Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Okay, Nels. You shamed me into it, but only because I have something to say about the set-up in Mt. Dora.
Mt. Dora is a charming town just North-West of Orlando. The downtown is full of galleries, boutiques, restaurants and small-to-large parking lots. It is surrounded by a grid-pattern of residential streets.
For the Friday afternoon setup you go to a church a few blocks away and check in by showing an ID and getting your space number, load-in time and parking area. The set-up times are staggered with the earliest being 5:30 PM. My time was for 5:45. I had a few hours to kill so I went downtown and found my space and assigned parking lot. My "lot" was actually a section of street parking reserved for artist in my area and was only a block away from my booth location. While sitting in my van in my assigned "lot" a police car came by and told me I had to move. When I told him I was just waiting to set-up he said I had to leave and could only approach set-up from one of two specific entry points. It was then that I remembered my past experiences with the Mt. Dora Gestapo. The folks from The Mt. Dora Center for the Arts plan it out and the police come along and screw it up.
I then had to drive for blocks and blocks around the cordoned off downtown through the residential streets to the opposite end of town from my booth location and cue-up behind six blocks of artist vehicles slowly rolling and stopping every few yards, All this during Mt. Dora's prodigious small-town rush-hour. Now understand, all the artists assigned parking in the lots spread out through the downtown are already there and ignoring their set-up times and are setting-up in lanes that are suppose to be open for those of us who have to run the gauntlet for blocks to get to our spaces. It is the most dysfunctional cluster-f__k you can imagine. And remember, I was originally parked a short block from my space on a street with absolutely no traffic on it.
One-third of the show is set up for about 5 blocks on the main street of town (Donnally Street) with artists on both curbs and the other two-thirds of us are set up on the cross streets and one block parallel to main street. Many spaces are on hills and slops that make for a difficult booth layout. In the 15 years I've done this show on and off, I have never been on the main street. A friend of mine told me at check-in he said something like, "Damn, same old lousy space as last year", and the lady said, "Would you like a spot on Donnally?" He jumped at it and I later found out there were as many as 30 open spaces on Donnally.
My space was an improvement over previous years and I was next to a friend of mine, also a photographer (our work is not similar). Finishing my set up after dark, I drove out a street that went straight out of the area but, at the first intersection, I was told I had to turn down the dead-end street to my right and exit out a parking lot at the end. So down I go and what do I find in the dark, unlit parking lot? Two artists trying to back their trailers into parking spaces and then getting out to unhitch the units and then move their cars again. It took me 10 minutes to get back to the intersection that was one clear block away from where I was told to go right!
I go into this detail to show how some shows shoot themselves in the foot by trying to control every facet of set-up and tear-down. Fortunately, the police officer at my intersection this year was the only one who would not have been hanged at Nuremberg. Against orders, he followed common sense and let us in where we should have entered for set-up. He said, "You guys do this every weekend, how do you want to do it?"
By the time the show opened at 10 AM. Saturday morning, my neighbor and I had already made sales. He sold his biggest piece for $1700. My sales were brisk all day but I had only one sale over $200. The crowds were huge and mostly from Orlando. The artist's hospitality station supplied snacks and drinks both days and they tried to get artists to attend the Sunday morning awards breakfast by offering 10 $100 door prizes. I had no piece picked for judging and didn't attend. I never did see any ribbons.
My sales for Saturday were almost $2K, but Superbowl-Sunday could only produce half of that as the crowd really fell off after 3 PM. All of my neighbors were pleased with their sales, but friends from other sections mostly complained. One photographer friend was on the hill in front of the Art Center and said he did $1150 on Saturday and only $150 on Sunday.
One thing I've never seen before was the two attendants at each bank of port-o-potties. They kept them clean and well supplied all weekend. The tip-jar was prominently displayed.
My friend next to me told me a story of how he was standing in front of his booth and he heard a commotion next to him in front of my booth. He said some people were telling a man with a camera that he wasn't suppose to photograph my pictures as there was a "No Photography" sign displayed on my booth. My friend, also a photographer, stepped in and made sure the man moved on. Then he caught the same guy 3 more times trying to copy a photo on the front of my booth from various distances. Each time my friend would step in front of the piece. I'm sure the man eventually succeeded. Why is it, in this digital age, everyone seems to think all imagery is free for the taking just because he can?
My booth at Mt. Dora. My neighbor stands guard.