Sunday, September 23, 2018

Feria Maestros del Arte: a mosaic of logistics

Arrival day
Sometimes it’s hard to fathom what a complex mosaic putting the Feria together is. 

First, there is the issue of finding 85 of the best folk art artisans from all over Mexico. Do they have enough inventory? Are they using authentic folk art methods and materials? Do we have the right mix of types of folk art to make the attendees happy? 

Setting up
 is a must

Three buses which bring most of the artisans from Chiapas, Michoacán, and Oaxaca have to be organized, but there’s still the issue of reimbursing the expenses of people who have to take commercial buses or drive themselves.  Organizing and matching up local hosts with the artisans is a major, behind-the-scenes logistical endeavor involving sleeping quarters, food, transportation to and from the Feria … and, of course, the language issues. Add to that the details the financial folks have to anticipate and you have a constantly shifting and positively mind-boggling challenge.

What seems like a creative endeavor often feels more like spreadsheet madness. Even the crew of volunteers who make the colorful, decorative flowers have to know how many poles each tent has so they know how many flowers to make and what size they should be.

As chief organizer, board member Donna Williams spends weeks mapping out which artisan will be in which tent, dealing with requests from artists, some who need to be in the sun so their work shows well, and some who don’t want to be in the sun for the same reason. She has to anticipate the crowds and how they will flow through the different types of art, as well as the entertainment and food areas. Even the signage for the event as well as for each artisan and tent are planned out far in advance.

All of this made it interesting to follow the discussion when a well-meaning person suggested moving the Feria from the Chapala Yacht Club. Donna was kind enough to provide the history and thought process that went into choosing the venue for an event of this magnitude. This is the story she tells:

The first 2 years of the Feria, there were only 12-13 artists and the event was held in a conference room at the Hotel Real de Chapala. The third year there were around 20 artists at La Joya del Lago in a tent next to the parking lot with lots of dust! Then for 3 years it was at La Huerta on the west side of town where the Tuesday market is now held..  That venue could host about 40 artists and was a satisfactory location...but it was a bit dark inside and parking was limited. Also crossing the busy Carretera was sometimes risky! 

Mariachis welcome attendees on the first day
 The following year, we were looking for more space for more artists and planned everything for the Club de Yates in Ajijic.  All those plans went askew at the end of August that year, after all plans and invitations were pretty complete, when we were notified that we could only be there Monday thru weekend! 

Space for entertainment and a fashion show
 That, of course, wouldn’t work and it sent Donna scrambling all over the lakeside area for a venue big enough for 85 artists and with enough parking to handle the crowds of attendees. She looked at the following spaces:

1.  Chapala Train Station...beautiful site but way too small for us and has no way for us to provide nighttime security.
2 . Tobolandia...many steps and multiple levels...lots of walking and not easily assessible for some of the older population...
3. Hotel Real de Chapala…the only area large enough and available for 3-day event (4 if you include the set up day for tents and artists) was the soccer field down below and behind the hotel...again, limited access and parking.
4. Nuns property in lower Chula Vista...pretty grounds but no facilities and very limited parking.
5. La Huerta...would have to separate artists inside and out plus the previous mentioned problems.
6. A private event site in Riberas del  Pilar on the lakefront…$25,000 pesos per day!  

Beautiful facilities for beautiful art
Just when it was beginning to look impossible, Donna’s housekeeper told her about the Club de Yates de Chapala. Donna made a few calls and met the Commodore who was extremely helpful and wanted to have a community event that they could help support.  When she saw the beautiful grounds, green grass, trees, and amazingly gorgeous views as well as space for food, sufficient bathrooms, dressing rooms, security and parking, she knew she had found a home for the Féria! 

The Board agreed that it was the perfect venue to show off the beautiful folk art that the Féria was known for. Then a few years ago, the Club de Yates board decided they wanted the Feria annually as a community support event, so the Feria now has a permanent home on a beautiful site.

Put it all together and the Feria is a happy place.

Donna Williams and founder, Marianne Carlson

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