Reflections on the Madison Chautauqua of the Arts

After many years as a shopper at the Madison Chautauqua of the Arts, this year I changed roles and had my own booth for Birdsong Book Arts. I  exhibited my books, prints and textiles. I heard lots of positive comments about the booth. No prizes or best of show honors, but I heard “a fun booth,” “definitely not a ‘booth from a box,’ and “LOVELY booth. . . great job,” and those kinds of compliments warmed my heart.

One of the first lessons learned was a respect for the opening hours of an art show. In the past, I showed up early at the Chautauqua to avoid crowds. The booths that opened an hour early,  say 9 a.m., were a favorite. Struggling to set up and get the van moved out and to the parking lot two blocks away by 9 a.m. this year, I winced at my old shopping tactic. Nine o’clock is about the time my husband, Leonard, collapsed, falling backwards on the Elm Street pavement. Sick the rest of the day, he sat in the back, while I managed with the help of his former office manager.

The event itself was fun. It was great to see old friends and to talk with people about books or unique items in my booth. I sold a few books and scarves. Not as many as I’d hoped. I was charmed to see a white poodle go by in a pink stroller that looked remarkably like the “pope mobile.”  And I talked with those folks who say that “books are dead.”  A few people expressed work in custom orders. Birdsong always is available for custom work.

I’d always guessed that it is hard work to pack, unpack, set up, take down and load the van in order to do a show. I did not under-estimate this part of the art shows I’ve so dearly loved all these years. At this stage of my life, I suddenly wish for a major life change. Though I have no children, when I think of doing more outdoors’ art shows, I now think I should have had five sturdy sons or grandsons upon whom I could call for help. Sturdy daughters and granddaughters, equally helpful, probably moreso. Just as long as all of them say, “Oh, mom, I wouldn’t think of charging you a cent for help. Just call or text me, and I’ll be there!”