(EDIT: The “Wichita Autumn and Art Festival” took place Sept 12-14, 2014. I just now got around to writing the review.)
This show, in a single picture: Powerful & Refined.
Anyway, it’s behind a shopping center…
And over the lake:
And it’s one of the most well-managed art festivals I have ever attended.
Attention all other art festivals: This is how you do it.
- Size: a comfortable 99 artists.
- Location: Next to an upscale shopping center, across from a beautiful lake.
- Dimensions: Straight down the street, booths facing each other.
- …OCCC and Utica, take note. Making visitors zig-zag through the show wears them out.
- Proximity to the hotel: The next best thing to being in the lobby.
Planning and Organization: Red Shirt Army
This show has only been going on for four years. FOUR. I have done shows which claim to have been going on for 35+ years, and they still make rookie mistakes.
This management team loved communicating with us (and by “us”, I assume everybody got the same messages as me). I received 10 email messages before the show, and a ‘thank you note’ afterwords. They wanted to make sure we knew EVERYTHING.
The load-in procedure was in the second email. (The first was a “rah-rah! welcome to our awesome show!” message, which everybody does. But most shows usually quit there.) For each successive message, it became increasingly more obvious that a considerable amount of thought went into the planning and design of this art festival.
A portion of the load-in procedure (emphasis mine):
All artists must enter Bradley Fair Parkway from the shopping center entrance on North Rock Road. Load-in will take place based on the following schedule:
– Sections B & D – 7:30 a.m.
– Sections A & C – 9:30 a.m.
Please arrive at your designated time unless other arrangements have been made with show staff prior to arrival. Our goal is to accommodate everyone as quickly and efficiently as possible.
You will be permitted to drive your vehicle to your assigned booth location, but artist vehicles are not to remain in the booth area during setup. You will be asked to unload your items promptly and then move your vehicle to the designated parking area adjacent to the site. We will have golf carts available to transport you from the parking area back to your booth.
I’ll get back to that “Section B&D and A&C” business, but that part about unloading is fascinating: They think just like me! I wrote about this very topic in the review of this year’s Edmond Art Festival, but I could have ranted about that for every single show: Don’t park in front of your booth while you are setting up! Unload your stuff, go park somewhere else, and come back to set up. At most shows, a large number of artists will park in the street for hours. You’ll find full-size vans, extra-wide trucks, trailers, even an RV. If you show up later than everybody else, there will be no room for your vehicle and you’ll have to park on the fringes and wheel-in your work from around the block. But if you show up too early (thinking of how wonderful it will be to unload right next to your booth), you’ll be trapped in by a small army of vehicles unloading all around you, sitting there for several hours.
The ABCD sections:
Sections B & D are the southern half of the show (left and right, respectively), A & C are the northern half. Since I was in booth A11 (which I was kindly reminded of at the bottom of emails 2-8 over the past couple months), I knew to arrive at 9:30.
I arrived at 10:15. When I pulled up to the front gate, one person with a clipboard and walkie talkie greeted me and asked for ID. “Good morning! Welcome to the Bradley Fair, Jason! Is this your first time to this show?” Yes, and pardon me for not being accustomed to such an enthusiastic welcome. “Here’s your packet of goodies (schedule, tax form, instructions, etc.), and a parking pass for your dashboard. If you could, please pull up to the gentleman in the red shirt, and he will give you further directions. Thanks for being part of the show!” OMG, they love me already.
In my rear view, she’s chatting over the walkie-talkie.. here’s the red shirt guy, “Good morning, Jason. How was the drive in?” It was good! I hope I’m not showing up too late. “Oh, that’s fine. Your booth is about 3/4 of the way to the north end of the show. We currently have another artist unloading, but when I get the all-clear, I’ll let you know when you can pull in.” Only about 45 seconds pass before his radio crackles, “You’re good to go! Drive slowly until you see another guy in a red shirt. He will be standing in front of your booth location. Thanks for coming!”
I slowly drive the length of the show, south to north, feeling quite surprised that I don’t need to thread a needle with my minivan, narrowly missing all the side mirrors of each vehicle parked along the length of the show — aside from a couple trucks here and there, it’s mostly open space!
