Friday, June 29, 2012

Lessons from Fountain Square Art Festival (Part 2)

Why? (2012) - Ramona Lindsey  (12" x  24")
Fountain Square Art Festival (FSAF) marks my first experience in the festival circuit.   FSAF taught me 3 key lessons - fortitude, camaraderie, and purpose.

Fortitude is the courage to continue in the face of uncertanity. There is a great deal of uncertainty associated with participation in juried shows.  Generally the selection process begins by submitting 3 - 4 photographs of your best art along with a non-refundable application fee.  It is difficult choosing photos that will impress an unknown jury while representing my best art. Furthermore, my photos must convince festival promoters that my work has mass appeal.

The same photos I used for the FSAF were used for the 57th Street Art Fair (Chicago, IL)  and Baltimore Artscape (Baltimore, MD).   Fountain Square said yes while the latter two responded no.  One size doesn't fit all, so what may work for one show might not be right for another.  Perseverance and understanding is the key.  You must not let the no's stop you from trying, but understanding your audience will give you a better shot at a yes.

Before leaving for the FSAF I spent hours creating new works with various price points.  My items ranged in price from $30-$1,800.  I created enough inventory so selling a third would net me $3,333.  My sales team - husband and 2 children -  are invested in the plan, because they receive compensation from my business once these goals are accomplished.  By the end of day one of the two day event, I had made no sales and obtained 26 new contacts.  I knew day two would be better, but I was wrong. At the close of FSAF, my sales totaled $0 and my contacts were 30.  I took a risk that didn't pay-off in dollars, but intangible rewards. My bank account was broke, but my spirit soared. Why? Because God gave me the fortitude, family, and friends to see the blessings in the experience.  He used the power of camaraderie to push me through challenges to realize His opportunity.

Where does camaraderie come from on the festival circuit?  It comes from the participating artists.  My two day experience brought me new friendships and connections.   I heard the mantra of veteran circuit artists including glass artists,Irene Sherman and Cari Johnson, "Don't be discouraged."  Many told me to continue attending shows until I find my market.  Several also advised that FSAF was not the right venue for high end fine art.  Every festival has a personality and  a following.  I learned I must do my research to discover each show's personality before applying. Painter, Chris Whitaker, gave me a copy of Sunshine Artist Magazine as a source to begin my research.

Michel Delgado, an artist from the Florida Keys and winner of Best in Show - 2D Media, taught me an important lesson.  He said the main purpose of participating in the festival circuit is to get more eyes on my high end fine art.  According to Michel, most fine art collectors don't buy from open air markets, but  high quality fine art with a message will eventually attract galleries and collectors.  The key is to expose the work to the market.  The festival circuit is one way to introduce the work and your story to a living audience.

William Kwamena-Poh, a painter out of Savannah, Georgia and winner of Best in Show - Painting, encouraged me to rethink my price points and presentation of my entry level work.   In my effort to offer festival goers with meager budgets my mixed media fine art, I presented mixed media textile art on a blank greeting card. William suggested that the work was too high quality to present in such a way.  In addition, the art's presentation didn't agree with the collector's perceived use of it.  He offered that fine artists must not run the risk of devaluing a complete and quality work of art in order to generate sales.

Finally FSAF reinforced my purpose for creating fine art.   My mission is to inspire, represent, and nourish the human spirit with art.  FSAF allowed me to interact with real people drawn to my creations.   I shared my story with over one hundred people.  Many of them expressed appreciation for what I was doing, but several showed genuine emotion.   One woman, a casual artist, told me my art gave her the inspiration to step outside her box. That it wasn't necessary for her to create in the same way as other artists, but to be her unique self.   A counselor from a battered women's shelter commented that my work had a powerful story to encourage her clients through their dark times. Finally, a single mom shed tears after hearing my story of releasing the past to embrace my future as an artist.

Creating art for me is more than earning dollars.  It's about elevating spirits and fulfilling my divine purpose.  God asks, if he takes care of the birds, why would He do any less for me? I must continue on the path He has placed before me assured in the promise that He will help me victoriously through it.


  1. Thanks for sharing what you learned and your powerful story.

  2. Ramona,
    You are such an inspiration! I'm so glad I got to visit your booth and talk with you at FSAF.