The past few months I've become more aware of a disturbing trend that seems to be on the rise-breaking into artists' booths at night. I'm dwelling on this now by the cozy light of a campfire in nowhere, Rhode Island and a cold one in hand, and I'm...puzzled? vicariously violated? utterly astounded? all of the above? -by the fact that people are desperate enough to steal from the starving. OK, most of us here debunk the myth of the starving artist (I hope) but, let's face it, society in general does not view us as the movers and shakers. Our work doesn't command that much on the resale market, if you can call it that. So what are these lowlives looking for when they invade booths at night?
I was in Setauket, Long Island last weekend- a nice little village on the North Shore of stately historical registry homes, estates- your typical upper middle class neighborhood. This was a show in its 46th year, no fly-by-night venue. Out of all the cities I've been in over the past 3 months, this was the last place I would have expected to encounter such an egregious violation of one's hard work. Hell, when I grew up here, we didn't lock our doors at night. Call me naive, but I never thought of artwork as inherently stealable unless it's a Thomas Crowne Affair. Let me clarify, I know I'm walking a thin line here. I know jewelers who have been stalked and robbed at gunpoint, but what I'm talking about is non-precious metal/jewel art that can't be melted down or resold to a pawn shop. My paintings really don't have much value to the average scumbag, and I'm ok with that. I'm really disturbed that this happened in an upscale village to the extent that it did.
Many artists arrived Saturday morning to find that, at the very least, their booths had been violated and work had been moved around. The worst was a painter who had $4000 worth of work stolen. What was appalling was the show's response to her, which was to brush her off and refuse her request to pack up and leave. Show security? I didn't give it much thought before this show, but Framer Dude (who missed his calling as a detective or bounty hunter) has always done a late night walk through to test security and deemed this patrol as lacking, along with several others we have done. I realize that shows have only a certain amount of dollars to divide up, and perhaps they too are guilty of the same naivety and complacency that I am-that art shows are not big on the hit list. But this show's layout was a prankster's or a thief's field day- one older gent for security, a dark street, and a row of booths that twisted around through the woods, with a bar in the middle.
My point here is not to lament the evils of the world. I'm not that much of a rube or a whiner.
I want to pass on a tip that may thwart would-be thieves- who are probably low tech and seeking easy, unsecured targets. Framer Dude and I take out stock in zipties, also known as cable ties at Home Depot, for setting up the booth. These have a multitude of uses and we discovered a new one when we sat down and thought about how to make the booth less accessible at night. When we close the zippers down, we now use a zipties in the four corners and four side zippers, through the holes in the zipper toggles, and attach them to the legs and bottom poles. I think most thieves are counting on easy access, quick in and out and won't waste the extra time or thought (if they have any after letting off their crackpipes) to tackle a booth that requires a pair of wire cutters to get into.
Not a fail-safe, but at least it makes it a bit more difficult, rather than just unzippering the tent. Of course, if they're crackheads, they might carry razor blades and slash their way through the sides, but I haven't thought of a way around that. Perhaps I should leave my huge German shepherd in the booth at night?