How A Blog Post Got Me Banned From An Art Show

I write this blog for self-produced artists.  That statement is right in the header image.  This blog is about how I am trying to navigate the world of selling art without galleries and without the rules of the Art World.  My goal is to help other artists sell their art by sharing my techniques, successes, and failures.

A single post on this blog is also how I got banned from a franchise of a major art show in my area.

The Show:

As I said, I got banned from a franchise of an art show, one of the Artomatic events.  Artomatic is an amazing show.  Everyone who has ever attended one, especially the main show in the Washington, D.C. area knows that.  As a result of its awesomeness, other groups can and have purchased franchises.  As far as I am aware, the franchise shows are / have been held in Frederick, Maryland; Jefferson, West Virginia; and Toledo, Ohio.  The main event takes place in and around the Washington, D.C. area which includes Northern Virginia and parts of Maryland.

love the Artomatic events. I encourage all artists to participate.  I have participated in every show since 2009 – including the shows in Frederick, Maryland and Jefferson, West Virginia.  I plan to participate in the next show in Toledo, Ohio (whenever that might be) because I love Artomatic events.

Ok, I hope I made it clear that I adore this event.  Because I adore this event.


The Post That Got Me Banned:

I write articles about the Artomatic shows from time to time.  I’m an official blogger for Artomatic, the main show.  As a result of my posts, I get asked a lot of questions, the most popular of which is:  “How did you do at this year’s show?”  I wrote a post at the end of Artomatic@Frederick 2016 to answer that question & to give a bit on insight into how I rate my performance.  Nothing hugely controversial.  I actually thought it was an interesting time to write a follow up because I didn’t really do that well at the show – compared to my performance in past years.

That’s where it got really weird.  A certain, unnamed, organizer saw that I shared that post (7 days earlier) to the Facebook group I setup for the artists who participated in the show.  This person’s reaction?  This person stated outright that they wanted to delete the entire group to prevent others from reading the post.  That’s right dear readers, this organizer felt they had the right to filter what artists can & cannot read.

Email #1

Good Morning Heather, 

  I want to thank you for the blogging that you did for the artists during Artomatic. Some of it was very helpful, but I must let you know that the latest one is most disturbing. I responded this morning in hopes that our artists did not have this view on Artomatic but rather a much more postive experience despite some of the issues. In the future as well, please do not use the Artomatic logo unless you go directly through XXXXXXX  to get permission.  I do not believe he would have been happy about it. Artomatic is supposed to be a postive experience for folks and if I see  that the posts become negative I will ask that the group be taken down. 

This person referenced one of the board members of Artomatic.  This person did not ask that board member, or any board member about my post or the use of the Artomatic logo.  This person invoked the board member’s name in attempt to add weight to their demand.

In the interest of fairness, here is the reply I sent to this person via email.  I removed this person’s name from the top. I also removed references that would make this person very easy to identify.

xxxxxxxx,
I’m copy / pasting the reply I posted to Facebook:
If Artomatic is only for networking, why are we allowed to sell our work? Why doesn’t Artomatic put all kinds of restrictions on us? I pay my hanging fee and I get to sell my art. When I do so, & then evaluate my sales, I’m breaking what rule exactly? Art isn’t some “special snowflake,” it’s a business like any other. Faulting me for evaluating my business practices is pretty obnoxious. I’m a self-produced artist, not a gallery artist, my goals is to *sell art* – anytime, anywhere, to anyone. I have to evaluate what I do, why, & whether or not it is working…just like you should be doing with your XXXXXXXX….just like I did with my brick & mortar businesses. BUT, somehow, because I create art now I should focus my efforts on kissing the asses of every gallery owner in hopes I get an opportunity to show my work? No thank you! I guess being [Part of the Art World] makes you less-than-subjective though. I don’t *need* or *want* to participate in the gallery world. I make money without it and I can see how that would bother you. God forbid more artists decide to take my route. Think of all the art that could be sold. Think about all the art that could be adorning the walls of everyday people. All those sales taking place WITHOUT having to pay giant commissions or worrying about whether or not someone is “important enough” to buy my work (because “regular people” don’t add value afterall). I am sorry you think Artomatic should do nothing more than support the Art World Establishment. The beauty of the event, in my mind, is the “For Everyone” part of the tag line. EVERYONE, not Collectors, not Gallerists, not Curators, EVERYONE. Just regular people coming to look at, and listen to, and experience, the creations of other regular people in an environment that doesn’t reek of snobbery & elitism. Artists get to connect with regular people who want to enjoy art – and yes – that means we get to sell that art to regular people. God forbid. I’m not sorry I sell to regular people & I’m not sorry that I actually run my business as a damn business. I’m not sorry I write a blog to help other artists do the same. I am sorry you think I’m doing something wrong. Then again, every time I sell a piece directly, YOU (& your colleagues) don’t make money. That’s the real crux of the issue, isn’t it.
 
