Traveling the fine-art circut
When the Sturgeon Bay Fine Art Fair opens over Memorial Day weekend, it’s a bit like ushering in the outdoor art-fair season for the summer.
Andrea Buboltz, events director for Destination Sturgeon Bay, said the show, which draws approximately 5,000 attendees, has generated a lot of interest from artists. Appleton-based sculptor Jamison Glisczinski is among them, and the Sturgeon Bay Fine Arts Fair is his second fair of the year.
“I do 15 to 20 art fairs throughout the Midwest,” said Glisczinski, who also exhibits his work at Cappaert Contemporary in Egg Harbor. “I spend a lot of time in Chicago and Milwaukee and also get to Minneapolis and Des Moines.”
He will also return to Door County for the Townline Art Fair Oct. 8-9, hosted by Fine Line Designs Gallery & Sculpture Garden in Sister Bay, as his last art fair of the year.
“Door County is great,” Glisczinski said. “The people are fantastic, laid back, because you don’t go to Door County unless you want to.”
The life of an artist who is part of the art-fair circuit means plenty of travel. For Glisczinski, it means that he and his wife load a 12-passenger van with the seats removed on a near-weekly basis.
“We load up Thursday or Friday, hit the road Friday and set up, then tear down on Sunday and head home,” he said.
Sculpture is Glisczinski’s full-time work, with 75-80% of his income coming from art fairs, and the rest from galleries and commissions. His work ranges in size from items that can be held in the hand to an installation he’s currently creating for Appleton’s Thedacare Regional Cancer Center that’s eight feet tall and 16 feet long.
When it comes to selling work through galleries or art fairs, each option comes with pros and cons for an artist. Some collectors take several years of admiring an artist’s work before they buy a piece of art, so galleries give those potential buyers more time to become acquainted with an artist. Art fairs, on the other hand, tend to last only a day or two, which may help to motivate sales through the immediacy of the situation. But that also means creating art that has a wide enough appeal to sell quickly.
“Art fairs differ from commissions,” Glisczinski said. “You have to have something that speaks to someone instantly.”
Art fairs also differ from traditional gallery sales in character and price points, he said, with the major metropolitan areas supporting higher prices.
“Most of my work is in the $50 to $300-$500 range,” he said.
Before committing to a show, Glisczinski does some research, focusing on who is putting on the show and its history. Social-media groups such as Art Fair Forum on Facebook – where artists review shows – and Festivalnet – where shows are rated – have become invaluable tools in helping artists select shows in which to invest their time.
The Sturgeon Bay Fine Art Fair seems to attract its fair share of returning artists, Glisczinski included.
“I was there last year,” he said, “and the crowd was fantastic.”
Luke Collins, a photographer who has a studio and gallery in Baileys Harbor, is eager to return to Sturgeon Bay for a fifth show.
“I love the fairs,” Collins said. “I love the environment – the chance to talk photography and show off my work.”
Part-time artists such as Sally Guger, a retired arts teacher, also have a place at art fairs. She moved to Sturgeon Bay in 2013.
“I have been a potter since I was 15, and I still love making pottery,” she said. “But I need somewhere to sell it, so I do a couple of shows a summer.”
Art fairs allow Guger to use her hobby to enhance her retirement, plus “if I don’t like making a certain item, I don’t,” she said.