I have a theory.
Our swift rise in the art fair world has some people shaking their heads and complaining that we haven’t paid our dues. I mean, we’ve been at this less than a year, and our 2010 schedule now includes Coconut Grove, Winter Park, Reston, Des Moines, and Cherry Creek in Denver. That may not mean much to you, but it’s kind of like saying, “Gee, I think I’d like to be in a play”, and getting cast in a bunch of Broadway shows. (OK, Maybe Reston is off-Broadway, but still…) Some people strive for years to be accepted into fairs of this caliber, and here we are waltzing in on our first try. Like I said, dues must be paid.
Here’s my theory. The Art Fair Gods have put us on an accelerated dues-paying program.
Think about it. First was St. Louis, where we struggled with dehydration, problems setting up the tent, and display units that wobbled. In other words, rookie mistakes.
Then came Bethesda Row, where the cold and rain made for an experience so miserable it’s a miracle we didn’t get out of this business altogether.
And now we’re back from our third outdoor show at Coconut Grove in Miami. We arrived Friday afternoon, and after checking in, proceeded to set up. Weather was pleasantly warm, if a little windy, and things were going normally (make that extremely well–“normal” for us is NOT something to shoot for). We had the top, back and side walls in place and were waiting to put up the front until we were finished, when a security guard came zipping by on a golf cart, yelling “Secure your tents, there are 70 mile per hour winds heading this way!” I thought he must have been kidding, or at least exaggerating, but we made sure our tent was properly weighted down. In retrospect, we should have put up the front wall. Not three minutes later, a wall of wind and water hit us so hard I thought we were going to end up in Oz. Even with the tents upwind of us blocking some of the wind, the force was still strong enough to rip the grommets out of the canvas walls where we had zip-tied to the bottom stability bars, and one of our massive display units, weighing about 75 pounds, got blown over. Fortunately, all the bots were still in their packing cases, so all we had to do was hang on for dear life while getting completely soaked. After about ten minutes that seemed longer than W’s administration and just as scary, the wind diminished, although the rain was persistent. Mercifully, except for the grommets, some dents in the tin front of the display unit, and a few soggy gift bags, we escaped relatively unscathed. Others were not so lucky–we heard that six tents were destroyed–no mention of the damage, if any, to the artists’ work.
Fortunately, the following three days of the show were pleasant, despite some lingering winds on Saturday that made me nervous and jumpy but which the veterans didn’t even notice. Sales were good. Not St. Louis good, a fact that I attribute to the fact that the pot was being split by 360 artists, as opposed to St. Louis’ 165, but worth the trip. And we’re starting to meet some of the nicest people, both patrons (Hi Tammie!) and artists.
So, the way I see it, we’re starting to collect the requisite horror stories that all artists swap at these events, and have cleared the hurdles of rookie mistakes, cold, rain, and wind. The only dues we have still to pay are the ones involving high heat.