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  #1  
Old 12-12-2005, 04:55 AM
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Blake Blake is offline
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Florence Biennale 2005

Florence Biennale 2005
Just back from Florence
Had a great time, met some wonderful and very talented artists. Including SteveM from this forum and several others who I hope will join us here.
Florence is a great town, the heart of traditional figurative and I was so impressed with the sculpture everywhere.

Speaking for myself, I found the show was lots of fun, the public that came (attendance was not high) responded very well to my sculpture, people liked it and told me so. I received an award of fifth place from the committee, which surprised me as the jury hated my work, it was too commercial and they felt that it was imitation, they did not see the meaning behind it and saw it as non contemporary. By their insistence that my sculpture was crap they confirmed to me that the work had effect and was by their denial important. If they had not given me an award I would have been worried, but they recognised the work and hated it enough to comment, love those critics, thanks boys.
All in all, it was a great, fun experience although value for money was low, it is a vanity show and I don’t think that the art industry, galleries or dealers bother to view it.
Of course I learned all sorts of things, I found many things that I will work on to improve my work, the presentation and myself. I will pass some of this on here.
The first thing I learned was to keep it Simple, and be careful of your theme when you go to a public exhibition.
I had chosen to express my belief that our society can be very superficial and lacks the soul and spirit that was so well expressed by the artists of Florence. I feel that in this soulless society today we could use to think about our salvation against the commercial world we live in, but my message was lost on most of the public and the jury chose to see my sculptures as no more than souvenirs to be sold at a tourist market.

Another thing I learned was to be careful of your language
I was disappointed not to be able to communicate my theme through the language of traditional figurative sculpture and was alone is viewing Florence in a Renaissance light. Contemporary figurative sculpture is not to be confused with traditional, and only tourists see Florence in a Renaissance light.

Keep it Simple.
I had the opportunity to use three sculptures to hit the viewer over the head with and tried to present the work as a group relating to each other but the tradition of figurative sculpture was silent and each was viewed as an individual piece.
I had carefully written a text explaining the theme and made sure that it was available with the sculpture, but you need not bother leaving it by the work as it is rarely read. Count one more lesson.

A further lesson is in the Title. Don’t be subtle. The crucifixion figure I showed was titled “ADAM” but was only read as Christ because people don’t read the title (even the jury), even though there are no actual references to Christ no thorns, no wounds, nails, etc. very rarely did the viewing public understand the work unless they read the titles. Spell it out for them, the work La Notta may have been more effective as THE SPIRIT, and Death on a Pale Horse as MORTALITY and of course Adam as HUMANITY.

The oldest lesson is to Expect Politics to be a factor in any group and juried show and this show is run by John so try to stay close and don’t expect the jury to be impartial.

The last lesson,
When you put your work on display, you invite people to criticize you, don’t let it get you down, you can’t please everyone.
Blake
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  #2  
Old 12-13-2005, 10:53 AM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

That is quite an exciting and interesting experience, Blake. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Is this Florence Biennale organized mainly as an art fair ?

I read somewhere that the world's three biggest art fair are Art Basel, Venice Biennale, and Art Basel Miami Beach. Among these three, two are quite near Monaco. Lucky you.

Perhaps armed with your experience from Florence, would you next plan to go to one of these?
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Last edited by Merlion : 12-13-2005 at 06:14 PM. Reason: Got it wrong! Need to change Vienna to Venice.
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  #3  
Old 12-13-2005, 02:17 PM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

The Florence Biennale is a “Vanity Show” which means that you pay to be there and individual artists are the only ones participating, there are no galleries or dealers.

An art fair like Art Basel, Vienna Biennale, and Art Basel Miami Beach does not accept individual artists you must be an established gallery to participate.

Armed with my experience from Florence, I would not do another Vanity Show, although I sure met some great people and had a great time, but I would love to participate in Basel or Miami if I could get a gallery to take me.

Blake
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Old 12-15-2005, 11:03 PM
Stevem Stevem is offline
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

Hello All.
Yes I too am back from the Florence Biennale. What a fantastic time! I met the best people while there. I have never met so many people at one time and left feeling I had made life long friends. The event actually seemed to shrink the world. Artists seem to be of the same kindred spirit, no matter the language barriers, we all seemed to be able to relate. Not to say I didn't meet a few premodonas, I did. But for the most part, Everyone I met was a genuinely good person. We all seemed to relate on so many levels other than just the art it self. We all saw a bit of humanity in each other that seems to get lost in the politics. We all had messages in our art that could be understood breeching the language barriers. We all learned from each others mistakes and acomplishments. No one was so pompas as not to lend a helping hand. If you had a question for someone concerning a technique, a display style, or even a marketing strategy, even the biggest premodonna would give you helpful advice. I spoke to a artist who claimed to be internationally recognized. He was telling me about all the television interviews and magazine write ups he had been in, and so on and so on...... Yet, even when I asked him questions about a marketing style, he sat down with me and offered me more information than I could have gotten out of a book.