_________
 
There’s nothing negative about a performance evaluation.  The point is to find your strengths & weaknesses so you become better.   Every single type of business should do it  – including artists.  What exactly is so negative about my post?  I was honest in my assessment of my performance.  I don’t show my work “just for the fun of it” or just so I can talk to people.  I show work so I can sell it.  I write to help other sell their work and to become better – and that means being honest when things don’t go as well as you’d hoped.  I’m not going to lie or sugar-coat things.  I was disappointed in my performance.  I should stay quiet about that or spin into something super-happy?  That’s not how business works.  When things go badly, you own it, you evaluate it & plan to do better next time.  Focusing only on the positive doesn’t make you better, it just makes you stagnate.  
 
Whether you believe that XXXX would be unhappy about the post is irrelevant.  Don’t tell me I can or cannot use a logo without actually verifying that.  But don’t worry, Artomatic is over.  I only write about Artomatic during Artomatic events.  Go ahead & delete the group.  The show is over & I was planning on doing that anyways.  

 

I copy/pasted my reply from Facebook into the email because this person rarely checks Facebook (which is why the post was on the group for 7 days before this person saw it).   I don’t have a screenshot of this person’s Facebook comment stating that artists should focus on networking at the event, hence my discussion of networking.  This person also stated that ‘no artist should ever evaluate the success of a show based on their sales.’  I wish I had taken a screenshot of the comment but, alas, I did not.  I also forgot that this person couldn’t delete the group because I was the one that started.  Oops.

If an artist is in a show they absolutely should evaluate the success of the show, at least in part, based on their sales.  In my review, I also provided a list of many other things an artist should consider as well.

 

The Crazy Part

My post clearly ate away at the organizer.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that.  This is where it starts to get crazy:

Email #2

You are in complete violation of the US copyright laws by using the Artomatic logo without expressed authorized permission from Artomatic. I can most certainly tell you not not to use the logo since you are violating the law. You do not have permission

if you do not understand this, you are obviously short a few brain cells. The fact that you have so much time to craft a such lengthy, poorly thought out,  and completely inaccurate response seems to indicate that you may have other more important issues to deal with.
At least we know who not to include for the next Artomatic.

 

See that last line?  That’s the ban from the show.  The part about being in violation of “U.S. Copyright Laws,” not true.  Not even remotely.  This person had and has no authority over the logo in question.  The logo I use if for the main event, not for the Frederick, Maryland franchise.

Oh, and when you think your argument might be failing, always resort to a personal attack.  Nothing says “professional” like personal insults.

This is my reply (typos included).  The last one I have sent to this person or will send to this person.

Before you speak on behalf of others, or tell me I’m in violation of U.S. Copyright law, you should check your facts.  I was ASKED to repost my articles on the official Artomatic website by [A Board Member].  If you had taken the time to look, my articles are still on the main site.  There was no issue then and I highly doubt everyone changed their mind.  Furthermore, I heard that [A Board Member] was not overly happy with my article on Theft & Vandalism at Artomatic but [that board member] did not order it removed – from either the main site nor mine.  

