12 August 2010

Lessons from an Arts Festival: Que Sera, Sera


This, and the following related posts, are take-aways from my first multi-day, regional arts festival. For the past couple of years, I have been showing & selling my photographs at weekly “farmer’s markets” as well as a couple of strictly local, one day festivals. So, I am a relative newbie to the art festival circuit and my comments and discussions should be considered in that light. Besides, they really are MY lessons learned. For you folks who may have been on the art circuit for years, decades perhaps, I would surely love to hear your lessons!

Now I’m not a huge fan of Doris Day, even if she is iconic of a (ridiculously) idealized time and place (think squeaky-clean 1950’s ??TV-era America and you’re arrived in nirvana). But her singing of the pivotal tune Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) in the 1956 Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much has always stuck with me. Whatever will be, will be. Is it a call to complacency, even existential immobility? I don’t think so. The key is in the third line: The future's not ours, to see. I interpret this as: do what you can, perhaps even all you can, then the rest, the results and outcomes, lie in the future, with fate.

Now what in tarnation does all this have to do with an arts festival you might be asking yourself! Well, the title of this post could also have been “Managing Expectations.” A number of people asked me prior to the festival what my expectations were. I would answer philosophically, “I really don’t have any.” That of course was partly true. Never having attended a festival of this magnitude, I was just glad to be invited. At least initially. Once I started preparing for the festival – printing cards, matting prints, etc. – I began harboring hopes for a really big show, all the while telling myself to manage expectations!

How good of a job did I do managing those expectations? As the French would say, “comme ci comme ??a.” So-so. I never got into the numbers game: expecting to sell x number of pieces while making y number of dollars. Slip into that and you are ripe for disappointment. Nonetheless, the word on the street was that this was shaping up to be a slow show, meaning lower than usual attendance and lower than expected receipts. So, I began to actively manage those expectations and try to chase away any thoughts of disappointment.

In the end – though I have no empirical attendance and sales data for the overall show – for me, it was a fine experience and a festival I would happily attend again. I did well, and really all you can do is give it your best shot and trust that what will be, will be. Que Sera, Sera.

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