Every visual artist wants her work to be seen.  “By whom”, “where” and “how” is the question.

 Last weekend’s Woodlands Waterway Art Festival provided me incredible insight into the extremely competitive and professional world of art festivals.  A professional art career isn’t for the faint of heart and top festivals - as it turns out - are visual, physical and emotional marathons.

I am still processing a lot of information but here are my three takeaways from the event.

 1. Thank God for mentors.

The Festival assigned me a formal mentor prior to the event and Sally, the Festival coordinator was simply amazing.  Board members also came by the booth and the event is very well run and organized by a team of experienced volunteers.  Our fellow vendors gave us pointers and answered so many questions.  We couldn’t have done it without so much kindness and support.

  1. Art is a profession you can learn.

Festival professionals know how to show their art.  They know what sells and doesn’t, how to show and package art, how to transport it and care for it, how to talk to their clients and how to craft their image.   They are efficient and self-sufficient.  They are also tuned to their clientele.  There is a great deal to learn from how they do things if you are wiling to observe, listen and take advice.  The more professional you are, the more people will take you seriously.

3. It takes skill to be noticed in a crowd

The biggest lesson of the event is how skillful the professionals are at being noticed in a very short time.  They’ve learned to catch the eye with color, placement, presentation and a singular identity - the same stuff that gets people noticed on social media.  They are very good at it and leave nothing to chance.    

I have taken plenty of notes and come back from this event with professional contacts, more mentors, ideas and long to-do list.  Regardless of whether or not I will participate in another festival (it’s too early to tell) this event has come at the perfect time, when I need to gain practical experience in the professional aspects of art.  

I will conclude with this last thought: a good friend of mine and mentor had told me about the very things I learned at the festival -  the need to be professional, find my audience and develop a consistent visual message.  I had not wanted to follow her advice at the time.  I was unsure of my place as an artist.  I  wasn't ready to see or be seen in a big way.  

Now I am.

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  • Brava! What excellent reflections you share here — for any of us who present ourselves and our art to the world. Even though I’m a poet and not a visual artist, your insights gave me insights into how, even those of us in print, need to be wise in how we see and then present ourselves. Thank you so much for sharing what you learned!

    Sandi Stromberg on

  • Great insights. Sounds like you had a successful show. Wish I could have been there. I’m sure I would have learned a lot by just observing you in action. Be sure to take some recovery time to get your mind off somewhere else for at least three or four days – maybe longer. Climb a mountain, read a book or binge watch Star Trek reruns (or something). The mind and the soul need to rest and reassemble now…

    Bruce Sallee on

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