Life As An Itinerant Artist

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

Notes from Florida

Two shows complete, one to go. Next weekend, I’ll be setting up in Naples, for the Naples National Show. Last year the show was a bust, sales-wise, but I never give up on a show after the first try. Except for Key Biscayne and Hobe Sound, but that’s another story.

The Boca Raton Museum Show was an excellent show from several standpoints. The work is well-juried, by and large, and the venue lovely. Set in downtown Boca Raton, in Mizner Park, the booths are arranged around a palm-lined boulevard with fountains and a gazebo in a grassy park. High end stores are anchored at one end by the Boca Museum of Art and a small ampitheatre. Set-up is early. I mean really early, like 2AM early! But you can pull in to unload the vehicle next to the booth and there’s plenty of time to get setup before the show opens.

Lots of lookers this year, but not many buyers. That was the story I heard from many artists, and that was my experience. Boca can be very spotty for sales. Some years it’s good, others not so good. And the economy flagged this year’s show as a not-so-g00d. I did see some loyal returning customers, which always makes me feel happy. Happy happy happy. And of course we hung out with friends. Art shows tend to be social occasions for me, as most of the time at home I’m either holed up in the studio or sleeping. We saw Glenn and Linda Mace, Darren Olsen and I also had the chance to visit with my friends Shawn and Cindy. Plus the weather was warm, but not too hot. A welcome change from freezing temps in Michigan.

My wife Karyn tells me that the snow is now mostly melted at home — we had two feet on the lawn and roof when I left . So much snow that the sun-room had a leak in the ceiling caused by massive ice dam and melting cycles. It appears to have gone away, however temporarily, with the sun.

This past weekend, in Jupiter, the Artigras show was blessed with warm weather and lots of people wandering the streets of Abacoa Town Center in search of that perfect piece of art. Lots of kids, strollers, but no dogs allowed. One artist did manage to sneak Jasper the cat into the show. Yay Jasper! I went by and gave him some love while the owner was away on other business. Lots of friends at Artigras, too — Glenn and Linda, Marc Zoschke and Wendy Baxter of Vetro Caldo Designs (cool glass jewelry!),  Vonnie and Tom Whitworth, Loel Martin, the Baldaufs, Larry Humphrey, Patrick Whalen, Darren Olson, and I though that Jon Ellis was going to be exhibiting, but did not catch up with him. Hmmm. Antoni Koslowski was there as well, with that lovely amber jewelry.

Sales, unfortunately, again slower for most people. A painter two booths downm who does wonderful work with boats and water and is amazingly affordable did not sell a thing. But most people made at least enough to get to the next town. Life as an itinerant artist can really suck.

And here I want to insert an editorial comment. People, I know times are tough. But artists can’t continue to be the weekend’s entertainment without a little support from you, the collector and lover of art. There was lots of love going round the booths the past two weekends, but very little art finding new homes. Is it that there are just too many shows and too many artists? What about having to pay to get into a show? Does that curtail your ability to buy a little something for the walls? Artists get tired of many lookers and few buyers, and tiredness leads to burned-out leads to retiring from shows altogether. And there is precious little younger blood joining the circuit. Without your support, there would be no artists willing to do the shows, and unfortunately that is beginning to be the trend.

I’d love to know what you think — comments welcome here on the blog, or via email.

February 17, 2009

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