New & Emerging Artist | Coconut Grove Arts Festival
Y'all. Coconut Grove, or The Grove, as the locals say, was insane. This is my detailed account of everything.
We showed up Friday around 4:30 and it was a mad house. The streets of Miami were so packed. We go to my booth area and threw everything outside of the rental van. Rich was able to park not far away and he came back to help me unpack and settle in. It was stressful to say the least. We were working against the sunset as we were loosing lighting by the minute. Thankfully we were able to get most of the products unpacked and hung. Before we left for The Grove, I took photos of what I wanted my walls to look like. I literally drew out a 10ft wall and laid things down to visualize. This came in super handy the day of. We were in the midst of unpacking and all I could hear was Spanish being spoken. No English. To me that is the sound of home. Seriously, I told Rich to just listen and take it all in. It felt good to be home. We were walking to meet my parents for dinner and as we were walking past all the tents being set up, I told Rich, "I grossly underestimated the situation I find myself in." Legit, this was a massive festival and I felt so small and insignificant. I wanted to soak in all the feelings I had. I wanted to be able to remember every little detail. I grew up going to this festival. That's crazy! I had been coming for YEARS when we lived in Miami. And now I'M AN ARTIST EXHIBITING IN THE GROVE!
I didn't sleep at all that night. Constant thoughts about finishing up setting up the booth, pricing, how tomorrow would go. We woke up and got coffee at Panther Coffee then hit the hospitality booth for some breakfast. Rich helped get the booth finalized and we were all set. Another vendor stopped by and was talking with us. He mentioned that it was a cash and carry business. People want to hand you cash and walk away with stuff on your wall. I turned to Rich and freaked a bit as we didn't have a bunch of extra product. What if there were empty holes on my walls? What if we sold out and had nothing left? Rich aptly pointed out that there was nothing we could do at that point and would figure it out. As soon as they opened the gates people were FLOODING in. Hundreds of people. Everyone was very complimentary of my work. At first I was mentally like, "Really? You like it?" Then after a while people commented that it was impressive that I was a New Emerging Artist at the CGAF. It was a huge confidence boost but I didn't sell a thing the whole day. NOT. ONE. THING. $0. That would not pay the bills. The vendors around us kept coming up asking how much we sold. It was defeating to say nothing. They tried to be encouraging, but I cried as soon as I had a moment alone.
Thankfully my best friend Jess came to Miami to be with us. I honestly forgot she had planned to come I was so busy thinking about everything else, but I was so grateful she was there to pick me up and encourage me. After I had my pity party of one I was ready to tackle what went wrong. We all sat a dinner and discussed pricing and moving things around. We went to bed that day with a game plan and I woke up ready to make the necessary changes. I basically had to be tethered to my booth the whole time so Rich and Jess made sure we had the necessities in the tent. I was able to reconnect with some great friends from Miami. Just one of the benefits to exhibiting in The Grove. I got to see my elementary school best friend, Lauren, and some old friends from church Luis and Yami. More of the same on the second day. People were very complimentary of my work but it wasn't moving. I sold less than $200 and most of that was to Jess.
Why am I being this honest with those of you reading this? Because as a photographer it's easy to hide behind a beautiful instagram and give people the impression of success. I don't ever want to give you all the impression that my life is a piece of cake. Every success I have and lesson I learn serves a greater purpose. I know I talk openly about my faith, but just because I am a Christian doesn't mean God guarantees me success. My job is to rest in the knowledge that God is in control. For better of for worse, I am able to sit here and still say that He is good and gracious. There have been many celebratory times in my career, and it's not to say that this accomplishment wasn't, but this was a harder lesson that I had to learn. I don't want to overlook the fact that I set a goal for myself and I accomplished it.
I wanted to be a New and Emerging Artist at the Coconut Grove Arts Festival. AND I DID IT! THAT IS A BIG EFFING DEAL!
And to be honest, I feel like God is teaching me to leave the control up to him. I cannot make people buy things, I cannot make myself successful. I am not in control of those things. All I can do is be faithful with what he has given me.
The last day of the festival, I removed all the pricing in my booth. One of the seasoned veterans across the way came over as I was pulling them down and he said, "Are you sure you want to do that? That's a pretty bold move." My response was empowered. "What's the worst that could happen?" I said, "That I sell $0, oh wait, that's already happened." He thought I was a little crazy, and I'm sure I was. But I started selling things. I changed the dimensions on my matted prints. I originally labeled them according to the print size not the mat size (which is bigger) and people started buying them! Someone from FINLAND came in and mentioned he and his family are moving back and wanted a momento to take with them. He bought a print. My work just became global. Rich pointed out the guy across the way had started removing his pricing too. Guess there was something to my strategy.
I also learned that the other New and Emerging Artists had done previous art shows. I hate to be a narc, but the program explicitly stated that CGAF was to be your first art show. I even went on their websites and saw they advertised other shows they have been apart of. Not. Fair. This was truly my first show. Ever. Everyday we changed things. We worked hard to refine my pricing and my booth. If I had been given the chance to refine my booth and work at smaller shows first, I'm sure I would have done much better at CGAF. I sold more on the last day than the other 2 combined with less than half the people. That's impressive. I'm sure, had I made these changes in the beginning it would have been better. But the show was not a failure. Was it a raging monetary success? no. But I was successful at adapting. I met another great artist who told me he applied 7 times before he got accepted to CGAF. I applied once. I got in on the first try. What the what? I do have what it takes to be successful. I am talented.
As Thomas Edison once said, "I haven't failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that didn't work."
That being said, I am ready to tackle my next art show. I feel more confident than ever that it will be better. I am sure I will learn more and continue to move forward in becoming a better artist.