In 2016 I was seriously on cloud nine! I worked really hard and my efforts paid off - giving me the opportunity to show at Gasparilla Festival of the Arts in 2016.
If you are a local artist or a professional artist you know that this isn't necessarily an easy fest to get into. Over 3,000 artists world wide apply to this juried event. Since I was 17 years old, it was my dream to have a big white tent and show my work at Gasparilla.
My amazingly supportive friend Debbie and her rad kids!
THE BACK STORY:In 2015 I was in a crazy head space; I felt undervalued at my then day job, I was working non-stop and had only art to get me through the hard stuff. I am so happy that my paint brush never let me down. I spent countless hours in my little Ybor City house, painting away. I'd walk to get a slice of pizza or a beer and then come back to my makeshift studio (my living room floor!) and get back to work.
I didnt really set out to make big changes in my life until I had finally collected that last straw at my then job, you know the one... the one that breaks your back. On my lunch break, a term I use very lightly since I was working 12 hour days on the regular, I decided to apply for Gasparilla. I knew that it was a long shot but I felt the need on that particular day to redirect the path of my life. As I hit the submit button from my office desk on what was probably an 11 minute lunch break, I said - out loud - I am out of here if this happens. It was a few weeks after applying for Gasparilla that I decided I should get a car. Just in case I needed one to haul my artwork around for art shows or ahem, maybe haul them to Gasparilla. I had only one art festival under my belt and it was a smaller one. My table was only 4ft long and I had very little experience or understanding on how the world of pro-artist worked.
I can't remember how many weeks passed before I found out about the status of my application, but in the time that it took me to apply and then get a reply I literally applied to every single art show I could find.
Then it came... my acceptance or rejection. Surprise... I was rejected!
It sucked, it sucked hard but I was proud of myself for at least giving it a shot... less than 2 weeks later I found out that I was accepted into Pride and Passion, an exhibit and fundraiser at the Tampa Museum of Art (did I mention that one of my other dreams was have my art on display at the TMoA?) so... not too bad of a consolation prize. I was happy and I was painting. Still at the job I did not like, but I was about to show my art at the museum so who cares... I didn't, this show was all I could think about... my art would be on display at the TMoA, like actually in it, on a wall and everything.
And then it happened... a random phone number called me while I was painting. I let it go to voicemail while I finished my brush strokes. I rinsed my brush and played it. My eyes filled with tears and I started shaking. I sat down on the floor and absorbed the information hitting me in the face.
The message basically said... Teri, there was a mistake in the application processing and we failed to inform you that you were in fact selected as an Emerging Artist for the 46th Annual Gasparilla Festival of the Arts.
Surprise... I was accepted!
BEING AN EMERGING ARTIST AT GASPARILLA:
OMG I was so nervous and clueless about showing my art at a festival of this size! I rolled up to Curtis Hixon Park in Downtown Tampa full of smiles and fear. My section, the Emerging Artists, was set up in Kiley Garden and it was basically first come first reserved for tent selection. I found an empty tent and started to set up shop. The next day I would get to arrive to the fest and hang out with my art for two days while 100's of people walked by my tent.
It was probably the most surreal thing I have ever experienced and I was absolutely under prepared.
Things I wish I had done better:
The best parts of being an emerging artist at Gasparilla:
Attendance for the 46th Annual Gasparilla Festival of the Arts was something like 100,000+ visitors. I easily spoke with hundreds of people that weekend. I sold just about everything I brought and at the end of it all, I felt so excited to change my way of living. I knew that it was time to take a leap and become an artist full time. I had started Fringe in November of 2015 (then it was called The Creative Life Project) and after experiencing a weekend as an emerging artist, I wanted to take Fringe to the next level. I left that job I didn't love and took a part-time gig bar-tending so that I could focus on a creative business. I have worked with 20+ venues to host local artists in the form of the Fringe Art Show. I was even 1st runner up for a Best of the Bay award in 2017 for my curatorial efforts throughout Tampa. I've been on the radio and on TV because of my artwork. I've met a ton of amazing people - both artists and art lovers and I have realized that I am capable of pretty much anything I set my mind to.
Even though I decided to go back to work full time mid 2017, I spent the majority of 2016 and 2017 as a full time artist. Art was literally my majority source of income and was paying the bills... the hustle was HARD though. Going back to work has been hard for me, I often feel like a failure and that I am not living up to my full potential as an artist - when those thoughts enter my mind though, I have to remember all the successes I have been able to enjoy and that I am lucky enough to work for another creative person and that my job offers me the ability to feel less stress and also be creative.
So what's next? Art... duh.
I am excited to keep moving and making art. I am still teaching art and producing shows - its just a little different. I am excited to just surround myself with fellow artists and let this path illuminate itself. In the past - I hated where I was so much that I set out on a mission to change my life - I am so happy that I did but right now, I feel like it is okay to stand still and gather new inspiration while I wait for the next steps in the road ahead to show themselves to me.