This axiom applies to everything.
However… in this particular instance I am referring to the Dallas Fire Marshal shutting down an art show put on by Chocolate and Art in Dallas, Texas.
In case you are unfamiliar with Chocolate and Art, this is an event organizer out of Los Angeles. They do pop-up art shows in many cities by renting event / warehouse space, selling tickets and signing up artists to display their work in the hopes of selling some of it.
They sell admission tickets on the basis of the following:
- Chocolate fountains
- Live music (sometimes)
- DJ music
- Art exhibits
- Paid bar
- Body painting
Entry is fairly reasonable at $15 per person. Displaying art is pretty reasonable as well. To the artist, the cost is $10 per piece as long as it doesn’t exceed 36″ in any dimension. If it does, you tack on an extra five bucks for each larger piece.
Chocolate and Art does all the installation. All you have to do is deliver your art, then show up for the event to schmooze and sell your work.
Sounds easy, right?
And it is. Except that not a lot of art actually gets sold. The main attraction is not the art, as nearly as we can tell.
But that’s not the point of this article.
We just did our second event with them in the last year. This time there were warning signs I should have heeded, but figured what the heck, it’s not a big investment or a lot of work, so why not…
Attendance at this last Dallas event was brisk. The place filled up very quickly and stayed that way until about 10:00 on Thursday. They it started to fade. That’s pretty typical on a weeknight. Friday, it filled to capacity and kept going. It was more crowded than it should have been. Clearly exceeding occupancy limits for the building. The line for the chocolate fountains was probably 40 feet long. Several more vendors were added indoors as well as outdoors. Basically, the whole energy level of the event was kicked up a couple of notches the second night. There are certainly benefits to this for us. More people = more potential buyers.
The first red flag was the appearance of a couple of firefighters going through the room sometime around 10:00. They were looking over the top of the crowd, appearing to calculate the size of the crowd.
Shortly thereafter, maybe 15 minutes later, the music stopped and a phalanx of DPD uniforms appeared. They were shutting down the venue for an infraction. I couldn’t get an exact read on the reason. Something to do with the permit. I would bet good money it was way over occupancy, but that in and of itself would not justify completely shutting down the event.
Everyone was sent packing.
Vendors were allowed all the time they needed to pack up and leave. Artists likewise, were given plenty of time (and some help when needed) to remove their art, load their vehicles and depart.
As soon as the first badge appeared, the event organizers (Daniello and Heidi?) were nowhere to be found. They vanished without a trace. I would imagine most of the artists and vendors had questions. There was only one ladder in the place with which to remove art on the 14′ – 16′ high walls. As a result, most of us had to wait for the ladder to become available for this purpose. I know there had been a taller ladder on site during the setup, but it was nowhere to be found during the tear-down. It would have been appropriate to have the organizers there to answer these questions, help the artists, organize an orderly exodus, locate ladders and choreograph an orderly departure.
No sign of them.
All of the artists took this in stride. There were no issues that I observed and we all gave each other assistance and time to take down art, move things in and out, etc.
No representatives from Chocolate and Art in sight.
No sign of the three different people who expressed interest in buying the 2015 Dallas Skyline Supermoon on my wall either. There had been at least this many serious potential buyers who intended to come back by the end of the show to purchase this piece. They were all herded out before we could reconnect. I imagine other artists had similar situations.
Do you think we have heard anything from Chocolate and Art?
To be fair, the Dallas Fire Marshal has been all over art events like a bad cold for at least the last year. They’ve been shutting down events and galleries right and left for permit violations that seem pretty heavy-handed. I personally know gallery owners that were put out of business for extended periods of time while trying to get into compliance. The Dallas Observer has written articles on this. D Magazine has covered this issue as well. Even the venerable Dallas Morning News has invested ink on this topic.. I’m not making it up. “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me” comes to mind here.
So depending on the official reason for the unceremonious closing of this event, it could be argued either justified of biased. I don’t have enough information yet to nail that down. However… Chocolate and Art should have been aware of this situation (not exactly a closely guarded secret) and made sure all their ducks were in a row to insulate themselves (and us) against the Dallas Fire Marshal.
But no. They sold tickets as fast as they could without regard to occupancy limits. They may have been using the space for functions outside the permit conditions. Again, I’m not sure about that.
But the organizers should have been available when the shit hit the fan.
They were not.
They should have addressed this on their Facebook page.
They have not. Their only visible handling of this issue is a response to an angry artist’s post with the following:
“We believe the team is trying to figure out the situation. We answered your text message already with the same answer. Please have some patience, the team will be back to the office on Monday morning. Thank you.”
I would call that inadequate.
What do you think?
Meanwhile, if you or anyone you know is interested in this piece, $475 and its yours.