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Okay, I'm conscious again and finished getting ready for the next go round so I figured I'd get this posted before it was time to hit the road again.This was a first time show for me, thought I'd do something different and besides which, it was a good excuse to do the Route 66 road trip through Oklahoma again. Last time I did that was 20 years ago, my how things have changed, I'm glad I did the road trip first, read on!

Some might say (Nels?) this is a grueling show to do as it is 6 days but, as I was told, you never know what the weather is going to give you here in OKC so the 6 days is a fair trade in case you lose some to weather. We lucked out this year, I was told last year was so cold you had to take a hot bath each day to thaw out, the weather was near perfect. Temps were in the 70's, mostly sunny, some clouds but NO rain during the show, well it did sprinkle once on the first day and poured rain during the artists dinner on Tuesday but no big deal.

After a while you start to wonder what day it is and I entertained my neighbors with "I Got You Babe" by Sonny and Cher each morning, remember Ground Hog Day, it was sorta like that.

This is one of those "commission" shows, sort of,  so if you don't like returning 20% to them stay away. Read more about that below in my reflections.

Met Barry Bernstein, whom Nels is always mentioning in his blogs, he looked familiar and I think I remember him from maybe 28 years ago so maybe this isn't the first time I ran into him. He wouldn't have remembered me, I had a lot more hair back then, Barry still has his dammit! (I Got You Babe).

When I met James Parker at The Woodlands Waterway show he said he didn't recognize me from my picture as I appeared shorter than my reviews, okay this ones for you bud. On to the details which, by-the-way, the devil is always in...but I don't believe in him so who cares?

Show Hours and Dates: Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts - Oklahoma City, OK

April 22 - 27 Patrons preview at 7:30 AM on the 22nd otherwise 11-9 most days and 11 - 6 Sun

Logistics:

The show is set up on a side street adjacent to the Myriad Botanic Gardens in OKC. If you show up Sunday night it is less confused as there were only a handful of people setting up then. Monday not-so-much, unless you get there early or later. The street is very narrow as the booths they provide take up most of the space and, when one or more unconscious artists park their vehicles diagonally adjacent to their booths, it is almost impossible to get in or out. I went for a ride Sunday night just to figure out where the show was and decided to put up my lights when I got there. Good thing I did that but probably could have put up the whole shebang. Oh yeah, there are some ladders available but having your own 6 foot would be a plus. The tents are fairly tall and if you are vertically challenged you may not be able to reach up high enough to put the lights and other stuff in the most ideal position.

You need not worry if you have 3G or 4G or whatever, the show has you fill out sales forms, send the buyers to the pay station and they take care of the rest. They don't charge the charge card fees back to the artist just the commission on total sales. Down side, you have to wait to be paid. They have you submit a voided check with the application so they do a direct deposit to your bank or whatever some time after the show.

Amenities:

Great stuff. This is one of the good shows where they take a lot of pride in taking care of the artists. Great Tuesday night artists dinner and Thursday morning breakfast but, like me, by the time Thursday rolls around you forget they invited you, or you don't remember it's Thursday (I Got You Babe)! Plenty of water and snacks the rest of the week AND first class trailer potties, air conditioned, running water...as-well-as a building with restrooms for the artists and volunteers. The only criticism, and its a small one, booth sitters ("Artist Friends") tended to come around mostly in the morning and thinned out in the afternoon on some days, that's the worst I can say. Parking was one of the perks, they provided passes for a lot right across the street from the show! You know how most shows charge for electric, not so this one! They have this show down to a science, there are outlets built right into the planters and every booth is already wired for lights! You just have to plug in, however, if you need more than 4 outlets you better provide your own power strip or some-such-thing.

Storage, Booth Space, Load-In/Out:

This show is unique in that they provide the tents. Each tent is set up in a quad where each artist has 1/4 of the inside space. They provide metal mesh walls that are backed so that you can't see into the other artists areas. Many of the artists, probably the ones that have done this show a few times already, adapted their space either with propanels or built their own little environments. Not having done the show before I utilized the walls as given. Worked fine for me with my drapery hooks. Storage, fah-get-about-it! Although, those veterans of the show figured out how to use their propanels to create little closets in the corner of their booths. I just ran back and forth from the van, kept some small items in my propanel desk and the two boxes I kept next to the desk as a table.

