This enlightening and entertaining book offers a glimpse into the rarified atmosphere of the booming contemporary art world as it stood in the years 2004-07. Sarah Thornton, with her ethnographic perspective on seven diverse segments of this expensive and exclusive scene delivers a peek into a world which few artists and lovers of art will ever gain access.
Offering glimpses into the marketing and selling of art through the dealers and auction houses, the trade shows and publications, Thornton delivers a thoroughly researched and lively written peek behind the so called curtain of art commerce. With the dramatic economic downturn the world experienced in 2008 this may be a prescient view of a market at its climax.
The artists themselves are represented at they hone their craft at a legendary California critique session, we tag along with short listed artists awaiting news of the winner of a prize which will catapult the prices of their art into the stratosphere. We then travel with an artist at the top of his game on a tour of the international studios where his work is created by and for him.
Interestingly, the artwork itself is but a minor character in this impressive theatrical event of Seven Days in the Art World. The artists pour ideas into and onto the market, the press and critics push the market with fantabulous facts and figures and the dealers, auction houses and collectors play the market. One is reminded of the Wizard behind the green curtain in the land of Oz pumping away while trying to keep the illusion real.
Kudos to Sarah Thornton for pulling back the curtain on this endangered microcosmic world in such an accessible and informative style.
Talent doesn’t guarantee professional success in the arts. Whether your intended career is in dance or theatre, writing or painting, you need an entrepreneurial mindset, good contacts and competence in basic business skills: selling, negotiating, writing contracts. No one is better qualified to teach their skills than Long Island’s top visual and performing artists.
Come for the breakfast. Stay for the lunch.
Kirsten Lonnie, Executive Director, Southampton Cultural Center
8:35AM – 8:45 AM The Economic Impact of the Arts
Michelle Stark, Commissioner, Office of Film & Cultural Affairs/ Suffolk County Department of Economic Development
Live music, art exhibitions, independent films and theatrical performances are revitalizing Main Streets across the country. A look at how cultural activities drive economic growth.
8:50AM – 9:00 AM Brand Me – Where Your Career Starts
Cindy Smith, ImageQuest Communications, Inc.
Not every brand comes wrapped in plastic. As a creative professional your brand creates expectations, defines your identity and expands – or limits – your opportunities. Learn how to take charge of Brand Me from the onset, and maintain control throughout your career.
9AM – 9:15AM Act I: My Career in the Arts
Josh Gladstone, Artistic Director, Guild Hall/John Drew Theatre, East Hampton
9:15AM – 9:45AM Myth-Busting: The 10 Big Lies That Keep Artists Poor
We don’t pay our contributors, we offer exposure.” “All great artists suffer for their art.” “We acquire all rights.” Sound familiar? Hear how our panelists deal with these and other myths. Moderator: Bonnie Grice, radio host and director of cultural programming, WLIU-FM Panelists: James Faith, Faith Ent., producer, Great South Bay/American Music Festivals Shenole Latimore, jazz musician Jim Lennon, photographer Bunny Hoest, cartoonist, “The Lockhorns”
9:45AM – 10AM The Interview
Vic Skolnik, co-director, Huntington Cinema Arts Centre
One of Long Island’s most influential cultural figures, Victor Skolnick co-founded the Cinema Arts Centre in 1973, bringing year-round, top-quality international films to Long Island. He screens hundreds of films a year and showcases about 200 at the centre.
10AM -10:25AM Getting to Yes All creative people must sell. Here are three approaches. Panelists:
Lisa Kende, Manager, The Kende String Trio, Manhasset
Jacueline Penney, painter
10:25AM-10:45AM Making Friends with Technology
Today’s digital media, including the Internet, CD-roms and podcasting, enables the entrepreneurial artist to produce, market and sell his or her own work, find gigs, get media attention, find collaborators and more.. Learn strategies for successful online self-promotion; how to be part of online communities, and more.
Mary Ahern , Digital imagery
Rob Dircks, co-founder, Acoustic Long Island podcast
Shenole Latimer, jazz musician
10:45AM -11AM BREAK
11AM:11:15AM You’ve Got a Mouth – Now Talk
Saralee Rosenberg and Ellen Meister are both Long Islanders with new books out on the suburban female experience. They met on the book promotion circuit. They talk about how they fuel sales, one listener at a time, and how silence is decidedly not golden for authors with books to peddle.
11:15AM -11:30AM Spin Control: Gettting and Keeping Media Attention Learn what journalists look for in cultural stories and how to get in front of them.
