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Pre-Show News: Mandarin Art Festival in Jacksonville, FL

MANDARIN ART FESTIVAL is a small show located in an affluent Jacksonville, Florida neighborhood, and it may be one of Florida's best kept secrets. This year 90 artists will exhibit on the grounds of MANDARIN COMMUNITY CLUB, which is the historical Freedom School site built by Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1872. The St. Johns River can be seen behind the homes across the street, Mandarin Rd., in front of the school. 

Five years ago the all volunteer committee of Mandarin Art Festival decided to seek outside help to run their event. The show had been held every Easter weekend since 1968 and it had always been independently run by a local group. But the committee needed a break and thus decided if they were going to keep their show running, they'd need to contract their show with someone who knows how to run an art show. Welcome aboard, Howard Alan.

We'd been dong the Mandarin show for several years when the committee informed everyone of the change. We'd never done a Howard Alan event and decided that the new Mandarin show would not be the time to start doing them. The reasons we haven't done a Howard Alan show is that his shows don't have awards, they cost a little more, and setup is very early morning the first day of the show. Seems a number of the regular artists doing Mandarin decided also that they would quit the show despite there not being any other event held in the area on Easter weekend to fill the void. For folks like us who road trip for six to eight weeks, we'd just have an empty weekend. We'd just lay low.

I have no idea what happened with the show during the Howard Alan years so I cannot report about that. But last year the Mandarin Art Festival committee reclaimed their show for themselves. Good day, Howard Alan.

Thank you, Susie Scott, Mandarin Art Festival Show Director.

A quick call to Mandarin last year revealed that although the volunteer committee was once again running the show, they had not yet brought back the awards. All that's changed for 2015. Their awards aren't quite what they were before the Howard Alan years, but they are significant enough.

Set up today was a breeze. It was fun seeing some friends I hadn't seen since we last did the show. One of them told me he had been doing it through the Howard Alan years, too. The committee had lunch for us, plenty of deli sandwiches to go around with chips and pickles and cookies and tea. Sweet tea for me, or course. I had a delicious veggie wrap and my wife had egg salad on croissant. Delightful, really. We were set up in about two hours. Things just moved along nicely. It got a little warm today, but a cold front is moving through tomorrow afternoon and I'm looking forward to that. Easter sunday will be mid-70's and dry.

I'll post a review of the show later next week once we get to Chattanooga. WOOHOO!

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Comment by Janice Kirkland on April 6, 2015 at 8:43pm

Never did the HA show, but agree with Geoff that it might not be worth a long drive. However it is a very pleasant show to do, and they are working on one problem they have regarding parking.  Maybe next year they'll have solved that one too.  I personally love the low-key, laidback shows.

Comment by Connie Mettler on April 6, 2015 at 12:31pm

I know basically nothing about this show (thought Howard was still running it), so enjoyed this story. I can understand a volunteer committee losing enthusiasm and deciding to let someone else do it, but what is really interesting is that then they took it back.

Sounds like a lovely setting with all the amenities that should make for a solid show for artists. I look forward to hearing the outcome for you and hope you have a wonderful week dawdling from Jacksonville to Chattanooga, a lovely time of the year to be in that area.

Here is an article I found the Jacksonville paper with more info:
http://jacksonville.com/current/mandarin-st-johns/2015-03-31/story/...

Comment by Geoff Coe on April 3, 2015 at 9:18pm

Good luck! I do a few HA shows, though not as many as I did when I started out 7-8 years ago.  I somehow did not notice that the locals had re-claimed it.  I did it three years ago, during the HA tenure, and it was not a big moneymaker for me.  But part of the problem was simply the expense of the booth fee coupled with travel/hotel from SW Florida.  It's about a six-hour drive from Ft. Myers.  I wish you luck with the show this weekend, and do report back on how it went.

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