Yes, the show was very expensive to take part in. I had a terrible problem with the shipping company, which has yet to be satisfied. They broke one of my bases and scratched another sculpt with a razor blade while cutting off the packing material. Italy itself is a beautiful country but believe me when I tell you it is not the most organized country I have ever been in. They are in no hurry. My flight from Milan to Florence was cancelled and I had to take a train. an additional five hours added to the trip. When I arrived at the show I discovered my pieces had been damaged in transport. I had been awake for 36 hours straight. I was completely overwhelmed at this point. This could have been the turning point for me to have had a horible time. But it was at this time that Blake and his better half ,offered me assistance and a shoulder to lean on. They welcomed me with the kind of hospitality you don't often receive from a dear friend, and I had just met them. It was at this point I decided, " you know what you have ten days here, I'm not going to let this get me down." The next day I went back to the show and everything seemed less serious than it did the night before. I began networking and meeting all kinds of people.

I don't know what will come of this show. I just have to sit back and enjoy the ride. I am excited to see what kind of legs sprout from this and how if anything it affects my career as an artist. I was fortunate enough to be asked by the director of the show to correspond with him and he thought he could help me market my work. I'm not sure how much to read into that, but he did give me his card and personal email address. I will forward some pictures of my work to him and see what happens.

Would I go again? Well I guess that remains to be seen. Vanity show. sure by definition. I mean we the artists ARE paying to attend. Was it worth it? If I take nothing from this show other than the contacts and friends I will hold near for many years to come, I would have to say YES! As far as what it does for me and what I plan to do two years from now. Ask me in a year!

SteveM
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Old 12-16-2005, 11:01 AM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

Hi- I'm a painter that participated in the 2005 Florence Biennale. Blake, I saw your work there and enjoyed it very much. Wished we had met.

I agree with everything that has been said, accept that I believe there were more opportunities at the Biennale than you realize. I met several curators and a freelance writer working for ArtNews.
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Old 12-16-2005, 07:07 PM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

Bkolo
I am sorry to have missed you at the show, it was sure fun to find stevem. You travelled quite a distance to participate I hope that you had the time to see the sights, or at least some of them. Florence is truly a magnificent city.
I am still hoping that there is opportunity there, I gave out a good number of cards, perhaps I will get a call yet. I certainly met some wonderful people but few industry people, lots of artists and we had a blast. I hope that we will have another chance to meet at another exhibition.
Blake
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Old 12-18-2005, 07:05 AM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

Great reviews, guys.

Steve, what shipping company did you use? (So we know to avoid it!)
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  #8  
Old 12-21-2005, 02:30 PM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

Julianna,
I had the time of my life once the initial disapointments passed. I rarely am the person to take the high road and find the silver lining in a bad situation. I am proud to have explored a different side of myself and come away with a positive experience.
I had actually hired a fine arts shipping company the exhibition had recommended. They did all the packing and everything for me. They were suppose to be professionals at packing and shipping fine art. I don't know about listing there name like this. I don't know if there is any rule against that in this forum, but if you PM me I'll be happy to tell you the name. I am chalking it up to a lesson learned.
I think the deeper lesson I learned though had to do with relationships. Even though some of the people I encountered didn't speak english, it was amazing how well we could communicate through our art. The lesson for me was in the dialogue of art among an expanse of nations. We just got it! we could read each others intentions through our art without having to have an interpretuer. It was like looking into each others souls and coming away with an insight into each other. Experiencing each other one on one without political agendas. It was an experience I will not soon forget and one I am looking forward to expounding on.
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Old 02-17-2006, 12:06 PM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

HI Steve

I've just joined the forum! I too was at the Biennale and met Blake and Steve. I agree with Blake that it is a certain type of show and if you are really thinking about going ask advice before you go from various artists who have been there. The undeniable core benefit is friendship and contact with artists from all over the world. For example I wouldn't have known about this sculpture forum if Blake hadn't mentioned it and I have to say I've enjoyed trawling through all the threads that I've read so far. Marketing yourself at the Biennale is an art in itself..and is in some ways a very hit and miss affair. I wouldn't (personally) go through the experience again as I felt the core intention of the exhibition rather wayward, un-clear and truthfully about easy money for the organisers.(that is not to say the benefits of saying you had exhibited there and the people you met were of no importance) I learned a lot but then I'm starting out as a sculptor and not in Blakes position. I think then I would have been slightly misplaced and a little bit disappointed. Ohhh its good to get your views down!

