Garden Passage at Tohono Chul Park in Tucson Arizona

Garden Passage @ 2011 Bo Mackison

A year ago I did my first art fair, a small arts and crafts affair in a park-like setting run by a volunteer group. The setting couldn’t have been more lovely. Booths lined a wide sidewalk that meandered around tall, shade trees at an area college campus. There was plenty of parking, plenty of enthusiasm, even plenty of sunny weather. But the one thing that there wasn’t much of was fine art.

I learned quickly that there are different types of art fairs and it is imperative that an artist matches their art to the correct type of show. There are arts and crafts shows, with a mix of booths. There are many outstanding crafters showing their handwork, there are others with hand crafted items that appeal to the younger crowd, and there are sometimes vendors who have a booth full of inexpensive, but eye-catching imported goods (usually called buy/sell or B/S by art festival participants).

It took me ony a few minutes to see that I was in the wrong type of show. Everyone else was in their element. I was way out of mine. I had lookers who tsked about the prices – which were neither outrageously high nor discount bargain bin low. I had several photographers approach me with questions on how to do an art fair. (I wasn’t much help.) And I had one customer, an enthusiastic collector, who took a glance at my booth and exclaimed, “You art doesn’t belong here. You belong in the big shows in Chicago.”

When she told me that, I shook my head in wonder. I was barely able to stay in my booth and talk to the customers who came in for a look. I desperately wanted to show my photography, but actually setting up a booth and being there was a real stretch for me.

I knew she was wrong; I would never be able to do a big, Chicago show. Never in a million years.

Well, a year has passed, and what do you know? That wonderful, enthusiastic woman was correct. It took me another six months of doing small shows to build my confidence while I worked on my photo portfolio, added a Southwest collection to my Midwest botanical photographs, and continued to modify my art booth. Last winter I applied to dozens of wonderful fine art shows in the Midwest. I got my share of “not-inviteds” — everyone does — but I also got my share of “we would love to have you” invites – enough to fill up my summer, from Memorial Day to mid-September.

I had my first Chicago area show last weekend. Yes, festival and foul weather collided, and the weather won.

But even though we ran into bad weather, I still felt upbeat about the show. All of the artists were top-notch, the layout was well-planned, the show was run by  professionals who knew how to manage whatever came up, and even though the weather played havoc with our sales, most everyone remained positive and optimistic, and focused on the summer shows still to come.

And the best thing?  I felt like I belonged. What a wonderful experience!


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She is happy the summer art festivals are here and is keeping her fingers crossed that sunshine will smile on Chicago next weekend.



About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. Your work is amazing, and you belong wherever you want to go. Keep looking ahead!

  2. That must have been a satisfying feeling! You have come a long way in just a year!

  3. Your journey and experiences are a true inspiration to me. So good to hear that you’ve found ‘home’!!!

  4. Gandalf says:

    Wonderful passageway. I’m always intrigued by this type of image.

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