Making an event - part 1

Today I'll be introducing you to my project KUNST/MITTE. In 2014 I was approached by Volker Kiehn (sculpturer), Dorothea Hertel (painter) and Sonja Renner (cultural event maker), who thought about hosting an art fair in Magdeburg, and wanted me to join the team.

Though I was not very firm with art fairs back then, I knew that this kind of event was rare—if not unseen—in the center of Germany. Magdeburg is a city that comes out of an aera of closing factories and leaving citizens. In the GDR it used to be an industrial center and after the Berlin Wall and the Sowjet Union collapsed, almost the entire industry went bankrupt. And for an event like an art fair you need people who earn enough money to spend some of it on art. And you need companies that can afford sponsoring your event (I'll talk about money streams in part 2). Thankfully this starts to change and people are coming back to the city, students stay to live in town, new companies evolve and big companies are actually coming to Magdeburg. It's becoming a space, where it's easier to make something happen.

A space where an art fair can be successful in. So I joined the team and now carry responsibility for sponsors, communication and digital parts.

It was our plan to create the first art fair within 2014, but we had to realize, that half a year is too short to create a big event like this.

We made it happen in 2015. For our first KUNST/MITTE (art/central) event we wanted to test, if an art fair could be successful in Magdeburg. And that it was. By looking at other art events in town we expected around 500 visitors. Sure we hoped for more.

The four days on the fair were crazy. When you see artists coming together, talking, visitors looking at art, buying things, that’s awesome; especially if you made it happen. I was flashed for a few weeks.

In total we had 1197 visitors and about 45 artists/galleries. Far more than expected, but less than I hoped for. But we also had problems that year. Building the walls for the artists went sideways. The front panels where to thin so the walls looked uneven. Hell, they were uneven. We planned on using them again in 2016, but that was impossible. After all it still was a big success for us.

So we started planning the 2016 event. Our goals:

  • Testing if it’s possible to make it happen again
  • Building walls, that we could reuse
  • Have about 20 artists/galleries more
  • Attract more visitors

The planning went well, we managed to collect about 100% more money from sponsors than the year before. The registered association Turmpark e.V. was planning on buying a tend that we could use. But two months before our hardware sponsor (used for the walls) canceled their commitment. So did the Turmpark e.V.

Altogether this is like 25% of our entire budget. We had to cancel all of our ads and promotions, that weren’t booked yet. We were not sure if we were about to make debts.

But it turned out to be okay. We had 1857 visitors and 65 artists/galleries on our fair. I would say it was about the same as the year before. So we were able to reproduce the result, we had more artists, better walls and a few more visitors.

On the other hand the artist-visitor-ratio sank. So the sales per artist went down. This is something we’ll have to work on for next year, because the artists are crucial for an event like ours. Without artists coming and paying, the entire project is dead.

So here are our goals for 2017:

  • Get about the same amount of artists/galleries to come
  • Attract more visitors
  • Cut down time-spend/costs to make the fair happen

In part 2 I’ll sadly have to tell you, that we need to collect much more money to make this problem go away.