Lucy
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Old 02-17-2006, 02:23 PM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

Blake, et al ---

Thanks for posting re your experiences at FBV. I also attended, as a guest of the organizers and in my official capacity as an artist consulente. Some may recognize my painting Redemptoris Custos from the show, although it received no official recognition, and I am still awaiting its return to Anchorage.

I publish an online review at http://artsceneak.com and Issue #424 is all about the Biennale, including a picture of two of Blake's bronzes, which I mistitled Life and Death. I'm guessing, spirit and mortality, respectively.

To access ArtSceneAK from the log-in page, click on the Guest with Password icon and enter 'guest' for a UserName and 'artsceneak' as a password in the prompt boxes. If this doesn't take you to the index page (nothing happens), you may have to set your popup blocker to allow popups from our server.

For myself, I am still buoyed by my experiences and continuing to correspond with new contacts, acquaintances, and friends encountered at this grand Mostra.
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Old 02-17-2006, 10:19 PM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

Donar07
You are one more artist that I am sorry to have missed at the show but am very pleased to catch up with you now, thanks for your comments and your article. It was clearly the way that I communicated my theme, or failed to communicate my theme that lead to some confusion but you were on the right track with "Life and Death" which was more than the head Renaissance historian figured out.
I was trying to find your painting and I hope that it is in the catalogue, (I will look there when I get back home). I am sorry that you have not yet had it returned to you I hope that it arrives soon and in good shape.
I met so many wonderful people at the show and was able to complete an art video there so it was a very creative time as well as being so socially fulfilling. I hope that you will stay in touch and if ever in southern France please call.
Blake
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Old 02-18-2006, 01:39 PM
donar07 donar07 is offline
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

> more than the head Renaissance historian figured out

Blake ---

I'm wondering if you had a critique by Biennale Director John T Spike that disappointed you. Dr Spike generously schedules as many of these for individual artists as time permits him, and an eager crowd travels through the exhibition with him to hear his reviews, which were translated into Italian by an intern as he spoke. I lingered near the edge of a few of these performances to get the flavor of them. Like many of us, his comments and intuitions may not have always been correct. They were nearly always thought provoking.

Incidentally, those artists who took advantage of his generosity with his opinions were part of a limited window of opportunity which may well have closed now, as Dr. Spike defers to a new director for the next Florence Biennale, in 2007.

I'm glad you enjoyed ArtSceneAK. Redemptoris Custos is in the catalog under Donald R Ricker.
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Old 02-18-2006, 10:39 PM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

Donar07
My experience has taught me that one can hardly expect a critic to be kind so I was not disappointed. Further, I certainly do not blame Dr. Spike for my failure to communicate a theme through my sculpture.
Having listened to his lectures I felt that his expertise was in painting and I thought that many of his painting reviews were very good. When speaking of my work I was surprised that he did not look closely enough to at least see that which you saw, life and death, if not to include some of his knowledge of Renaissance art to consider the inclusion of a Crucifixion figure and determine that there might have been a religious comment involved within the Life and Death theme. Am I asking too much?
I do ask allot of the viewer, with the crucifixion figure “Adam” the audience on first glance sees a Christ figure as that is the default image, but if one looks a little further or perhaps at the title, the viewer may see past the common image. This I expected of a man who presents himself as “ the leading authority on Renaissance art” (his words) and here I was disappointed. Notwithstanding, his criticism of my work was helpful to me and I learned a great deal from the whole experience. In fairness, I was at fault for not suggesting my intent and at least indicating that the three sculptures represented one piece, or trying to assist the audience to see the work. Unfortunately I remained silent, but I took a great deal away with me and for this I thank Dr. Spike.
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Last edited by Blake : 02-18-2006 at 10:47 PM. Reason: Grammar
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  #14  
Old 01-05-2007, 08:36 PM
jmculver jmculver is offline
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Smile Re: Florence Biennale 2005

Hello.

