Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals
Sonoran Arts League 12th Annual Festival of Fine Art (http://www.sonoranartsleague.org/festival.php). I had an inkling of a feeling...but I went ahead anyway. The guides were right again but I, a mere mortal who doesn't listen well yet, trudged forward. A friend of the wife who is a long time member of the arts league had told us about this show and how they were trying to get a new variety of art in it and I thought, "what the heck, as good an excuse to get out of winter in Denver as any and it is no further than any of the other shows I've done so far." So, off I rode. This time I had to do it all myself as the wife and I have been gone for about a month with shows and a vacation in Hawai'i with my sister and bro-in-law (what am I doing in Denver?) and she felt the need to spend time with her elderly father with whom she has been living for most of the last 3 years. No big deal, I've done it all myself before, even if the tendinitis in my elbow is acting up a bit.
The show was held at the Stagecoach Village in Cave Creek, AZ. I found out later it was previously held at the town center of Carefree, AZ, not too far away. Which suggests that this show might have an identity crisis. There was also another show at the same time as this show at the Frontier Village, just up the road, organized by another show promoter! I think I read somewhere that this area has too many shows, I'm starting to get the picture...Set-up for this show, like most of the shows that I have done in AZ was the day before. Ran into an artist whom I recognized (apparently she didn't recognize me) and asked her if she knew where the check-in was. She explained that she was an artist (I knew that!) and didn't know anything more than I did but that the gal over there was Candy (the shows organizer/promoter). I made some comment about the Stagecoach Village looking like another Arizona ghost town like Fountain Hills. That comment didn't go over real well as the "artist" got defensive, at that point I retreated. But it does seem that a lot of these newer small shopping areas that have developed around the Phoenix area look like ghost towns to me with low levels of occupancy. Cave Creek is not a new development, it is a town that developed long before Phoenix blossomed and still has the ambiance of a small arts community. Other developments like Stagecoach Village have developed as shopping centers within the town limits later.
I did catch up with Candy, who had taken on the task of organization of this show from the arts league, she was busily trying to figure out spots for the artists as she reported that "10 artists canceled" (more about that later!) and she had to reconfigure her layout on the spot. Good thing it wasn't a huge show! She pointed out a spot on the east side of the mall for me which was soon commandeered by another artist who needed the space to spread his sculptures out. Not to worry, my new space was next to him and it was just as good if not better. Have you ever been to the middle east and gone among the vendors in the little streets and every one of the booths in the bizarre looks like it has almost the same stuff? The show setup had that feel to me on reflection as I and four other photographers were within spitting distance of each other! "Good thing we're all different" reported the guy next to me. It was true, my work is more about 20th century Americana, roadside attractions and rusty automobiles, his was western landscape work, the guy next to him had huge black and white canvas landscapes, the guy around the corner was western/cowboy stuff on leather and the guy down the block had different western landscapes. I guess that is what happens when you have to organize on the fly!
Back to the show...Set-up for this show was Thursday afternoon at 4 I was there at 3 and got my booth space which gave me ample time to get things up, especially with the increase in daylight hours, before the Friday opening time of 10 a.m. Not unlike the Carefree show that I did in January (http://www.artfairinsiders.com/profiles/blogs/carefree-fine-art-win...) this show was also mostly populated by the snow-bird crowd of lookers. Long story short...Most of us sat around for long periods of time during the day or talked to the curious on Friday. Fortunately, at 4:30 one individual and a young couple came in and saved the day with their purchases. Could they be angels in disguise come to save me? Saturday was pretty much the same along with lots of talking and sharing about my work but the email to a client that I had met at the January show came through. He came in with his wife and put in the order for 5 photos of work that he had commissioned.
