Art Fair Insiders

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

You know it’s going to be a bad show when...

You know it’s going to be a bad show when...

...you arrive at the show at 6:30 am and there are homeless people sleeping in the park.

...you leave your plastic coffee mug at your booth to visually mark your spot and it becomes a projectile in a fight between a local shop owner and a juvenile delinquent methhead,  where shortly thereafter, the police arrive.

...you are the only booth that is not an EZ up.

...you drop to your knees upon achieving booth fee.

...there are aliens present at the show (more on that).

...you realize there’s no second day to make up for the crappy first one, because it’s a one-day show.


WHAT was I thinking, fer cryin out loud? 


Yeah, these were my warning signs at the Providence City Artsfest.  I don’t like to speak negatively about shows, especially since this one was a filler, in between Mystic and Bar Harbor, but I hoped that Providence, being a coastal city and home to RISD, would have pulled a hat trick for me. 


I have to, first off,  give kudos and kisses to Framer Dude for pulling off our first major downtown city driving in the Artship Enterprise.  One way streets, cobblestones, acute angle streets, and random homeless people popping out like the ghosts in Pac-Man from every bus station, he did wonders navigating the streets in our forty foot sub-tender on wheels.  Once again, we arrived early, and we parked in the city bus loop and did our thing in about half an hour, so that was relatively painless and anxiety free, once the police arrested and whisked away the enthusiastic coffee mug hurler. Dolly down a sidewalk to the skatepark, and that was it.  So load in and out was great, considering we were in a downtown metropolitan area.  Plus, he found a parking spot at an Irish pub, so he was happy.


But oh those spaces.


I must be spoiled by some generous shows.  When they said the booths were 10 feet, they meant 10 feet, and not one inch more.  I was glad I’d lost 10 lbs just so I could oil myself up and squeeze behind the booth.  I set the booth away from the park walls about 18 inches, just so I could put some boxes behind and have some inventory, not that I needed it, as I found out.


And the aliens.  I don’t mean the wackadoos whose raison d’etre seems to be asking the kinds of questions that have been enumerated upon in another thread here.  I’m talking 6, 7 foot rubber masked alien creations of a costume company that roamed in a troupe, much to the amusement of the kiddies but completely drawing attention away from artists trying to make a connection in their booths.  At one point, I actually had a respectable qualified couple interested in my work, when suddenly three or five of these circus escapees came bumbling around the corner, and one of them literally hung over my shoulder making kissy noises (I think?) in my ear and conducted a Charlie Chaplin pantomime next to me.  I was never so tempted to wage a single-handed intergalactic battle in my life.  I could envision that giant rubber schnozz squishing under my fist as the couple giggled and walked away, my artwork forgotten.  But, what does one do in a situation like that?   I think it was the painkiller I took that kept me from actual violence...


This was touted as a fine art show, but as I said before, I was the only non- EZ-up.   Yes, I had an EZ up too in the beginning.  But what Framer Dude saw confirmed my suspicions about the quality hinted at by the EZs at this show.  And yes, once again, I got the dubious honor of having the most expensive art at the show.  But even if I sold only my 25 and 60 dollar prints I would have probably been mid to high end.  I was up against dog collar vendors, hand-painted ball caps, the requisite BS that seems to be de rigueur lately...


I suppose a downtown location in a major city has its drawbacks.  Locals mentioned to Framer Dude about the homeless shelter down the block, and indeed they were out and about, probably disgruntled that a hundred slightly less homeless artists had usurped their territory for the day.  Parking was horrific and expensive, though thousands were gearing up for Waterfire and multiple bands that night, alas too late to really help the show.  And there was a marathon the next day whose route passed along Biltmore park, and apparently that was why this show could not extend to two days.


