Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Difficulties of Doing Art Shows

There is a part of doing art shows that every artist who does them puts up with.  The hardship and difficulties of being in an outdoor show. There are many obstacles to cross and they are as big sometimes as the rewards you get. 

Some art shows are beautifully juried.  Lots of very good artists and it is a joy to walk among them and see all the huge diversity of the art and the creativity and fun of so many good creations.  It fills me with joy when I have time to escape my spot and see the other artist's work.  I can rejoice in the fact that so many people from so many walks of life have been busy in their studio and expressing themselves through their art. You may like it or not, but you have to admire the art.

Some shows are rather poorly juried or not juried but in name only.  They let in a lot of what we call "vendors."  A lot of people who buy a certain merchandise and resell it at these shows as if it was their own.  In the trade we call them "buy and sell" people and they rob the art shows of their quality and the pleasure of seeing something unusual and great. Most of the times, these people have poor displays and low prices.  They compete with you who have worked hard to create pieces that are filled with your integrity as well as with your talent. But often they send a great picture of some work to the jury and misrepresent the nature of what they sell.  They get a free ride and make us real artists look like nuts with our prices that reflect our efforts and our hard work.  What hurts us is the fact that the show organizers say plainly in the contract  "do not send images of thing that you did not make yourself!!!"  but there it is in the show.  An artist's constant frustration.

And there is also the weather.  It seems to get more violent with global warming.  You have to put weight on your canopy for outdoor shows and in my canopy there is eighty six pound at each corner plus forty pound sand bags on the openings of the canopy.  It makes you feel quite secure until the wind starts to push or sway the canopy like a paper toy in the wind.

I did a show this last weekend and when my husband and I walked in in the morning it looked like a bomb went off during the night. More then ten canopies were wrecked on the ground with what they sold scattered or broken across the lawn. There had been up to seventy mile per hour winds and a huge storm overnight.  So sad, plus so much work for all those affected.  Some of the artists salvaged their work but stood all day in the sun trying to sell what they saved. Our canopy still stood and nothing seem to be affected.  We were lucky, and prepared, from having been through once what they were suffering.

Many years ago as we were almost ready to pack the whole thing up at the end of the show and I went to get the van and while I was away, a sudden microburst of wind blew our canopy that my husband was in the process of taking down and took it across the park with weights attached like a huge octopus and dump it across the lawn breaking some of its legs.  Fortunately, it hurt no one since the crowds were gone and only a few artist were left and helped us pack the sad remnants of what was our canopy. We had to buy a new one. Sometimes the wind is a constant, wrecking your nerves and swaying the canopy all day as if you were boating on rough seas.

But there is something wonderful about the damages of the weather.  The incredible empathy and willingness to help of the artist community.  It is a sort of fellowship that has no name but that we all share because we, at one time, have been there having been the victim of the winds or storm.  We know what the damage of rain and wind or worse, tornadoes, can do to our creations.  We help each other. This is a silent knowing that helps us sleep better at night.

So doing outdoor shows can be a charm but also can be a trying experience.  I guess we do it to escape the galleries huge charge on our work, the appeal of the crowds and the buyers, the knowing that some thousands of people are exposed to your work and it becomes known in many parts of the country. And with a few exposures, you develop a following.  People look for you every year and buy your creations, compliment you on your work and encourage you.

Most artists lead a lonely life in their studio and face the material their tools and themselves, their intuition and ideas all day.  In my case, I love what I do and it makes me forget the ills of the world, its problems and its wars and corruption.

It makes me feels great to know I contribute to so many women's joy in wearing my work and for them and for the income it provides; I hit the road!

Copyright 2010 Micheline Brierre


  1. As a witness to the ravages of weather, I can certainly appreciate all the back scene heart aches. You have learned tremendous lessons of survival. When we first met at the Garden of the Gods show, remember how the wind had toppled some of the tents located outside the buildings? It was amazing to see how adaptable and how helpful all the artists were to each other in a time of need. At a time of necessity, everyone banded together and became one team, rather than competitors. It was wonderful!

  2. So glad you weren't wiped out!

    Louise Peterson

  3. Dear Micheline,
    When I read about your adventures, I think that you are very courageous to go through that every year....but of course you don't have any choice if you want your art to be known. Still I really hope that one day those places that do the festivals will find a way for the artists to be safer.
    I remember the last time we went to Ruidoso and we had to wait an hour in the parking lot for the rain to slow down a bit so that we could get inside to see the show. If you would have been outside, your canopy would not have survived the hard rain, lightning and the wind and your day would have been ruined. You & Barry have been very lucky so far but every time you do a show in those areas("tornado ally), I'm always worried that one day you'll get hit by lightning, or the wind will destroy your work and harm you in the process...hopefully it will never happened.
    Be safe my dear friend...
    Micheline in LC