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Oldham Arts on CityPlace 2016 - Lagrange, Kentucky- November 12&13

This was a small indoor show, for the most part, held in a civic center in Lagrange, Ky, about 22 miles north-east of Louisville just off I-71. It was divided across two civic buildings or small convention halls with about 72 artists there.

About ten artists were located outside on the portico of the buildings, where they were afforded free electricity and reduced booth fee. These locations required a tent. The weather was a bit iffy for the outside venues, fairly chilly on Saturday but not so bad on Sunday. I noticed several of the booth outside chose to have open sides. Call me a weenie, but these old bones would have had sides up and the Mr. Heater Buddy propane heater fired up. I opted for the inside location at the higher price and an extra $20 for the electricity.

Set up started on Friday at noon, and was a little slow waiting for a few parking spaces to open up. Looking at the supplied map, I thought there was a drive up to the rear doors. No such luck as I found out there was a concrete walkway behind the hall and a ten foot dropoff down to a neighbor's backyard. I knew I should have brought a real dolly instead of a dinky folding platform cart :-( I was able to start unloading about 12:45 or so, which wasn't too terribly bad.

The hall is a city owned property so the hours of operation were quite firm, and they closed the doors and kicked us out at 5:00. I did the show by myself and it took longer to set up than normal. At 5:00 all I had done was to get the panels up, get the lighting wired up, and about a third to half of the prints hung. Part of the problem is that no storage space is included behind the booth, so it's either allocate part of of your normal space for storage or take it to your vehicle. I lucked out is one respect in that an alcove was across from me where the organizers plugged in a tablet with a Pandora music channel hooked to the PA system. They wanted that covered up so the unattended iPad would still be there, so my outside wall that had a useless pipe and drape there covered up the alcove and I had a place to store my tubs.

The layout of the show was a bit narrow but adequate for the crowds. Booth fee was $200 and I paid $25 extra for a corner spot. Unfortunately the outside wall was in a dead corner and few people noticed there were pieces hanging back there, although I did sell a framed piece that was back there.

Although this is an indoor show in a convention hall, the lighting reeks. There were large dark shadowed areas on my panels. I almost brought a couple tubs of drafting table lights, but decided that was too much trouble to hook up and used a couple of 300 watt equivalent LED lights that lit up the 10x10 space very brightly. Definitely bring your own lighting to this show.

Attendance was down considerably from last year, and everyone blamed it on the post-election blahs. The area itself is conservative Republican, but more of an old-money small town. It is a prosperous area and the demographics have it as an upper income and well educated area. It should have been better, but many of the artists are repeat exhibitors which speaks of decent sales for many in the past.

A few artists did do well, as usual, and many were struggling. All I did was earn back the booth fee, and wound up with about a $150-200 loss considering gas money and cost of the work. It was unusual as there were talkers who were interested and educated in what they liked but just couldn't get to the tipping point to make the buy. I feel there is promise there and will give it another try for one more year.

Tear down went quickly for most people, and were out of there after an hour to an hour and a half. The rental time was for up to 7:00PM, with tear down starting at 5:00PM. Myself and some others were a bit slower and some of the staff was getting antsy at the extra time as they were going to get fined by the city for the time past the contract. We finally just moved everything we could out to the loading dock and finished loading outside. It was about 8:15 when two of us were the last to leave.

As far as organization goes, it was well done with lots of volunteers coming around checking on you to see if you needed a potty break or lunch. Meals were offered outside by food trucks which had decent prices and high quality food. One day I picked up a club sandwich, chips, and a drink for $9. The sandwich was touted as a club but it was more like a "Dagwood" than a club and I wasn't able to eat the entire thing.

Assistance was given at tear down to help cart stuff out to the parking lot and loading spaces. That really did help and was appreciated. My sales were very disappointing, but others were worse. Another photographer there told me all he had sold by mid-Sunday afternoon were greeting cards. He had done shows for 8 years and was seriously considering pulling the plug on doing more shows.

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Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on November 28, 2016 at 11:29pm

Thanks Robert.  I like reading your reviews. 

I would not have taken an outdoor booth, I am with you on that.  I couldn't stand to be out there all day if it was cold. 

Congrats on winning your award.  At least winning an award helps some if you didn't have great sales. 

Comment by Richard L. Sherer on November 28, 2016 at 8:59am
Thanks for posting a comprehensive review. The site needs more of these.
Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on November 27, 2016 at 9:40pm

Congratulations Robert!

Comment by Karen Holtkamp on November 27, 2016 at 4:46pm

I was there as well for the first time, and had similar results as Robert.  I cleared expenses, including the booth, electricity, corner space, hotel and rental van with just a few hundred $ left over.  Yes, I over-expensed for this small local/regional show, which I'll need to correct for next year.

I was quite impressed with the organization for this show.  It's run and staffed by members of the Oldham County Arts Council and they certainly planned the event from an artist's perspective.  They know what you need, are pleasant and are eager to help. They even provided a hot, homemade buffet breakfast on Saturday morning.  It was a pleasure to deal with this group.

Both the staff and returning artists said the crowd was down from previous years.  It's a fairly new show, only the fourth or fifth year, so they're still building their presence.  And yes, many people are worried after this year's election so that could have been the problem.

The quality of art was good and provides a good base to build upon.

My only quibble was the Zapp exposure.  Normally when a show is on Zapp, in my opinion at least, it's a statement that the show is worth the attention of artists from across the country (i.e. Zapp's readership).  If they want to solicit artists from distant states they need to be very clear in their prospectus about what the show is.  It IS a local/regional show that's hopefully growing but is still a lower revenue show (one artist told me he figured it was a $1200-$1500 revenue show).  If you have significant travel expenses you're basically doing the show for something other than making a stack of money, like seeing nearby relatives, piggybacking on another show in the region, etc.  I, too, will probably give the show another try next year. 

And btw, Robert is being shy and not telling you he won an award in the photography category. 

Comment by Robert Wallis on November 23, 2016 at 12:13pm
Kathleen, it is on ZAPP. There is a springtime show also, Arts on the Green that is supposed to be decent.
Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on November 23, 2016 at 11:33am

Great review Robert.  And not too far from me.  I'll have to look into it for next year.  Was it on Zapp?

Comment by Christina L. Towell on November 23, 2016 at 9:42am

Terrific review, Robert, too bad it wasn't a better show for you but it does sound like there's potential there and I'm glad to hear that you may give it another shot.  Thanks for sharing this with us.

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