Catching Up After the Commonwheel Art Festival Part 2

Looking back at this year and all the years I have coordinated the Commonwheel Art Festival, I came to the realization that I have put a very personal touch to how I do this job. I am very vested in it coming out well. And I am where the buck stops. This last year it took more of my time than I was paid for by many hours, hell, days. And I let it take over my life quite a bit. From August 9, 2013 when Memorial Park and much of Downtown Manitou Springs was flooded, including the basement of the gallery, I became enmeshed in making the Art Festival survive and successful for its 39th and 40th years.
But now that I have accomplished that, I realize how much it took out of me to make that happen. How to handle it for this next year and what its future will be must be looked at very seriously by myself and the Commonwheel members.

But now back to catching up with this some other events that happened before and during the Art Festival.

Just before the Art Festival, I had to switch out the cottage with an new tenant for the 3rd time in 5 months. During the time when both tenants were not living there I had wanted my Handy-man Friend to do a couple of simple fixes. Adding electric to the bathroom where there never has been an outlet before, and putting a new one in the kitchen. Then do a fix of an area of the foundation. But when we got in there, the ceiling in the kitchen looked really bad. Was worried there was still a leak. So that became a huge project. The electric cost quite a bit more than I anticipated and the ceiling fix was very expensive. I decided to forgo the foundation work, but the bills came to more than 2 months rent, which I don’t have in savings. And with the Flood insurance coming due to the tune of almost $1,900.00, I could only pay part of those bills. A large part, but still, not all of them. Hopefully everyone who owes me money will pay me in time to take care of my monthly bills and the Flood Insurance. This is not how I like to do business, and am looking forward to making a change for the better in my financial world in the very near future.

Then on the Wednesday before the Festival, my Sharing Inner Health client told me that the person she had sold the School of Inner Health to, had given everything back to her, as he could not make it a success. So she needed me to do some work on the web site to let people know that Module One for the Craniosacral training would still be held in early October and somehow get all references to the School’s web site removed. Just before midnight on Thursday I worked on it and missed some connections, but did get a page up for the class. Not something I had time or energy to add to my life right then.

And I had to start the process of getting the info off the web site that we needed so it could be shut down and the domain name moved back to KM’s possession so she could work on finding someone to buy the School again as she kept it alive by doing the trainings she is so skilled at doing. But that had to wait until the week after the Festival was over and I had a day or two to rest and recuperate.

So after the call from Security that the sprinklers came on on Friday night, I dreaded what I would discover or hear from the food vendors in the morning. Since it had drizzled rain during set-up, it seems no food vendor actually realized that the moisture in the area was new and caused by sprinklers. No one asked me or the Security person about anything. And so I assume there was no real damage incurred. Whew!

The Saturday morning check-in went fairly smoothly. The Food Vendor area was the most challenging. And later, had a complaint that the BBQ person was advertising hamburgers & hot dogs & Brats, which he had been informed was to be sold by a vendor that only had those items. He argued a bit, saying he just was told to now “emphasize them”, not exempt them completely. He had some very unique items and real BBQ items that we had wanted to have there. It was pointed out to him that he had them at eye level on a hand written menu. Not very discreet. So he erased all but the Brats. Not the perfect solution, but as the days went on, it became clear he wasn’t really a good fit for future Art Festivals. No need to go into reasons here. Except, to note that as everyone was checking out on Monday, one of his helpers came up and asked what they were suppose to do with the “juice.” I asked him, what type of “juice” was he talking about. The frying oil was what he then told me. I had the perfect answer. “It is a state law that anyone who uses oil for frying in a commercial setting is responsible for the proper disposal of that oil.” He didn’t look happy, but couldn’t argue with me. Hopefully they handled it correctly.