Panelists:Bonnie Grice, Director of Cultural Programming, WLIU-FM
11:30AM -12:15PM It’s The Law. A handshake and trust – good. A solid contract – priceless. Learn to write enforceable contracts, to license and protect your intellectual property, and other important legal stuff..
Panelists: Kathryn Dalli, Attorney with Twomey, Latham, Shea, Kelley, Dubin & Quartararo LLP, in Riverhead Jim Lennon, Jim Lennon Photography
12:15PM – 12:45PM Breakouts – Speed Mentoring Meet informally with speakers and other creative artists or business specialists. Exchange ideas, ask questions, meet mentors.
Keynote: Success Starts with You.Emmy-award winner and founder, Wainscott Studios, Mitchell Kriegman Mr. Kriegman began his diverse career as a short story writer, performance artist and video artist. In the early 1980’s, he joined the team of Saturday Night Live as a performer, writer and filmmaker. Soon after, Kriegman began creating, developing and producing series for Comedy Central, Nick at Nite, Disney Channel and other cable networks. He has written for such publications as The New Yorker, National Lampoon, Glamour and Harper’s Bazaar. As the creator of shows such as, Clarissa Explains It All, Bear in the Big Blue House, and Book of Pooh, and executive head writer and developer of numerous other signature television series including Rugrats, Ren and Stimpy, Doug, and Life with Derek, Kriegman is the creator and executive producer of It’s a Big Big World, the Emmy-nominated PBS preschool series focusing on environmental awareness. Today, he owns Watermill Studios and employs a growing staff. He discusses how he did it.
My garden is often the source material for my Digital Mixed Media Paintings. Though I am not a Photographer, I like to use my digital camera to record the progress and changes in my garden from day to day and year to year.
Springtime is such a hectic time since I’m always late uncovering the perennial beds. These jolly yellow daffodils came up in my entry garden and I was lucky enough to catch the early morning light behind them.
My entry garden is still in need of some tidying but putting the pansies into the pots and baskets takes my mind off the leaves from last fall.
Though I like to create gardens and like to create Fine Art using my garden, in the garden I get messy and dirty while my Botanical Art is clean and stylized.
This Digital Mixed Media Painting is a very popular piece that surprisingly sells all year long, not just in the spring as I would have imagined. People buy this Single Yellow Daffodil as an individual piece and also as a grouping along with some of my other daffodil Art Works. You can see them in my Store.
Northport Art in the Park. My first art festival in July 2008. Notice there are no walls to hang Art!
In June 2004 when I did my first outdoor Art Festival after a 30 year gap since my debut at the Floral Park Art League shows, I bought a tent and some shoji screens to hang my work. What was I thinking?
I wanted the booth to look classy so I didn’t want to use metal frames that I’d seen at other shows so I figured that I’d hang my paintings on the screens and it would give an upscale look. Wrong!
The first gust of breeze at the show in Northport harbor blew everything down. I resorted to folding the screen around one of the legs of the booth with bungee cords and hanging a few pieces on them. The wind was unrelenting but I sold $150 that day and I was hooked again.
Westhampton Beach Art Festival, August 2004. New booth with Flourish mesh panels.
I quickly rallied for my next show two months later, which was the Westhampton Beach Art Festival in August of 2004. By this time we had gone to other shows to scout out booth strategies and decided on the mesh panels made by Flourish. Since we had severe transportation space restrictions at the time, we needed to conserve space in our SUV and these panels did that and more.
I really like the white walls. It is a nice sleek modern look. The panels are easy to put up and take down. The booth is cooler in the summer since the breeze can go through the mesh. I can endlessly fidget with my arrangements since the hooks I use are simple to reposition. The panels roll up and fit in a bag which makes for very easy transporting. They are amazingly strong and I’ve been known to hang a lot of very heavy paintings with glass on them.
CT Flower & Garden Show in February 2007. Indoor booth frame with mesh panels by Flourish.
We’ve used the same panels on our outdoor EZ-Up booth and also on our indoor booth frame which we got from Flourish. The choice of booth sidewalls was one of our better equipment decisions.
Westhampton Beach Art Festival in 2004. Notice the webbed beach chair.
As with all the other aspects of your booth design finding the perfect chair is extremely important. Much as you may not think so you need to have a very comfortable chair available for you to rest during the inevitable slow times in the booth at an Art Festival.
My first chair in 2004 was the same one I had used at the beach and at softball games prior to exploring the world of Art Festivals which now keep me hopping on the summer weekends. It was a standard webbed chair that is really too unprofessional for a sales situation. Fine for behind the booth but not in it.
