Outdoor Art Shows: Advice from Artists

September 1, 2010

A Review of the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition

By: Steven Tippin

The Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition (TOAE), held July 9 to 11, 2010, began the same as any other year: too much rain, too few parking spaces and very little sleep. In its 49th year, TOAE is a juried showcase featuring contemporary fine art and craft that takes place on Nathan Phillip’s Square at the foot of Toronto’s City Hall.

As the largest outdoor art exhibition in Canada, it offers a fresh-air alternative to conventional art shows and galleries. An estimated 100,000 visitors attend the exhibition every year, including a number of gallery representatives and art dealers.  Side-by-side, established artists, undiscovered talents and entrepreneurial students sell their work directly to the public and make lasting connections with art dealers and collectors.

This year, TOAE featured 384 artists from painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, drawing, fibre, glass, jewellery, metal, mixed media, watercolour and wood. The 2010 show had 22% fewer artists overall than the previous year, due to construction at Nathan Phillip’s Square; however, there were 50% fewer glass artists.

With an economy that is reportedly on the mend, glass artists had various reasons for participating and those who did not apply had equally compelling reasons for not participating this year.

Muriel Duval, a flameworker who traveled from her studio in Laval, Quebec was one of 19 glass exhibitors at TOAE. “My first goal was to gain exposure and to display my art to new customers,” said Duval. “I was also looking for networking if galleries or curators were interested in my creations.” She described the show as being a successful venture in which she nearly ran out of inventory.

Arron Lowe decided not to apply, but had previously exhibited in the show for five consecutive years. He pondered whether or not the show offered enough exposure and compensation to offset the demanding workload.

“I’d often envy the 2D artists who show up with a luggage trolley, setting up in record time,” Lowe explained.  “On the flip-side, as a glass artist, I’ve got a truck, dozens of boxes, plinths, a dolly and hopefully a friend who is not working that day to help lug it all to the booth.  Not to mention all the work leading up to the show.”

Lowe also mentioned that he wanted to enjoy the show as a non-exhibiting artist. “I have not ‘seen’ the show in six years!  Being a participant means you are pretty much tied to your own booth. I was really looking forward to attending this year’s show, and it did not disappoint.  It was still a great opportunity to be the reunion it always is, but I also had a chance to see some really amazing art.”

While TOAE is the largest outdoor art exhibition of its kind in Canada, it is one of many shows this summer for glass artists to showcase their talent. For those of you who are about to showcase your work in a different show this summer, or for those of you who are thinking about applying for next year, here is a list of tips and advice from glass artists who participated in TOAE 2010:

Toan Klein: “Stay upbeat. Have fun. Don’t forget that you’re there to sell. Leave your ego at home. Oh yeah, sometimes it’s wise to put yourself between your work and some of the characters that meander by.”

June Pham: “Bring something like museum gel or draft stop if your work is subject to wind.”

Amanda Parker: “Try to display your work consistently and with your own aesthetic in mind. Bring lots of food and water! Oh, and if you are bringing a tent make sure it is easy to set up!”

Muriel Duval: “85% of my sales were with credit cards.  I believe that it is a must at that show. You cannot afford to lose a sale because you don’t take credit cards.”

Emma Gerard: “Make your display simple to transport and simple to setup.”

Jeff MacIntosh: “If you’re intending on selling work at the show and making a profit, make sure you bring a variety of work to cover all price points. Low cost-high volume works tends to be the easiest to sell. Make sure all work is professional cold-worked and ready to sell.”

Steven Tippin: “When applying to juried shows, it is important to have good images of your artwork. At the show, stay hydrated and make time to eat. Hours can easily fly by between meals when you are in the sun talking about your work.”

Tara Macdonald: “If you want customers to take your work seriously, make your booth look as professional as possible.”

GLASS ARTISTS RECOGNIZED AT TOAE

Each year, TOAE presents more than $30,000 in awards and prizes to participating artists. Glass artists at TOAE 2010 were recognized with the following awards:

  • Paull Rodrigue (Best of Category-Glass)
  • Steven Tippin (Best Student Glass & Marie Collins Memorial Award)
  • Aaron Oussoren (Glass Honourable Mention)

TOAE 2010 BY THE NUMBERS

  • 1,200 applications juried in 2010
  • 384 artists invited to participate
  • 22% fewer participants than 2009
  • 47% fewer glass artists in TOAE 2010 than 2009
  • 17% fewer painters in TOAE 2010 than 2009
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