Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

The Good Times Roll--for most of us--in Englewood (March 29-30, 2014)

(I reviewed this show last year and Nels Johnson gave an entertaining recap of the local restaurants here
Not much has changed, so I'm keeping this one short!)

Englewood, FL's unofficial nickname might as well be: "The town that Time--and US 41--Forgot."  It's a sleepy, Old Florida-style hamlet nearly 20 miles west of the highway that serves, from Tampa to downtown Naples--as Southwest Florida's main retail drag.  But as far as the locals are concerned, that 20 mile stretch might as well be 20 years.  For this is a show like art shows used to be, run by  Rotarians know how to put on a community event.

Easy setup, starting at 5 PM Friday.  Two-minute check in--tops. Pull up to your booth, unload and set up.  Pull behind your booth on a grassy lot if you can.  Otherwise, unload next to your space, park when you can, and we'll trust you to make things easy for the next van pulling in. 

Dearborn Street--along which this show stretches for maybe five casual blocks--is chock-full of small businesses and a few mom n' pop eateries with live music. It stays closed all weekend so the visitors, who come from the surrounding towns, including the moneyed but laid back Gasparilla and Rotunda, can browse the show (beer in hand if they want).  What makes it a happy occurrence from the artists' perspective is: they come to buy. 

They're far enough from the glut of shows in Sarasota and points south that this event doesn't represent just another jaded, same ol' art show weekend for them.  It's a community event, run by local Rotarians with a commitment to keep it that way.  So they look forward to the show and they hit it early.  Despite a threatening weather forecast for rain all day Saturday, the rains held off until 2 PM or so, and the crowds were decent until skies darkened after lunch.  A little rain was tolerated, and tent flaps stayed open until the first crack of lightning around 2:15 sent everyone scurrying for shelter.  A few artists stayed around and attended the Rotary's artist dinner and award presentation, but most headed home, hoping that at least the forecast for sunny skies on Sunday would be accurate.

It was.  Crowds again browsed the show before the opening bell (in contrast to so many shows I've done this winter, where no one shows up until noontime, and maybe not even then...after all, there's another next week).  And although Saturday's sales were decent considering the weather, Sunday's were just off the charts: I sold six or seven canvases, including my biggest pieces, making this easily my best show of the season.  Nearly everyone I spoke with in the 2-D arena had at least a decent show, regardless of price point, though a high-end potter near me lamented at check-in that there were a dozen other potters in the show.  His fears proved to be well-founded; he nearly zeroed, but he was a real gentleman as he discussed it at load-out.  He and his work were both classy, and he deserved better. 

Several patrons mentioned to me that the quality work seemed to be concentrated on the east end of the show, and that the other end was primarily manufactured work or very cheaply made.  I'd like to hear others' take on this; I don't know if the Rotarians do that intentionally or not.  Other than that, though, no complaints.  This was a relaxing and very profitable show, with low booth fee and stress level, and a 4 PM close time that made the commute back to Fort Myers a snap. 

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Comment by Christina L. Towell on April 4, 2014 at 8:43am

Great review and commentary, Geoff.  Interesting observation about the manufactured items being segregated from the actual art...intentional?  Was it a better or worse location for the buy/sell?  I always enjoy your take on shows, thanks for sharing.

Comment by Robin Chipman on April 2, 2014 at 8:39pm

Yes, sorry, there was one in Englewood before the Wesley Chapel show.


Comment by Geoff Coe on April 2, 2014 at 2:09pm
Hi Robin, you are welcome. Not sure which show Robert/you are referring to. An Englewood show?
Comment by Robin Chipman on April 2, 2014 at 11:41am

Thanks Geoff, Robert Binks said the show earlier in the year wasn't good for him, I love Englewood and my parents lived on Manasota Key for 20+ years. I wanted to try the show but ran out of cash after Venice, maybe next year.

Comment by Geoff Coe on April 2, 2014 at 9:18am
I appreciate all these comments. Clearly this is a boom or bust affair, interesting. There isn't an exhibitor list provided, too bad. I'd love to see if there are certain, ahem "vendors" that get in because although their stuff isn't hand made, the crowd likes 'em. There was certainly evidence of that at the Sanibel Lions show last week. Might be the "weakness" of shows run by community service organizations. . .
Comment by Steve Cunningham on April 2, 2014 at 9:12am

I've done the show 4 times and I was down by more then 50%. I was right across from the knike guy who does the curved handle and cuts bread and tomatos all day and hawks things as if we were at a state fair. At $20 a pop, no tax, I count at least 200 walk away in a bag. I won't be back!

Comment by Anne Marie Solomon on April 2, 2014 at 9:02am
I was on the other end of the show and had an exceptional show ( in my home town ) . I was surrounded by very good work and really didn't notice any " manufactured" items. Jon Cheer was across from me and I consider him one of the finest. The Rotarians were wonderful and the shop owners behind me offered the use of their bathrooms !! That in its self was awesome, since the public restrooms were under repair.
Comment by lori kay on April 2, 2014 at 6:35am

I've applied to this show the last two years and been rejected both times so it really chaps my butt that there is low end, manufactured work there.

Comment by Bill McLauchlan on April 1, 2014 at 4:44pm

Rumor has it that Geoff got a big blue ribbon. Congrats!

Comment by Shoshana Matthews on April 1, 2014 at 4:02pm

Sorry to hear there was manufactured work.  I applied, but didn't get in.

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