I just received an email from the Florence Biennale that states that I have been chosen to participate in the upcoming show. It states that they have seen my artwork online (I'm assuming from my website). I was wondering if this is how most people get selected, considering that I did not apply or anything. Do they send this out to random artists or do they really select the people they are sending these emails to?

Of those of you that participated, did you submit your work for review or did you receive a similiar email as I did?

I read the website and reviews of past shows. I've participated in exhibitions in the U.S where I've had to pay a "fee" for the exhibition space. I have no problem with this, if it is worth it. And also if my work has actually been selected based on merit before hand.

Could anyone give me a rough idea of how much it could cost? I read that you can find sponsors to pay for part of the fee. And then there is an artist fee. Did those of you that participated find sponsors? And if so... where/how do you do so?

I'd appreciate any responses and advice. I'd love to participate and get a change to go to Italy and network with other artists, etc. But I would just like a better idea of the cost beforehand and the initial selection process.

Thank you.

Please take a look at my website, www.jmculver.com
You will find my most recent work there.

- J. M. Culver
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Old 01-05-2007, 09:23 PM
Tlouis Tlouis is offline
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

Hi JMCulver

Be careful. VERY careful. This could be just another on-line scam like the so-called Paris Exhibition.

See postings for 1-1-2007 in Sculpture News and Events forum at top of home page.

Lou
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Old 01-06-2007, 12:18 AM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

It isn't like the Paris 2007 piece of crap at all and is closer to a vanity exhibition than a scam. I've heard the average cost of participating and attending is in the $5000 ballpark, but could easily be more. This Biennial is notorious for mass solicitations of artists and though there is excellent art included, it is more about people paying to show than the quality of the work.

The internet has provided a lot of reading material over the years about this particular show and there is a wide range of opinions published by past participants that covers the positives and negatives. The show appears to be a very profitable business for the organisers as there is a limitless supply of artists drawn to an international exhibition.

I like the idea of a European vacation and I'm sure that Florence is a great destination, but if you are looking to advance a young artistic career the merits of this show might not be the best way to spend your money. There are artists who post here that have participated and might elaborate on their experience and now that some time has passed if it had any direct impact on their careers.

Brainstorming on how to raise funds for such an endeavor is a good topic to discuss here.
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Old 01-06-2007, 12:40 AM
jmculver jmculver is offline
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

I realize that the Florence biennale is not a "scam". It is an actual exhibition taking place. I guess I just want to hear from any artists that have participated in the past, how they were selected? if they were selected?

I've participated in "vanity" exhibitions in the past. My work has been selected by a jury beforehand. Then, I have to pay for the exhibition wall space etc. These are artist run galleries and artist co-op galleries. Usually a yearly fee applies, to become a member of a co-op gallery and that includes solo shows, group shows, and other fees.

I dont have a problem with the negative reviews of the Florence biennale being a "vanity" show. I've read many mixed reviews. I guess it depends what you expect to get from participating. To me, its about showing my art and networking. I'm not interested in participating because I expect to win any awards. I see it more as paying for the space to show my work and attend the event(s) that take place.

I'm just curious if the "internal committee" actually took the time to look at my work online and selected me to participate. I don't think i'm interested in any art event that is just about the money. If they just send out invites to everyone's email address they can get a hold of and whoever pays, gets to show the work. I'd like to think that they would select work on merit, then ask participants to pay fees.

I took another look on the website. It looks like it is just over $3,000 dollars for a wall space. And it can be paid in two installments. And it briefly mentions that sponsors can help pay but there is still a required artist fee that is seperate from that. I couldn't really find any more information on it.

I went ahead and responded back to the email. They are suppose to send me documentation paperwork with more details.

Thanks for those of you that responded already. I hope to hear from other artists that have participated in the past---regarding the selection process and funding......

-j.m. culver
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Old 01-06-2007, 01:08 AM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

J M, do you mean you would like further comments about this Florence Biennale other than those already posted here less than a year ago?

Have you tried contacting those who had commented, perhaps through PM (private mail) in this forum, and any luck with response? Blake has been a frequent forum poster, but has 'disappeared' from here recently.
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Old 01-06-2007, 10:06 AM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

Sorry to have disappeared lately, I have had my head down creating, as I have a show coming up. But generally I think that fused has nailed it on the head.

This is a “Vanity” show, which is not to say that there is not good artwork displayed there, it just means that the artist pays to participate and the exposure to the public and the art critics and media is limited.
Net working opportunities are very good if you would like to meet other artists. The cost of participation is quite high, Florence is not a cheap city to visit, but it depends on how you can arrange it.