My next chair was a high folding Director’s chair which I got at Pier One. It was very comfortable and the style of wood and fabric I picked looked good in my booth. It kept me up high when I was sitting so that if a customer came into the booth I could speak to them eye to eye without getting off the chair. Sometimes potential customers feel intimidated when you get off the chair to speak to them so the higher design of the Director’s Chair worked very well.
One problem though, the wind kept knocking it over since it wasn’t heavy enough. We kept repairing the split arms until they were too ugly and then we’d buy another one. This worked until 2007 or so when the chairs were discontinued at the chain.
Tall bamboo chair for art festivals makes a big difference for the artist and the customers
So I cruised the internet and found the chair of my dreams with Hollywood Chairs which is sold by Totally Bamboo. http://www.totallybamboo.com
I got the Tall Deluxe Hollywood Chair and I didn’t forget to get the cup holder for my Starbucks. It is soooooo very comfortable, good on my back, good for my feet. Even if I don’t sit on it I lean my bottom on the seat and it relieves back pain. It is a bit large for the trailer but we put it in first and take it out last and store it in a carton to keep it looking brand new. The wood is really bamboo and smooth and soft to the touch. It makes you feel rich just sitting in the chair. The seat is padded. It has never blown over in the wind and it is easy to wipe off any food that get on it. This Hollywood Chair was a great investment!
Hicks Nursery Winterfest January 2005. Flimsy tables didn’t last long.
Finding the right furniture for your Festival Show booth is not an easy task and for us it took quite a few twists and turns. Granted the work I’ve been showing over the last four years has also taking dramatic zigs and zags, I spent more money, time and energy trying to get my sales desk right.
In 2004 when I started doing Art Show and Festivals, I bought some extremely cheap folding tables for $11 each. They had aluminum legs and an almost cardboard top but they served the purpose for a few shows. I put some tablecloths over the top of them and they seemed to work fine. I was even able to store inventory underneath. Then the moisture got into them and the tops warped too much to be useable.
I replaced them with foldable molded plastic tables which have adjustable legs for height variations. They were much heavier and could store less underneath but they were much more durable. In fact, I still have them and use them once in awhile with tablecloths when I can display more outside the booth.
Desk set up at the Connecticut Flower and Garden show in February 2007
In 2005 I thought I found the perfect solution. On the internet
February 2008 Connecticut Flower and Garden Show with the ProPanels desk
I found a folding crafting desk with flip up sides and drawers in the center to hold all my office material like stapler, tape, pens, sales forms, my credit card reader, lunch, etc. Well, after two shows the flakeboard cracked and fell apart from the back and forth transportation in the trailer. The look of the desk was fantastic but the materials weren’t made for the rigors of road travel. Even collapsed into the size of a night table, the desk took too much room in our trailer so we discarded it. Money down the drain.
We bought a pedestal desk from Pro Panels. Lightweight enough, fully collapsible and it has two shelves inside. http://propanels.com
I created a curtain with some fabric to put on the open back of the desk to hide my paraphernalia. At the last show I didn’t realize until it was too late that people were just reaching into my desk to steal my shopping bags because they didn’t want to carry their literature even though some huge company was handing out free literature bags at the entrance to the show. Every single show is a learning experience. I guess that every day of life is too.
Connecticut Flower & Garden Show, 2/2008 before set-up
Doing Art Festivals, whether they are indoor or outdoor, are quite grueling events.
Basically what you are doing is building a moveable, temporary store. All the requirements for showing, selling and packaging your work are amplified since you must be able to set-up within an hour or two hour time frame in a temporary location. When you’re done you need to do the same in reverse and leave the location as you found it.
You need to design your store to be reflective of your style, visually inviting, easy to navigate & clearly representative of your body of work. You need to be able to give out information, write up and process sales, and provide packaging for customers to conveniently take home their purchases.
Connecticut Flower & Garden Show booth set up in February of 2008 for Mary Ahern.
Your booth and all your furnishings must be collapsible and able to be moved from your vehicle to the staging area you have been assigned. Desks, racks, tables & chairs all need to be lightweight and folded for transporting. The selection of your display needs to take into consideration the space requirements of the work you’re going to sell and the total amount of space available in whatever means of transportation you will be using.
I really enjoy writing my blog. But I really enjoy making my Art. I also really enjoy
gardening, family, friends, cooking, reading and studying. So where do I find the time to do it all? There is only so much time management you can do to be more and more efficient. Eventually you actually have to make choices of what your priorities are and eliminate tasks from your action item lists.
