Planning a Michigan Festival: Part 1

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One of the activities that fill my days is being the co-Art Director of Pontiac, MI’s, Arts, Beats & Eats, along with my partner Lisa Konikow. This festival, Oakland County’s arts celebration, brings almost a million people to the urban center and streets of Pontiac. Metro Detroit loves it.

Planning for something of this magnitude does take all year, including raising funds, securing sponsors, recruiting restaurants, bands and artists, plus all the details to support all the facets.

Jon Witz is the producer. He maintains relationships with county, city and business officials, puts it altogether. Jeff Wilson is head of Operations, which means he handles all construction: tents, stages, scaffolding, electricians, signage, layout, extensive security.

The rest of the staff includes a sponsorship coordinator, a restaurant and beverage manager, five stage managers, volunteer coordinator. All of these people then have interns and staff. The office is pretty quiet during the winter but this time of year the phones ring continuously, the copy machine runs and breaks down. And, the summer interns leave for school a week before the festival!!

Lisa and I handle the arts. We write the art application, see that it gets out to artists, handle all facets of the jurying, handle the paperwork for artist communication, layout the art fair, then prepare for the artist arrival. Right about now we are holding our breath that all the artists can make it. Cancellations mean redoing all the press materials, name tags, booth signs, layouts. Maybe finding a replacement, or maybe making a corner out of the empty space.

From my background as a participant in art fairs I can stand in the artists shoes. The artists count on good treatment when they get here, a layout which gives everyone equal access to the public, hospitality that makes them comfortable and good publicity, bringing the customers that will respond to their wares.

Earning a living as an artist is an art. Balancing expenses, local economies, doing creative work, traveling the roads to the ‘next big thing’. But it can be rewarding psychologically and monetarily and appealing to people who have the stomach for adventure.

So, here we are two days until Show Time!! Stay tuned for the fun and games.

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One Response to “Planning a Michigan Festival: Part 1”

  1. Aric Keith Says:

    I have also thought of something along these lines to showcase our area’s band talent and artists. I fit in both categories. It would give our little town something other than the annual arts and crafts fair in spring, to look forward to. I am definately interested in hearing more about this in your upcoming blogs!

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