So what did I learn to avoid next year?  One-day shows that have minimal track records.  Ones that heavily rely on social media to promote the show.  To check the show site vicinity beforehand for nearby drug rehabilitation/ social welfare centers.  I’m not an elitist or discriminatory.  I’m a realist.  Clients who have and appreciate nice things are NOT going to want to park their Benz or Jag, dress nicely as they are wont to, carry cash and credit cards, and maybe carry back expensive art through a suspect part of town.  Even I felt a bit nervous going to 7-11 for a pack of cigarettes and was approached for a couple as I left with them. (Honestly, I used to rollerblade fearlessly at midnight down 12th avenue in Manhattan and dodge the hookers and the dealers.) 

I’m still looking for a truly high quality fine art/fine craft show in New England.  No more close encounters of the third kind.  Puh-leeez, a respite from the BS.  Any weekend now...maybe Bar Harbor next weekend?  

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Comment by Sondra Maryon on August 15, 2011 at 11:31am
I knew it was going to be a bad show when the artists were placed behind a fenced in area and people had to pay $20.00 for an all day pass (it was a music festival) to get in.  People who were not interested in the music and just wanted to shop were turned away.  We were doomed.
Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on August 12, 2011 at 12:03pm

LOL, did a show last spring with an artist who had their bird in a small cage in the back of the booth.  This bird was a parrot and had some very interesting sayings and knew portions of 3 songs, the artist was having a lousy show so attached a sign to the cage that said "$5 and my bird will sing for you".  He made over $100 bucks just from his bird, paid for his gas to get home!! 

Sorry for the bad show  Caroline, but thanks for an entertaining story.

Comment by Erin-Lynn McAleer on August 12, 2011 at 10:03am
Judy = BRILLIANT!!!  Hehe!!  Maybe I should start bringing my Great Dane to shows as well! ;-)
Comment by Judy Zeddies on August 12, 2011 at 8:55am
Not sure anyone will pay to pet the dog, but SELL them very small dog-biscuits to feed to him. The money he makes will pay for his food & yours too! (Get small ones so he doesn't get too full.)
Comment by Annette Piper on August 10, 2011 at 6:45pm
Oh Caroline, how awful but as everyone else has said, you've turned it into an entertaining read for us!   I too have been subjected to the EXACT 10x10 quite a few times.   And I think the $1/pet is a good idea :)
Comment by Caroline Kwas on August 10, 2011 at 6:15pm
Framer Dude concocted a new tactic: the next show that really looks like it's heading south (and I don't mean to Florida), we're gonna stick the dog in the booth with a sign aroud his neck that says "$1 a pet".  We bring him to the shows, but I have a rule that he is not allowed in the booth.  Still, people walking around back do that ridiculous cooing and falsetto voices like they've never seen a freakin German shepherd before.  So I'm going to put it to good use next bad show:
Nothing's for free. Including petting my dog to death.  Dollar a pet.  He would have made more than I did.
Comment by Kathy Bell on August 10, 2011 at 2:40pm

Caroline,

I am not a painter, but your description of the show was so vivid that I'd love to see you capture the event with drawings coupled with your narrative.

Kathy

Comment by Caroline Kwas on August 10, 2011 at 2:27pm

Kathy, My biggest regret that day was not bringing my camera.  Oh, if only I had the foresight,  "How not to ruin an art show" since the proverbial picture says a thousand words.

(unless, of course, the organizers want a dog and pony show)

Comment by Kathy Bell on August 10, 2011 at 1:52pm

Caroline,

What a wonderful writer you are! I continue to say that we need to write a book on unexpected events and "signs of a bad show." To turn this major negative into a positive I urge you to illustrate and write a book of your "Providence Experience." Your book could become a best seller. You certainly won the lottery! I have tears rolling down my cheeks as I read this to my husband. I will copy this and keep in mind that no show experience we've had could ever match your "Providence Experience."

Sincerely,

Kathy

 

Comment by Erin-Lynn McAleer on August 10, 2011 at 11:16am
I agree, I'm very sorry for the bad show, but it is pretty funny to read.  Like they say, hopefully one day you can look back at this and laugh. We've all had "those" shows before.  The next one will be better!  Just think, I'm sure it can't be worse! :-)

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