Peering up from behind stacks of applications and sticky notes, Festivals Director Marianne Megela smiles as she works out how the biggest Naples Art Association festival of the year will be set up. More than 270 artists will set up booths throughout Cambier Park and along 8th Street on February 23-24, but right now, this event layout is Megela’s masterpiece. And with even the smallest landscape change making an impact on the space and the mix of artists invited, it’s a new puzzle each year.
Megela uses a tall whiteboard and different colors and shapes of tiny magnets to create a mock-up of the festival layout. “This allows me to see the flow of the show through use of color walkways; the placement of the booths and the flow of categories; food vendor and cart placements,” Megela said. She’ll adjust the pieces on this set-up until everything is in place.
Imagine: Artist tents sit side to side. Crowds flood every available nook between. In the middle of the day, shady rests are premium real estate. More people arrive every minute as the traffic flows seamlessly from one exquisite work of art to the next. This does not happen by accident.
Megela pours over the natural setting. How low are the branches of this tree? Will people be able to step down safely from here? Oh wait – it’s better if these two jewelry artists are separated by a couple of different mediums, and this bronze sculpture artist would be much better here, where the sun can bounce attractively off of his reflective pieces. “In order to do this, everything must be taken into consideration such as trees, sidewalks, unleveled ground, etc. You not only have to be mindful of the ground but also what is above you. For example, you wouldn’t want to put an artist with 14’ height sculptures under a tree or place a tent next to a tree with low hanging branches that won’t allow the tent to be raised,” Megela explained.
Often, artists wonder why their tents are placed where they are. Typically, there’s a well thought out reason every time. It’s all about presenting the artists at their best and creating a show that keeps the crowds engaged. She carefully measures out the walkways and often makes the most of end-of-row locations for artwork that is boldly eye-catching with unique shapes, colors and sizes to attract people to walk along that aisle. In this way, she’s crafting the show as one giant booth. “The artists get seen by more people, improving their chance of a sale. The aisles are wide enough so people have the freedom to stop leisurely to look at something without feeling pressured to keep moving,” Megela added.
The biggest challenge, though, isn’t in the booth arrangement. Rather, it’s about aiming for the smoothest set up and tear down process possible. “Our city is open for business which means the vehicles of those 270 artists have to be brought into the city without disrupting the daily routine and still keep the artist setup as easy for them as possible,” Megela points out. No simple feat, but she is making it happen. Artists have taken note and compliment the process. It’s one of the major reasons the Naples National Art Festival has been ranked among the top ten for many years. In 2012, it was ranked number nine by artists.
Come experience it yourself! The festival is a major fundraiser for the Naples Art Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, and all money raised supports educational visual art programming within the Naples community. A voluntary $5 suggested donation is accepted at festival entrances. Aisles and aisles of well-displayed, hand-crafted, original artwork from around the country is on view. The Naples National Art Festival is Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 23-24, 2013, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day in Cambier Park and along 8th Street South in Downtown Naples. Live entertainment is provided throughout the festival and on the Bandshell stage.