Dreamy landscapes, provocative portraits and funky sculptures seduce the eye, rhythmic jazz music and tasty perfumes tempt us.
Nothing says summer like a relaxed stroll through an art festival.
But your brief cultural escape is serious business for the professionals at Amdur Productions Inc., who are planning the 2023 art festivals during the 2022 season.
Every Sunday, “we assess, ‘Does the layout work? Are there any issues? Are there any pinch points?'” explained CEO Amy Amdur.
The Highland Park-based company produces prestigious art exhibits in Chicago and the suburbs, as well as the Milwaukee area.
This year’s lineup features 22 events, including the Barrington Art Festival this weekend, the Deer Park Art Festival on June 25-26, Art in the Glen at Glenview on July 30-31, and the Wheaton Art Walk on July 6-7. august.
The selection of participants for the summer show begins the previous fall. Artists submit images of their work and booth setup, which are reviewed and scored by a panel of award-winning art educators, gallery owners and professionals.
Criteria range from technical expertise like brush strokes to originality and presentation.
If there’s a tie, “I sever the ties – the responsibility is on me,” Amdur says. “I’m looking for solid work and I’m looking for presentation. It’s basically about having a great job – but great work has to be shown well.”
Amdur aims to present a myriad of national and local artists as well as a multitude of mediums during shows. For example. Art in the Glen will feature “rising” painter Marco Bustillos, furniture maker Nino Haro and black-and-white photographer Seung Jae Kim, Amdur said.
She works with first-time exhibitors to ensure an auspicious start, whether it’s offering advice on a booth layout that pops up or coaching introverted performers to chat with clients.
The majority of Amdur Productions events offer free entry, so how does the company make money? “The host organization pays production fees which vary. Artists pay for their space and we have sponsorships,” Amdur explained.
But “there is a very long list of expenses”. These include labour, marketing and printing as well as show infrastructure, from electricity to portable toilets to musicians.
For each festival, Amdur considers “what atmosphere do we want?” and tailors music, activities and refreshment vendors to expected demographics.
Out of season, working hours are a traditional Monday through Friday alignment. At show time, staff may work 30 hours on weekends, arrive at 4 a.m. for set-up on Saturdays, and work late on Sundays for teardowns.
The weather adds another business challenge.
“We take care of that. I’ve done shows where we hand out coffee to artists to keep their hands warm and shows where we hand out bags of ice,” Amdur explained.
“There have been shows in the wind and shows in the hail. My perfect day is 75 degrees and no wind.”
With COVID-19, Amdur Productions’ busy schedule has shrunk to eight festivals in 2020 but ramped up in 2021. This year brings some intriguing insights into the pandemic.
“Art reflects society,” Amdur said. “We’ve all been through a hell of a time during COVID and a lot of artists have used art as a way to soothe the soul.”
For the 2022 show experience, “there is a return to landscapes, lots of luscious colors and more serenity in art”.
Plus, “there’s a lot of wood coming in, interesting tables and chairs, and sculptural artwork.”
Art exhibitions have an economic ripple effect, experts say, which benefits local restaurants and shops.
“It brings people into your community who not only experience the art, but become more aware of the offerings available downtown,” noted Peggy Blanchard, economic development consultant for the Village of Algonquin, where Amdur Productions will present Art on the Fox in September. 10 and 11.
Amdur, an artist, founded the company over 35 years ago. The Northwestern University graduate who studied at the School of the Art Institute took part in her first art exhibition at the age of 5.
It is now a passion and a job. “I consider it my art to do these shows,” she said. “I hope to bring joy to people.”
• For more information on upcoming art exhibitions and preview artists, visit amdurproductions.com.