Do You Volunteer?
Evanston Art Festival
I was asked to join a group of volunteers to address envelopes. In other words for the following years Evanston Art Festival. Of course I said yes. Nothing hard about addressing envelopes. Moreover, I can print nicely. I arrived to find this very corporate looking group of people seated and dressed in business attire. However they were not exactly who I thought of as artists. I was seated at a long conference table sounding very businessey. The group talked about raising money and the usual cost of the annual event. Above all who would do what and who will head up committees.
I never raised my hand, never asked a question, and never answered any questions. Where were the envelopes that were to be addressed? At the end of the evening I was elected co-chairman of this art festival. In conclusion to this day, I don’t know how they knew I was in the room. And for sure I don’t know how I wound up co-chairman.
And last but definitely not least. I never did get to address envelopes!
My project was titled Fund Development.
Development literally means run around and plead for money from local big businesses. I was told it’s about building relationships that will make those fundraising activities sustainable. Fund development for an art festival involves strategic targeting of prospective donors. In other words clear and impactful communications, and strong internal structures that support philanthropy. Yikes that’s definitely not artistic
The Art Festival Phyical Layout
My other project was to do the physical layout of the festival. The property is right on Lake Michigan, so my plan was for large sculptures, conceptual art, and ceramics to be displayed outdoors. I even used the beach for modern interpretive dance. However the outdoor property would also have the food vendors and music.
For the first time in the art festival history- all visual art would be indoors with a small 3 piece classical music group. I was quoted in the Chicago Tribune that “Visual Art-Drawings and Paintings deserve the respect that an indoor exhibition provides.”
(Remember please that I display and sell my visual art prints at an outdoor street fair in Palm Desert California)
The art festival is in early August on the grounds of the historic Harley Clarke mansion. It is an annual Saturday event with an attendance of 20,000 expected. Therefore I spent one difficult year of volunteer work. The festival work took up most of every day of my life and left me no time for my studio, for painting, for family and for friends.
This art festival was life consuming. I did much of the work because volunteers weren’t easy to come by.
Most of all…I hated fund raising. Asking large corporations for money was not my thing. But I had to do it
Firstly the art festival is a juried art show. Secondly there were over 600 applicants in the visual arts area. Tons of artist wanted to be in this prestigious art festival. Thirdly and most importantly after the jurying only 39 artists showing paintings, prints and drawings were selected. Moreover only 18 sculptors and 15 ceramics exhibitors were chosen. In conclustion It was a tough jury, but a very high quality group of artists were selected. I was very proud of our show.
Showtime Has Arrived
The indoor show got hung on Friday. I couldn’t wait til the morning. And here’s what happened on Saturday morning…
A major rain storm arrived which was NOT forecast at all. Above all I mean STORM. The artists started to set up when it began to pour. I had to call the fire department to block traffic access. Everything had to be moved. After that everyone (the artists and their artworks) were moved indoors…except for the dancers. They were wanting to do their modern dance in the rainstorm on the beach behind the mansion. It was a mess and no one could really attend. However, the storm continued with no letup, thru Sunday afternoon.
One year of work, literally, washed down the storm drains.
Budget wise, I bought thousands of dollars worth of hotdogs, buns and drinks. In addtion they were donated to local churches (the churches were very happy) Therefore, other than for the churches, nothing good came from this event. For instance not for the artists, not for the city, and definitely not for me. Above all, I knew for certain that outdoor art festivals were not my cup of tea, or coffee, or anything liquid. As records have it, this was the first rainout for this annual festival in ten years.
And…I never volunteered for any envelope addressing or chairmanship or for sure fund raising – ever again.
Evanston Art Center today
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