2014 OKC Festival of the Arts – “What it’s like on the waiting list”

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Two empty booths under “the earthquake drill”

I first visited this show in 2007 — the year before I started attending shows. It’s the biggest show in the state, and one of the top 50 in the country.

In summary: I’d love to do this show! (especially as a temporary replacement for Mayfest and Paseo this year.)

Application on Zapplication

Since it’s a big serious show, it’s on Zapp. Fill out the pertinents, send them five photos and a booth shot, pay the $25, and wait.

It appeared on Zapp in the summer of 2013, had a deadline of September 23, 2013, and I hurried up and submitted my application July 19.

They have 144 booth spots available, but who knows how many of last year’s artists are automatically re-invited. It’s also a total mystery how many artists applied. Given the popularity of the show, and especially the high rating in Sunshine Artist magazine, the total number of applicants could be in the thousands.

Response!

I got a letter from them in late January. “Ooh Ooh! Could this be it? I have applied for this show three times in a row — this can be the one! Big money, no whammies!”

Answer: …Waiting list. (again)

Bah.

Rumors and Stuff

So, what do you do when you’re on the waiting list — besides wait? Pace around the house (done). Get up and go to work (done). Sit alone at a table at a fast food joint and ponder life while generic music tries to overcome the sound of a screaming child who dropped a french fry three tables over (done).

I do some homework — I check with online forums (Art Fair Insiders), and chat with neighboring artists at other shows. One bit of advice kept coming up:

  • If you really want in, show up with all of your work as if you were invited to the show. Go to the check-in tent and tell them that you’re on the waiting list, and you’re there if they need you.
  • Think about it… The managers have a list, but the artists on that list have all been told the same thing as you — and where are they? At home, and home might be halfway across the country. If they get an invitation to a show that’s a thousand miles away with only 24 hours notice, what are the chances that they’ll arrive?
  • This doesn’t always work. The other folks on the waiting list might be local, and if not, they might be quietly waiting across town (in an air conditioned hotel room, rather than sitting in a folding chair in the sun). And heck, you might have a dozen people ahead of you. This waiting list might be segregated by medium (photography, water media, etc), or it might be one gigantic list with you halfway down.
  • You’re playing the odds no matter what.

Playing the odds

At my day job, asking to take an entire week off based on a hunch is a tough sell. But hell, I’m taking most of the month of May, why not take some of April! They eventually have to find out what it’s like when I finally go full time with this stuff. (But if the festival says no, then I only need to take Monday afternoon off!)

After the Stillwater Art Festival was over, I didn’t even unpack my van — Stillwater wrapped up on April 20, and setup for the OKC festival was April 21. Yes, I took all my artwork to my day job and left it in a sunny parking lot all morning. Fun times.

1pm rolled around, and I darted to OKC, rehearsing my script on the way there. Got there about 2:30, everything was going to plan. A street full of artists were setting up, and I found the check-in tent.

  • (time for the script) *ahem* “Hello, I’m on the waiting list and I’m here if you need me.”
  • “Okay, hold on..” (she turns around to chat with other people in the booth), “Hey, where’s the waiting list?”
  • (uh oh.)
  • “Well, just sign this sheet with your name and phone number, and if you want, you can wait over there with the other guy on the list.”

Only one other guy! There’s an arrangement of tables, and there’s Dan Bondroff — a pastel artist from Florida who I met at the Stillwater show.  We chat for a minute and he tells me that he’s been here since 8:30am (OMGWTF?), but he also tells me there’s one other person in front of him. (I’m third on “the list.”) Yep! Jeff Seemayer — a fabric artist from California. He’s second on the list, and was around chatting with other friends setting up at the show.

Three Guys Sit Around and Shoot The Breeze

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We played catch!

The “unofficial waiting list” consisted of us three sitting in folding chairs no more than 15 feet from the check in booth. We chat about other shows, we come to the conclusion that the Devon Tower (looming over two blocks away) is a disguise for a giant earthquake drill, and we even stand around and play catch with the kids of the volunteers. Knowing that we had been ‘just standing around’ for most of the day, the volunteers invited us to the free dinner at the hospitality tent!

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Don’t worry, it rained for a total of 10 minutes

Results

We stayed for another couple hours, living on rumors and hearsay regarding the process of “how the heck to three guys standing around get into this show.” We walked the show, eyeing the empty booths with anticipation — “This one will be mine, and that one will be yours! We’ll be neighbors!”

8:45pm — Our volunteer came from the back room with three manila-folder check-in packets. The artist names on each of the respective labels had been marked out with sharpie, and we couldn’t help but think, “three envelopes! there’s three of us! pretty please!!…”

No such luck. We watched as she silently wrote other artists names on them.

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..and got the news

We tried, and you bet we’ll try again next year!

This entry was posted in Art Festival Reviews.