Demographics/Buying Trends:

The whole range showed up. This is a big deal show for the area, although there is another show later in the season, people really come out. People came from the greater metropolitan area (which used to be small independent towns at one time!) All age ranges and types. Sales, better be prepared with a range. Although the high end stuff did sell those with a range sold more often. Smalls ($25) and mediums ($130-$230) made up the bulk of my sales but people that were interested didn't balk at the higher end. My neighbor was selling well at the $125 range and did well in the $1800 range as well. Well above that was selling as well.
The crowd was very appreciative, asked good questions, knew their stuff and were very engaged, not the walking dead. You know the ones, they walk by and don't even look at the art booths let alone talk to the artists, they grab the lemonade and popcorn and that's it! I didn't see a lot lemonade or popcorn at this show, maybe some beers!

Quality/Range of Art:

It takes a bit to impress me after all these years, I've seen most stuff. I did a walk around early on Tuesday and was very impressed for the most part at the quality and variety of the art. There was stuff there that I considered buying! They also did a good job with the balance of media (there were not a bazillion jewelers or photographers for example!)

Food:

There was the usual "Fair Food", a lot of over priced interesting items as-well-as some reasonably priced items; hotdogs, empenadas, etc. Nearby was the La Luna Mexican restaurant and after hours if you can stand to eat after 9 PM the Bricktown area has a lot of restaurants.

Reflections:

This was a show of two faces. The first show took place from Tues-Thurs. Tuesday morning you have to be open at 7:30 as they have a Patrons program. I like that idea, it brings out the sponsors and I think they pledge to purchase. The artist who gets there purchase gets to put up a little certificate showing where the money was spent. There may be some purchasing going on but it is thin due to it being the work week. Then again, all age ranges were there looking. Some do the look around first and come back later with the spouse to actually purchase. The second show was Fri-Sun. Big crowds, lots of energy, lots of interest in the work and actual purchasing!

Speaking of age ranges, the show has two additional galleries. One is specifically aimed at the very young art buyer. Artists can donate 8 or more items for sale at $3 or $5 and you get a T-shirt in return. The items in the tots tent were generally inexpensive prints, unmatted, unframed...it was fun to see the young'ns come up to the artists booths to have the items signed and meet the artist! The other opportunity is the Artist Market specifically for reprints under $100. Here artists provide reprints that may be matted but all sales are in the $100 or under range. Great opportunity to make some more bucks.

I'm not sure if this is a down side or not, this is a major fund raiser for the Arts Council of Oklahoma City. Given that many, if not most states, have cut or never even given money to arts programs it feels good to know that fees go to an organization that helps the community rather than greedy promoters of unlimited shows. The initial booth fee is only $150 with the stipulation that if you meet the $2500 mark they will refund the booth fee in exchange for 20% of your income. Do the math for yourself but when you figure a show like Cherry Creek is asking for booth fees of, what now?, $750, it sort of balances out. It's like Obamanomics, those that earn more pay a little more and those that don't pay less. I'm okay with that. I talked with a few artists that didn't make the minimum so as I see it, for them it was sort of a consolation to have a low booth fee after 6 grueling days (I Got You Babe).

About those booths, given that there is no global weather change shows just don't have to worry about it right? But in the event that weather continues to plague the Sunshine or itinerant Artist, other shows might consider this set up or something similar. The booths are provided by the show, are heavy, are weighted down with big drums of water as-well-as the mesh panels inside. It was windy every day, not extreme, although I am told it can be (tornadoes anyone?). If it had been one of the almost extreme weather events those flimsy Easy Up-Up in the Airs and even domes would have been all over the place. Anyone remember the Palm Springs show in February 2012, if your not familiar with that show do a YouTube search. After 90 MPH sustained winds the only thing left was pick up sticks. Something to think about. NicFest in Casper, WY has big tents, some show in Milwaukee has a big tent, Balloon Fest in Albuquerque has the big top...got the picture? Nuf said.

