|then returned to employment in the arts in 1991. It isnt often someone has the opportunity to go to work every day doing what one loves most! The Salina Arts & Humanities Commission sets its goals high and I enjoy the challenges of presenting high quality experiences for artists, patrons, and community. For well over thirty years, Salina has continued to grow its statewide and national reputation of excellence in the arts and its strength as a progressive cultural center. This community of 48,000 draws over 75,000 attendees to the Festival as well as year-round regional audiences to its internationally award-winning Community Theatre, nationally accredited Salina Art Center (contemporary art center) and Smoky Hill Museum (historic museum), Salina Symphony, and Stiefel Theatre for the Performaing Arts. Salina will be honored this June as recipient of the Kansas Governors Arts Award for Outstanding Arts Community.
Roughly how many hours and how many people are involved in putting the show together from start to finish?
I cannot even imagine how many hours are involved in putting the show together from start to finish! The Festival is a year-long planning and coordinating initiative, as are both its juried shows. The Arts & Humanities Commission is a hybrid: both a non-profit organization and a department of the city. The citys support of the arts in Salina is both model and phenomenal, with the Festival enjoying a great partnership of in-kind support services. Our Arts & Humanities department employs an Executive Director, plus five full-time and one part-time staff members. We work as a team . . . we all wear many hats within the organizations broad-basedprogramming which also includes granting to artists and organizations. Every aspect of the Smoky Hill River Festival is juried or selected through a set of criteria developed from annual evaluations and application to vision and mission. Over 2000 dedicated community volunteers enthusiastically provide the support necessary to make it happen along with strategic multi-faceted fundraising and sponsorship initiatives. Without this overwhelming support and community ownership, an event of this magnitude and significance would not be possible.
What makes the Smoky Hill River Festival special or unique?
The Smoky Hill River Festival is sincerely a total celebration of the arts . . . a true ARTS FESTIVAL. We focus on content and quality within all components and balance presentation, marketing, and educational strategies to support a total arts experience for all ages. The event is held in Salinas historic Oakdale Park surrounded by the Smoky Hill River. This event is like none other, with art installations as a signature (see photos, right), stellar childrens entertainment, and free creative art activities, with fabulous festival entertainment coming from the finest in the region, nation, and beyond . . . every imaginable musical style from classical to unconventional. The Festival is great food, fun, and life-changing arts experiences!
Why should an artist want to apply for this show?
The Festival is not presented to make huge profits, but to pay for itself providing a community quality of life amenity and celebration. It is the intent of the event to provide a great venue to support artists and the sale of their work. Booth fees and jury/application fees are rarely increased and are kept reasonable and fair. The number of exhibitors in each of the shows has remained constant. The Fine Art Show presents approximately 90 exhibitors and the Four Rivers Craft Market Show presents 50. This equation works well physically and encourages the best artist/sales ratio potential and the highest quality from a competitive selection process.
Each year we collect evaluation input from exhibitors. Sixty percent respond to the mailed questionnaire. Close attention is paid to responses as feedback provides the vehicle for improving upon what we are able to do in providing the best venue possible for artists. Personal attention and individualized consideration provide the heart and soul of the very best artists hospitality in the country! The community is accustomed to and enjoys hosting artists. Artists always comment on the friendliness and support of the people of Salina. Attention to details plays out in great organization. Artists will enjoy several amenities such as an artists reception on Friday evening, volunteers who bring coffee, tea, or water to your booth during the entire show, booth
sitters for a needed break, parking assistants, and a soccer team to assist with loading and unloading! Targeted marketing of art patrons in and beyond the community is coupled with outstanding cash Merit Awards, Community Collection Purchase Awards, art purchase Gift Certificate Program, Regional Art Guests initiative and the $100,000+ Art Patron Program! Because the community is steeped in a long history of arts-based experiences, patrons are knowledgeable, ask good efforts questions, and have an educated appreciation for original workwhether traditional or contemporary.
What is the level of support for the festival in your community?
Over $150,000 in corporate sponsorship dollars are combined with city support services, in-kind donations, grants and individual fundraising efforts, and admission button sales. The Festival is the number one cultural event in the community and region, as was restated in the recently completed 2008 Community Cultural Plan. It has become a statewide tradition and annual homecoming for families and friends. Thus, patrons will come from all over the country. Ownership and tradition are obvious in monetary and volunteer support but also in the many stories from families and visitors who have grown up with and attended the event for 34 years!
What marketing strategies do you use to draw the crowd to your show?
A portion of our budget is thoughtfully directed toward an extensive all-media marketing plan. Initiatives are continually implemented toward further development of a broad patron base for the juried shows. These include the 14-year Art Patron Program, Regional Art Guest invitations, and offering artwork purchase Gift Certificates on a year-round basis. The local Chamber of Commerce and Cultural Roundtable also promote the event with sponsorship, tourism marketing and collaborative project development. The Festival is affordable, accessible, and a great weekend getaway!
Do you or the arts commission have any special initiatives to inform or educate art fair customers?
