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I have been lobbying Naples Downtown to get a refund on my booth fee after they cancelled the show. Here is a very arrogant email that I received today. Aimee Schlehr, the chairman wrote this extremely unprofessional letter to the artists who have been requesting a refund. Apparently they will refund my booth fee when funds become available, but they are black-balling me from ever participating in one of their art fairs because of my "breach" of contract. Here is her email:

Good Afternoon Artists:

 

I want to first say thank you for your patience.  This virus has not only affected your income immediately but also the art centers revenue.  We had to cancel our major fundraiser, classes and workshops, and the downtown show, all funding sources we needed to survive the summer. I have spent the last two weeks laying off staff, working with creditors, vendors and our board of directors to stabilize the organization for the time being. We are not funded by a city, county, state or national government or a chamber of commerce.  The outdoor shows fund the operations of the art center so I, like you, have been combing funding opportunities and grants opportunities.  I am happy to see there are a generous amount of grant opportunities for artists to apply for help, far more than there are for arts organizations.  I hope all of you are taking advantage of these grants and funding sources.

 

I also want to take this time to let you know how awful I think it is that artists would spew such hatred at an employee who was simply doing her job within her parameters, she is not the decision maker for the organization.  Maureen works tirelessly to ensure every artists has the opportunity to be successful in our shows and to take out anger on her is unprofessional and childlike.

That being said, Naples Art is a respected non-profit organization and small business dedicated to treating artists as professional business people. Each small business needs to make decisions that best fit their needs. We always put our reputation first and honor all contracts we have with vendors, artists and service providers.  We expect the same in return. By applying to the Naples Downtown Art Show, it was assumed that you read the terms listed in the prospectus, including the cancelation policy.  When you submitted your application it was with the understanding that you agreed to the terms and would abide by the policies outlined.  Our cancelation policy clearly stated “ In the event that the “Show” is interrupted or prevented without contributory fault or negligence of either party because of war, act of God, fire, national or local calamity, riot or civil disorder, any act or regulation of public authorities, or any unforeseen occurrence or labor dispute, including strike or lockout of employees, then obligations of the parties shall be suspended to the extent made necessary, but no refund shall be due or payable to the artist from the Naples Art for any fees paid. Neither the Artist nor the “Show” shall be liable to the other for any damages caused thereby.

The COVID-19 virus would fall under a national calamity (as defined in the dictionary- an event causing great and often sudden damage or distress), the CDC and WHO was recommending cancelling events with attendance of over 50 people. 

 

Therefore, requesting a refund of your booth fee is a breach of contract.  Naples Art chooses only to work with those who honor their word so in the future we will not be doing business with you.  We know there are promoters out there who will fill a show with whoever pays so I am sure you will have plenty of show opportunities in the future.

 

Your refund check is being processed, as funds become available to us we will be sending out checks.

We wish you the best and good luck,

 

Aimee

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Comment by Jennifer Racette on April 1, 2020 at 8:53pm

If ever there was a case for an organization to carry business interruption insurance, this is it.

Comment by Mark Zirinsky on April 1, 2020 at 11:08am

hmm.

On the one hand they are pleading contract, no refunds, then on the other they are acknowledging liability for refunds in spite of the contract. Which is it? Either you are enforcing the contract, or you are not. 

That said, technically the art show is correct, we all sign these statements, none of us like it. In normal times, I take the statements we all sign to mean, if there is a bad rainstorm or tornado, if the show director needs to remove an artist (loud music, drunk, etc). Still, I think a show's reputation is important; perhaps the show needs to listen to the podcast of last week about refunds, and they will reconsider their position. Or, as they stated, they are trying to figure out how to survive the summer financially, it may well be that they are in poor financial shape, i.e., a non-profit that also lives hand to mouth, that at the end of each year they spend any extra money on their art programs, classes and such. 

Yet, I agree, the tone towards the end of the letter is arrogant. Also, unwarranted. Seems to me this is a symptom of the stress that the show director is under, rather than anything you did wrong. You asked for your booth fee back, which is reasonable given what other shows are doing. So what. And to decline future business. Wouldn't a show want the business option of having more artists apply for next year, rather than 1 less? Or 78 less, given the responses mentioned by John.

So a consideration for applying for their show next year, if their finances are this precarious, can they recover by next year?  

Has anyone published or compiled a list of show's actual refund status (maybe adding this info to Barry's list of cancelled shows)?

Comment by Connie Mettler on March 31, 2020 at 4:58pm

Correct, Barry. Artists can vote with their feet and their $$. The Bonita Springs shows would welcome artists, Richard Sullivan, ditto, HotWorks, Howard Alan ... 

I wonder if the Board of the Naples Art Assn. is aware of the uproar.

Comment by Barry Bernstein on March 31, 2020 at 4:50pm

John, there are plenty of other organizations that have events in the area, Ft Myers, Bonita Springs has three shows, Richard Sullivan has a few shows there, and many more. There is no reason to ever do any Naples shows. You all can do what you want. I will never do a Naples show again. I don't even want to spend any money in Naples to contribute to their economy.

Comment by John Leben on March 31, 2020 at 11:15am

Since posting the email I received from Naples Aimee Schlehr on the NAIA Facebook Forum, there have been 78 responses from artists all over the country. All of the responses have been outrage at the callous disregard of the Naples organization. It seems there is starting a groundswell of support for an artist's boycott of Naples shows. Naples is a market that many artists depend on for income during the winter months. The art center sponsors several shows. What we need is another organization to step in and offer an alternative to these shows so that we, as artists, can still benefit from this market.

Comment by Connie Mettler on March 31, 2020 at 11:03am

Frankly, this is more what I expected from cancelled shows, and I have been so gratified to see all the gracious accommodations being made by the majority of events. 

I've wondered how these smaller non-profit, or single individual operated events were going to respond. The Naples Art Center has been around for a long time. It is distressing to hear that their financial underpinnings are so slim. We all understand their need to pull back to keep their organization intact, most people reading this are doing the same. The problem here though is the decision to restrict the people who request a refund from participating in their events again.

From an email I received:

... the artists are upset and torn. They need the $$, but they also want to do the 2021 show. So far, all of my shows have given me the option - $$ back or put 2020 fee towards 2021. I have opted for all monies to go to 2021 shows. Not everyone can afford to have all that show money $1,000+ sit in someone else's bank account for a full year. Delray Affair has rescheduled their Spring show for October. Vendors have the option of putting Spring 2020 $$ towards October or Spring 2021. 

Some shows are keeping part of the booth $$ to put towards "administration fees", whatever that means. All in all, it's been a very stressful 2 weeks for most artists, through no fault of their own. The business side effects of this pandemic will result in a VERY long, unproductive, unprofitable Spring/Summer for most artists.


I'm with you, Wally. It is hard to lose what has been a good market for artists. (I'm thinking of several now with nostalgia). You and Lu have been in this business forever and we appreciate your perspective.

Comment by Wallace Fuller on March 31, 2020 at 9:39am

John

Just remember as they drive off all the good artist it will open up the show for the BUY/SELL vendors.

Back in the old days if a show did you wrong or you had a problem with a show you just stopped applying to a show. We never missed not doing that show and they never missed us.

Comment by Connie Mettler on March 30, 2020 at 4:31pm

Thank you for sharing this information, John. It is quite a surprise in light of the many positive arrangements being made by other organizations. 

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