About mid-day, a couple of artists came to the Info Booth to tell us that one of the photographers with a double booth was not the artist that did the work. That the person there was a rep. Totally against our rules. I was pretty tired and went over to look at the booth. He had many large photographs not just on the walls, but lined up on the ground. They all had paper on the corners. I asked the person in the booth if I could talk to Mr. Gertz whose signature was on the “art” hanging there. No, he was in Arizona and Santos was there as his business partner. We moved to the back area of the booth to continue our conversation. I made it clear that he/they had broken the contract that was signed by the artist that was suppose to be in attendance.He argued that we had accepted both of them. I repeated that the artist who signed the work needed to be at the Art Festival, and not one of the images had any signature but Gertz, who was not there.

Then I pointed out that his booth looked more like Walmart than an artist’s booth.I suggested that he remove the items that were on the ground and he agreed to do that. I asked him if he looked around the Art Festival, if he thought his booth fit into how the others looked. He was looking pretty sheepish at this moment. 

Now I was talking rather quietly, but clearly make him understand that this booth was not acceptable and that they had clearly broken the signed contract.

Suddenly a woman came up and and told me I should not talk to this man this way. She and other customers were feeling really distraught by my “ranting” at him.  I pointed out that I was the Festival coordinator and he had broken a very important rule in our contract. Then she raised her voice and told me I had no right to talk to him this way. Or that I should do it behind the booth. We were at the back in the opening to the back of the booth, but not behind the booth. She got louder and declared she was leaving the Festival because I had upset her so badly by treating this man so rudely in public. By this time, she had quite a few people much more distraught than my quiet conversation had caused. And later, I heard another artist talking about her ranting about my actions in his booth to his customer’s discomfort. Not sure how many times she did this, but hopefully not many.

When she left, Santos said he would remove most of the items that were stacked up on the ground. So I left it at that.

The next morning, another one or two artists came to complain about this booth. I gathered a coupe of Festival committee members together to discuss what to do. And I had the contract in hand. It was only signed by Gertz. On member said she would be willing to ask Santos to leave. We discussed whether to do it immediately, or let him stay one more day. She was adamant that it needed to be done now and for him to pack up so other artists could see that Commonwheel stood by its contract with them. She stated what she would say, and circled the two most important lines in the contract. That  the artist needed to be present and if the contract was broken in any way, he would be asked to leave with no refund.We went to his booth. She asked to speak with Mr. Gertz. Of course, he was not there. Then she produced the contract and asked him to pack up and leave. He did not argue, but said he would need help getting a parking space for his truck to get out of the Festival. We were able to provide that help. So he left and many artists were impressed and thanked us for removing this interloper.

I had to ask three other groups of people to leave that set up without being part of the Art Festival. That is an easy task for me and has happened many times in the past. I just tell them we “own” the park for three days and everyone in the park has juried in and paid a large sum of money to participate in this Art Festival. Each day, they did pack up and leave. One uninvited vendor’s partner tried to convince the other one to stay, but I hung out until they were packing up felt sure they would leave. If they had not begun packing in earnest, I would have had a second conversation that would have informed them that I would have a Police Officer there to escort them out of the park. I hate having to go to that level, but usually just the mention of having the Police come in gets an uninvited vendor packing very quickly.

But mostly the art work was awesome and some artists had phenomenal sales, whereas others didn’t. Sort of “par for the course” as my Dad used to say.

Commonwheel Art Festival 2014_BirdHouses

These are the Bird Houses that made the front page of the Gazette on Saturday.

A person claiming to be part of a non-profit told the Info Booth Attendee that he had permission from Officer Johnson to set up a table on the edge of the Art Festival. I called him and said, he did not have our approval. Then I called Dispatch to find out if Officer Johnson would come talk with me. Two other officers showed up, but were pretty sure Officer Johnson was not working that day. By the time they arrived and searched the perimeter, this person was no where to be found.

One of the best things for me this year was that even without my being present much in the Group Booth, my Fantafaces items sold better than usual. That was a welcome piece of news each day. And actually without the jeweler who usually was there and took up a large area with her beautiful display, the booth looked more open and inviting and everyone in it seemed to sell better than year’s past.  Something to think about in the future.

