Behind Louisville's 'Umpteenth Annual' $20 Art Show
On Saturday, over 30 local artists will gather for the annual $20 Art Show, where they will sell their work for (you guessed it) $20 — no more, no less. This is actually the 18th year for the event, though co-organizers Mary Yates and Ron Jasin are calling it the “umpteenth annual” because, as they said, it sounds so much better.
I spoke with them about the show, which will take place at Copper & Kings Distillery from 6-9 p.m.
Tell us a little bit about how the $20 Art Show got started?
RJ: It was started 18 years ago by John King, Mike Ratterman and some other artists — they were part of this art collective on Clay Street. It was a warehouse space that a lot of artists shared and they decided to put out this challenge to their art friends. ‘What could you make at a $20 price point to sell at this holiday show?’ It was a great success. A lot people came out, artists really rose and accepted the challenge. They decided to it again, and it’s just kind of snowballed for years.
Mary has been participating longer than I have.
MY: Yeah, I was just kind of thinking — 18 years ago, $20 is a lot different than it is today, so you are getting an even better bargain now with all this amazing artists.
So both of you, in addition to your day jobs, are working artists. Creating something for $20 probably involves a different process than what you do day-to-day; what does that process look like?
MY: I do some things that are obviously worth a lot more than 20 bucks, but it becomes a challenge — like, ‘How can I transform my style and still make something of quality that I can sell at that price point?’ I do a very expensive process; I do historic process photography and just the chemicals alone are quite expensive. Scaling it back to that is one of the challenges, but you still want it to be really amazing work.
You want someone to feel like they have come in and gotten a bargain, so I do kind of a different theme of what I do every year and do something a little different and it’s just for that show. Sometimes, one of the galleries I work with will take any extras that are left and that’s it. Then I focus on my larger work the rest of the time.
RJ: My process is a lot different from Mary’s. Being a printmaker, my price point isn’t typically much higher than $20, so I often feel a little out of place at the show because I don’t feel like I’m bringing it as much of some of the other people are, like Mary or we have a lot of great people that work in clay or wood sculpture — just these amazing, one-of-a-kind pieces that you can get for $20.
Looking to this upcoming weekend, how many artists are we anticipating will participate?
And how much stock are they bringing?
MY: A lot — everybody really prepares for this show. I think there’s a big misconception if you don’t get there in the first half hour of the show there won't be art left, and that’s not really true. People who have done the show for a while know to put new stock out as the evening goes. There’s always fresh stuff to see. I think that the artists that I see, that I know, they do a lot of preparation. There’s always thought given to what they are going to do each year and the creation process gets focused on that for probably a month or two before the show.
And Mary, what is your personal process for the show? When did you start thinking about pieces for this year?
MY: I started doing some work in copper, which I’ve never done before. I was having lots of failures with it because it was my plan to do this new thing, but it finally started coming together for me in the last few weeks, and I’ve been producing a little bit more.
Ron, what about you?
RJ: Just a little more printing, making sure everything is in-stock. I do try to put together some new and one-of-a-kind pieces. This year has been kind of a grind for both of us, so I’m not going to do that, but I’ll have more special offers as a way to really entice people to come out and experience this show and make sure they feel like they really got that best experience that they could.
How many people are we anticipating this year and how have you seen attendance grow in the years you’ve been participating?
MY: Once we moved from some of the smaller venues that were being used in the past — there was an art supply store, a couple different spaces — and moved to Art Sanctuary, we capped 1200 that first year. Then we moved to Copper & Kings, and we saw another uptick. We have probably about 1600 people in three hours.
We’re hoping it will be more, but it will spread out a little bit.
RJ: There’s definitely room for anyone who feels a little weirded out by crowds — myself being one of them. If you come at 7:30, there’s not going to be a crazy line, it’s not going to be super packed. And, like Mary said, the majority of the artists — this isn’t their first time participating in the show and we do a lot to communicate with them, ‘This is three hours, lots of people come out.’
We want that person who comes at 8:00 to be just as blown away as the person who lined up and got in right as the doors opened.
MY: I have a stack of money that I plan to spend every year at this show; I like to shop as well. It’s a great opportunity for artists to get out there and have a chance to do some trades or get to know each other. It’s fun to come talk to artists, too. They’re cool.