Sunday, November 11, 2007

Nice photos, quirky photographers

The Artsgarden is currently hosting a photo exhibit by a camera club. It's a juried show, and they apparently received several hundred entries (all of which, I understand, had to pay an entry fee to be considered) for the 80 or so places in the show. The photos that made the cut were judged by a second judge, and the best received awards and prizes. Most of the photography is pretty good. For me, though, the most entertaining part of the show isn't the work itself, but the process of getting the show in here. They showed up a few hours later than scheduled, for one thing; they called and warned us, but not until shortly before they were originally scheduled to arrive. And when they arrived, they brought what I'm guessing was their entire camera club. It was a bit of a circus. Most of them were pretty laid-back and fun. We also had the usual collection of people who didn't really have any input to give yet still felt the need to pee in the soup. We had a few people bitter about the fact that the work they submitted didn't make it into the show; some of them spent a lot of time picking apart the work in the show and complaining about biased judges. Some of them grapes were extremely sour. And I was amused by the fact that the club member who did most of the organizing decided to hang a few of her own pieces in the show, even though they didn't get judged into the show (and presumably didn't pay entry fees); she hung hers the next day, I suppose when everyone else wasn't looking. They also hung a few pieces by the judge sometime the next day.

One of the bits of comedy concerned security for the photographs. Most of them fit into our locked display cases. These are fairly secure, really; you'd need a hammer to get to the works. Others are hung on exposed display grids, but for security we hung them by zip-tying them to the display grids. It's reasonably secure; somebody would need to bring wire cutters to steal them. The judge's pieces were the only exception. Whoever hung them apparently didn't know about the zip-tie trick, so they were just hung from hooks. I was prepared to let them stay that way; anyone dumb enough to hang work loose in a public space, then hang an $1800 price tag on it, deserves what they get. I'm not feeling particularly charitable towards these people; they irritated me and got us in trouble (more on that in a moment). But my boss decided it'd probably be best to continue our ten-year record of having no work stolen while on display at the Artsgarden, so I secured the judge's work too.

The photo club had asked if they could hold a little opening for the show. We told them that we do this kind of thing all the time, and we started talking about rental rates and scheduling. They said they didn't want anything that cost money, but we never give the space away for free. On the other hand, one of the photographers has a close friend on the Arts Council, so we told them that it is, technically, a public space; if they didn't want it to be a private event, there's no reason they couldn't just gather there like any other group of people to look at the artwork. We even flexed the rules further for them, and told them that our evening staff member at the info desk would unlock the piano so they could have a pianist in the club perform. We even risked the energy-conscious mall manager's ire by turning the stage lighting on for them (which required some complex engineering on our part, since normally the lights are controlled by the light board, which was stowed in a closet when we left for the day). We spelled out the rules in advance: if they wanted staff there, it'd have to be a rental. And they said they were fine with that. But the evening of the reception, they spent a lot of time grouching about the fact that we had no staff there to assist them, that nobody moved the display for them, that the lighting wasn't focused correctly to highlight all the pieces, et cetera. And we, the Artsgarden staff, received some grief from their friend on staff (there was even a Meeting, which thankfully happened on my morning off). I'm thinking the lesson here is that we don't flex the rules for anyone, ever. And I'm at least temporarily done being nice to artists.

No comments: