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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Lessons Learned in Chicago: an Artist on the Road


This summer I decided to take my art booth beyond the West Coast, and try a trip East. The most logical place to try? Chicago. (My brother lives in the area, hence free lodging and a place to store all my stuff!) I picked out a Chicago area show that fit in my schedule, juried in (yea), and then 2 weeks prior shipped the bare minimum of stuff out to my brother's house. Here is what I learned from this little experiment...


1) A Chicago AREA show, is not a Chicago show.
What I found (having only been to Chicago a couple times in the past) is that it is the land of small community suburbs. I chose a show (Glencoe Festival of the Masters) due to its proximity to my brother's house (2 blocks away). I suppose I was thinking that any show near Chicago would have more people attending than our little West Coast shows. Hmmm. Though it was a great community event, it was a small community. I would say I had more traffic in my booth at Lincoln City, OR and Coupeville, WA. Next time, I think I'll look for a show closer to the center of Chicago.

2) Not all tent rentals are created equal.
I debated quite a bit about whether to invest in a decent pop-up tent (I currently have the more durable/artsy Flourish test - which I love despite the longer set-up time) and have it shipped directly to my brother and then either try to resell it there or ship it back to myself after the show... OR... pay the fee and rent a tent from the show organizers. I chose poorly. The tent I rented was more like a circus tent than the pop-up I expected. The beams were too big in diameter for me to hang my walls, the sides didn't close all the way at night (I used a sheet to block the gap), and they put two big rain barrels attached to my booth which blocked people from entering on one side. Next time - ASK what kind of tent they're renting to you before deciding which route to go.

3) Get creative.
I wasn't quite sure how I was going to display stuff, and had planned on using what I could from my brother's house and/or buying what I needed there. Even though it wasn't the best looking set-up, I'm happy I was able to use what was at hand: a table, a stool upside down for a print rack, and a tupperware box for my cubby of receipt book/calculator/water bottle, etc.

4) Shipping Artwork.
I was fairly happy with how this worked out. I shipped out a few med/large canvases and then shipped a few pieces on paper. I then shipped frames and mats for the artwork on paper directly to my brother's from the manufacturer. Next time, I think I would do more works on paper.

5) Originals vs. Prints.
I thought... "Chicago". They probably want more original art. No need for a lot of prints.
As usual - I should have had more prints! Though I was happy to see my original pricing seemed about right - I received feedback that was in line with feedback I receive on the West Coast.

6) A show is a show is a show.
I was worried that I would feel out of place at a Chicago show. I was happily reminded that my art translates well to a variety of audiences and that art shows are remarkably similar wherever you may go. Even though I was many miles away, I felt right at home in this little artist community.

Overall I would rate this a successful experiment, though maybe not a successful show. I paid for all my expenses for a trip to see my brother and his family, which was my original goal. And, I learned some lessons to make my next attempt at a fly by show more successful. Though I'm happy to report that I'm back on the West Coast show circuit in August!

4 comments:

Kelly said...

Jennifer,

If you stray into Chicago again you might check out Oak Park. It is closer into Chicago and home to Frank Llyod Wrights studio. There is lots of traffic from the FLW tours.

When my husband and I are back there, we walk everywhere. It is a very walkable town, and the park location is close to the EL.

http://www.illinoisartfairdirectory.org/node/248

Jennifer Lommers said...

Thanks for the tip Kelly!

Jo Wholohan said...

just found you through blogland :)) LOVE your florals, just beautiful xx

Trish @TheOldPostRoad said...

THAT was informative! Thank you!
-Trish

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