Saturday, April 10, 2021

That Four-Letter Word



Artful Life
Tara O’Neill

Inspiration for this column came from participating in my first outdoor art festival of the 2013-14 season. The Goodland Holiday Bazaar, sponsored by the Goodland Civic Association, was an unqualified success according to organizers, vendors and visitors. (I received many kind congratulations on the event, but must state again that other than showing up, I had nothing to do with it. Kudos to Connie Fulmer, Noreen Seeger, Natalie Strom and their hardworking team of volunteers.)

This is one of my favorite events for several reasons. Unlike the more formal juried shows I do, this one is more about supporting the village that has supported me for many years. It’s casual; it’s fun; it’s close to home; and I get to spend the day surrounded by people dear to me in a lovely venue — the MarGood Harbor Park.

And it’s what I refer to as my “shake-down cruise.” (You folks with boats will get the metaphor.) First, I have to haul out all the gear I stowed away last April; okay, first, I have to find all the gear I stowed away last April. Second, I must remember how everything works and where it goes, and third, I must decide what new bits to add and what old bits to discard/replace. Goodland, for me, is an extremely non-judgmental environment. If I miss a trick or two, it’s okay. Hopefully, by the end of the weekend, I’m all sorted and ready to cruise through season.

Of course, the reality I face each year is that I’m a year older. The tent is heavier, and so are the tables and gear boxes. The bending, lifting and hauling is more strenuous, and the little details are getting more slippery to my scattered mental faculties. So, I start earlier. I plan more. Make adjustments, and make several more trips before I’m all together. And yes, I’m reminded of just how much WORK goes into this crazy business. (Do you know a nastier four-letter word?)

One week prior, I start gathering all the bins, buckets and braces, the racks, the tie-downs, the display equipment. I try to make sure I’ve got all my PR materials (Dang, that elusive guest-book! Where the h*** is it?) I must remember the credit card machine, a bankroll for making change, sales slips and all my proper signage — if only! I also must send out notices through email, Facebook and assorted media outlets announcing that I’m to be in the show. I mean it may be a fun event, but it still is about sales.

Opening eve, all this gear, plus the actual artwork, gets loaded into the van in a manner that makes for sensible unloading in the pre-dawn hours on site. I go to bed with a sore back and a mind humming with, “What did I forget?”. Oh well, it’s not St. Augustine, or even Naples, it’s Goodland. Practically my backyard, and my heroic husband will make multiple trips to the house for…duct tape!…my portfolio!…Bungee cords and scissors! And yes, the dang guestbook!

Then, it’s show day. Up before dawn cracks a smile (though I do expect she is having a good giggle at my expense); fill the thermos with strong coffee; grab a to-go breakfast sandwich from the Red Rooster (the best); and off to join my other art-carnies for two hours of unloading, hauling and assembling. And…voila! It’s a gallery. The nice part is that it is a two-day show, so at the end of this long day, I can just zip the whole she-bang up, go home and saunter in the next morning with coffee in hand and ready for biz by 10 AM.

Now, it’s a second day of interacting with the crowd, obtaining new clients and trying to cultivate future ones. All in all, a most successful weekend. Then, after the last visitor wanders off, we all must deconstruct our traveling galleries, haul them all back to our vans and trucks and reload — thoughtfully — with the idea of unloading always in mind. When I look at the ceramic artists or stone sculptors, all I can thing is “ouch!”.

I would not call any of this a labor of love. I would, however, call it a commitment to something we love. And I would definitely call it WORK.

Here’s the funny (or not) part and the real impetus behind this article: During one of the days (can’t remember which) a very sweet woman came to say hello. She knows me from a part-time restaurant job I have, and the first thing she said to me was, “So, you’re not working today?” Honestly, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.



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