Okay Dave Piper would I do this show again? Hell yes! It had to have been in the top five shows I've ever done. I was getting a little nervous after having spent 6 days there and who knows how much $$ to be there but it was well worth it. After having a dud show at Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival two weeks before and having "average" shows for quite a while this was a welcome respite.

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Comment by JEFF LEEDY on August 28, 2015 at 6:31pm

Sounds grueling but so are shows that cost a lot and earn little. Very comprehensive review, I may give it a shot. Thanks.

Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on May 16, 2014 at 11:29am

Great information from all of you.  Thanks.  I'd come just to hear "I Got You, Babe."  Still, it sounds pretty grueling.

Comment by Carol Joy Shannon on May 7, 2014 at 10:23am

'there" not "their" sorry.

Comment by Carol Joy Shannon on May 7, 2014 at 10:22am

Great review. You covered all the bases.  This was my second year, so I was one of those who brought my ProPanels etc.  This has been one of my best shows for the last two years.  The price points are important, but I sold everything from $150 to $2600 and LOTS of prints in the print tent.  Brian is right about the people, too: every walk of life.  You never know who is the big buyer either: one person who bought a big piece of mine just looked like a cowgirl, but she and her partner left the show with 8 significant pieces.  Quality is very good.  I bought several pieces from other artists.  As for payment?  Check your bank account, mine was in there this morning, two days earlier than promised.  The OKC folks have a well-oiled machine and they take pretty good care of us. That said: I forgot the Thursday breakfast too, and definitely ate too many of those pastries every morning!  I have to quibble with your review of the food, though.  This has one of the best food tent offerings anywhere, in my opinion.  The Brazilian tent and the Greek tent stand out, but I had Strawberries Newport one day for lunch and there is nothing like it.  Also, one of the reasons we think that Sat was slow and Sat night was dead, was that the Thunder were playing in Memphis.  Folks with big bucks were in Memphis. Last year Sat. and Sun. were my best days.  Anyone thinking of doing the show, keep a couple things in mind: clothes for every climate (this year's weather was an exception) and several pairs of really comfortable shoes.  Be ready to talk to thousands of people all day long for 6 days: kids, old folks, farm folks, city slickers, lots of business people on their lunch hours, serious collectors who wait for this every year, and, as Brian said, they care about the work.  They are not just their to eat roast corn!

Comment by Barry Bernstein on May 5, 2014 at 7:11pm

The people who did the best were first timers and locals. The potters I talked to were whining. This was my fourth year and I did a little less each year. I had a great first day, an ok second and third day, and could have gone home after Thursday. The crowd was extremely low end on the weekend. Someone on the committee even mentioned that they didn't know where these people came from. The show was still happy because they came for the free music and spent on the food. Once the best of my low end stuff was gone, I could have taken a nap in the artists lounge. Usually, Friday-Sun are very good, especially Saturday. What you missed was the artists lounge and real bathrooms to the left of the stage. They don't really tell you this. Setup and take down are easy. It took me a week to detox from the donuts, cookies, and the myriad of sugar that they give you. I won't buy the stuff, but, I have no self control. Don't kid yourself. You are paying for the electricity, breakfast, the dinner, those never ending donuts, soda, and cookies with your 20%. I reserve the right to change my mind. I think I will do the Texas shows next year and skip OKC.

Comment by Nels Johnson on May 5, 2014 at 2:44pm

What a great blog,Brian.  First class.

It sounds like a money-maker--but you will never find me at it--too many days, too many hours.  When would I have time to play a little golf?

Comment by margaret luttrell on May 5, 2014 at 10:16am

So happy this show kicked it into gear for you Brian- sounds like a show worth considering and except for the length- enjoyable to do. Woodland was so-so for me too and nice to hear this was a great show for you. Thanks for the well written and consise review.

Comment by Christina L. Towell on May 5, 2014 at 8:36am

Great critique...love it that they provide the tents, that's huge.  Glad you did well and would do it again...thanks for sharing so much useful information.

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