Been doing this show for 22 years. Met my wife there's--it was a whirlwind love affair from the very first kiss there, secretly in my booth, then magic dinners at booming bistros on Frankfort Avenue, magic stays in Third Avenue B&Bs,and then there was all the moola we made.
A fairy tale come true.
We always looked forward to October. SJC, oh boy. Cool October days, get to put the sweaters on, instead of sweating. Got to see lots of great longtime personalities from the circuit there. In the beginning (early nineties) it was a mellow setup. You just showed up and setup. The smart ones did it early Thursday morn, then we had time for a round of golf or sightseeing around the city. Visits to the Bat Factory. Checking out new eateries on Bardstown Road. Then a leisurely dinner at Jack Fry's. Life was really good.
This was always our last summer show.
We would pack up the summer cottage and studios in Saugatuck and head home to Ybor City, fat and sassy with plenty of money in our bank accounts.
We could take the rest of October off, go fool around in Key West, drinking margaritas all day and watch the Dolphins at sunset.
This ritual worked really great until about six years ago.
We started seeing subtle changes. None of them good.
Got harder finding reasonable lodgings for five days.
There was a change in show directors, then there was a structured setup. Now you had to get there early, at least two hours before your scheduled setup if you wanted any reasonable chance of getting your van positioned.
Then the show fee started getting a lot more expensive.
Then our revenues started gettin smaller. Not a good business plan.
We still came. Hell, I fell in love with Ellen here, I wasn't about to abandon a romantic show.
First Ellen started seeing her sales fall off big time. She needed the big sales customers and they were harder to find.
In the early years I had a steady group of repeat customers who bought,lots, every year.
There was this one airline stewardess from Indy that bought mega bucks worth every year. She could have started a Nels Johnson Photo Museum with her purchases.
But nothing lasts forever.
I noticed around ten years ago that some longtime artists moved out of the SJC show to the 3rd Street show. These were savvy people who always made money. On Sunday morns I would walk the 3rd Ave show and check people out.
They were snagging sales before those people made into the Court show.
Originally, the Fourth Street show was pretty crafty almost buy-sellish and then things changed. New savvy director, better artists with true original work, we're making an impact on our sales.
About five years ago, I saw my high end sales take a big plunge south. It was now a lowend sales show for me. I needed more volume to make what I used to do. Then I saw the volume turn south.
Enter the era of the Zombie Walkers at SJC. This is a well used term on many of the other sites out there like AFR and AfRS. It is an apt description of what is going on now.
Unfortunately, the huge throngs of fair-goers walk right down the middle of the road, neither looking left or right. Very rarely do they go inside a booth. Most have a Bloody Mary in hand and nothing else. About one in 50 carry any art purchase.
You have to understand there are six shows going on here plus the scab show on Hill Street.
There is a lot of talent in all those booths competing for the very slim core of buyers with disposable income.
Then you gotta remember what it cost you to be here.
All shows have a $550 booth fee plus the jury fee.
Most artists need a hotel for a minimum of three to five days. (You setup on Thursday and show Friday to Sunday).
You gotta eat all that time--and frankly, the show food is utter crap and vastly overpriced.if you are working on being a heart victim this show will set you up perfectly.
So most people are going to have $1500 invested in this little soirée before they make a dime.
I go news for you folks, if you can't make more than a minimum $4K at this show, then you should look for another venue because you are getting a lousy return on your money plus time invested.
I bet more than 70 per cent of the artists at the show are not hittin this mark.
I know we had bad weather this year, two out of the three days, it was rainy and fricking freezing. I had five layers of clothing on and wrapped myself in a heavy wool blanket
And I was still freezing.
Sunday was perfect. It should have been an easy 2K day for anyone. Crowds were out and most were not buying.
All I could sell was $30 photos. I did $900 that day--pathetic.
I was not alone. I saw very few 2-D packages go by me.
I did not even break $2K. It was my worst ever. I won't be back--which is ironic since I was a peer juror this year and was thus, automatically invited for next year.
For me, this show does not work anymore.
I am mostly selling black and white hand colored photos, using acrylic inks and oils. The images are laced with irony and humor. Louisville does not get it. They get it at Lexington and other places, but not here.
They buy mostly traditional and clicheied and here. They buy lowend, they love art on the stick, they love the alphabet-number photo people here. They are not big on out of the box art. That is just the way it is.
So there is my epilogue to Louisville, Ellen and I will find some other venue next year. Texas here I come.