Welcome to the Cooper studio, home again, after yet another summer art fair. You know, the little white tents, scattered around the park, or maybe up and down the street around the town square. Yeah, that summer art fair.
Before I left for Lake Forest, Illinois and Art Fair On The Square, (my most recent adventure) I was reading at ArtFairInsiders, a website for art fair artists. Several other artists had posted what event they were exhibiting at, and one specific post has remained on my mind. The woman had mentioned the weather forecast for the town they would be exhibiting in. Something about the forecast from hell, and please pray for them. Ha.
Let's talk about YOU being the artist at the summer art fair. There are a lot of ways we could/should look at this:
1. You and the physical work of exhibiting
2. You and the art work
3. You and the specific fair suitability
4. You and the business. Yes, I'm sorry. There will be math.
But let's begin at the very beginning, it's a very fine place to start...
You, and the physical work of exhibiting, at the summer art fair. Unfailingly at a summer art fair, there is a patron who romances the game. "Oh, it's so wonderful that you have such a great talent, and it must be so much FUN to come here and show your paintings! I'll bet you just love your job!" And her friend would be the one who assumes the tents are all set up and free for the taking by any artist wanting to show some art. I am so sorry to disappoint you, but that's not quite the way it happens. First of all, it's work. It's work coming and it's work going, and it's work in between. It's hard work. Do you shy away from things requiring physical labor? Then DO NOT consider the art fair venue. Let me explain. Please.
The white tents? It's BYO. Yup, you load them into your van at home, and you unload them when you get to the scene of the art fair. And they are not light weight. Set up? It's your job. Sometimes there's a stray boy scout or two, volunteering. But usually not. And do you realize how heavy a box of paintings can be when you have to carry it across the park lawn to your booth space that's at the top of the hill? Yup, still your job. Yes, get a cart for that, something more to load and unload, of course. And when everything is hung and pretty (also your job) there's the meeting and greeting to do. And smiling. And explaining. And discussing. Now, that part is all very enjoyable, but after 8 or 10 hours, you just might start to wear out a little. But never mind, because if it's a one day show, then everything has to fit back into your van for the drive home, and yup--it's YOUR job. If it's a two day show, most artists leave the white tent on site, but a lot of us load the paintings back into the van for safe keeping overnight.
Did I mention when it rains, no one comes to the rescue? All of the setup, all of the tear down--still the job of the art fair artist, whether it's raining or not. And when it's 103 degrees and the humidity is even higher?? Still your job.
Remember I mentioned weight? True, I was speaking of the weight of the white tent you are lugging around, but even THAT weight requires more weight. To hold it down. Because sometimes the wind blows in the park. And if your little white tent catches that wind it easily becomes a sail--unless you've weighted it down with weights on each corner post. Fifty pounds recommended. Each. And yes, that's your job too.
Do I sound grim? Sorry. I don't want you to be misled. To romanticize the whole thing. The summer art fair is a marvelous and fun place to show your art work. Well run events can have upwards of 20,000 people through in a single weekend. And visiting with a few of those people, about your paintings is a pleasurable thing, and that's the gospel truth. But it's accompanied by hard work, and don't you forget it.
Next up: the art work you want to exhibit at the summer art fair. My inherent lack of political correctness will probably cause some toe stepping. Ouch. Stay tuned.