One of the delightful aspects of participating in art shows is engaging with the folks attending by choice, mishap, or as their employment. At the Art On The Square show in Belleville, IL (May 19–21) I had the opportunity to experience all that plus some.
I write this to give insight into some slightly different aspects of the artist experience when working with the public. The show weekends are a rich dish when enough folks show up to season the basic ingredients of tents, artists, and their creations.
COPS in Belleville
This show has the highest officer-per-artist ratio of any show I have participated in. It’s not just me who thinks this. Ask anybody. I’ve never felt so safe.
I had the opportunity to chat with one of the officers in depth. I was very curious about the arsenal he wore covering practically every inch of his body. I thought he was part of a SWAT team. But no, he’s simply an officer who feels more comfortable wearing all of his gear while making some overtime. You never know what you’ll need, he said.
What struck me was how intimidating I found him until he started to share about his job, his years on the police force. He stopped by my booth a couple of times and I had a few takeaways from our talks. First and foremost, he’s simply person making a living whose day job happens to involve being draped in weaponry. Secondly, this fellow runs towards danger while I would be running in the opposite direction. Lastly, I’m really glad I’m an artist and not a cop.
On Saturday morning my husband and I were opening up our booth and setting up for the day before the show opened. Coming toward us was an older fellow wandering around and into booths saying he had lost his shirt. He was wearing a hospital gown over worn jeans and shoes. A confused and frightened man.
As he was about to walk into our booth one of the show volunteers moved quickly but very gently to intercept the man. The volunteer asked if the man had any idea where he might have lost his shirt. They walked off together, the volunteer being impressively kind in his voice and attitude.
We don’t know how the story ended, but were very appreciative to witness the kindness along with not having to deal with a seemingly mentally challenged person. Lord knows we’ve done it many times at many shows. There but for the grace of god…
Any artist who is lucky enough to participate in Art On The Square knows they have the most outstanding volunteers and staff. They express an appreciation for the artists, recognizing how challenging it can be to move a portable gallery from one show to another in all sorts of weather and conditions. Hats off to everyone involved in the show!
The Eldest Collectors
One of the sweetest moments was when I received a phone call from one of my collectors asking to verify my location in the show. She wanted to make sure of my exact location because her husband has difficulty walking.
Once I heard her slightly gravely, older voice I remembered them from previous years. A couple of hours later they arrived at the booth with beaming smiles, curious about my new pieces and determined to purchase another Desk Buddy.
They stayed a while regaling us with stories before adopting a Bill to add to their collection. They brought with them such an obvious joie de vivre it was truly contagious. I still smile as I think and write about them.
Imagine a whole weekend filled with snippets and stories. Some show weekends are like that. It adds to the juice. I am also lucky in that my art makes most folks smile when they see it. I simply have to remind myself of the expressions on people’s faces when they see my work when I’m tired and worn out. Then I remember why I chose to create these pieces beyond trying to put food on the table and kibble in the pet bowls.
Oh, and lastly, check out this crazy 3D virtual tour that got made of my booth. It’s the next best thing to being there!