How Do I Do It?
Everyone loves art festivals. Row after row of crisp white tents filled with beautiful art, each one more interesting and charming than the next. But what does it take for the artists to make that happen, to set up a mini-store in several hours overnight from the contents of their van? Well, I've put together a behind the scenes look at what I do to create the ambiance that will enhance my artwork. Here's what happens:
First I have to finish up all the work that I've completed since the last show. Besides making sure that everything is signed, and the edges are painted my signature grey, I put a coat of varnish on each painting to protect it and bring out the dark values. Then I mount the hardware that's needed on both the framed and unframed work
Since I'm a very organized creature, I have checklists and layout plans. There's so much more to bring than just artwork, tent and display panels, and I want to make sure nothing gets left behind. (I just hate when I'm missing something important.) I've been doing art festivals for sixteen years and I'm still tweaking my setup and my methods as my art changes.
Making It All Fit
The secret to my success at art festivals is my husband, Chris. First of all he has developed a way to fit everything I need into my Saturn VUE, a mid-size SUV. He has a system – that I don't entirely understand – that gets everything in there, starting with the metal display panels (on left). I protect my artwork in quilted bags that I've sewn from black moving blankets, and they sit on top of everything else so the weight on the canvases is minimal.
Then everything else fits around that, including 240 lbs of weights to stabilize the tent in the wind, fabric covers for the display panels, tent hardware and fabric, two chairs, and lots of other miscellaneous things to make it all work. It's so tight, Chris and I can only bring very small overnight bags for our clothes. But it's worth it in that I don't have to rent or buy a big van or RV, that would result in more hassle, cost, gas usage, and pollution.
The Set Up
We arrive at the show city on Friday afternoon so we can get an early start the next day. Usually we have to be at the event site at 4:30 or 5:00 AM on Saturday morning. Art festivals usually start this early because the organizers want everyone to unload onto the sidewalk and move their vehicles to parking areas before anyone starts to set up, as the streets are never wide enough for both traffic and tents. So there's usually a bit of standing around in the dark on the sidewalk champing at the bit at 5 AM.
Finally at 5:30 AM we can start. Chris and I put the tent up together, beginning with the roof and then attaching the four legs, the side panels, and the front and back awnings.
Then we put up the display panels, add the panel covers, and hang the artwork. By then it might be 8 AM and we can finally go get some coffee and breakfast somewhere. Chris, as always, is an incredibly hard worker and invaluable in making it all come together.
Ready for Business
And finally, about 9 AM, after adding price tags and other bits and pieces, I'm ready for business! The show officially starts at 10 AM and doesn't get really hopping until 11. By then I have my second wind and I'm having fun talking with people who are enjoying my artwork. And Chris, who always works harder than me, can take a nap in his folding chair in the back.