To Miami–one last time

The Dead-End Tour continues (February 12th) –On the road for Coconut Grove–the last leg. Just had the van in the Ford dealership yesterday—the starter went out–suspected that it was going bad and took it in last week–they couldn’t find anything wrong–of course yesterday in preparation for this trip it wouldn’t start.  We had to use the old hammer on the starter trick to get it going and take it to the dealership to make our weekly $400+ donation to the “Ford recovery program”.  Last week we gave them $129 to fix the ABS sensor in the rear differential, because the $450 dollars we paid them to fix the problem two weeks before didn’t work–of course that was on top of 2-$100 diagnostic tests previously done.  We’ve spent more on repairs on this van than we initially spent to purchase it new!  This is the kind of headache that we and lots of artists deal with trying to get to a show.  Patrons have no idea of the expenses we incur.

So we left for Miami this morning–would normally be there tomorrow early evening, but Mother Nature is not happy with the world.  Atlanta iced over–Birmingham too, so we’re going the long way around–through Memphis, down thru Jackson, MS to the coast and turn left!  We’ll help the big oil companies, using lots more diesel!

Well, well, well….got near Memphis and our old friend is back—the ABS light went on again!  I will not miss the stress of traveling to the shows, worrying about the weather, the van and whether the patrons will show up.

When we began doing The Coconut Grove Art Fair  back in 1999 it was one of the two best art fairs in the nation.  All the top ranked artfair artists did the show, the economy was strong and sales were great. It was free for the people to walk and more than 375,000 attended.  It was wonderful people watching—everything from the lady with the little dogs dressed as clowns in a stroller, to International jet-setters shopping for art and multi-million dollar yachts at the Miami Boat Show.  But that’s all gone.  Now it’s drastically different.  Show promoters  by and large have come to view art fairs as big business.  Sponsors (like car dealers) get prime locations in the layout.  The show is now enclosed by fencing and patrons must pay $15 admission to pay for the bands that now play non-stop.  Attendance is down to 100,000 but there’s still 350 artists each paying $800 for their booth spot (and more for a corner or double). Most of the people in attendance don’t seem to be interested in or knowledgable of the art. And it’s more than just the weak economy that has devastated the shows.  It’s that everyone has jumped onto the art fair bandwagon and so there are way, way too many venues now.  The result is that the shows aren’t “special” anymore so the patrons don’t feel any need to buy when they see you.  There’s always another show nearby next weekend or next month, or they think they’ll just go online anytime they want, which in actuality they rarely follow-up on. It’s a shame because doing art fairs was one of the rare ways that independent visual artists could make a living from the sale of their art.

A patron that I made a special piece for some years ago brought her girlfriends to see us and one purchased from us which was a great way to start off the weekend.    In the end we had a good solid show—but mostly work we have to make and ship elsewhere.

I won’t miss the tension of sitting there all weekend feeling the pressure to make sales to cover expenses.  Buyers feel they have the upper hand now in negotiations and it’s so very difficult to keep your confidence up.  Set-up and tear-down are physically grueling.   Tear-down is particularly hard because you’ve sat at the show under stress waiting and waiting for a sale.  However this time we were smiling all through tear-down knowing that it was our last!

We’re headed home now and feeling so free!  We are ecstatic about the opportunity to now make art that we couldn’t do for the artfairs.