Today the maintenance tank in my Epson 4800 was full and refused to print. I foolishly had forgotten to order a replacement when I ordered my last slew of ink. I found a company on Long Island about a 45-minute drive from my home, Ardito’s, who had it in stock and immediately planned to drive over to pick it up. Then I thought about it an extra minute and ordered it delivered for an additional $8. I figured that my time and gas for the 1 ½ hour round trip drive was worth more than that. This is purely learned behavior on my part and it doesn’t come easy.
I have to work constantly on making smart time management decisions. I go through a process each day that goes something like this:
What is the most productive use of my time today?
What is going to cost me if I don’t do it?
What is going to make me money if I do?
What are the most immediate deadlines I can’t miss?
What are the upcoming deadlines I need to make steps toward?
Do I have the food in the house to cook dinner tonight or do I have to shop?
Blogging seems at times like a complete waste of my time. But guess what? It actually helps to keep me organized and I always feel better when I write and post something. It helps to clear my thinking process.
After seeing the photos and reading the article Dream Chasers, written by Arlene Gross for Newsday, which featured myself among others who have turned in mid-life to careers which are more personally satisfying, I have enjoyed revisiting my journey.
Mary Ahern showing her oil paintings at the Floral Park Art League in 1976
Here is a photo of me with my Award winning oil paintings at the Floral Park Art League in 1976. I painted them all before I began my college Art education. For a year I took oil painting classes on Wednesday evening at the YMCA in Bellerose Queens NY and from this experience I found my life’s calling.
Each year I looked forward to showing my work at this outdoor art show and each year I sold some of my works. What a wonderful experience it is to realize that work you created from your own imagination and from assorted colors in tubes moved others in such a way that they will give you money that they earned so they can hang your vision on their walls. I am still moved that my skill and vision will enhance their lives each and every day.
Thirty-one years later I’ve returned to selling my Artwork outdoors at festivals. This shot of me was taken while I was taking a call on my cell phone at the Washington Square Outdoor Art Festival in New York City in May of 2007. I still enjoy getting out of my studio and meeting people. Speaking to my customers energizes me and personalizes the selling experience. At shows I always enjoy seeing some of my former customers who come by to say hello and tell me where they hung the Art they’ve bought from me and how much they enjoy seeing it everyday.
University Place NYC during the Washington Square Art Festival
Look at University Place in NYC during the Washington Square Outdoor Art Fesitival and look at the same street without.
All the Artist’s set up this mini city each morning starting at 10:30 and the show officially starts at noon. For the city that never sleeps, you can’t really dictate show hours however so frequently you are discussing your work while half of the booth is still in cartons.
University Place after the Washington Square Art Festival
At 6pm we take down our city. We do this exhausting work each day over the course of 3 days.
We do this show each Memorial and Labor Day Weekend.
Mary Ahern- Art Naturally had a Successful First Time Showing at the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show
The 2007 CT Flower and Garden Show moved to the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford CT. We never showed at this venue before so this was a new experience for us.
We brought our Traveling Art Festival Gallery to this exciting and very popular event and we’re sure glad we did.
The promised crowd of over 30,000 people showed up and at times, I felt as if I got to speak to each and every one of those winter starved gardeners.
This 4 day event has very long hours. Evenings until 8 each session. Did I mention very long days?
I’m glad that I brought my new bamboo director’s chair even though there were many hours I never got to touch it except to put my coffee in the cup holder.
The new lighting inside our Gallery worked just as we hoped so next time we’ll probably add the same system to the outside wall. The color correct lighting really makes a difference when showing Art.
As you can see, we’ve added new furniture to the Gallery and it makes writing up orders and taking information so much easier. Drawers in the desk really help me stay organized and the wood adds a nice sleek and solid look.
The racks on the outside of the Gallery were less than successful and we’re looking into alternative systems to show the small prints.
Mary Ahern-Art Naturally booth at the Connecticut Flower and Garden Show, 2007.
On December 3, 2006 I was invited to present a Lecture at the Farmingdale State, Dept. of Ornamental Horticulture Dept. Being a graduate of the program I presented an alternative career path to the traditional landscape design or floral trade professions.
Having morphed my Horticultural education into my Art has given me the opportunity to have my work informed with a passion for the subject along with a knowledgeable and professional grounding. This immersion in my subject makes my Art work so much more powerful, accurate and personal.
Mary Ahern lectures on Fine Art, Botanical Illustration and the Business of Art