Art Fair Insiders

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Paragon's Sarasota Winter Fine Art Festival (Jan. 2015): Strong, strong show

With a weekend off and dreary skies over SW Florida, it's a great morning for little except sipping coffee and...um...blogging.  (Note to self: Develop more hobbies!) So, let's give a shout out to Bill Kinney and his crew at Paragon, and also to the Weather Gods, for delivering a superb show at Sarasota last weekend (1/17-18/2015). (Note to readers: Paragon uses this same venue for shows held in November and March.)

I've reviewed the January installment of this show several times before, so if you want lots of details on the show location and demographics, go here. Otherwise, suffice it to say that this is upscale Sarasota, and the snowbirds have arrived. 

* Show communication:  Paragon always does a great job with this, sending a nice, clearly written "SHOW ESSENTIALS" packet two weeks before the show date.  Follow up pre-show messages as needed; weather update for Day 2 (always) and weather alerts (as needed), plus a Post-Show Evaluation(see Post-Show-Eval.pdf)  that includes lots of statistics on reported gross sales by category. 

* Advertising:  Paragon releases their ad schedule, in full detail.  Looked to me like they had the bases fully covered. 

* Load-in:  The show is small and tightly laid out along the narrow access road paralleling Gulfstream Ave. (aka US 41, for the locals) in Sarasota.  The city and the promoter are very clear about what is, and what is not, a legal parking space, and the Parking Enforcement staff from the city have eagle eyes for miscreants 365/24/7.  Accordingly, promoter Bill Kinney and his staff managed it well.  Certain artists we notified a few days before the show that they could begin loading in at 9 AM on Friday; the rest followed beginning at 11.  I arrived about noon and was at my spot about 10 minutes later.  You parked as close to the curb as you could, then unloaded onto grass, parked, then set up.  If you do this show in the future, try to get there before 3:30 or so, when rush hour kicks in with a vengeance.  I've arrived in late afternoon for past shows, and take it from me--getting there early is WAY less stressful. 

* Show days:  The weather was just superb both days. Light breezes, cool temperatures, no need to run fans in the tents.  As a result, crowds were very steady, beginning a half hour before the official opening bell of 10 AM.  Most artists in my vicinity (on the NW side of the show) did very well both days.  I had nearly identical totals both days, though the crowds on Sunday bought a bit larger: 18x24 and 16x20 matted prints.  On Saturday, folks were a bit more prone to bargain-hunt, at least in my booth and my neighbors': I resurrected my 11x14 mat size for this year, and was glad I did, as I set a one-day record for 11x14 mat sales on Saturday. At show's end I had a decent sales total, somewhere in the low $2K range, and a few folks contacted me in the week since to purchase additional work. 

Post-show, I learned that several of my artist friends (at medium to high price points) fared EXTREMELY well, and one nearly sold out.  Again, you can drill the details in the document I've posted from Paragon. 

The art quality was VERY high.  Many of the artists in attendance had exhibited at the previous week's Bonita National.  Further, many patrons stopping by my booth commented on the high quality, and my impression was that the customers I spoke with over the weekend were more knowledgeable than the average show-goer. 

Load-out:  Like at many shows, load-out is a bit more challenging owing to the tight layout and tighter time frame.  I'm in the "relaxed" camp of load-out artists; home was less than 2 hours away on nearby I-75.  So I just knocked down and packed, then  hung out with my (great!) neighbors for about an hour until the path cleared,  But these artists are show vets, and cooperated to get everyone on the road within 3.5 hours of the closing bell with no significant issues.  Kinney reported that it was "beyond a home run show."  As he noted in his post show communication, there were some exceptions, like at any show you can think of.  But overall, it was a solid effort all around.  This show is definitely on my must-do list. 

Views: 938

Comment by Connie Mettler on January 26, 2015 at 2:50pm

Always like to hear this good news, Geoff. Thanks for the report. Are you doing any other Paragon shows?

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on January 27, 2015 at 12:23am

Great weather, good sales, what more can you ask for?  Sounds like you had a good show.

Comment by Geoff Coe on January 29, 2015 at 6:13pm

Connie, I do Paragon's Sarasota shows (I almost typed "Parasota," which isn't a bad way to refer to them, moving forward.  Or "Saragon"???)  Anyway, Bill does November, January and March shows at this location, and a St. Armand's show, a few miles due west of this location, in April.  The St. A's show is much smaller than Howard Alan's twice-yearly offerings at that location. 

Howard also does a downtown Sarasota show (in February) and a Siesta Key show in April.  Other promoters are in and out of there with solo shows too (Richard Sullivan, for one; Sally with MY Productions for another; and there's a wildlife art festival, now entering its third year, on the first weekend in March. 

Comment by Connie Mettler on January 30, 2015 at 2:24pm

It sounds like Sarasota might be as crowded with shows as Naples, Geoff. I had no idea there were so many. 

Comment by Geoff Coe on February 2, 2015 at 10:05pm

Well, the museum still rules the roost down there.  They have a new "Shows Director" whom I have not met, but the early word is she is engaging, grateful for feedback, and good to work with.  I'm doing Naples National in a couple weeks, so I will chime in with details in a review. 

There was a big vacant lot used for artist parking on the east side of town, from which the artists shuttled to and fro via a bus.  That's being developed now, and there is a new check-in and parking site a little further away.  It will be interesting to see how that works out. 

Comment by Connie Mettler on February 3, 2015 at 7:27am

The new show director joined AFI a week or so ago, always a good sign.

Comment by Richard Collison on February 19, 2015 at 4:28pm

Thanks for the heads up Geoff. Have you heard any good about the upcoming Paragon show in St Armands this April? Just got accepted. Bill's first one there was last year.

Thanks for any input

Comment by Geoff Coe on February 19, 2015 at 4:54pm

I did it last year, Richard.  It was pretty good, for the time of year (post-season, getting a bit warm).  Much smaller than Howard Alan's St Armand's shows. 

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