Since losing our funding earlier this year, Art on the Street has financially survived by hiring out our equipment to other organisations. So at the end of yesterday’s event, our wonderful volunteers loaded 34 huge, heavy industrial grade gazebos and sheets of building site fencing onto a lorry for the next day’s hire.
And naturally, it will then return to us. So, without the benefit of our amazing volunteer crew, we find ourselves unloading the same equipment at 7pm on a Sunday night.
As time goes on, operating a non-profit and volunteer led organisation becomes less rewarding and considerably more challenging. Expectations increase with every event, while support – financial and otherwise – decreases.
Every time we arrive in our High Street with our event, which has proven to substantially increase footfall to the town, we are expected to make cash for everyone – artists, retailers, the council through parking revenue. And if our many thousands of visitors choose to spend in one place and not another, we are somehow to blame.
We do our best. We spend every penny we have on promotion. We give up weeks of our time in organisation. While visitors, traders and participants look forward to a new week, we are carrying equipment twice our size and storing it away safely for next time. We do this for free. And we began doing it because we are proud of our town and community. And because we know the gifts of the people in it.
I have a full-time job and a family. As a person, I feel compelled to try and contribute something more to the world and really believe Art on the Street has been beautiful and positive for lots of people. However, (and I can’t speak for my colleagues) I feel exhausted by only hearing complaints: it’s too wet, it’s too hot, you’re too close to the doors, this is a health and safety risk, that’s too loud, but I want xyz, why can’t you give me xyz? Why is the parking not free? There are too many people, there aren’t enough people, I don’t want to be here – move me there. Why don’t you advertise in my local paper? Who will help me hang my paintings? And on and on and on.
I used to feel elated at the end of each event. Yesterday I felt angry. And tired. Then deflated. And sad. So, so sad because we began Art on the Street to bring some joy to the town and give support to our beloved artists. Yet somehow, seven years down the line, simple joy and heartfelt support suddenly isn’t enough.