An empty booth spot is up ahead on the right, and sure enough, a member of the Red Shirt Army (I eventually hear that’s their official unofficial name) is standing in front of it waiting for me. “Good morning, Jason!” (See, everybody here knows me already. That’s how I roll, lol.. Never mind that there’s a big sign sitting on my dashboard containing my name and booth number.) “This is your spot! Due to limited space, we ask that you pull in backwards, and unload all of your supplies on the grass behind your booth spot. When you’re finished unloading, artist parking is just to the north, and another one of our red-shirt volunteers will show you the way. Any questions? Need any help?” What I should have said: How did you guys get so awesome at this? I’m only here for 10 minutes, and I’m convinced that even though this isn’t being run by a real army, it’s so efficient that it would fit right in with a Dan Carlin history podcast.
I back my van into my spot — with Red Shirt Guy #3’s navigational assistance. I turn off the key and get to unloading. (Start the timer and cue the Benny Hill Theme!)
30 minutes later — blarfed up a pile of art booth, moved the van, checked into the hotel, and came back to the pile:
Knowing that the show didn’t start until 6pm, I took my time. I headed back to the hotel just because I could.
The managers of the show worked out a deal with the Hilton Garden Inn. Artists were offered a pretty steep discount off their room. To clarify, they not only worked out a deal with the hotel, but the manager of the hotel was part of the management team for the show — think about it, it’s run by the shopping center, which is a big neighborhood… what better way to be neighborly than to offer a discount on what you’re good at!
Result: The walk from the hotel to my booth — 240 feet. Staying at the hotel and going out to run my art booth was one continuous, joyful, three-daylong experience.
- …In order to have a comparable experience at Tulsa Mayfest, I’ll need to stay at the Hyatt.
- …If I do Arts for All in Lawton, I’ll have to build a tent in the median of Gore Blvd.
Anyway, back to the booth:
Get all the rich people liquored-up so they’ll buy stuff faster!
During this time, the show was only open to people who pay a few bucks extra. They get wine and a decent dinner, and got set loose on the show!
That was the plan at least. However, as is quite common at outdoor shows such as this, they were at the mercy of the weather — which decided to be 43F.
Fingers: frozen. Sales: $35.
Saturday – Perfection
Wake up. Shower. Walk out to the booth. Yes, there was no need to hop in the car and drive halfway across town. The show is literally 50 feet from the edge of the hotel lawn.
The weather was fantastic — 68F, air conditioned, slight breeze. It was perfect.
The only bad thing — I couldn’t find any booth sitters..
Saturday evening – Exploration
After the crowd went back to wherever they went, and the neighbors zipped up their booths, I finally got time to see the neighborhood.
Oh, what’s this… A challenger has entered the arena:
Pardon me for saying “a challenger.” A Dodge Challenger is a little toy compared to this machine. If you’re not one of the 300 million people who keep up with Top Gear, this is an Audi R8 V10. It’s 525 horsepower, 10 cylinders, and it’s basically a Lamborghini wearing a suit and tie. (Yes, Audi bought Lamborghini a few years back.)
For me, this was an art show in an art show.
Anyway, enough of my rambling…
Oh, and since I held it in all day, I finally found the restrooms!
Where have these been for my entire art show career, huh?
I will remember this every time every other art show requires me to piss in a plastic porta john.
Sunday – Just as good.
The only bad part about Sunday was that we had to leave.
99 artists in the upscale neighborhood of a city with a population of 380,000 is a perfect combination.
Just like any show, don’t expect very many (if any) sales on the first day, and don’t pass judgement on the show until it is completely over. When customers stop by, chat up when they take an interest in a given image, but give them time to see the entire show. No pressure. The visitors who are interested WILL come back, but most of them won’t tell you whether they’re coming back. (Those that do tell you are called “Be Backs” because like Arnold, that’s what they say.) When people come in an actually want to buy something, most often that’s the very first time I see them — and if you ask what got them interested in it, don’t be surprised when they say, “yeah, I saw this earlier and thought about it..” See, they’re sneaky! Don’t depend on people coming back, just have fun with the experience and be thankful when they do come back!
Odds and Ends and quotes
- If you are displaying a high-end sports car, there’s no need to yell through a megaphone about it. The car will speak for itself.
- “Why is that house bent?”
Even if you’re not here for the show, stop by il Vicino pizza. I’ve been to Italy three times, so trust me when I say that this place is awesome.
Off to Medicine Park!