The Surreal Experience of traveling for Art Fairs and Conventions

real toilet

Walking into my cheap motel this weekend to see the toilet on a rolly cart in the entryway of the room reminded me of what a bizarre and surreal experience it is to travel on the weekends to sell my work at art fairs and conventions.

I have been selling my work at shows since 2011, and I’ve become accustomed to how things go on these weekends, but it remains a very strange and carnie-esque way to make a living. Most everyone I meet at the show I forget almost immediately when they leave my booth. I am perpetually lost wherever I go. I have on the super on-point artist sales person face for most of the day, then most of the time spend the rest of the night doing things totally alone. On the other hand I do meet awesome artists who I get to connect with at future shows, and crash their couches when I’m in their town. I find badass hole-in-the-wall bars like the one I found in Akron this weekend. The place was a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich bar, and nothing but 80’s new wave played on Pandora both nights. For the most part though almost all people I meet, like the cool bar tender with the Depeche Mode Pandora station or the DJ at the dead club who let me hook my phone up and have a personal dance party, I never see again.


Another love/hate relationship I have with traveling for shows is the drive. I’ve done shows as close as 15min from home, and as far as 11hrs. Driving to the far ones can be tedious and boring of course, but it is also valuable uninterrupted alone time. It takes me about a half hour to really settle into driving, and by the 2-ish hour mark I’ve kind of thought about everything immediate there is to think about. That’s when I can really start to dig into artistic ideas uninterrupted, and I’ve had some of my best ideas hashed out on the road.

Once I arrive at the venue I usually have little idea of what is going on, and always count on being handled. It’s always worked for me though; show up on time with my stuff and someone will tell me where to go and when. Having the booth set up is pretty rewarding on it’s own. Here you have several tables or a 10×10 space of your work, that up until now you may have only seen in piles or boxes in your studio. I love seeing my cohesive body of work!


However the show goes it’s always an interesting experience. I stay in dumpy hotels, meet cool people, and get to sell my art. And one other wonderful woman I met this weekend was the bubbly night clerk at the hotel desk. She let me know areas that were safe to walk to alone at night, was a pleasant face getting back from the bar in the evening, and most importantly was very apologetic for the room with the stray toilet and switched me to one with fully functioning accommodations!