And the new sound person kept the music at a level that was enjoyable and had very few, almost nil complaints from artists. I had been a bit worried as the Music Tent was set up closer to the artist booths than I had anticipated. But it worked out well and there were many compliments of the music selections this year.

Commonwheel Art Festival 2014_Music

I did an interview on Friday with someone from the Gazette. Artists asked why someone would come on set-up day, but I said, if it gets us a story on Saturday or Sunday, rather than Monday, I would be very happy. I was thrilled when I opened Saturday’s paper and saw a photo of the Bird House creator filling almost a third of the front page. He got many people looking for him and we could not have asked for a better story!

I met with the Live Remote Radio Station people. The DJ was a bit cranky, had bad instructions to the park and could not get a signal. The woman with him was new to the area and was delighted by everything she saw and loved the give-away items I had for them. She wants to keep informed more about art happenings in the area. And just now realized I need to connect with her very soon.

On Monday, a TV station showed up for an interview. I asked our President to do it. I was not feeling peppy or pretty. Plus, I was afraid I would say something about how sad it was to let people see all the things they wouldn’t have a chance to see as by the time this would air, the Art Festival would be over. So best for me not to do that interview. She agreed and I am sure presented herself and Commonwheel in a very positive light.

Signage was still a challenge. Getting it where it needed to be was not an easy task, even when I drew maps for people. Thank Goodness for RE’s help. But even he missed placed one important sign that I got moved with the help of a strong man who saw me struggling to get the informative sign closer to where the Shuttles stopped.

And the Shuttles, geez, the drivers just had to be talked to every day. They were giving confusing instructions about which shuttles to catche and where the first day. I tried to meet with each driver the next two mornings and had fewer complaints.

Each night I went to dinner with two of my long distant girl friend artists. We were joined with different people each night. At the Keg for our Chicken Berry Salads, an artist couple joined us. Pretty interesting dynamics between them. Made for interesting conversations.

Another night a young man from Denver who we had met last year and had brought a couple with him to the Art Festival. Quite a few of this group had dietary restrictions, sowe all went to the Ethiopian Restaurant that K had introduced me to and was a safe bet for vegetarian and gluten-free meals. A couple of artists were not comfortable with the “we eat with our fingers” and finagled a fork. There was mixed reviews of the Teff rolled and spongy bread. The Denver woman and I had a very interesting conversation about blood clots and we learned more about the young man and his love of rocks and gems. I had driven us all there, which was good since parking was scarce and I couldn’t imagine 2 or 3 vans trying to find spaces. The young man and the artist painter had just met went to different restaurant the next night with Tofu Salad as their goal.

On the last night, getting all packed up was quite a challenge. I ended up having to do much more than I had planned to get things packed up from the Info Booth. And had to figure out the logistics of getting the stage to the Chamber’s storage unit, then the rest to ours. But I forgot to instruct them to leave one of the tents, the really short one in the front of the Storage unit to use on the 21st. I am afraid to go up there and look at the chaos. Plus the gathering of signs was another challenge. JM & RE were tasked with working on that on the next day.

I also forgot that I had told RE that if he didn’t find another ride back from the UHaul place to the park and his vehicle to call me. He must have called when I was without my phone when I was changing out of my wet shoes and pants caused by stepping into a muddy puddle hidden under straw when I went to get the eclectic switched off. Or perhaps he called when I was at the noisy restaurant. I had gone home and emptied some items (the tax money and the prize box) out of my car and changed clothes, then picked up one artist and headed downtown for dinner to meet with the artist friend who had come down from Denver. He got a late call also, as the artist with his phone number had forgotten to call him, but caught him just before he ordered at another restaurant. He is a very interesting young man. And his partner is a published author. The artist is a very hyper person, hope they make it as a couple. They did seem very much in love and had just moved in together with plans to move to one of the Carolina’s in a year. We had a pleasant meal, and fun conversations. Sadly, I walked out without my To-Go box and that was to be my lunch the next day. So it goes.

And again, I have gotten late into the night and not even close to today. But will have to take a break and hope to spend one more evening of writing to get brought up to the day I am writing.


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