The art-Gypsy Train rolled into Madison, Indiana a few weekends back for the annual Madison Chautauqua Art Festival. My wife Deborah, fine artist painter, had been accepted to participate along with about 300 other hopeful, creative sorts.
Madison is a small, bucolic, southern Indiana town, nestled into the meandering, sweeping arm of the Ohio River, connected to Kentuckians south by one narrow bridge, surely over-creaking with a colorful history of customer transport.
Downtown offered neat, tree-lined square blocks of restored circa 1800 carriage houses, tidy two-stories with porches, and the occasional stately manor with tall columns. Professionals and retirees with money move “up”, literally, to the bluff-top-with-view, north of town.
What a spectacle was Saturday morn…Autumn leaves teased with color, jazz quartet live on the green, tight-white artist tents sprouted everywhere, multi-country cuisine smoke wafting to tempt all, and a bonus discovery…a winery and garden celebration just two blocks away on the rivers mighty banks (who’d thunk vineyards here).
Smiling, happy, townsfolk began streaming in to the Festival, pockets stuffed with money… strolling up and down the angled streets, searching the tents and artists for…
My hat is off to Madison Chautauqua Art Festival for certainly obliterating any previously held national record for Yard Art Sales per Fair attendee.
Yup, a smokin’ 1 out of every 9 people were carrying some form of an inspired landscape creation (er…yard art.)
I’m pretty left-brained so I know how to conduct statistically significant studies, (which is the key, I learned that in college), cause you can’t make statements like this without hard data, so I got it.
At randomly selected moments, during the two days, I perched on my assigned and trusty black art stool, and, well…counted. I tallied people with “yard art in-hands” divided by all the passerby’s and got 1 out of 9. Pretty much every time. The copper stick yard art with a dragon-fly on the top was most popular, followed closely by the steely gray stick with a bird in a nest. Uh, that part is observational and not really statistical.
These findings led me to posit some conclusions/questions:
- There are more Yards in Madison, therefore, higher sales are to be expected.
- Yard Artists KNOW this is THE hotbed destination of the nation for yard art sales (like purple Elvis’ in Memphis, or Cherry Blossom water-colors in D.C.)
- Customers were speculating the cost of copper commodities would skyrocket in future years, perhaps tripling the value of said yard art, to say…$27.
Egads! Am I missing a huge untapped market for Art of Yard Art? Maybe acrylic-on-canvas paintings of copper dragonflies, providing customers four-season enjoyment of Yard Art In Living Room. No, too expensive. Better to try 8″ x 60″ birds-nest-on-a-pole Giclee Prints…you could stick them up all over the house! Kind of a skinny version of those giant Fathead.com wall graphics used for sports heroes.
Speaking of sports, I might add the results of a corollary study from our good river town. There IS NO statistical relation between Yard Art Customers and their favorite Sports Team. In fact, on a broader scale, the greater Madison Festival crowd displayed no primary or dominant relation to ANY sports team. They may know their Yard Art, but appear quite confused as to where to place home-team loyalties.
An in-depth study of the peoples choice of jerseys and hats and sweatshirts confirmed random and scattered quantities of the following: Louisville Cardinals, Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Cubs, Tennessee Volunteers, Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Hoosiers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Green Bay Packers, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Cincinnati Reds, Kentucky Wildcats, and on and on. I could stretch and say the local high school loyals skewed just a tad higher with the ever-fashionable red, short-sleeved T of the Madison Cubs.
However, the most telling observation from the weekend in Madison is that the entire town went “On Sale”.
I found the Chautauqua Art Festival was really just the banner event, the cover if you will, for the Every One Sell Everything You Can Festival. And they did a bang up job.
There were: Yard sales, garage sales, porch sales, street sales, bake sales, farmers markets, auctions, and church socials. Scattered around town, just beyond the boundaries of The Art Festival, pockets of little unregistered, art tent cities huddled together to scavenge off wayward, unsuspecting customers.
Restaurants, normally not open for lunch, did so (come on, a cup of chicken noodle for $8). Chili and hot dogs were hawked from church lawns. A young man sold airplane propeller art from his porch (uh, real propellers, not paintings of propellers). Kettle corn on every corner, front yard tables stacked with apples and honey, an old lady sat alone in her driveway, pitching her framed sketches from a card table.
The whole town had the fever to sell the whole town.
Oh, and there was the real Chautauqua Art Festival…
…and we did have a ton of traffic coming through our tent…
…asking how to get past us to the sidewalk behind…so they could see the House For Sale By Owner, who in the spirit of the day had set up easels bearing huge, color posters of their remodeled interior and amenities…
…so they could sell it, and then buy a new house with a bluff-top-view, and a bigger yard…