Backroads Journal

Adventure on the Art Fair Circuit

We just returned from a month of grand adventure.  Last year we made a commitment to jump into the art fair circuit and were able to participate in a few local shows.  With the addition of hand-tinted color added to the prints in my portfolio over the winter, I was pleased to have been accepted into some large and well-established shows including the 44th Annual Edina, Minnesota Art Fair, the Smoky Hill River Festival in Salina, Kansas and the Downtown Omaha Summer Arts Festival.  We will also return to Minneapolis in August for the Uptown Art Fair, an event that ranks second in that state for attendance.  It is eclipsed only by the Minnesota State Fair and ranks in the top 10 art fairs in the country!

It’s an interesting life.  We have become a couple of middle-class, retirement age, conservative carnival roadies.  No two shows are the same.  One thing you have to learn early is to be flexible and accept things as they come your way.  The Edina, Minnesota show introduced us to the large urban art fair.  I was one of over 300 artists who set up business along the streets and in parking lots of the retail center of Edina.  In reality it is part of Minneapolis, just divided by a line on a map.  We struggled to find unloading and loading space along with the grocery store patrons, whose parking lot we had taken over for the show, dealt with heat on Friday, constant rain on Saturday and a fairly low level of support from the community as a whole.  I have to say that it was not the kind of experience that would keep one coming back, even with the pleasant surprise of winning an award of merit.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the Smoky Hill River Festival!  Set in Salina, Kansas, the three day event was supported and enjoyed by most of the 46,000 residents of the town.  Kids and adults alike enjoyed entertainment by roving performance artists, families camped out all day just to experience the entire event, many unique food vendors kept the crowds fed, community leaders promoted downtown and riverbank improvements to anyone who would listen and the multiple stages, including one dedicated to only children’s entertainment, provided a musical background.  The public as a whole supported and appreciated the artists that had been invited into their community and treated us like royalty.  We participated in their first Bicentennial Festival in 1976, when it was held downtown, and exhibited there for several years following.  It was a great festival then and it has only improved since.  We were able to overlook the oppressive heat because sales were good, we were surrounded by incredible art and the crowd was friendly.

We just returned from the Omaha Summer Arts Festival where we endured 105 degree heat indexes while sitting in our booth on the street in downtown Omaha.  We are starting to see a trend.  Big city and big crowds don’t necessarily equate to big sales.  Small town and appreciative crowds mean more sales.  We will see if that holds true.  We hope not, because we head back to Minneapolis for the Uptown Art Fair next month.  If their statistics are correct, we will have the equivalent of the entire city of Wichita, Kansas walk by our booth during the three day show!  We have high hopes! 

I am working on several new prints specifically for Minneapolis.  One will be a larger piece that I hope will be my best etching yet and move into a higher price point.  The others will be a new style that is designed to be a lower price-point print.  Another lesson learned is that you can’t rely on just moderate priced artwork.  In order to engage the shopper, you have to have at least something in each price level.

We will post an update on our Uptown Art Fair experience in August.  Check back with us.  I have added some new prints to the Backroads Gallery since my last newsletter and will be adding more this month.  I am also working on some exciting new changes to the Backroads Journal portion of the web site.  Soon you will be able to share your stories of wandering the backroads with all of our fans.  Along with the Backroads Forum, I will be adding some exclusive Backroads Traveler products so you can show your interest in driving the backroads of America to others.  There are exciting things coming!

Check out our Backroads Events page for more information about the upcoming shows.  We hope to see you at one of them.  Stop by and say hi.