Reinventing The Atlanta Arts Festival

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I recently traded emails with Julie Tepp, the director of the Atlanta Arts Festival which took place in Piedmont Park in September. I thought you would find her ideas of interest.

Hi Constance,

Well, the first year for the Atlanta Arts Festival has certainly been a journey! We are viewing the first year as a success based upon returned artist surveys. Artists said it was a great first year show and guests were true buyers, albeit inevitable load-out improvements.

Stating although it wasn’t packed, we did get the “right” crowds there and that it was a pleasant shopping experience since it wasn’t so crowded. One artist who said she’d been in the business 25 years had the best show she’d ever had while others said they didn’t hear much about the show prior to it (I’ll elaborate on this below).

As far as attendance goes, I believe it’s up to the show organizer to attract the appropriate patron. For example, we partnered w/ our local branch of NPR and the Jazz radio stations; their listeners are the art buyers in the community. Although a very popular radio station approached us, we knew it was absolutely not the right demographic to partner w/ for a fine art show.

So, while we could have had triple the attendance by partnering w/ this popular radio station, it’s demographic is mainly the 24-40 year old male and their music is very alternative; we knew that was not our art buying crowd.

While we’re on the subject of attendance, let me briefly explain some dynamics that are specific to the city of Atlanta. Piedmont Park, where we held the show, is a coveted venue for many, many different event organizers, not just art show directors. There are road races, political demonstrations, theatre productions, symphony concerts, etc. at this park.

The city does a continuous, delicate balancing act so the park isn’t overused every weekend of the year. There is a private, non-profit organization, The Piedmont Park Conservancy whose sole mission is the maintenance and restoration of the park itself and while the city owns the park, the Conservancy has strong political sway w/ the city. Both entities need one another; city doesn’t have the funding it would like to maintain the 186 acre park and the Conservancy has done a tremendous job at bringing this park back to life. So, we had to stay within 50,000 or less attendees this year OR face the fact that if we went over this amount of attendees, it was guaranteed we would NOT be granted a permit next year.

So you see, that’s just another reason we couldn’t mass promote; while we wanted a decent attendance, the most important thing to us was to get the RIGHT attendance so the artists could be successful. It did not make for huge beverage sales numbers which didn’t help our bottom line, but again, if the artists are successful, the other revenue aspects, i.e. sponsorship sales, beverage sales, etc. will fall into place in the next few years to come (we hope)!

For a little bit of personal history, and even perhaps a not very well known fact, Nancy Musser and I both worked for the Atlanta Dogwood Festival just about 15 years combined; she w/ 5+ years and me w/ 9+ years there. We both left the organization in November, 2006. I had a baby and Nancy and I were both ready to move on to new opportunities.

After Nancy and I left Dogwood, my husband and I decided that w/ all the experience (he was a dedicated volunteer for several of the years we were at Dogwood, although he has a full time job), he, Nancy and I had, we felt confident we could start our own show. Speaking for myself, I was ready to have the full ability to make creative decisions about my own show without being bound by the decisions of a volunteer board of directors.

Sometimes staff knows what is in the best interest for a show, yet has to “work” and spend a lot of time just to get their board to understand all that goes into making good decisions for artists.

The entire time I was employed w/ the ADF, I heard artists repeatedly express interest/desire for someone to recreate a fall time fine art show, BACK in Piedmont Park.

There was a great old show here in Atlanta that went defunct approximately 12 years ago when the show was moved from Piedmont to Centennial Olympic Park. It was a 9 day show. Artists were devastated as they viewed this as the demise of that show. Sadly, it was a great many artists best show and financially, impacted them greatly.

Anyway, my extremely supportive husband, Tracy and I have had the dream to start our own show, thus, created our business in Jan. of this year the “Atlanta Arts Festival.” Nancy joined us, as a consultant, serving as the focal point to the artists, founded the artist committee, etc., and pretty much managed the artist market aspect of the show from check-in to load-out.

She has been an invaluable member of our team. It doesn’t hurt that she knows Zapp like the back of her hand and even does some consulting w/ Zapplication.

Having provided far more info. that you probably cared to read, to summarize, for a first year show, we felt overall, it was a smashing success! We are motivated to make this a show of excellence and one that artists are proud to be part of.

Again, I want to thank you for passing along the feedback and know that we are doing all that we can to improve upon the load-out procedures. We will also be stepping up the promotion next year, but again, I want to say that we are truly trying to align ourselves w/ the art buying community that enthusiastically exists here in Atlanta!

Thanks, Constance!!

Julie J. Tepp, CFEEAtlanta Arts Festival
P.O. Box 724694
Atlanta, GA 31139
p 770-941-9660
c 770-722-1507
f 866-519-2918
www.atlantaartsfestival.com

Images in this article of artists who participated in the Atlanta Arts Festival. They are, top to bottom: Michael Madzo, Allan Teger and Daro Pohl.

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One Response to “Reinventing The Atlanta Arts Festival”

  1. Call for Artists: Atlanta Arts Festival « Art Fair Insider - the Blog Says:

    […] isn’t it? For more background on the Atlanta Arts Fesival read a letter from the director at this link of this […]

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