While scanning a handy guide provided by a far-too-perky volunteer, I took a grumpy swing through the tented camp of 100 artists next to the Deschutes across from the Old Mill. You could hear the cries of quiet desperation in the pleading eyes of the artists hunkered and hovering in their cave-like booths. "Please stop." "Please buy." "Is not my art good?" "Am I not worthy?" "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" OK, the sun or the morning shot of rum was getting to me. I decided to retreat across the bridge to the Lubbesmeyer Gallery. The twins, Lori and Lisa, are the only artists on the board of Art in the High Desert not in the show. With a gallery so close, they didn't have much need to be schlepping their collaborations into the late summer heat. Lori was one of the jurors, and I talked to her and Lisa in the cool of their gallery/studio.
"The screening process was tiring," said Lori. "Over 300 artists applied, and they were all excellent. Making considered choices was difficult."
I wanted to find out the story behind these road warriors of the art world and concentrated on Greg Gawlowski (www.fourseasonspress.com) who has been a professional photographer for twenty years, the last nine traveling 25,000 miles a year from art show to street fair across the country. Greg let me sit in the shade of his umbrella as I tossed out leading questions between the ebb and flow of potential customers.
"In a typical year, you hope for some profit in six out of 10 shows with half of those big money-makers. Unfortunately, these last few years have been far from typical. As sales sink with the U.S. economy, artists are forced into more "B-grade" shows and street fairs where the odds of losing money are greater. And getting into the top shows is like a lottery. I apply to over 70 a year and get accepted into about 20.
"It's not unusual to lose a few hundred dollars worth of merchandise to damage in transit or to weather. Last year, a tornado in Austin took out my booth and $8000 worth of art and supplies. I had nothing to sell. The promoter even refused to refund a penny of the booth fees, almost $1000.
"It's tough. But as long as I can make the mortgage, I'll be out again next March and back here in Bend, if they'll have me. One constant on the road-no guarantees."