Category Archives: Art Festival Reviews

2016 Ponca City art festival review – “this year, it’s travel size”

in fact, I have two of them

here’s the big picture.

Until now, I had never done a show the size of a food court.

I had heard good things — especially that’s it’s been going on for 40+ years. This show definitely has potential, it’s in good proximity to Stillwater,  the city involves stories of old oil money. And since OCCC closed up shop, I needed a show to take its place.

Concerns from the start

looming in the distance...

looming in the distance…

June, 2016: I couldn’t find the application. I didn’t even know whether the application deadline had passed. I thought I was on the right track when a Google search for “Ponca city art festival” returned a bunch of hits. I went into robot mode: download the application, print it, fill it all out, double-check that I filled it out correctly …and just as I’m getting out a stamp to mail it, I discover that the application was for 2015 instead of 2016. I went back to Google, and sure enough it’s “2015” all over the place. I eventually found their Facebook page, which had the current application.

Early July, 2016: I still didn’t know whether I got in.

Late July, 2016 — first clue: They deposited the check for my booth fee!

August, 2016: nothing.

First week of September: Every other art festival is good about communicating what’s going on: how to apply, notification that they received your application, whether you got accepted, and then the “where’s and how’s” of setting up before the show. I didn’t get jack, and it started to worry me. So, I called them. They said I got in, assigned me a booth number, and read me the setup details over the phone.

So far, the experience wasn’t matching the rumors that had preceded this show. With this show claiming that it is one of the oldest art festivals in the state implies that “we’ve been around a long time, so you can trust us that we know what we’re doing.”

Setup Day

setting up with great light

setting up with great light

Since their website was the only thing I had to go on (there was no “welcome” mailing), I just drove to the address listed on their contact page, hoping that the show would be nearby. Sure enough, the show took place in the front yard of the Soldani Mansion.

When I pulled up, a handful of booths were already there. (Maybe the bulk of the show was going to set up the next morning. We were expecting nasty weather that night.)

As I walk up to the building, I see a couple posters in the window: my booth number and a map. I’m booth 19.. out of 32.

32 booths? Only? This epic festival which is taking place in the yard of a mansion has been reduced to a paltry 32 booths? What is happening?

I go inside to check in. For an old building, it’s in very good condition. The assistants seemed organized and hand me a welcome packet. The packet says I’m “booth 20″… That’s when Lance interviened. (I was booth 19, ignore the 20.)

The explanation was revealed: this is a transitional year

Lance is their new Director, and he just started in late June. That timeframe is when all of the behind the scenes stuff for the show would have been finalized. But as soon as he told me that the Ponca City Art Center is under new management , I had flashbacks to when I was with the Multi Arts Center in Stillwater. From that point forward, all of my concerns dissolved. It caused me to accept the situation and switch from the concerned mindset of “What the hell would a 40+ year-old art festival be doing making rookie mistakes?!” to helpfulness “New management makes it seem like a new art center! Welcome, Lance! I’m here to enjoy what’s great about this show, and help out where I can!”

The show must go on!

I finished setting up, and helped out my neighbor (and fellow photographer) Vernon Hatley. He and his wife Beth invited me to dinner, and we went to a place called the “Rusty Barrel.”

we ate in an alleyway

we ate in an alleyway

Given that the directions to this place involve the phrase, “go down the dark alley and take your first left”, I would have likely avoided it if I were on my own. I’m glad I didn’t. It was pretty good. I wasn’t exactly enamored with their steak marinade (I’m of the “salt, pepper, grill until it stops mooing” mentality), but the overall vibe was great. Very smooth place.

A couple raindrops were hitting just as we left the parking lot. Here comes the front.

The wind immediately spiked to 40mph and I went to check on the booths:

we're getting wet, folks!

we’re getting wet, folks!

Day 1 – The next morning

it's just a little wet dirt, right?

it’s just a little wet dirt, right?

The show:

it was "spacious"

it was… “spacious”


turnout was kinda..

The turnout was the expected response based on the limited nature of the marketing & advertising push for the show.

And somehow out of the blue, I got this:

it's a major award!

it’s a major award!

