On August 20, I participated in the 2nd Annual Looff Arts Festival at Crescent Park in Riverside (East Providence), RI. It was my first time doing this particular outdoor show, but I had heard good things about it from the public and from other artists , so I wanted to give it a try and see how it went. I should have made my checklist before everything else.
The night before any art festival, I usually go through all my paintings and select what I’m going to bring, and make sure I have all my ducks in a row before I go to sleep. I had worked a long day’s event the day before, so I was just too exhausted to put it all together that night — I would instead wake up earlier in the morning to make it happen.
After I awoke, I went right into the studio, to gather up all the pieces of everything I usually need for an art festival. I packed up my Rav4 with everything, and drove to the site of the Looff Arts Festival.
I pulled up to my assigned booth spot, unloaded, moved my car, then came back to unpack and set up. Some very nice volunteers helped me to open up my pop-up tent. Then I went to work setting up some metal grid walls I use. As I got the walls put together, I realized that I had forgotten the base that helps the unit be free-standing support for paintings. I had left it back at the studio. Usually, I can call my husband and say, “Can you bring me X, Y, and Z that I forgot?” but fate has it that my husband was out of reach, attending an event in New Hampshire. To improvise, I used zip-ties to attached the grid walls to one another, and then to the legs and supports of the pop-up tent.
I continued unpacking, this time realizing that I had forgotten the usual tabletop standup acrylic sign-holders I usually have to hold my art statement, prices and general contact info to potential customers, so I would just have to do without. I also noticed that I had forgotten to bring some form of a camper chair, usually in my car by default, but not present. So it would be a long day of standing.
During the time of unpacking, I was fortunate to meet my booth neighbor, Samir of My Mez, who had also realized he had forgotten some important items back in his shop. We began the first of many laments of what would probably go wrong with the day.
I had posted a sign indicating that I would be painting LIVE during the day, so I set up my portable French easel, donned my painting apron, and began getting to work. Immediately I realized that the jar of odorless mineral spirits I had brought had leaked all over, making a mess. When I went to clean the mess, I discovered that I had forgotten to bring a roll of paper towels — a staple for live-painting at shows, to clean up the messes, brushes, and painted hands throughout the day. While painting, the plastic glove that I was wearing also broke 2 or 3 times, leaving my thumb messy with no paper-towels to properly clean it off.
I only dropped my palette into the grass one or two times, I only dropped my paintbrush in the grass a handful of times. I really enjoyed talking to the many people who came into my booth to watch and ask questions about the painting in progress they saw me making. Many asked about what they needed to do to get a free paintbrush pen (sign up for my email list!). I had some really great conversations with young and old as they came through my booth.
Later in the day, the wind picked up a little bit. It was refreshing on the humid, summer day, but while speaking with a customer, the roof of my tent raised a little bit, moving around some of the paintings I had hanging. Very quickly, I realized that I had also forgotten my tend weights and stakes that keep the legs of the tent securely fastened into the ground to keep it firm against the wind. Fortunately, Samir graciously allowed me to zip-tie my tent legs to those of his own tent weights.
Later in the day, while I was painting, one of the empty canvases on an easel and got picked up and fell over onto Samir’s booth. Panicked, I apologized profusely and moved the canvas so it would not be a problem again. Samir said that fortunately none of his stuff was damaged from the canvas, so no worries.
Again, later in the day, the wind gusted again, and this time it caused on of Samir’s glass-framed photographs on an easel to fall, crashing to the ground below and shattering the glass. While this time it wasn’t my easel’s fault, I felt so awful for him. We commiserated that we would just add this incident to the already-long list of things forgotten and gone awry from the day. I offered Samir some zip-ties to secure his framed photo to the easel, to secure the easel to the tent, and I also increased the security of the zip ties on my easels.
After a long day and plenty of banter back and forth between my fellow art-booth people, it was time to clean up, pack up, and head home. I was able to get two 40″x30″ paintings started. Cleanup and packing went a little smoother than all the forgotten items of earlier.
So the moral of this story is to always, always, always, make a checklist the night before packing up to go exhibit in an art festival, no matter how tired one may be.