Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Art Shows
by James Glaser
August 1, 2008

I should be thanking Robert Hargrave for getting me in the LeMoyne Art Foundation's invitational art show. The opening was last night, and the show was titled "Soul Mates"—"A pictorial discourse on relationships."

I was invited to the show by the foundation last year, but somehow I put the piece I was making for the show on hold. About a month ago Robert asked me if I was ready for the show. Well, for sure I said, "Oh yeah, I'm all ready." I went back to my studio and looked at the invite letter I had stapled to the wall, and sure enough the piece was due on July 28th, not September 28th, like I had in my mind.

This last few weeks I have been putting a lot of hours into the piece I submitted, and finished it up last Saturday... days before it had to be done. The opening for the show was nice, but then Lemoyne knows how to open an art show. They had a large crowd, there was shrimp cocktail, little finger sandwiches, and all sorts of other eatable treats. Then there was wine and beer, and martinis. Not many galleries have martinis at their openings, but like I said, LeMoyne knows how to do a great art opening.

Wanda and I spent almost two hours there, and we met a lot of nice people. It is always fun to talk to the other artists about their work. If you have work in a show, it's nice to go to the opening. Nice for you and nice for the gallery that is putting on the show.

This has been a busy week. Wanda and I went down to Bonita Springs where she had a conference to attend. I went along for the ride (about 435 miles south). We stayed at a Hyatt Resort Hotel. The rooms were nice, and the beds were even better. Some motel rooms can do my back in for a week, but the Hyatt could not have been nicer for sleeping.

So, Wanda worked, and I relaxed, but I did drive all the way home. Bonita Springs is on the Gulf Coast just above Naples, Florida. The Hyatt reeks of money, and a glass of orange juice was six bucks, and two pancakes coast twelve dollars. We ate in town. Summer is their off-season, and at one restaurant we were the only patrons for lunch at twelve noon. The waitress said in the winter we would have had to wait in line for a table.

I asked a few workers at the hotel if they were able to find affordable housing, and they said they were driving 24 miles one way from Fort Meyers. For many of those people it was ten dollars a day in gas just to drive to work, and that worked out to more than an hour's pay. I would have to say that for more than half the staff, English was not their first language.

I always like to talk to working people, and usually, we get along just fine. One construction worker told me that about 70% of the carpenters are now off work down there. We did notice that every store we went into had some super sale going on, but the shops were like that restaurant we ate at, and many times we were the only people shopping.

I kid you not, we went into a huge Jared Jewelry store that was having a "Grand Opening," Wanda and I were the only customers in there. They had a uniformed armed guard to protect the diamonds and a half dozen sales people all ready to help us. It was almost like walking into a Ford or Chevy car lot.

The people owning businesses down there depend on the yearly flock of snow birds coming from the North to spent their time and money in Florida during the winter months. One shop owner told me she had 4½ months each year in which to make money. The rest of the year she cut staff and tried to hang on. If gas prices or the economy keeps those Northerners away for even one season, the shopping center there is going to look like a ghost town.

While there I read in the local paper about a big construction company that was filing chapter 11. The story said the banks would get their money first, then the suppliers would be next, but the last people to have a chance to get their money back were the people who put pre-construction money down on a home, town house, or condominium. The company was in the red by 187 million dollars. How long after losing your money on a condo in Florida do you decide to buy again? South Florida is going to be hurting for a long time, but there are spots like that all over this country.

To make a full circle back to the art show, nobody had sold any art work by the time we were getting ready to leave. Artists always take a big hit any time there is a down turn in the economy, and this one looks like it is going to last for a long time. If you ever thought about buying art, many artists are now willing to dicker.

Post Script

Next week I'll have a photo of the piece I entered in the Lemoyne show.

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