In conclusion,

Lance, I look forward to a refined organization for next year’s show!

thankfully, a passerby helped my load that last crate

thankfully, a passerby helped my load that last crate

Quotes overheard at the show:

  • “Did you do these with optics?”
  • “All of these can’t be photographs??”
  • I was standing at the side entrance of my booth chatting with a potential customer, when suddenly a woman nudged me, working up just enough energy to mumble ‘scuse me’ as she pushed around me, stopped in the booth, looked around and belted out, “WHERE’S THE LADY WHO TOOK ALL THESE??!”

2016 Golden Colorado art festival review – “Being in a different state”

Why did I go and do such a thing?

  1. I was curious.
  2. September was empty because the OCCC art festival is gone, and I was on the waitlist for Wichita.
  3. My annual trip to Italy generally takes place in May, slap bang over the top of Mayfest /Blue Dome and Paseo. If those are out, then fall shows it is.
  4. A friend lives in the Denver area — “free” lodging!

Some of my stuff doesn’t make sense there

This is Colorado, and they know nothing about the OSU campus. So about a third of my portfolio spent some time at the Arts at 317 gallery in Shawnee, Oklahoma. (Shawnee is the birthplace of Brad Pitt.) I don’t have any mountain shots… Colorado has trees and things, right? So, I scramble and print photos of trees. (heck, I dunno.)

Powering through the Kansas Coma

a study in geometry
There’s ordinary highway hypnosis, but I-70 west of Salina is some next level stuff. Imagine all the landscape things that you get bored of seeing in Oklahoma — rolling hills, patches of trees, another little town, and so on. If you wished it all to be gone, Kansas will not only oblige but become an overachiever: There’s ground, road, sky. It’s as if the video card ran out of memory and couldn’t render anything but the basics.

Your brain automatically generates thoughts. You try to contain some thoughts going by, but there’s nothing for them to bump into — no hills for them to roll over, no trees or telephone poles for them to get snagged on — they smoothly whip around and taper toward the vanishing point in your rear view mirror and disappear in rapid succession. The speedometer says 80mph, but without a mote of dust to break the monotony, the landscape seems to lie still. The GPS map requires several pinches to indicate any sense of place, and Kansas reveals itself to be the dormant area lying between memorable experiences.

Arrival: Midnight or 11am?

Point 4 (above): One of my friends lives just northwest of Denver. “Come up to Interlocken, make a left onto Interlocken drive, turn right onto Interlocken circle, go through Interlocken road, and wonder why the hell they ran out of street names.”

The next morning: set up at Golden!

Golden is a blanket fort made of rock. Check in was pretty smooth, even though I was pleasantly distracted by the scenery:


with a tour group!

My booth location. I had a view of the mountains, but this was pretty crappy:

I don't want to know what's behind door number two.

I could watch my booth from the throne!

My neighbors and I each took turns going to the check-in booth and reminding them that the toilets were too close for comfort.

Eventually: success.

but everybody's a winner in colorado

we won!

I forgot to bring my hat, and had to buy another:

“fashion hat” lol

The show

Strong turnout, perfect weather, stunning scenery, and good sales given that I’d never done this show before.



Outside the show:

The hardest part about doing an art show in Colorado, is that you’re in COLORADO. My home state of Oklahoma does not have this:


..or this:


..or this:


..or a very good selection of this:


and other stuff.

Anyway, in conclusion

Very fun! I’ll do it again!

Sad News — Arts Festival Oklahoma at OCCC is gone. :(

It’s no longer sustainable:



I can’t bring myself to just sit around the house that weekend. I’ve done that show so much (since 2009) that it will take every fiber in my being to keep from instinctively going and setting up my tent, despite their field being empty.

About their decline in attendance: Why couldn’t they just move it to a different weekend? Due to cosmic reasons outside of our control, Labor Day weekend in Oklahoma has exceeded 100F nearly every year for the past decade. And when I would mention this show to anyone, they would respond with something similar to, “It’s a good show, but it’s so hot!” It didn’t matter if I was talking to a fellow artist, or a potential customer, heat was the major complaint.

I really wish they could re-tool it. Different weekend? Does it need the large circus tents? Could it use a smaller stage? Could we have it indoors — their new Performing Arts building has a large atrium.

OCCC, I’m gonna miss you.

2016 Edmond Art Festival Review – “They’re coming in hot!”

Everybody else sleeps. You don’t want to just do what everybody else does, right?

Before I gush about how this was my highest-grossing show ever, I have to offer some advice: If you do the Edmond show, either bring enough inventory, or drive home every night and make more prints. Friday will generally give you a good read on what your most popular prints are. When it comes to art, this place is a madhouse. And use Java Dave’s coffee to your advantage — you can sleep next week.

