Judy Wood : Riding Lessons for Artists – Part 9: Showtime
Riding Lessons for Artists
Part 9: Showtime
By Judy Wood
Once we have achieved a certain level of mastery and competence, whether it is in art or riding, some will want to show the world what they have achieved by way of the show circuit. I have never been a "show person" in the world of riding, for various reasons, but goodness knows I have spent a lot of time at them, doing photography for clients and just generally watching and learning. I have done some gallery shows and a lot of "trade shows" with my artwork which is to say ones that are geared to selling and to interacting directly with the buying public. I think a lot of the general observations I have gathered from my own experiences will apply equally to either art or horse show events.
First off, do your homework before you decide on a particular show or venue. It is important to know ahead of time how or if you will fit in with the show you are considering. For example, if you are showing dressage for the first time ever, make sure the show has classes that are appropriate to the level at which you are riding. Similarly with art shows. Trying to get juried into a high-end show that has a lot of established artists might not be the best choice for someone who is new to the world of showing and whose style is still evolving and developing. The reverse also applies if you are riding/working at a relatively accomplished level, there's not much point in entering the local "fun" shows for casual artists/riders. If the show you are considering is a local one, or one that you can get to readily, part of doing your homework might be heading to it as a potential future show-person, and pay close attention to how it goes. That alone has helped me in the past when I was contemplating a show that I hadn't done before.
Once you have decided on your show, be sure you read, understand, and follow all the rules and regulations. These are usually set to ensure that the show runs smoothly and well, and are generally not optional. They do apply, and they apply equally to all exhibitors. If you don't like the rules, or don't want to comply with them, then do everyone a favour and give the show a miss. I made the mistake once of glossing over the details on a trade show contract for an expensive out of province (and long!) show that I hadn't done before. I was well used to doing a similar show in a different city, so I assumed that the rules of engagement would be the same and just quickly scanned the contract before committing myself. Imagine my horror, after a six-hour drive to get to this five day show, when I discovered that the million dollar public liability insurance clause in the contract was not optional, as with most other shows, but compulsory, and I would not be allowed even to unload my artwork until I had this in place. Luckily this was in the days of Internet and fax machines, so after some frantic phone calls home to my insurance agent I got that sorted out, but if I had read the details correctly in the first place, I would have been spared this anxiety. If I hadn't been able to get the insurance tacked down, I would have been out the four figure booth fee, had a lot of time and effort wasted in preparing for the show, and a long and sorry drive home again. Lesson learned.
Generally speaking, you need a lot of stuff for shows, whether they are one-day or multi-day events. It's a good idea to have a "show check-list" written down so that you don't get to where you are showing and find that you are missing a key component that is essential to what you are there to do. For art shows/sales, the categories would be to do with display equipment, the actual art product, business/sales related items (cash float, business cards, receipt books, etc) and personal use items. For horse shows, you need all your show related tack, grooming kit, blankets if required, feed, stall cleaning implements, everything that might possibly be of use, plus all your own personal equipment as well. Having everything cleaned and checked for wear and tear well before the show date is a good idea. Have the details written down, keep the list in a location where you can actually find it, and then remember to look at it! I know, seems obvious, but I've also made the mistake of "thinking" I knew everything that was on the list and not bothering to check it before leaving, with predictable results.