Art Fair Insiders

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

What Happened to the South Florida Shows?

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.

Views: 900

Comment by Nels Johnson on February 23, 2017 at 12:25pm
Outdoor art shows do not carry the same "cache" that they used to have, that is why the Grove and Artigras are what they are now.
Part of this is apathy of the public that attends. We do not get as many "good shoes" people as we used to.
Art is rarely taught in schools now, the younger generation is not as enameled with it, they would rather spend money on digital devices.
The over proliferation of shows in general in Florida makes an art show experience less precious than before. We are just those people in white tents. We will be somewhere else next weekend. So why worry about buying now.
Then we get to the side of the equation about how art shows are run.
As I said in my retort to Oscar's blog , the shows are more interested in promoting their affairs as an event. Art is only one small part of the equation. The shows care more about collecting rent for temporary 10 foot square units than they do about art.
You see this reflected time and again in how policies are enforced or ignored.
The Grove thinks Guy Harvey is just dandy to be their shirt artist.
Then there is the fact that there are more and more people getting into the biz and are not concerned about making a full time living. A lot of the new art coming in is more of a copycat nature and less of pure original inspiration.
Couple that with the digital revolution that has transformed 2-D art, and the ease of making giclees and you have a big, boisterous stew of almost anything goes and who cares if it dips not that good.
Sadly, we are looking at the end run of great outdoor art shows. The future portends higher expenses, more commercial output, more imports and not a lot of profits unless you are selling arty widgets over and over again.i started in the Golden Age of the 70's and 80's. There are no more Moes showing up at the Grove and buying out the guy's booth.
We are just a step away from being an outdoor IKEA.
Sad but true.
I will stick with it. The shows are my impetus to make new work. I wake up each day fresh with resolve to better work. It keeps me going, it keeps me happy and healthy.
Hell, I can't play golf seven days a week.
Comment by Nels Johnson on February 23, 2017 at 12:26pm
Meant to say "enamored" instead of enabled. Fricking fat fingers of mine.
Comment by Nels Johnson on February 23, 2017 at 12:28pm
Meant "does" not dips. Connie site does not allow for easy editing when you do a typo.
Comment by Connie Mettler on February 23, 2017 at 12:41pm

Geez, Nels, blame it on me!

I hope some of the readers here listened to the podcast I did yesterday. The two show directors I spoke with seem to "get it." No gate, no huge crowds expected or wanted. Smaller events, good amenities where people want to spend their time and discover fine work. I think we're in the second generation of art fairs. It used to be all about the big crowds and translated to the big money. Not so much any more. It is those show organizers who nurture their close community ties and realize that the fun of being inconvenienced and jostled by the big crowds is not everyone's idea of a way to spend time. These shows looking for that niche audience who wants beautiful, one of a kind, unique work (not available at a mall or flea market near you). 

Hope you are enamored, Nels, with those kind of shows. Anyone interested in that kind of show should listen to the podcast: 2 new shows for 2017, Will you Apply? Click here.

(you might say this is shameless promotion, but it isn't. It is part of our continued continuous longstanding everlasting unfaltering perpetual unending mission to bring the people to the art fairs so artists can find their audience.)

Comment by Barry Bernstein on February 23, 2017 at 4:51pm

I feel enameled today after the drive from Florida to the Detroit area.

Comment by Wallace Fuller on February 24, 2017 at 1:09pm

I have to agree with both Barry and Nels, Lu did the Grove for several years before being told by the director that her work was not appropriate for the area and to not apply again. She was doing watercolors of winter landscapes with a lot of snow. That was the last time she applied,  Also the second best show that she has ever done, 5 figures beginning with a 5. We have been doing shows almost as long as Nels, Our first show was the Kansas City Plaza in 1967, booth fee was $5 and we made $25. Booth was 4 x 8 panels set in a W shape on the street in front of Halls and you had one panel to display on. That was the beginning of a long journey thru the world of Art Fairs. 

This may be the last year, but as I tell Lu "we do not have enough barns to hold all the paintings you will continue to do"

Comment by dennis william stuart on February 25, 2017 at 1:25pm

I have been participating in Florida shows  selling original paintings since 1997. I missed out on the wonderful golden years before that, I was told.  Sales seemed easier to come by prior to 2007  when the housing market tanked along with buyers confidence  Of recent sales seem down right impossible. There are exceptions which keep us artists looking to the next show and brushing the dust from our feet from the last one . Point of purchase sale to the art show buyer is my only source of income. There is just one choice for me to continue selling, change!

Comment by Robert Wallis on February 25, 2017 at 1:50pm

Connie; where you wrote, "Smaller events, good amenities where people want to spend their time and discover fine work." is why I gave up doing St. James and do far better at the Cherokee Triangle show there in Louisville in the springtime. The show is about 200-220 artists arranged in 4 rows across a two block stretch, they have a few food vendors who are neighborhood fund raisers and local restaurants, and there is a music bandstand away from the artists where they can be heard but not too loud. The show is small enough that a be-back really can return in about 5 minutes from one end to the other, and the layout is simple. The show lends itself to a more leisurely pace, and the customers have a chance to study a piece before rushing off to "see the rest of the show". I'm finding that the mid-size shows are where I do best.

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