[The point, admittedly poorly made, I was trying to make was that the logos were used on the articles on my site and the main site & no one has taken any issue with that.  If there was a problem with using the logo, I’ve very sure someone would have said something in the 7+ months they’ve been online]

My latest blog post in my opinion.  I’m sorry you take offense to my opinion.  However, I have already confirmed with one board member that you have zero ability to keep me out of future Artomatic events, including Artomatic@Frederick.  I have put out contacts to other board members regarding this matter.
I am glad this happened.  I had no idea you felt you have the right and obligation to control what other artists read.  The fact that you were going to delete the entire Facebook group to prevent anyone else from reading a blog post is truly beyond the pale of a rational action.  If you want to write a post about all the wonderful aspects of Artomatic, then write one.  You have a blog, use it.  Why you felt a post that was written to answer the question “How did you do at this year’s event” should include a gushing & glowing overview of the event itself is beyond me. My blog is about selling art as a self-produced artist, it’s not about Artomatic and you have no actual control over its content.

 

Again, this was my last response to her.  I made it clear I was contacting others for clarification on the logo use.  I have received that clarification.  The only problem the board member could find, after reviewing my blog and the post in question, was that I removed the oval from the logo on the post and added words inside the oval on my articles.  I was not in violation of U.S. Copyright law at any time.  Technically I committed a trademark violation, which I have subsequently fixed.  I was also provided with a very nice document that outlined the proper use of the logo and it confirmed that I was allowed to use the logo.  At this point, more than one board member has reviewed my entire blog and found no issues.

The emails did not stop coming. I did not reply to any of these.  And yes, they were all one line emails, the only part I removed was the signature.

Email #3

You are violating the law. Your blog site is not the official Artomatic site… duh

Email #4

The issue is not your blog. It’s the unapproved use of the logo. And if you violate the law, violate the Artomatic rules, or are abusive you can certainly be banned from showing. Don’t kid yourself

Email #5

Just ask [another artist she banned from the event this year]

Email #6:  BAN RESCINDED

I won’t include the message here.  It would be too hard to remove all the identifying information.  Suffice it to say ‘Mr. Hyde’ was reverted back to ‘Dr. Jekyll.’  In that message my ban was rescinded.  The email was, by far, the creepiest message I received.  Why?  Because it was written by the person I had met and spoken with many times before.  It was entirely night-and-day different in tone, content, and structure from the little barrage you just read.

Conclusion:

Honestly, I still do not know how to react to any of this.  I can say I no longer feel comfortable around this person as anyone who can switch from being a “pillar of the community” and all around nice person to someone that is utterly irrational and then revert back all in the matter of a day is someone I want to steer clear of.

Confused about the one-day ban?  So am I.  So. Am. I.

Never given in to someone’s demands because they have some measure of authority.  

Always get the facts directly from the sources. I knew I had the right to use the logo.  I knew she did not have the authority to revoke that right.  Did I want to involve the Artomatic Board of Directors with this petty crap?  No, of course not.  However, she banned me from event without any justifiable cause.  She was making thinly veiled legal threats against me. I spoke with 2 board members regarding this issue.  Both reviewed my blog.  The only problem found by one was that I made small alterations to the logo, which was a problem since you can’t alter a trademark. I have corrected those issues. That board member took this matter up the chain of command when I copy/pasted two of the messages into my email to her.

The real lesson here is not to trust someone’s outer persona.  Until that barrage, I, like most people, thought this individual was very nice, hardworking, and dedicated to the arts and their local community.  I would have never believed it that such messages could have been written by that person. I didn’t believe it when the other banned artist also claimed that this person threatened them. Sometimes a person’s ego gets so tied up in what they are doing, they can no longer separate their ego from their actions.  I apparently stepped on this person’s ego when I didn’t write extraordinarily glowing things about the show.  I stuck to the topic I set out to address.  I can’t help that the A/C broke making part of the building insanely hot.  I pointed out it wasn’t anyone’s fault.   I will not change my view or assessment.

Last, I did delete that Facebook group lest I also be accused of being “abusive,” which was the reason the other artist was banned.  I took it as a thinly veiled threat.