Unhappy Artists Deluge Bayou City Art Festival With Emails After Last-Minute Rule Change
A check of the 990s filed by the festival shows that in 2010, the festival's revenue less expenses was only $18,804. In 2011 things got very worse; the revenue less expenses line showed a negative $228,739. In 2012 things were better but still not great: the revenue less espences line showd a negative $46,470. Fowler said they made up the losses by pulling rainy day funds.
On good years, Bayou City Arts Festival has about 30,000 visitors to each of its two shows. Fowler said they hope to grow that number to 100,000 in the next two to five years. In 43 years the non-profit festival has given $35 million to various Houston art programming, she said, and wants to continue to expand that work. "We still give back to the community. We still 100 percent give back to non-profit programs."
In an email sent out to artists, Fowler wrote:
Hi [artist], The event prospectus was written before the Board of Directors for this year was elected and held there strategic planning session on how to proceed over the next two years. The new Board is the first almost entirely new Board in the show's 43 year history after term limits were adopted two years ago. This is a young, vibrant, working Board that understands today's marketing tools and the possibilities that we are presented with at BCAF. In the fourth largest city, with only our two art festivals and one other there is no reason we shouldn't be posting attendance at 100k to 200k just like Main Street, Fort Worth and the other top 7 that we partner with on ZAPP. As I said, our objective is growth and growth phases have to be implemented when there is momentum and passion behind doing it.
Now is that time for us. It allows us to stay vibrant and alive. It allows us to bring on additional sponsors at the national level and apply for operational grants that otherwise we would not qualify for. The business dynamics of keeping festivals like ours alive for artists like yourself is ever evolving just like every other business - and while we are non-profit, we have to run like a business to stay open. This business model is the model that we need to implement now in order to grow toward our 45th and 50th anniversary and support the independent artist who chooses the festival circuit as the primary way they like to communicate and do business with their patrons.
Yes, we boldly embrace the addition of artists. We have supported that addition with millions of new e-mail, e-blasts, print, digital, tv, radio, social and other marketing hits. We went from 0 to five people on our marketing team, with over 25 years of experience each in tv, advertising, social, digital, print and other marketing experience. My own experience includes over 25 years of work for major tv networks, film and world class live sporting and music events, serving in positions which include CEO, COO, Executive VP Production, etc.
Kelly has answered over 1500 e-mails personally, this week alone, from our artists, and many hundreds of others over the last month. To say that we are not responding is not accurate. Ours may be a slower response time than traditionally has been the response time in the past, but under the pressure of major changes in all aspects of our business with less than 6 full time employees - we are doing the best we can.
I hope this better informs you of our decision making process. Other festivals will likely follow in the coming year to two years to increase artists, unless they are already doing so via multiple shows next to each other as with Coconut Grove and St. Stephen's along with Artigras on the same weekend in Miami and the four festivals on the same weekend in Ann Arbor. With donations and sponsorship dollars running tight in the lower to mid-range market, you have to boost your numbers of both artists and patrons to appeal to the top level, national budgets, and prove that you can give them the exposure they need to become your partner.
Warm Regard, Susan FowlerThis story continues on the next page.