One of the surprisingly few times that I regret being poor is when I think about how I can’t afford to support artists or collect works of art as much as I would like… – especially local work.
Because of that, whenever an opportunity presents itself for me to pick up something affordable – well, it’s a good thing. For a long time, I have been a fan of Kettle Art in Deep Ellum and the artists they support. So I read about an annual event they put on For the Love of Kettle – I jumped all over it. It’s a fundraiser for the gallery. Participating artists donate a small work which are sold off for 50 dollars each – with the funds going to support the gallery. It is billed as a “competitive shopping event.”
I can come up with fifty bucks. I can pack a sack lunch for a couple of weeks.
On Facebook, over three hundred people has said they were going, but there were only going to be a hundred and fifty works of art. Looking through the selections on the website, I realized that there was going to be a feeding frenzy on this stuff when the doors opened, so I went down there an hour and a quarter early and stood in line. There were only a half dozen folks there when I arrived, but the line stretched out down the block, getting longer by the minute.
Most of the people in the front part of the line were participating artists – it was fun talking to them. Also, a lot of people said that this sale was popular not only for the price, but for the small size of the art. So many said they had art they couldn’t put out because they were out of wall space.
These were my kind of people.
Everybody peered through the windows at the art on the walls. The rules of the sale were distributed on little slips of paprer. You had to get the number (printed on the wall beside the painting) of the piece you wanted and then register with the volunteers. You wouldn’t necessarily know if someone had already bought the one you chose until you get to the desk. Later, your name would be called at the cashier station and you would pay. Then, you take your receipt to another desk to get your purchase. These careful rules were necessary to handle the surge of people desperate to buy something.
One woman said she fought somebody for a painting a couple years ago. Wouldn’t that be cool? I’d love to have a painting hanging in my hall that I could boast I punched someone for… maybe a splotch of dried blood on the back for proof.
We all talked about the art we could see from the sidewalk and the works that were in the back room. The cry went out, “One Minute!” and everyone tensed. I began to get nervous – this was going to be a lot of pressure to find and purchase the exact right painting under these competitive conditions. I had a three by five card in my had and a pen at the ready.
The door swung open and we rushed in. I went to a spot I had chosen from outside and started to look at the art up close. Knowing I didn’t have much time, I wrote numbers down on the card – paintings I liked in order… 26, 28, 30, 7, 136. Surely one of those five would be available. The line at the volunteer table was quickly growing so I jumped in. Within three more minutes the line reached the length of the gallery behind me.
A man was standing in line right in front of me. An out-of-breath woman came up and lifted up her phone. They had gone in with a plan. He had grabbed a spot in line while she ran up and down the walls taking shots of the paintings (with their associated numbers) with her phone. Now, the two of them were going over the artworks and deciding which one(s) they wanted to buy.
After a few minutes (I was the twentieth in line) it was my turn. Number 26, my first choice, was available. It was a work I had noticed on the website… and it had looked even better in person.
Now, finally, I had time to leisurely push through the crowd and take a careful look at all of the hundred fifty works. They were all good. I thought that they could have sold them at random and I would have been happy – there were no more than two or three that I actually didn’t like. Still, I was pleased with what I chose.
The crowd was thick and happy. A lot of artists were there and some folks were taking pictures with the artists posing next to the artwork they had bought. That’s pretty cool.
They called my name and I went to pay. Since I was one of the first I had a discount and only paid forty two dollars. I milled around talking to people about what they had chosen, until the paintings were starting to disappear and I turned in my receipt and picked up my artwork.
On my way to the door, someone looked at my artwork and said, “Oh, you’ve got the Clay Stinnett,” then he read the text off the front – “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.”
The title, written on the back, is The Weird and Wicked World of the Singing Cowboy. I really like it.
I’m definitely going back next year… and I’ll be there early and near the front of the line.