The new tent, launched January 2008



At Three Rivers Arts Festival, Pittsburgh, PA, June 2008   Photo by Dick Jones

 

After 18 years of traveling with the handsome all-wood booth with its own roof and awnings, Kate finally gave in and acquired a first-rate artist's tent to protect her display and reduce her workload. (Thanks, Howard Alan, for nagging me into it.)

She researched available tents among fellow artists and online, then decided on a TrimLine canopy with steel pipes and a brilliantly designed structure whose designers were themselves artists and put into the design all their experience and ingenuity. They even have accessories to allow one person working alone to do the whole set-up.

When the first rains came and Kate could just zip down the sides for instant protection, she wondered why she had ever struggled with loose curtains that had to be fastened with countless ropes. And on the very first evening, when she could just zip down all the curtains and walk away, instead of spending an hour stashing all displayed items under the counters, the booth had already earned back its investment. Opening in the morning by just rolling up two curtains was a dream compared to the old way.

The old booth had been marvelous for display, assembly, sturdiness, compact packing. Kate thought long and hard, for nearly a year, how all its virtues could be captured in the new design. "You can't improve on perfection," she muttered frequently. The answer: build the interior display like the old one, only better. Brainstorming with her son, Eric Bare, a professional stage manager, brought it all into focus.

Instead of soft table covers, use stylish, sturdy carpeted panels. Instead of loose covers, attach the vinyl permanently. Instead of numerous loose boards on the floor to keep the stock off the ground, use just 4 full-length elevated shelves. Aahh... And instead of the awkward long monotonous shelves, use new modern slat wall folding screens for a more sophisticated presentation, where angles create visual variety.

Finally, to assure that the tent stays put in high winds, attach it to the wood structure whose aggregate weight approaches 1000 pounds. Results:  Neither Florida's fickle weather nor Pittsburgh's treacherous storms managed to budge the tent more than 3 inches. The acid test was Chicago in July. It is the extreme...

This show is staged on a beautiful plaza on Michigan Avenue alongside the river, midst highrises forming canyons channeling winds in all directions.

Just as Kate had finished setting up and gone to park the van, the Windy City slid the front half of the tent and all its contents (1000 pounds!) almost two feet across the concrete pavement like a shuffleboard puck. For good measure the heavens opened just then with a torrential downpour, giving Kate a good soaking but also a chance to improvise countermeasures in time for the show opening the next day.

The long pole that was to hold the awning was drafted for service as a barrier to keep the wind from pushing the curtain inward against the table top, disengaging its locked position and by a domino effect turning the tables from square to rhombic. Some reinforcements under the table completed the fortification, and the booth held its own and stayed put for three days of unrelenting winds. And nothing inside ever got wet!

Had the weather hit as suddenly during the show, without the prior preparations, no telling the extent of the disaster. Several other booths, not as sturdy, did collapse and sustain damage. We were lucky to be prepared in advance.

Kudos and deep appreciation to the wizards who helped build this wondrous edifice in time for the Florida trip in January 2008:
  • Dick Jones, for constructing all the wood beams and panels, and attaching the carpet.
  • Tijl Koenderink, for attaching the dozens of pieces of molding to the screens, with just the right spacing for hanging easels, and for the 6 hours of puzzling out the first practice assembly of the pipe work.
  • Thomas Atkinson, for so perfectly stapling the vinyl covers onto the table tops and thumbtacking the velour skirts to the table tops' inside edges.
  • Penny Burke for sewing the canvas tote bags in which the tent components travel.
  • Josiane Smith for sewing the satin slipcovers that protect the tables in transit.
  • Richard Grainger for installing grommets in the skirt hems.
  • And last but not least, the geniuses at Flourish.com who designed the tent in the first place.

       


 
Thank you, all, for helping to make my vision work. — Kate


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