Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Spur of the Moment Events

I just did a small art fair this past weekend that was really laid back. It was a nice event, the weather was great for an outdoor fair, and it got a good turnout due to the fact that the event has existed for awhile for all that this was the first year in which artists and craftspersons were invited to display their wares. Granted, since this was the first time art was included and that aspect wasn't widely publicized after only a handful of artists had responded to the call, a lot of the people attending weren't expecting to see or buy anything like that, but it was still good exposure nonetheless.

I knew somewhat in advance that I'd be participating, though I only knew by a few weeks, not months. But this really got me thinking about spur of the moment events because I treated it as one - I didn't really commit to it until I knew what the weather was like that day because it was so casual. (Also, the laid-back atmosphere encouraged the skeptic in me to question whether or not it was really going to go on, so I wasn't naturally inclined to be all that committal for all that I did want to participate.) So I didn't publicize my involvement as much as I otherwise might have, even here on the blog.

It can be good to participate in spur of the moment events to get work out there where more people can see it, but there are a lot of things to consider first. I will point out some of my observations in this regard, please feel free to respond with your own and to suggest ways of working through potential last-minute issues.

One of the first things to consider is: Is the spur of the moment participation something that I brought on myself by deciding to do it at the last minute or was the event itself planned without much advance notice? If the event itself has been planned out but you hadn't decided whether or not to participate until the last minute, then that is different. One challenge faced in this scenario is determining whether or not you have put anyone else out by coming into the event late (perhaps inadvertently shirking some responsibility that everyone else had). Some people don't care but I find it's best not to burn any bridges so to speak, although often this reflects more on the event organizers than on the last minute inclusions. Another challenge is whether or not you'll be able to get the word out on your own behalf. In some circumstances, you may not feel it necessary while in others you may want people to know beforehand that you're involved, so that is best assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Genuinely spur of the moment events don't tend to get a lot of press and publicity because they are last minute, though this can depend a lot on who is involved. Hype takes awhile to build up. It requires that a buzz be stirred and that communication be dispersed to and through as many avenues as possible. And physical cards can be a big help, but typically cannot be printed affordably last minute if at all. I'm not good with press and publicity in the first place, especially given how I feel about announcement cards, so any further hindrance becomes an even greater detriment to my ability to spread the word. Thus I really have to weigh that against whether or not the spur of the moment event will be a benefit to me. Some questions that I would ask in this regard are: How much press have others been doing for the event? Was the event already established in some sense, even if not as an art event, so it will draw a crowd regardless?

Another consideration is where the event will take place. Permits and permissions need to have been obtained in many cases, and this can require more notice than a couple of weeks. Nothing is more frustrating than setting up shop with all of the work that goes into doing so only to be shut down before you even get going because no one obtained permission to be there, not to mention how that reflects on yourself as an individual participant, especially if you did anything to hype it up at all. (Note, some events can be planned well in advance by organizers who neglected or forgot this step, so this concern is not limited solely to spur of the moment things for all that it is generally more common then.) And in the case of a new art fair in conjunction with an existing event, like the one I did this weekend, it is critical to ask "Are the artists going to be included among the regular event activities or will they be in a separate space that people may or may not know to look for?" Keep in mind that regular eventgoers may not even be aware that there is a new aspect to the event if it isn't included among the regular activities.

At any rate, these are some things to consider when getting involved in spur of the moment things. By all means, such events can be good exposure and are well-worth consideration, as you never really know exactly when and where you're going to find your biggest fans or best patrons. But as a general rule, I tend to approach these kinds of opportunities with a laid back attitude, taking a more minimal approach instead of creating a bunch of work for myself, because it can be much less stressful to just go with the flow and see where it leads.

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