I've been reading reviews and comments about both ArtiGras and Coconut Grove. I'm disappointed by what I am reading because at one time South Florida was the premier place to sell your work in February and March. So, I started thinking about it and all the things that made Coconut Grove great started coming back to me. Here it is:
I have an emotional attachment to the Coconut Grove Show. I did it for over 30 years. Unfortunately, I can't stop comparing today's version to the hayday. I did the show when Marla and then Carol ran it. I did the show when there was no gate fee and there were so many people, it was hard to get in a booth. There were 4 times the amount of customers. I did it when there were 100 less artists and the booth fee was 1/3 what it is today. There was an artist lounge with breakfast and lunch or a place to go to get out of the sun. You would run to grab something to eat because you didn't want to miss a sale. I did it when artists had free parking and there was a party every night after the show. I won Best of Show in 1985, when glass and clay were king at the Grove. I was there when every artist was great and I wondered how they made a mistake and let me in. I did it when the patrons came in on a trolley at 8 AM and spent their art bucks. One year I did 12K before the show opened at 10. I was there when everyone did at least 6K and almost everyone did 5 figures, not just 1 or 2, and keep in mind that would be 20K in today's dollars. I was there when the music was appropriate for a classy show, Maynard Fergeson one year, Dizzy Gillespie another year. They had the Jefferson Starship and Bachman Turner Overdrive when they were at their peak. When BTO was there it got a little raucous and they toned it down after that. They used to have a competition for the Grove t-shirt among the accepted artists. The winning artist image was on the poster too and a billboard that everyone could see driving into the area. Now they use some local overrated commercial hack. This year it was Guy Harvey again. I loved those t-shirts. I still have a poster or two hanging in my studio. I wouldn't wear this years t-shirt if you gave me one.
They charge a $15 gate fee. Artist parking is $20 a day. The booth fee is triple what it used to be. There is no trolley or art patrons with art bucks. They tore down the building with the lounge. There are beer hawkers and the food booths are closer to the artists. There are over 100 more booths so the pie gets sliced smaller and smaller. Every year they offer the artists a little less. It isn't drastic except over time.
You'll have to excuse me if I cringe when someone comments about the Grove, this year. And don't say things are different now. They could easily be the same or better.
The Grove used to be the best show in the country. Ask Connie to verify what I am saying. She was there.