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Howard Alan, Bringing Art to the Streets

Rickie, Howard, and Max

The Rickie Report has showcased a number of local artists who participate in juried shows run by Howard Alan Events and American Craft Endeavors.  We met with Howard to hear his perspective on the business and will share his helpful hints in making your show experience more successful.  Consider this:  it all started more than 29 years ago with a man and a gorilla.

Leaving a career as a chiropractor, Howard Alan went into retail, settling in Plantation, Florida.  Howard featured 40-50 artists and crafters on consignment, which was a unique and successful endeavor all on its own.  In an effort to bring in the business, he strategically placed a 6-foot-4-inch gorilla named “Magilla” out on the street and declared that “Magilla” was running for Mayor!
The Mayor at the time was not happy that he was being poked fun at and had Howard arrested.  The brilliant publicity stunt to promote the store not only worked, it landed Howard and “Magilla” on several local TV news stations, as well as “Good Morning America” and “PM Magazine”.   Found guilty of “having something illegal on the street,” Howard was ordered to pay a $500 fine, serve probation, and donate “Magilla”, who had become a celebrity to various charities and organizations for a 6-month period.
Through the whole ordeal, Howard realized he had a knack for advertising and public relations.  Combining his newly discovered talent and his passion for the arts, Howard created Howard Alan Events, a public relations and advertising agency specializing in art show promotions.
Howard’s first show was in a Boca Raton housing development during the dead heat of summer.  It was a great learning experience.  Howard started promoting craft shows in shopping centers, in conjunction with bands, classic cars and beauty pageants.  Approximately 100 exhibitors were featured.  It was a serious struggle, but Howard was determined to make it work.  The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, Howard Alan is one of the most widely and highly recognized individuals in the industry.  Along with Debbie, his wife and business partner and their dedicated staff, Howard runs 45 annual juried art shows and 40 annual craft shows out of a small office in Tequesta, Florida.
No matter which corner of the nation you visit you are sure to find a Howard Alan event somewhere, be it Aspen, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Alexandria, Cleveland, Ft. Lauderdale, Sarasota, or Beaver Creek, just to name a few.   These popular outdoor festivals are consistently ranked among the top art shows in the country.
With all the shows came all the artists.  Over the last 24 years, Howard Alan is proud to have exhibited the work of over 10,000 different artists worldwide.
Today, a typical Howard Alan show will feature anywhere from 100 to 300 exhibitors.  These artists are like family to Howard and Debbie and many have been with them since the very beginning.   Many credit Howard Alan for allowing them to make a living doing what they love most.   Sitting sidecar through all of this is “Magilla’s” head, which Howard keeps at his office for good luck.

Debbie Alan

No matter how many shows in the schedule or how large the staff grows, Howard Alan Events is still a family business that cares about its exhibitors.   In fact, Howard and Debbie still travel and coordinate many of their own shows.  It is not uncommon to see them at 5am assisting exhibitors with setup, or offering a little pep talk on selling or booth display.  It is this consistency of commitment and quality that has created a faithful following among artists and customers.

TRR: What criteria do you look for in choosing a venue?
HA:  Our team will go to an area and spend some time visiting the local art galleries, interior designers, museums, hotels and shops.  We find that art show afficiandos like to incorporate our events as a “stay-cation”.   We need to get a feel for the community, taking into consideration its own flavor and taste, before we can bring in artists.  If the area is contemporary or more nature-oriented, that will affect which artists we will promote at the show.  Our artists travel from all over the country.  We want to offer different, fresh work that is affordable to the community and at the same time be saleable.  Our number one goal is to take of the artist.
HA: We are also growing and diversifying.  A number of surprises are in the works!  Also, you notice there is no music program at our shows.  We feel it takes the attention away from the artists who are showing their work.  We want the artists to be able to interact with the attendees with no distractions.
TRR: Tell us more about the exhibitors.
HA:  This may come as a surprise, but the average age of the exhibitor is 63.  These are people who work very hard.  Many of them had former careers and gave up the security of a regular pay check to do what they are passionate about.  We are very proud to offer “handmade in America” products.   About 20-25% of the exhibitors in each show are new to the show.  Our artists’ following is very loyal.  There are some artists who follow us around the circuit for the season.
TRR: Each show is juried.  Artists must send photos or videos of not only their work, but of them working on their pieces of art.  Tell us about the jurying process.
HA: We have an independent group of judges who are knowledgable about their particular art area.  We strive to keep everything in our shows handcrafted.  Do some things slip by?  Yes.  But, it is rare.  When we are putting a show together, we also look at categories.  Typically, 45 out of every 100 applications is for jewelry.  That category is only 20% of each show.  We want diversity to not only be fair to the exhibitors, but to keep the shows fresh for the attendees.   With the advent of the zapplication www.zapplication.org there is increased competition to get into a show.
TRR: Have you met any particularly innovative artists?
HA:  I live in an art show!  Event posters  decorate the walls of the offices, along with unique pieces  like the British telephone booth; the vintage gasoline pump, and other sculptures.
TRR: What tips would you offer an artist/artisan who has never done a show?
HA:  Know your audience!  If you have not sold anything over one season, it is time to reinvent yourself.  Fresh work and good quality emanates no matter how large or small your work is.   Consider your display very carefully.   It needs to be aesthetically appealing.  It is not enough to put objects on a shelf or hang artwork on a wall.  Talk to your potential buyers.  Tell them what inspired you to make what you are selling.  Have professional business cards and a sign-up book to capture email addresses so you can contact them when you are going to be in the area in the future.
TRR: Note to TRR readers – see archives and more helpful hints in article posted 09/25/11.

For coverage of your events, listing of announcements in our events section, to place an advertisement, or speak to Rickie about appearing in The Rickie Report, contact The Rickie Report at:

Rickie Leiter, Publisher

The Rickie Report

P.O.Box 33423

Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33420

Rickie@therickiereport.com

561-537-0291

To read previous posts, click TheRickieReport.com and scroll down.