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Tuesday
Oct112011

Reflections on the Art Crawl

 

This past weekend I participated in the St. Paul Art Crawl--opening up my home/studio to show my artwork to the public. The mission of the Art Crawl is to provide an opportunity/venue for artists to share their work with the public. It is an artist-run event and resident artists share their work from their studio, giving the public the opportunity to see "where it all happens". 

I have been participating in the Crawl for the past four years. Some may say that fact alone makes me a glutton for punishment. Since I am still in recovery mode, I will not beg to differ. Initially, I participated in the Crawl from my Jax studio, which was located outside my home (I no longer have this studio). Two years ago when I moved into the Tilsner Artist Co-operative, a live-work space for artists, I began participating in the Crawl from this live-work space.

It's not easy opening up your home for such an event. Not only is there artwork to hang (something I hate doing!), but deep cleaning as well! The week prior to the event is a whirlwind of cleaning, painting, hanging, and rearranging furniture to turn our home into a gallery for the weekend.

This is the "Before" shot (with set-up in progress):

 

 

As you can see by the first photo, some serious rearranging was done for the Crawl!

Besides the cleaning for the event, there is also what I call the "Weather Watch". Somewhat like a bride prior to the Big Day, I start watching the weather about ten days out to guage how it might impact event attendance. Too cold and people want to stay cuddled up at home. Too nice and people want to savor the outdoors. Rain? People don't want to get wet. And snow? Don't even bother opening your door. Believe me, I have experienced all these weather scenarios.

This year the weather seemed to be largely a non-issue. It was unseasonably warm for October, but had been all week so people weren't afraid of squandering the last nice day of the season.

So Friday night finally arrived and whether I was ready or not, the event was set to begin. As the Crawl kicks off, I am always filled with anticipation and hopeful expectations. There is a mixture of nervousness as I wonder what sort of feedback I will get about my work. And even though I try to caution myself, I am always hopeful that maybe, just maybe I will sell some of my work.

Friday night the crowd is light, but the mood is festive. It's not hard to feel the electric charge in the air as artists open their doors to the public. This art crawl I have my two art buddies, Sam and Tara, showing their artwork in the hallways outside my apartment. The Tilsner, like many other buildings, have guest artists showing in available space. The three of us enjoy a Friday night visit from our WARM mentor, Brenna. Other friends stop by as well. The visits from friends keeps our spirits up, but it has been a long night with no sales.

The night ends and it's time to catch a few winks before the Crawl begins again. Saturday is a long day with hours from Noon to 8 pm. I wake up and feel exhausted. The busy week is catching up with me. I drink a cup of coffee and get my game face on.

Crowds are typically light the first few hours on Saurday and this year was no exception. People venture in and out, commenting about what a beautiful unit we have. I feel as if I'm talking more about my home than my art. Since I am one of the few units open on the first floor, our unit is the first that most visitors see. And I'll admit, our place is striking...18 foot ceilings, floor to ceiling windows allowing light to pour in, the brick wall...it all grabs your attention. I also know that seeing these artist lofts is part of the appeal of the Art Crawl...but for a while there, I thought I was trapped in the Parade of Homes, not an Art Crawl. People would walk out saying how much they liked our unit and then almost as an afterthought, add that they also liked my art.

I get it...I really do...and I did sign up for this misery. But it was hard. I poured a lot of time and energy into preparation for this event...and I love having people come in...to see my art. Ask me any question you want about my work, my process and I will gladly answer. That part I love.

But you take the good with the bad and move on...

Crowds were still lighter on Saturday than anticipated. And again, no sales.

One last day...Sunday--Noon to 5 pm. Sundays are generally more mellow and although I'm tired as a dog, I look forward to this last day. Not just because it is the last day, but because it is another opportunity to share my work. And since I try to be an optimist, I hope that things will go different.

Crowds are still light on Sunday, but better somehow. I had several wonderful conversations with visitors about my work. And while no one bought a painting, I still love this part of the Crawl. It's exciting to connect with new people and exchange ideas with them. I enjoy talking about my work and my process. I love hearing what people like about my work, what excites them, and if they have a favorite piece....It inspires me to get back in the studio and keep painting.

So, I gave myself a day (Monday) to relax and mope a little. I'm trying to catch up on sleep. But today I knew that what I needed to do was get back in the studio and go to work. I did just that...I cranked up the music and started working on some new pieces...motivated by feedback from visitors this past weekend.

It will take me a few days to digest the whole experience. I am still uncertain if I will participate in the Spring Crawl, but I have time to figure that out.

For now, I will work in the studio and do what I love.

 

Reader Comments (1)

It's obvious that people go to art crawls for various reasons. I'm sure some go just to 'brag' to friends or people at the office on Monday that they went to an art crawl. As someone who goes to crawls myself, these folks are fairly easy to spot in the crowd. I especially 'feel' for those artists who open up their home/work space--it can't be easy to have people going through your personal space for three days in a row. It all has personal meaning to you--and others might not get that.

It's like someone should produce an Art Crawl Primer video so those less informed can get a better understanding of what an artist puts into making the experience more than just opening your front door and putting out a few snacks. I always think that if people are better informed they come to an experience with a different perspective.

I go with a sense of adventure, more like a treasure hunt. Not even knowing exactly what the treasure(s) may be, but with complete faith that I'll know it when I see it. And the adventure never fails to amaze me; some artworks surprise me--at first glance, they may not be appealing, but upon closer inspection, they are gems worthy of my attention.

And I go to be inspired. As a novice and untrained artist I used to feel a little intimidated to talk to the artists. I thought "they're going to know that I don't have clue as to what I'm talking about." Then I realized this wasn't a test where I had to submit a curriculum vitae before starting a conversation. Being a part of the Women's Resources of Minnesota has helped me get through that insecurity. I now know artists love feedback on their work, they love to discuss the process and exchange ideas. Seriously, doesn't every creative type enjoy connecting with a kindred spirit in this world?

There's some days that just generally suck--I have a saying on those days--"Some days just having opposable thumbs is the best you can do." We've all been there. And then there's the other days where the mantra is "Keep your eye on the prize and your hands on the plow."

Keep plowing through.

Jeanne

October 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJeanne Souldern

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