2009 promises to be one of the best Artomatics yet. Each time I participate, I learn a little bit more about how to work this huge event to support my art and increase my network of artist friends.
For the un-initiated: Artomatic is a D.C. original, a massive, volunteer-organized, un-juried art show that features hundreds of visual artists, musicians, and performers of all types. Artomatic 2009 will occur May 29th to July 5th at 55 M Street, S.E., a new – but unoccupied – 275,000 square feet office building developed by Monument Realty. The building is located atop the Navy Yard Metro stop and within a block of Nationals Park, home to the Nationals baseball team.
Artomatic events occur regularly, but not on a set schedule. There are two good ways to stay up with what’s happening with Artomatic. First: be subscribed to the Artomatic website (http://www.Artomatic.org), and second: belong to artdc.org (http://www.artdc.org), where many of the Artomatic regulars go to chat between shows. There’s a special Artomatic topic there, but participating in any of the calls for shows is more than likely to put you in the same rooms as other Artomatic artists. Makes for a great grapevine!
Once I know Artomatic is going to happen, I start planning postcards, business cards, brochures and signage. Most of these can be self-designed and printed through VistaPrint on line for not much more than $15 total (really – they are an artist’s best friend.)
Next comes the wait for registration day. Each year more and more folks have registered and this year, visual artist slots filled quickly. I sit with my computer so that I can register early. This merits an early site selection slot and a large range of volunteer slots to choose from. This year so many of us tried to register at noon opening, that we crashed the site. I finally made it in around 2:30. Alas, my new part time jobs (thank you economy) severely limited the times I could volunteer and I found many of the slots I had hoped to get already taken. Undaunted, I nevertheless found 3 workable slots and could relax for the day.
After registration is site selection. The volunteers who put the sites together – label and layout, and these last two years build the partitions and install electic – are amazing. They give untold hours of their time because they believe in this event. Each year everyone learns a bit more about how to deal with this many people (and don’t you know working with artists is like herding cats) effectively and efficiently. There are different strategies for making a site selection, but I’d say almost all are based around: how do I get my art where there will be lots of traffic and I can show to my art’s best advantage? Last year I tried for the top floor only to have several more floors above me open after I had already done site selection. This year we will be on the 2nd floor, which also has cabaret and a bar – not too close to the bar, but within shouting distance.
Now the fun begins. Some artists live in town and can be on site easily and regularly from the time they open the site up until opening. I, on the other hand, live almost 2 hours away. So I plan one trip (planning being harder this year not only because of my part-time job – now down to one – but also because this time we (Artomatic) are across from the Nationals’ Stadium and game days seem to be non-stop. Parking in the building this year is a “bit” more than in past years. One must suffer for one’s art. There is almost a month to complete your site prep and hanging, and a month to load out, on either side of the month-long show itself.
Because I have sold retail for about 5 years now, I always have a lot of work hanging around waiting to be “out there” but I still use Artomatic to push my own envelope a bit, trying to see what direction new work might take. This year, in addition to masks, several torsos and some tile work, I will be showing my new efforts at glass work (slumping), along with some abstracted clay work that I am, as I type, still trying to figure how best to mount for hanging. I love going to Artomatic to see how other artists display their work. There is so much innovation in presentation (which happens to be perhaps my weakest skill) that it becomes like taking a class in how to show art.
I make a list of things that need to come with me to install my work. Anything forgotten can put a real glitch in the plans. It all has to fit in my car (with the back seat out) including my marvelous handtruck which changes into a flatbed and can carry the world and make it feel like a feather. Having done this for other shows, including the Philadelphia Buyer’s Market, I’m getting pretty good at knowing what needs to come, and even better at stashing things afterward in self-contained groupings that make gathering it back together for a show like taking things off the shelf. For several years I have managed to plan my ArtOmatic load-in to occur with several of my volunteer dates so I go early, stay late, and get two things done (one trip: paint and then do shiftwork, one trip hang and then do shiftwork). This year that wasn’t workable, so I’ll just take a full day to paint and hang all at once (on a non-game day when hopefully the garage won’t be charging premium price).
My first two Artomatics were labors of love. I sold nothing. But the last two I’ve done very well. And, it is still a labor of love for me and I’m still always delighted when someone finds something they can’t live without (last year I had two return buyers from the year before – collectors!)
As a way to get to know other artists, and because I blog, I wander through Artomatic several times during the show, taking photos and making notes. Often I contact the artists and many have been kind enough to do interviews via email with me. This has led to getting to know other artists better. Originally my hope was to become more active in the DC art world, but my own inclination not to travel there regularly put an end to that. Now I do it to honor the artists whose work I enjoy and as a way to get to know more people at Artomatic.
I’ll admit that during the hard work of set up I often wonder if it’s all worth it. I think my returning again and again is its own answer!
[Editor's not: you can read more of Tammy's writing (including about preparing for Artomatic) and see more of her work on her blog and website. The blog is at http://www.tammyvitale.com, and her website is at http://www.Sacred-TammyVitale.com.]
Tammy Vitale is a clay and glass artist who also dabbles in the 2D arts. She is currently represented on the Atlantic Coast by A Step Above in Berlin, MD, Herons Way Gallery and Leonardtown Galleria, both in Leonardtown, MD, Sea Scapes in North Beach, MD, Sandy Bay Gallery in Hatteras, NC and Island Artworks in Ocracoake, NC, Ravenwood Curio Shoppe in New Hampshire, Sara Jessica Fine Arts in Provincetown MA and Atlantic Artisans in Atlantic Highlands, New Jersey. Her smaller work can be found at The Bead Boutique and Body in Balance in Prince Frederick, MD. The magazine, Artful Blogging, features one of her drawings in its May/June/July issue (page 35). In February 2009, she taught her ceramic torso class to 2 students (see http://www.heatherbartlettart.com/2009/03/tile-making-workshop-by-parran-collery/ for a review of that class) and in March she was interviewed by MMCA Marketplace, an on-line gathering place for artists. [http://mmcamarketplace.typepad.com/mmca_marketplace/2009/03/tammy-vitale-of-lusby-marylandis-no-stranger-when-it-comes-to-mixed-media-anda-long-list-of-accomplishments-that-inc.html]. She has been accepted for the show, PINK, hosted by Coury Gallery in Savage Mill, MD (April 2009), and will participate in the upcoming 12 x 12 show (May 16) with ArtDC.org’s new space in Hyattsville, MD. In 2008, joining with Heather Bartlett of Charles Cty, MD, Vitale created interactive chalkboard torsos for the installation art piece Body Politics (http://bodypolitics.allzah.com/)
Vitale started her full-time career as a clay sculptor in May 2002 as resident artist at Carmen’s Gallery in Solomons, Md, for one month, and went on to found the Wylde Women Gallery (10/2004), open to and encouraging all artists, which was closed a year later (10/2005) due to censorship. Vitale also founded the non-profit Arts Alive! which sought to bring diverse art and artists to Southern Maryland, including the delightful Annie King Phillips who presented a lecture and workshop on collage in conjunction with the Calvert County Library. Vitale was co-curator of “Independent Visions,” an art show at Vision Gallery in Georgetown (DC) July 9 – 30, 2005. She has participated in the last four ArtOMatic shows, in DC in 2002 and 2004, Crystal City in 2007, and MOCA DC 2008. She teaches classes in clay in her home studio – tiles, architectural tilework, fish and torsos – and has taught tile-making and fish at Southern Pines in conjunction with the Calvert Artists Guild. Her current obsession is making lampworked beads, beadwork and jewelry design and she still occasionally dabbles in painting for relaxation.