Now I had mentioned that 10 artists had canceled this show. There was a kink in the jet stream that had sent it south along the pacific coast midway down the Baja Penninsula and then shooting back up through AZ, UT and western NM and CO. We were sitting right in the middle of it. Apparently those 10 others had gotten nervous and bailed early. Most of the others that were at the show were nervous as hens with a coyote in the house talking about where the weather was, what was expected, etc. Judging only on how it looked in our little corner you would think nothing was out there. Skies were blue on Friday and the temperature was 85 but anyone with a smartphone (me included) was watching the Weather Channel App. It was supposed to be cooler on Saturday with high winds showing up by 2 or 3 in the afternoon and rain showers. When Saturday arrived although it was a bit cooler, only 75 with some overcast and sun peeking in, it was still nice. The artist crowd was getting even more nervous as the day went on with a few taunts from fellow artists about "chicken little artists". Candy was circulating rumors about possibly shutting down the show early and that wasn't well received by some of the participants either. I was feeling like the show was played out so I was good either way. By the end of the day I couldn't discern fact from fiction but the word was the show would pack it in which indeed it did even though, although forecast, there was no wind or rain what-so-ever even at 5! There was some grumbling but most artists pulled up stakes. Two artists in our area decided to stay and left their tents up, at least overnight as-far-as I knew. Wonder what happened to them? As it turned out it rained like crazy Saturday night into Sunday morning with more on the way later in the day. Was it a good call? I think given the combination of lackluster sales and the prospects of bad weather it was well worth it to pull out a day early!
As for getting out of Phoenix on Sunday morning? I-17 going north to Flagstaff was closed due to 19" of snow, I-40 both east and west through Flagstaff was closed due to the snow as well! Although I had another motel night booked I decided to leave a day early via the southern route through Tucson (in heavy rains) and then east into NM. The weather wasn't any better there as vehicles were being routed off the highway in Lordsburg due to high winds and no visibility between there and Las Cruces. I've been snow bound in Las Cruces before but Lordsburg is even worse. I started to feel like I was in an episode of the Twilight Zone, the only other thing needed at the MckyD's was Rod Serling!
Show Organizer/Promoter: Sonoran Arts League via Vermillion Promotions
Booth Fee: $25 Jury Fee, $375 Booth Fee, $30 City of Cave Creek Business License and an Arizona License euphuistically referred to as the Transaction Privilege Tax (TPT)/License
Logistics: Load-in, depending on where you were located was either easy or a lot of transporting. I was there earlier and was able to park at the middle gazebo and cart my stuff in. If you were at one of the entry points it seemed easier. Some of the streets were narrow and there wasn't much space to park and unload. Some areas of the show did have a lot of congestion built into the way booths and streets were setup. Some artists may have gotten overlooked at either end of the show. Load-out was pretty much the same. I was packed up and out by 7:30 which was only an extra half-hour from my usual time, sorry sweetie! I think it took the extra time as I first packed everything up and then had to cart all my stuff up a ramp to the nearby parking lot, usually I can drive right up to my piles of stuff.
Show Hours: The show was set to run from 10-5 Friday-Sunday
Amenities: This was not a regular Candy Vermillion Production for which I was told she often provides lunch for the artists, that said, she did have yummy sweet stuff, water, juice and coffee each morning. There were limited booth sitters from the Arts League that went by given that the show was in such a small space anyway that didn't seem to matter much. The show had a few nice food vendors (and popcorn) I think it was the same Greek food guy from Tubac! serving variations on a Greek menu, gyro's, hummus, salad, etc. Nearby restaurants, were there any? Like I said the shopping area looked like a ghost town. I looked for food when I drove out one night but didn't see any in the immediate vicinity. I bought stuff at Safeway and kept it in a cooler. Parking was in an area at the back of the mall, plentiful and free. The walk to the lots was not too bad. Porta potties aplenty seemed to be kept clean!
Reflections: I would probably not do this show again unless I move to Arizona. Although the booth fee was not exorbitant it is too far to drive, the return was too little and the expenses too much. Another reason I may not do this show again is that there seem to be too many shows going on in this little part of the greater Phoenix area. Overkill! Unless the thought is that vacationers are only around about a week or so and a new batch of blood wont know the difference?