How to make your own Arts Festival Oklahoma:
- 112 artists
- 4 baking tents
- 1 food court (with giant glowing ice cream cone!)
- 1 stage
- 1 large artist parking lot
- 1 large visitor parking lot
- 20 golf carts
- hundreds of volunteers
- (optional, but recommended) Squonk Opera
Arrange four tents side by side. Place food court, stage, and visitor parking near the tents. Place artist parking lot 1/3 of the way around the campus (approx. 2,000 feet away). Use golf carts to shuttle artists to and fro. Have volunteers bring ice water to artists every 20 minutes.
Heat at 100F for three days.
Serves: 30,000 visitors. Enjoy!
The show changed size. Only 112 artists? I vaguely remember this show having upwards of 160 a few times. I also didn’t see any artists on the outside of the big tents — those locations only had vendors.
The only constant is change
Setup was a bit easier thanks to my latest creation — a long-overdue shelf for my van:
Until now, I would have to remove everything in order to get to the panels at the bottom. It’s one of those “why the hell didn’t I think of this before” moments, especially since I’ve been doing this for eight years.
Speaking of the panels, I have been using dark panels since time immemorial (aka “April 2008”), and it’s time for a change. My portfolio has been drifting toward more shots with heavy shadows. A friend pointed out that it was difficult to see how my work would look hanging in a living room: “Who has black walls at home?” (well, some people…) And since my work doesn’t have a white mat surrounding the image, lighter-colored panels would help the work stand out.
This was also the first time I offered 11×14 prints at this show. At $35 each, this is my entry-level item. (To a potter, this is my “line of coffee mugs.”)
Day 1 – The heat was hot, and the ground was hot, and the air was full of hot
The weather at this show is like that overly enthusiastic guy who comes by your booth and talks incessantly about absolutely nothing at all, and never gets the hint that you’re not listening. He also brags about how hot he is.
The day went from 11:00am to 9:00pm. The crowd was pretty much non-existent between 2:00pm and 7:00pm. They knew better than to come out in this crap.
On the plus side, the music by Squonk Opera was great fun! Their stage was like Burning Man without all the sand. (They seem to be in a similar genre as one of my favorite artists Shpongle, which until now, I considered an entire genre with only one artist in it.)
My immediate neighbor Alexa has an interesting story: She’s from Hawaii, creates acrylic paintings of sea turtles (donates 10% of her profits to sea turtle conservation), and for the past 18 months, she and her dog have been touring the mainland in an RV which doubles as her painting studio. She has done an ambitious 60 art shows over that time, and has only a few more shows before heading back home at the end of the year.
She came to Oklahoma in the spring, was immediately welcomed by a tornado, found out that she is allergic to our air (ragweed, corn, something) — and already one day into the OCCC show, she is being chased by a damned drone!
You can find out more about her work at Alexa’s Makin’ Waves.
Day 2 – Ceiling Fan and
Shanty Tent Blanket Fort
As the first day was finishing up, the heat reminded me of another latent idea that was long overdue for pulling the trigger on.
I spent some time on my phone searching for a Lowe’s that was open until 10:00pm. I needed to buy a thing…
When visitors are comfortable, their wallet becomes more comfortable with the idea of coming out of their pocket.
The next morning, Alexa borrowed a sheet from her neighbor, and we made a blanket fort to shield ourselves from the morning sun. We didn’t need it by mid-afternoon, since we were on the east side of the large tent.
The morning crowd came and went, and then the police showed up.
One of the poles on the side came loose, and management didn’t want to take chances. The police evacuated the entire tent while the technical crew re-seated the pole and inspected the entire tent. We were out of service for an hour. Thankfully this occurred at 4:00pm — the noon crowd was long gone, and the evening crowd hadn’t yet worked up the courage to brave the heat.
Day 3 – the sequel to day 2
We had the system figured out: keep the fans going full-blast, re-build the blanket fort, and when a volunteer comes by to pour ice water in your cup and accidentally drops some ice on the ground, just instinctively reach down, grab the ice, and rub it on your face. It feels gooood!
Sales: Now how the hell did this happen?! Until now, I had never made such great sales at this show. This weekend’s total rivaled those from my larger shows: Edmond, Paseo,
Mayfest Blue Dome.
(With skyline photos of OKC instead of Tulsa, I could have likely made a lot more.. I had many many requests. That will be addressed soon.)
In summary, here are the things that could have affected things:
- Lighter colored panels
- Ceiling fan
- Lower price point (last year, my cheapest item was $75, now it’s $35)
- I only had 2-3 Red Bulls per day, instead of five — meaning I wasn’t as much of a spastic mess.
We did well!
A Note on Perspective
Artists generally avoid discussing their exact sales figures. If you ask us how we did at a show, we usually say something vague like, “It went well!” or “eh.. it was kinda flat.” Dollar amounts are pretty meaningless because the same amount means different things to different people. My friend John makes loads of money at some of these shows, but since he has a double booth, and has enough inventory to fill his new Dodge Ram Promaster cargo van, that’s to be expected.
I asked Alexa how she did, and when she told me an exact figure, I felt in all fairness that I should mention mine — I made about $150 less than she did (after accounting for a recent refund). Where I was overly excited with my total number, she was disappointed with hers. Like most artists, we define a “good show” as one where we move several large pieces — but where my large pieces cap off at $350, her original acrylics exceed several thousand. We also have different contexts: This is her sole source of income, and I supplement my art shows with a day job.
Speaking of finances, my art business is doing fine. It sustains itself. It just can’t sustain an employee (me) yet.
Quotes from the show
- “What’s your favorite color?” “RAINBOWS!”
- (overheard in another booth) “Thank god. I just had to get up close to make sure it wasn’t photography.”
Off to Wichita!