The entire event is planned and developed from an arts education and arts experience-based learning foundation. Printed materials are distributed both locally and regionally with pre-Festival and on-site broadcasts and interviews. Our local Access Television station records and presents Festival clips throughout the year. The Festival website presents both audio and visual information to define the event as well as offering e-card and staff contact and evaluation access. The local newspaper highlights the event in a special tabloid the weekend before Festival. A comprehensive printed Festival Program is presented to everyone entering the event. The diverse menu of music styles, fine art, craft, childrens activities, and installations provide arts-learning for everyone. Pre-Festival workshops and other activities offer community and artists educational exchange experiences throughout the year.
First Treasures, Art for Young Collectors is a program of the Festival that invites exhibitors to donate or consign small works for children to select and purchase for kid-friendly prices of $1 to $5. A tent is provided with sides so that children enter the tent assisted by volunteers while personally selecting their own treasured art piece. Parents and grandparents must wait at the exit. Each artwork is marked with the exhibitors booth number, encouraging the child to visit the artist and thank them, learn about the art, or get a signature. The program is amazing and is a means of educating our art patrons of the future!
What is your proudest accomplishment for the Smoky Hill River Festival?
I am most excited about implementation of the knowledge I have acquired
through networking with artists and show directors, contributing and participating in NAIA Conferences, and visiting other events. As an artist, I look first from artists perspectives and apply that thoughtfully to the administrative and business side of directing the shows. I am most proud of maintaining a level of quality, organization, and presentation comparative to that of most metropolitan shows in the country. My goal is to provide professional show administration and follow my genuine passion for supporting artists, their creativity, and their livelihood. I am proud of the Festivals national recognition and increasing sales through the very successful Art Patron Program.
What is the most challenging aspect of mounting the show?
There are four chalenges I see as most important to maintaining a great show: selection of jurors; selecting the show; show layout; and retaining a national presence.
Jurors are selected with expertise in working with specific medium. A panel of four jurors is composed of a 2-D artist, a ceramist, a metal
smith, and a digital/photography artist. Artists images are projected to jurors non-categorically, shifting from 2-D medium to 3-D medium, so that criteria and attention are focused on each applicants images non-comparitively.
The selection of show exhibitors is based on scores from the jury process. Scores determine both acceptance and wait-list status. Each category represents the highest scoring and quality with attention to variety of expression within the medium.
Layout is important to artists, but also from the perspective of those attending. I purposefully provide a layout that will encourage patrons to walk the entire show experiencing a different medium from booth to booth. It offers interest and discovery on the part of the viewer anddoes not place any two exhibitors side by side within a like category. Booths are never side by side, sometimes back to back, but always have at least six feet of space on either side to allow presentation from three sides.
Maintaining an active database for application solicitation requires a constant effort in editing mailing lists. Ensuring that show listings are both online and in all resource publications is essential for maintaining national visibility. Getting out to shows, meeting artists, and seeing work all contribute to maintaining a fresh and vibrant venue.
What is the most important amenity any art fair can offer to the artists?
A consistently well-juried and well-run show presented to the highest standards in the profession along with concentrated efforts to build and maintain a vital patron base.
Is there something you wish that artists understood better about producing an art fair?
All shows are presented unique to the mission and goals of the organizations and communities who sponsor them. Shows are directed by individuals from a variety of backgrounds and experience . . . some from the field of art, some from marketing, some from merchandising, etc. What works well in one location may not fit another. A network for communicating standards and practices and sharing administrative applications serves to bring consistency to the core priorities and concerns of both artists and administrators. The NAIA Directors Conferences have provided a forum and collective template for directing shows through implementations that collaboratively address the needs and concerns of artists. Costs continue to escalate in providing the necessary infrastructure for producing art shows and festivals. In most recent years, the transition to digital image management services has increased administrative expenses significantly, changing that expense line from near nothing to several thousand dollars. Although very convenient, these are new costs to absorb. Challenges are continually addressed to adjust formulas and approaches so that we can provide a great venue for both artists and audience.
Smoky Hill by the Numbers
June 12-14, 2009 will mark the 34th Anniversary of the Smoky Hill River Festival.
The Festival is presented on a $400,000 budget. Actual dollars are raised through the non-profit Foundation side of our organization with staff being employed by the City.
The event draws over 75,000 attendees to a community of 48,000 and admission sales support 40% of the budget.
The Art Patron Program brings over $100,000 in sales to the Fine Art Show.
Fine Art Show Cash Merit Awards: $1500, $1000, (2) $900, (3) $700, and (3) $500
Jurors also select $1500 in Purchase Award artwork from the Fine Art Show for the Festival Community Art Collection. We now have over 160 artworks in schools and public facilities.
Four Rivers Craft Market Show Cash Merit Awards: $500, $400, (3) $300
Installations, above: (top)Walk Bridge into the Festivalsculptural yarn installation, art students and lead artists Dee Erway Sherwood and Ann Zerger, McPherson, KS; (middle) artist David Exline, Aliso Viejo, CA; (bottom) collaboration of artists Ann Arkebauer, Salina, KS and son Chris Wilson, KC.