Setup – smooth like butta


I’m feeling caffeinated through the air

12 minutes and 11 seconds: The amount of time that my van was parked inside the bounds of the show.

When setting up for any show, I follow the rule: Come in, dump everything near the spot, park the van somewhere else, and set up at my leisure. I know I’ll be there 2-3 hours, and I can go get the van later. Not everybody does that, or can do that. Some artists have unique storage and unloading methods that require their vehicle to be present for the duration.

Until I did art shows, I never thought I’d have to do needlepoint with a minivan, but that’s part of the process.


If you have the beepy location sensors on your bumpers, they will play a song in morse code for you.

That said, the show implemented new rules for coming in to unload, and it was a good improvement. Artists on each of the three blocks of the show were supposed to enter from the west on the cross street to their north, turn south to unload, and then exit going west on the next cross street. Even though some vehicles remained parked for several hours, they were at least pointing the same direction.

Since it was supposed to rain that night, I didn’t bring any artwork on setup day. I still use way too many cardboard boxes to store my stuff, and there are not many things in the universe more useless than wet cardboard.

I requested a north-facing corner booth because I get way too sunburned in a south-facing booth. I got the north-facing corner I asked for, but this time I was on the west side of the street, rather than the east. That turned out to be better for two reasons:

  • By 4:00pm, I was in the shade of Java Dave’s! Only five hours of sun instead of 10.
  • The crowd goes counter-clockwise — they will go north along the east side of the show, and south along the west side. If you have a corner, it’s best to have a north-facing corner on the west side, and a south-facing corner on the east side. This maximizes visibility.

This city is very art friendly. Right behind my booth was a bronze of a girl feeding a chicken sitting on the back of a pig.


I love this city.

Friday – a bit touch and go

I arrived with all the artwork — which in hindsight, I could have done the night before because I had a tarp to cover all the cardboard.

One of the perks of showing up early is that they will let you bring your vehicle in to unload, as long as you’re out by 9am. Well, I’m not a morning person, and my time management skills are iffy. I arrived at 9:50am. “Yeah, 10 minutes.. I can do this. <sharking in the parking lot> but that lot is full.. and that one.. and that one too..” I ended up parking in the gravel lot near the BFE branch office.

Everything was shuttled to the tent in three trips: One for my new storage box / print bin (with the podium, chair, cooler, and foldy print bins piled on top). One with the 2×3-foot cardboard box full of gallery wrap canvases. And one with the six boxes of prints strapped to the dolly, and my camera bag strapped to my back. Those journeys took around 30 minutes.. Yes, 20 minutes into the show, and I didn’t have any artwork on the walls.

One hour into the show, halfway into setting up, the judges came by. (Think fast!) I explained that the “empty areas” on my wall were part of a new line of invisible work — one of which was a commission piece as the cover art for John Cage’s “4’33”. Seeing as how I didn’t get an award, they must not have been fans of post-modern music.


minimalism at its finest

There’s some rain. It’s windy.. The sun comes out and heats up the place just enough for the clouds to get all big and dark. Storm’s a coming. David Payne is on TV already, so gather around. We’ll watch him on my phone.

For those of you not from the area, David Payne is chief meteorologist from OKC’s Channel 9. April to May in Oklahoma translates to “tornado season in tornado alley.” If David is on TV, and it’s not part of the evening news, that means he is saying something very important and you need to listen.

By 5:00pm, a heavy storm blasted 80 mph winds all over Norman (south of OKC), and the crowd dispersed. I’m not sure, but maybe three artists remained open. I left at 5:30.

Sales = $0.


what happens when there are tornadoes 30 minutes away.


And naturally I showed up late again. The decision was a bit rock vs. hard place: Should I arrive early without new prints, or show up with new stuff whenever I get done with it — which hopefully translates to “before 10:00am”?

Solution: Make the new stuff. If you miss the 9am crowd, the 11am crowd will swoop in and buy it anyway.

I arrived earlier than before: 9:45am!


Boy, was I right. Friday was like a pressure cooker — it held everyone back for a day, so Saturday contained two days worth of people.

Not 24 hours after watching David Payne on our phones, he comes by to visit! He asks if I have any photos of Grand Lake (on the other side of Tulsa). Not yet, but I do know someone who has a rental house there, and I can likely get photos this summer. We then chat about storm photos, and I think I was the first person to show him that Monument Rocks, Kansas exists. (I’ve done this show since 2008, and I got the impression that he recognized me before I recognized him.)

6:30pm — The shadow of Java Dave’s shrouds my booth, and it dawns on me that I forgot my lights:


Sales: astronomical. Just in one day, sales were within $100 from exceeding my previous ‘best show ever’ — which was this very show in 2012.

Saturday night

Go home and make even more stuff — especially the prints that people had to order because I ran out of stock:



..Five hours of sleep and I’m ready! I just need to stock up on caffeine, and I can keep up with y’all.


Sales: yet another “three day show” in one day.

In conclusion

The tent was rode hard and put away wet.


velcro lol


it was nice of the rain to wait until the show was over.

Total sales exceeded my previous highest-grossing show (Edmond 2012) by 33%. I’m still buzzing, and I will spend the next several months analyzing what could have caused that:

  • Name recognition: I have done this show since 2008, and more people are coming by saying, “good to see you again! what’s new this year?”
  • My own comfort: Eight years of being out in public does a cool thing to your personality. During my first year, I was a twitchy nervous wreck. Now I think of running an art booth as people coming by to say hi and check on what I’ve been up to. The part that involves buying something from me is secondary. (Don’t force it.)
  • Location-based subject matter: I have tons of photos of the OSU campus, and since Edmond is on the north side of OKC, they’re that much closer to Stillwater, and more likely to be affiliated with OSU.
  • Money: Edmond is upscale.
  • Booth location and orientation: north-facing corner booth on the west side of the show, facing the oncoming crowd. (see the ‘Setup’ section above)
  • Workmanship: I am printing my own work, and assembling my own frames.
  • Schedule: I posted that this is my only other Oklahoma show in the spring. (I will be out of the country while Lawton, Mayfest, and Paseo are going on.) Maybe people took it as, “since we won’t see him again for a while, we better hurry up and buy something!”
  • My shirt: When I started doing shows in 2008, I just wore what I owned — simple t-shirt. After a couple years, my excitement of doing shows manifested itself as ‘loud’ Hawaiian shirts. As time went on, I just wore the same thing that I wore to my day job — single color polo shirt. For this show, my friend saw me being indecisive on the morning of the show and she suggested a certain light blue button-up shirt that I bought last month but hadn’t yet wore. I wore it Saturday. Thinking that it contributed to my success, I bought two more Saturday night, and wore one of them on Sunday.
  • Combination of all of the above: If you have what they’re looking for, and you look like a trustworthy business, you will get love.

Quotes From The Show

  • “All the old people are out today!” … “Yeah! All the grandpas and grandpas and grandpas…”
  • “Just say anything!” …a couple girls came by just to listen to my voice. I sound like a radio announcer.

2016 – The year of very few shows

I will be attending only one more art festival in Oklahoma this spring, and likely only one in the fall.

Due to an upcoming vacation, I will be skipping the Lawton Arts Festival, the Tulsa festivals (Mayfest and Blue Dome), and the Paseo Arts Festival in OKC.

Spring 2016

If you are planning to see/purchase my new work this spring, I strongly encourage you to make the drive to Edmond.

Downtown Edmond Art Festival

If you have not been, it’s a fantastic show! This is a strict “fine art” show, and the city of Edmond is generally upscale. Come on by, bring your friends, enjoy! (..unless your friends are dogs. They don’t allow dogs at the show.)

Fall 2016

Art in the Square – Utica Square, Tulsa

  • Oklahoma artists only.
  • Date & Time: TBA (usually the first Saturday in October)

And that’s it.

What about the big show at OCCC? The one with the circus tents? Due to the Oklahoma budget shortfall, Oklahoma City Community College will not be able to fund Arts Festival Oklahoma in 2016. My heart sank as soon as I heard that news. I have participated in it since 2009, it has been a staple. It has certainly had more than its fair share of relentlessly hot weather, but it’s still a darn fun show. I really hope it comes back next year.

Well, I do have some out of state shows.

I don’t do very many out of state shows… I have a full-time job, and a lot of my work is based in Oklahoma.

But if you’re planning a road trip with friends, stop by and say hi!

  • June 4-5 – Mulvane Art Fair – Topeka, Kansas
  • September 16-18 – Bradley Fair – Wichita, Kansas