"I REALLY HOPE I get it done. I'm not sure I will, but I'm going to try," local artist, Isaac McCaslin says, looking at his large unfinished painting.
The richly colored canvas seemed near completion. But McCaslin says, “I’ll be lucky to get it done in the next week.”
The deadline weighing on him is the upcoming Telfair Art Fair. He is one of 80 artists that will be featured in the 20th annual weekend art festival.
The free outdoor event in Telfair Square allows the public to explore work from the jury-selected artists. On display will be paintings, photographs, mixed media pieces, jewelry, and more.
“The diversity of the art is all over the place,” says Telfair Art Fair Chair Lisa Pinyan.
The art fair is open Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Sunday noon-4 p.m. Live music will set the mood for the crowds strolling through the artists’ booths.
In addition, on Saturday 10 a.m.-2 p.m. the Children’s Area in the Square will engage and entertain young art lovers.
“We are really making a push for the children’s activities to be more artistic. We are trying to get to what art can be from a child’s perspective,” Pinyan says. Kids can contribute to a mural, build and race rain gutter ships, construct maritime flags, and more.
The creative activities draw inspiration from the Telfair’s exhibition, Port City: The Savannah Riverfront through Artists’ Eyes.
Friday night the Telfair will host the Arty Party, an upscale preview event. The ticketed soiree brings together Telfair members and patrons for cocktails, elegant cuisine, and music.
Savannah Food and Wine Festival ticket holders are invited to enjoy complimentary mimosas and pastries Saturday 10 a.m.-noon at the Art Fair.
While Pinyan is busy coordinating the events, McCaslin is furiously working to complete his new showpiece and hone his strategy.
As a locally based artist, McCaslin is exactly who the Telfair Art Fair is hoping to reintegrate into the event.
“In past years, we had a lot more local participation and now they don’t all necessarily participate in our art fair. I do wish we had a little bit more of our local artists participating because I always liked seeing that,” says Pinyan.
Several years ago, she helped restructure the pricing and jury process in response to the drop-off but not everyone has returned, she says.
McCaslin participated in 2011 and 2013 knowing there wasn’t strong local participation.
“There’s a lot of stigma that I can feel implicitly in response to me stating that I am going to art fairs,” says McCaslin, acknowledging the general stereotype of “schlocky art” at art fairs.
Initially, McCaslin saw art fairs as an off-limits and therefore irresistible “red button” and wanted to prove the naysayers wrong.
“And then there’s the practically of having to do something to make money,” McCaslin explained. He was especially attuned to the financial incentive since he committed to being a full time artist immediately after graduating from SCAD in 2013.
Last year, McCaslin won the Telfair Art Fair Bronze Award with a cash prize of $1,000. This, along with sales, allowed him to continue making art full time.
Although he ultimately sees his career leading away from the festival circuit, McCaslin has discovered a deeper set of rewards that encourage him to continue participating in the Telfair Art Fair as well as exhibit at selected out-of-town art festivals.
“It’s a great thing. You meet so many different people. You make yourself noticed in the community. You get to talk to people not just about art, but your art,” McCaslin says.
These valuable conversations exposed him to divergent interpretations and reactions to his pieces.
“Now I’m more focused on the idea of gathering, almost empirically, different viewpoints of the work,” McCaslin says.
He is also thinking about marketing and selling strategies.
“What I’ve found is the big works sold my small works,” McCaslin says
This is why McCaslin is devoting much of his prep time to finishing the large piece. It will solidify the new body of work he is exhibiting, which increases his viability to win the Carolyn Luck McElveen Gold Award. It comes with a $5,000 cash award.
For artists like McCaslin, the Telfair Art Fair can be a lucrative opportunity as well as a way to connect to an audience.
It is the largest public event the museum produces and Pinyan says, “it is really meant to open up the art and the museum to people who might have been intimidated or not thought about it before.”
McCaslin says, “I’m happy Savannah has the Telfair Art Fair because it enhances the feeling of community that I have here.”