As fused said:
“This Biennial is notorious for mass solicitations of artists” the organizers make their living putting on this show and related activities. It is a business and the artist is the client.
“It is more about people paying to show than the quality of the work.” There is no jury, if you pay the entrance fee you can participate. Some of the artwork is of very questionable quality without doubt, and some is very very good, but no one who pays the fee is refused.

“If you are looking to advance a young artistic career the merits of this show might not be the best way to spend your money.”

I can say that I have benefited from this exhibition by having met some wonderful artists who have become friends and this is worth allot in my opinion. Further, Florence was a wonderful holiday destination and I was inspired by several pieces of art that I saw at the exhibition, and many that I saw in the museums and in public in Florence.
I can not say that it has advanced my career at all but it was allot of fun and you get a nice catalogue as apart of the fee. Value for money is low in my opinion, but perhaps you have a friend that you could stay with and you can lower the costs of staying in Italy. Some artists said that they met some people in the arts industry, galleries and magazines, but this was not included in my experience.

Hope this helps
Blake
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Old 01-06-2007, 12:45 PM
donar07 donar07 is offline
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Re: Florence Biennale 2005

Mr Culver ---

Congratulations on your invitation to participate in the Florence Biennale. Your talent and commitment are recognized by the Comitato Scientifico. You are being offered an opportunity and not an obligation, as your invitation is open-ended, so that if you cannot take part this year, perhaps in later years.

Part of the difficulty in juggling the economics of the situation is being unfamiliar with the ramifications and mechanics of exhibiting work in another part of the world. There is much to learn, many pitfalls to avoid, and an extra large additional effort required to make the most of the show. In addition, comprehending the loosely translated english version of the italian regulations is a real test. There is an artist fee, x dollars. This is the charge your dealer would absorb to place your work in an art fair or expo, and it helps to see it as a reason to seek the support of private and public sponsors.

Although 800 artists in a show is way too many, there are several millions of people on this planet who think of themselves as artists. At Florence, you have the opportunity of meeting and making friends from folks who have dedicated themselves to visual art from around the world. While this internet facilitates the virtual mingling of cultures, life is much sweeter in person.

In 2007, a new director will take over from John T Spike, whose enthusiasm and naivete has guided the development of the Biennale for the last four events. He has returned to his primary love and area of expertise, old master italianate paintings.

Classifying this 10 day exhibition as a vanity show is accurate and useless. Certainly there are wealthy artists who purchase two spots or more and exhibit fabulously funded production. For those less well off, this is a chance for resentment or a draw for the upper crust who support their own and a chance to expose new work to people with resources. Check your funds against your enthusiasm, and make sure that if you go you do not rely on economics alone to determine your satisfaction.
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Old 01-06-2007, 01:43 PM
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Re: Florence Biennale 2007

JM you are way ahead of a lot of artists with a very nice website and an excellent portfolio to back you up. So I'm pondering ways to cover your Florence Bienniale experience that takes advantage of your aquired artistic ability.

1) An exhibition/rental of art for an extended period at a local business, something like 10 works hung for a year at $200 a month (x12=$2400) a fee you will need in full of course because you are going to Italy. A large bank or similar institution would be a good place to approach, telling them what you are raising money for and it's mutually beneficial. You can also offer these guys a 20% discount as a purchase incentive, remember a gallery takes 50% of sales so this incentive is still a positive incentive for both of you.

2) Public speaking, approach local groups such as Lions Club, Kiwanas, DAR, womens clubs, Arts groups etc. in the Minneapolis area with a proposal to give a slide presentation about your travels to Italy when you return, they are looking for programs for their meetings and your adventures will fit right in. Of course you need the Honorarium ($500+) in advance because the whole point of this is partial funding of the excursion to Florence.

If you are working a deal with business people (#1 & #2) ask for more than you expect, leaving room for negotiation and letting tham know you are flexible. When business people "negotiate a better deal" they feel good about the results, just like you with the financing you require. A win-win situation.

Other options to see Europe, travel a bit, soak up some culture and have an exquisite art enriching experience? Some Universities have summer programs in Italy and you are considering a grad school so check 'em out. They might have travel money and definitely are established locations over there. University of Georgia has a program in Cortona and Louisiana Tech has one in Rome, both are cheaper than doing the Florence Bienniale and you get to absorb Italy for a month or more.
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