Life As An Itinerant Artist

Stories and anecdotes from fifteen years on the art show circuit. 

Intersections

Crowds at the Fourth Street show
The Fountain at St. James Court

The fountain at St. James Court during the art show

One of the main reasons that I do shows is to meet people and talk about my work. Each show is different, each show has a personality. Nowhere is this more evident than in the St. James Court shows in Louisville. Over 300,000 people stream through the streets of Old Louisville on a nice fall weekend, looking at art and talking to the artists. People come from all over, like they do at Ann Arbor, and look forward to the annual event. This past weekend was no different. The weather was fantastic, the quality of the work was better than it has been in years past, and I was back on Fourth Street near the Belgravia Court entrance.

But the intersection of our economic woes, the looming presidential election and people’s pocketbooks seemed to take a dent out of the show’s energy. My sales were down this year, and many of the artists I spoke to were experiencing the same slack. People streamed into the booth, asked intelligent questions about the photographs, picked up pieces and shared their thoughts with their friends, and then put the work back in the bin and walked away. Some artists say that shows have become more of an entertainment venue than a marketplace. Maybe that’s true. Certainly when times are tough, there is little or no money left for discretionary purchases. But I would argue that art is not discretionary. Art is necessary. It makes us feel good. It brings back memories of a place remembered, or reminds us of the things we love.

Nowhere but at an art show can you meet, visit and learn firsthand about an artist and his work. It’s an experience unique to our American culture. History aside, art shows have evolved from the “clothesline” shows of the 60’s to sophisticated venues with many talents represented. Speaking for myself, it’s an opportunity to connect with people who may never have the chance to meet me in person otherwise. And my work changes from year to year. We artists never know if we will be re-invited to a juried show or whether we will be back the next year. Seize the opportunity! Support your favorite artists when you see them, or your paths may never intersect again.

Anonymous Art Viewer

This woman decides to take a break from standing to view a favorite image

Some of the chance meetings truly are bizarre. Towards the end of the day on Saturday, a woman came into the booth, and examined my work in great detail. She was carrying a water bottle filled with beer and at one point sat down on the pavement and gazed intently at “Blessed are the Meek”. I couldn’t tell if she was drunk, or high, or perhaps a combination of both. She got up after a while, and we had a lengthy conversation. She seemed lucid enough, although thinking back, it may have just been a good combination of drugs and alcohol. She did not purchase an image. I can only imagine that when she gets home again (she was from Virginia) she will regret not having brought an inspirational souvenir from the finest Louisville had to offer last weekend.

October 7, 2008

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