How You and Your Work Can Survive Weekend Art Show Chaos

July 1st, 2012

From Buffalo to Boston; from Maryland to Maine I used to do a lot of weekend and/or outdoor art fairs, all over the eastern part of the US and beyond. I even drove my car and a trailer into a headwind from Vermont to Arizona one windy spring for a show at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Some events were more successful than others. Ultimately I decided that sort of show wasn’t a good venue for me. It was exhausting, costly and challenging to carry the work around. Too much hung on coincidence and uncertainty. Would the right person happen to walk by, fall in love with a painting and take it home?  The same uncertainty exists in a gallery, but there’s less wear and tear on you and on your work.

Some simple ways to minimize your own stress are to bring lots of water, a cooler, and simple treats. Nuts and fruit are easy to pack and can get you through the day. A thermos of tea or coffee will get you through the day without spending an arm and a leg at the coffee shop. At one sweltering show in Pittsburgh I calculated that I was spending $12 a day on iced lattés! Pretty silly! And be sure to stay somewhere comfy. You’ve earned it!

Avoiding wear and tear on your work is also a challenge. My husband built special racks in our trailer to keep things from sliding around. For years I spent a lot of money on bubble wrap to protect frames and glass.

Then a friend showed me her system of packing with felt bags.

She bought a roll of felt fabric and sewed bags. Just straight seamed bags in various sizes.
This has minimized damage, particularly on frames.

Do you have a good system for packing for shows? Or hot tips for surviving an art show?

5 Responses to “How You and Your Work Can Survive Weekend Art Show Chaos”

  1. nerskine says:

    Wow Liza- I’m impressed. I tried it once in 2006 at Cherry Creek no less and was pretty much out of my element- from zero to ready in three months! It was, as you said, exhausting. And gave me a lot of respect for folks who make the work and then zig zag the country setting up and taking down over and over. At least we were very well taken care of there- free food, lots of snacks, etc. But it’s always at least 95 that weekend with a storm or two coming through.
    I did it once, and then farmed out the equipment piece by piece on Craigslist! Not my thing- too old to start.
    My foam cushioned floor in the tent was a nice thing. And a small spray bottle of water helped keep us cool.

    • lizamyers says:

      I wish I’d had a foam cushioned floor! Especially in West Hartford CT when it rained endlessly and we were practically afloat- trudging along in muck. Oh well. LOL!

  2. WildC says:

    Thanks for the felt bags packing tip, Liza. I hate using bubble wrap given I try to avoid plastic bags so this is a great alternative. I shall definitely look into getting myself a supply of felt. The bags would solve the problem of what to put the work in when it’s bought as well :)
    I’ve never done that kind of art show but I use to have a craft stall in various markets and I like camping so I guess I’d probably adapt pretty quickly!

  3. I use pillow cases for small pieces …but the felt ohhh what a great idea!