Art Fair Insiders

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This entry is from my friend Lynn Fisher who does wonderful porcelain and stoneware work. I'm copying this to my blog (with her permission) because I think it's important that we bring to light how some shows deal with a tragedy in an artist's life. Luckily, it's not all shows...



"I'd closed my home and studio up in mid-January and was gone for the next five-and-a-half months, working and doing fairs in Florida, and didn't get home until last Saturday. My brother was going to open the place up, turn on the water, etc., and discovered a fire just starting in the studio when he walked in the door. He turned off the gas, which stopped the fire, called 911, and then called me while I was still a couple hours from home. Apparently a tiny leak had formed in the furnace gas line which was near an outlet; the gas shot right into the outlet, feeding it a tiny but steady stream of gas that wasn't enough to blow the place up but was still enough to create lots of creosote. Some wood nearby had actually started to burn when he opened the door.


It might have started days ago, possibly even two weeks ago when there was an electrical storm here and two huge poplars were completely split open after being struck by lightening. That may have caused a short or spark in that particular outlet that may have hit the flexible metal gas line nearby. It all sounds stupid, especially since the furnace man had installed the gas line so close to the outlet. They were both hidden behind the furnace; if I'd known about it I would have had it changed immediately.

The photos don't do the damage justice, since most of the soot or creosote rose in the heat, covering the ceiling and 2/3s of the upper walls. Surprisingly, it didn't stick to certain surfaces -bisqued molds, for example, or some of the fabrics. The windows are still black in these photos, although moths and flies have left some delicate patterns of light where they brushed against the glass. I've since wiped some of the windows to let in more light but I'm not sure which is worse, the dark studio or or the light one that shows just how awful the place is. It's like a little den of horrors, a nightmare.

Once the studio is cleared out it will be gutted and rebuilt, but it will be several weeks before I can move back in. I won't get my hopes up for anytime earlier than mid-July.

Arg. What a thing to come home to! At least it isn't the total loss that it is for all those people who've been wiped out in floods or tornadoes. I feel really fortunate that it isn't worse!

So here it is, Bonnie, ready for you to share however you like. I think it might be nice to show what Old Town and its cavalier attitude is like to those of us artists who are suddenly faced with a situation completely out of their control. They are truly compassionate, sticking by their rules, and then making it even worse by telling me I don't need to apply again next year."

 

This was the show's response...

Hi Lynn:  Thanks for the email and photos.  We're going to have to be tough here, despite your obvious trouble, as it is less than two weeks until the show and we'll have to scramble to find a replacement for you.  Further, it is our clearly-stated policy that late cancellations do not receive a refund and the artist may not apply to the next year's show.  We must stick to the policy here.  I'm sorry for all you're going through.  We'll miss having you and wish you all the best.

 

Joan Goldstein

Exhibitors Committee Co-Chair

Views: 216

Comment by Connie Mettler on June 2, 2011 at 12:23pm
What a shame. Lynn has such wonderful work (I even have a small collection of it). Surely Old Town isn't quite so cavalier, but it is hard to understand this response from them.
Comment by Shoshana Matthews on June 2, 2011 at 12:52pm

Which Old Town show is this.  I'd like to avoid it in the future!!  Sorry, Lynn, for your losses.  Hope you recover quickly.

 

Comment by Bonnie Blandford on June 2, 2011 at 12:53pm
This is Chicago
Comment by geri a. wegner on June 2, 2011 at 4:47pm

 I told my husband what happened and the first words out of his mouth were "that's not fair".  I mentioned that I felt like writing a letter to the directors of the festival and he said I should, so I did.

I mainly said that not being able to apply to next year's show was adding insult to injury when someone had to cancel and that a show as prestigious as Old Town would not have cancellations unless it was the last resort for an artist.

I am still going to the show because there is a particular artist that I want to see but the excitement about going has definitely been tempered.  

Comment by Bonnie Blandford on June 2, 2011 at 5:03pm
Thank you Geri!
Comment by Leslie Christopher Bookout on June 2, 2011 at 5:51pm
I would definitely boycott that show. I suppose I could put up with a denial of a refund, but being "black-balled" for next year's show is outrageous!
Comment by Lynda Wallis on June 2, 2011 at 8:07pm
Bonnie-Lynn, What a dreadful story.  What a horrible tragedy to face upon your return home. The show's producer missed the mark by...how many members are there on AFI.com, upwards of 5,100+...missed the mark by 5,100 fine artists who potentially could read about this treatment and boycott the Old Town Art Fair. If producers want to continue to earn a living producing shows they MUST be more compassionate to the realities faced by traveling artists today, perhaps even lower booth fees to encourage artists to come back in the upcoming years. Very bad call by Old Town producers. So sorry for your loss Lynn.
Comment by MICHAEL ALAN STIPEK on June 2, 2011 at 9:27pm

I'm so sorry for Lynn's loss.  Several weeks ago, a friend of mine lost $30,000 worth of her hand-created ceramics in a sudden gust of wind at a show.  She was going to cancel out of a show one month later, since the only work she had left was what she had in backstock; being a ceramicist/potter, the lead time for creating new work from scratch can take many weeks.

I badgered her into doing a show that we were in last weekend (the Downtown Denver Arts Festival); she reluctantly took what work she had left.  She had great sales (she owes me a glass - or two - of a good wine!)!  And she has her faith in herself and her wonderful work restored.

This vignette doesn't help Lynn, her loss, her subsequent treatment by OTAF, but I hope she doesn't feel alone in the sadness of her charred studio.  We are all in this life together.

Comment by Connie Mettler on June 2, 2011 at 9:55pm

I did contact the Old Town Art Fair directly and here is the response I received:

Sierra, Connie and Geri:
 
Thanks to each of you for contacting the Old Town Art Fair concerning Lynn Fisher and our handling of her late cancellation due to her studio fire.  I have had a chance to talk further with Lynn and to apologize for sounding, unintentionally, cavalier about her situation.  We will be refunding most of her booth fee to her shortly and I think she and I felt mutually satisfied with how this came out.
 
The cancellation policy that we have has been in effect for decades and perhaps should be reviewed after this year.  Please understand that the intent of the policy, which guided to our handling of Lynn's late cancellation, is to keep to a minimum the challenge of finding artists at the last minute to fill canceled booth spaces.  Empty spaces affect the overall quality of the show and we try hard to avoid them.
 
Thank you for your interest, concern and understanding.
 
Joan Goldstein
Exhibitors Committee Co-Chair
Old Town Art Fair

Unlike many of the big name art fairs, Old Town is run by a dedicated committee of volunteers.

Comment by Bonnie Blandford on June 2, 2011 at 10:29pm
Lynn just contacted me and shared the good news. The power of having people go to bat for you! Thank you all from both myself and Lynn!

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