Life As An Itinerant Artist

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

Louisville Fall Shows – Belgravia or South Fourth St.?

One of the best fall shows in the country happens in Louisville around the first weekend in October. It is actually five shows: St. James Court, Belgravia Court, South Fourth St. and South Third St. The main shows are all linked geographically, so it seems like one big festival. There are a couple of stringer shows, too, including the one at the West End Baptist Church. The St. James Court show is the original, much like Ann Arbor, but it is tough to get into. Someone asked recently, “If you were accepted into both Belgravia Court and S. Fourth St., which show would you rather exhibit in?”
I’ve only done the S. Fourth St. Section, but know others who have exhibited in Belgravia – some like the intimate nature of Belgravia, and some hate it. There are a couple of differences:
  1. Location & Setup. S. Fourth St. is a fairly wide residential street, with enough room to maneuver vans, small trucks and anything under 8′ wide. They are very organized about setup and queue up artists starting at about 1PM on Thursday. If you’re wider, like me, you have to dolly in. Belgravia is on a very pleasant residential courtyard (ie sidewalks), and everyone has to dolly in from the alley. Spaces on Belgravia can be very pitched, as the difference between the sidewalk and the center median lawns is great. Tough setup. Booths are back to back with some storage behind on Belgravia. S. 4th St. are facing, with trees and sidewalks behind most booths. S. 4th St street is fairly level, Belgravia spots are not.
  2.  Traffic on S. 4th St. is steady all three days. Booths are facing each other across the street, and most of the traffic comes down the middle. Belgravia is a cross-show connector between the St. James Court Show and S. 4th St. and gets a ton of traffic. But the sidewalks are narrow and it gets congested easily, resulting in a wall of patrons that can’t necessarily get in your booth. Sales are about the same in both shows. If you can’t get into the St. James Court section, 4th St. gets the most the amount of secondary traffic, as well as the upper end of the show on Magnolia that connects the two shows. 3rd St., the show that runs parallel to 4th St. also gets good traffic, but the upper end of 3rd St (the 1300 section) gets less as it’s a cul de sac.
  3. Quality of work is about the same in both sections. Patrons can’t tell the difference for the most part. Belgravia is well-juried. There used to be a bigger disparity, but 4th St. is trying to weed out the obvious junk. S. 4th St. has more artists, and some can be questionable. One year an artist who did computer embroidery won best in show at the 4th St. section and made a lot of artists quite angry. They’ve been trying to raise the quality in S4S for the past few years and generally succeeding. But some junk still creeps into S4S.
  4. Amenities – S. 4th St. is quite hospitable — both the show director, the staff and the residents are friendly and helpful. If you get lucky, you can tap the house behind you for electricity, bathrooms and sometimes even a parking spot. S4S also has a really nice award party with wine and hors d’oeuvres on Saturday night down the street at a lovely B&B. S4S brings muffins and coffee around, as well as water in the afternoon, as it can get quite hot. Belgravia is a bit lighter on the amenities, although they do have an artist party. S4S Awards come with some cash, too.
Personally, I like the S. Fourth St. section show. That’s the one I would choose given the opportunity. Here are some notes and pictures from last year’s show.

April 25, 2009

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