Inn) off the Jacaranda Rd. exit (#193) of I-75, about 10 minutes' drive from the show.  There are also a couple of national chain hotels in North Port, 20 minutes south, and lots more in Sarasota, about the same distance to the north. 

I hope some of the other artists chime in with comments--and that someone takes on reviewing Alan's St. Armands show being held this coming weekend (Nov. 9-10) in Sarasota.  I'm taking the weekend off to attend a workshop, but it would really be nice to hear on AFI if the buying spree continues...or not.

Views: 517

Comment by lori kay on November 5, 2013 at 1:45pm

I've been doing this show for six years and with the exception of last year this is a consistently  good show for me. This year my sales were tripled from last year. I meet many new artists this year that were new to HA shows, welcome all. The quality of art at this show was amazing and by all the comments from the public, they agreed.

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on November 8, 2013 at 9:09pm

Thanks Geoff.  I, too, hope that some others will write about their experience there.  We would love to have several view points.

Comment by Christina L. Towell on November 11, 2013 at 8:57am

Yes, it does sound like a glimmer of hope...what about Winter Art Fairs in other parts of the Country?  Can anyone else offer up some good news?


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