Patty Narozny is adept at identifying and booking top-notch artists to display their creations at her art shows, one of which is the Orchard Lake Fine Art Show, voted as one of the top 100 art shows in the country for the last five years. Narozny owns the rights to Hotworks.org, her private label that hosts several prestigious shows across the country. Narozny, a nomad of sorts, travels everywhere to recruit the cream of the crop for each high quality juried event. She also taps polished and experienced artists to preside over the event as judges. Narozny and her husband live in White Lake.
Are you an artist yourself? If so, what is your medium of choice and do you exhibit your own work?
PN: I am not an artist. My background is events and media, and (I have a) business background. I have a corporate finance degree from Wayne State University and extensive event experience in metro Detroit through Comerica TasteFest, Detroit Festival of the Arts, Royal Oak Clay and Glass, St. Mary’s Polish Country Fair. The Orchard Lake Fine Arts Show happens to be our flagship event.
How did you get involved in hosting art shows and how did you buy the rights to the Orchard Lake Fine Arts Show?
PN: I own the event because I implemented the event and Hotworks is the financial backer of the event. We also work with a non-profit, Institute for the Arts and Education, which focuses on artistry and community enrichment. I thought I could do a better job than dealing with a volunteer-run show where 50 people show up and don’t know what they’re doing. It was very frustrating being in the middle of events, as a result we have grown. It is in the top 100 art shows in the country the last five years in a row during in Michigan’s worst economic times.
Tell us some of the awards the event has won and how you were able to grab such accolades.
PN: Sunshine Artist Magazine is a nationwide publication for artists with 4,000 event listings. Every year, there is a survey placed in the publication where artists specifically vote for their favorite art shows. The Orchard Lake Fine Arts Show has made the top 100 list the last five years in a row.
In 2010, the event won eight awards from Michigan Festivals and Events through Michigan Fun Awards. We’ve been a member for many years. The event won No. 1 in the event brochure and artist application against all other shows in Michigan. We have five slots that we won for No. 2 placement: website, event supplement, promotional poster, best print ad, and another promotional item, car magnets. We won No. 3 for event photograph and promotional poster.
What is so unique about the Orchard Lake show compared to others?
PN: We focus on the visual arts and artistry and community enrichment. The artists are treated with respect. When they are walked up, they are greeted with a smile and a hello, probably a hug from my associates, Alyse and Colette, my show managers. We know many of these artists personally because we work with them so much. This is what we do professionally. They are also given respect in other ways. Amenities include water and fruit that are distributed, $2,500 in artist awards where we have three professional judges on-site. There’s an artists award breakfast. So there are certain things where the artists love to come and work with Hotworks.
The event is going into its 11th year for me because it takes me 1-1.5 years in advance for art shows. Unfortunately, as I travel throughout the country, artists are not coming to Michigan or saying they’re not — and this has been going on for the last 10 years — because of the economy, unemployment, gas prices, various reasons.
When I heard that, we did implement an art show in Estero, Fla. This is our third year for Boca Raton, Fla; our fourth year is coming up for North Carolina. As a result of those other events, I believe they’ve really helped the Orchard Lake Fine Art Show grow with artists not typically seen in the metro Detroit area.
The focus is the visual arts and we try to recruit people based on technique, execution, quality , originality. We’re on the street constantly. We focus on having the artist at the event doing their true work. We run a tight ship. Our juried judges are professionals with an art background and art education and have been in the art industry for 30 years.
How many artists do you have lined up?
PN: 150 artists this year.
Share with us some of the types of art work that will be for sale.
PN: All forms of media, including sculpture, painting, clay, glass, fiber, jewelry, wood, photography, and a category for mixed.
Tell us a little about the competitions and what you look for in judges.
PN:I’ve been pretty lucky. Ann Kuffler, the owner of Ariana Gallery, is the main person behind the event since its inception and why the quality has grown and why the focus is the visual arts. She put us in a great direction. I had another artist advocate and lost him to brain cancer. Now we have Les Sleznick flying in from Orlando.
The judges have two roles: to judge before the event — we have over 600 applications for this show and many were turned down because they didn’t meet our qualifications, either (because) their work wasn’t compelling enough or it wasn’t original. Some even got turned down because their booth presentation wasn’t set up properly. Judges have a job that takes between 8-20 hours prior to the event.
This happens in April. They review three images of most compelling work and one from booth presentation. At the show, we will have three judges: Kuffler and Slesnick and our third judge, Joe Marx, from the Alfred Berkowitz Gallery from the University of Michigan will be on site both days. It will take them 8-10 hours to judge for $2,500 in prizes.
Why did you opt to move the event from its home base in Orchard Lake to West Bloomfield?
PN: We moved the event for several reasons. First, we outgrew the location. Secondly, the entire township of West Bloomfield is behind us, we’re in the heart of West Bloomfield and it’s wheelchair-friendly.
Tell us about your other art shows across the country. Where are they and what’s unique about them?
PN: We just had two good write ups on our Estero Fine Arts Show at Miromar Outlet Mall. It’s a very upscale outlet mall. Estero is voted the No. 1 community to live in the U.S. We’re there twice a year. Upcoming shows are Nov. 5 and 6 and Jan. 7 and 8.
We also have a Boca Raton Fine Arts Show at Royal Palm Place, another beautiful community. We’ll be going into our third event there on Jan. 21 and 22. That’s another move we’ll have to make. We were in a parking lot of an international plaza with excellent restaurants, but because we took up all the parking and it has grown, we’re moving it to the street adjacent to it to open up parking.
Our fourth show is in Charlotte, N.C. The area does not have a high quality juried art and craft event. It’s been a struggle to get this show running. We are in its fourth year. It’s helped with the Michigan show. As a matter of fact, our poster artist for the Orchard Lake Fine Arts Show, Bert Beirnie, is coming to Michigan because she participated in Charlotte show and has not been featured in the area before.
Does each show have its own challenges, or is one more difficult to put on than another?
PN: We can’t figure out why our Michigan show takes 50 people when we have eight in Boca Raton. The other shows are newer and it takes time to get them established, but for some reason the Michigan show is the most difficult and time-consuming.
What are the pros and cons of your job?
PN: I can work all year for free. For the first five years of Hotworks, I did not pay myself, so that’s the big con. It’s a major investment. People have no idea the cost to produce an event like this — insurance, decorator, security, signage. I have five big banners hanging in West Bloomfield, Keego (Harbor) and Commerce that cost probably $15,000 just for those banners. On the other hand, I found my niche as to what I love to do, and we’re in our 10th year of being around. So hopefully we’ll be able to pay people like myself who puts in 10-14 hours a day, including Saturdays and Sundays, into this. I don’t have children and my husband travels for a living so I found a niche, know what I love to do and no one is going to fire me. What’s better than having work that you like to do? It takes time to grow.
We have a $5 suggested donation for our Michigan event. We do charge for our Charlotte show and are considering charging for our other events because sponsorship is down and costs are increasing. People don’t understand the complexities involved with permits, the decorator, getting tents, making sure you’re getting the right security company — so many details people don’t realize. I had to get the street cleaned in West Bloomfield because we want a clean show. People have no idea that we leave our city cleaner than we got it.
Given the economic situation, how has the art world been affected, if at all?
PN: The art show industry has been terribly effected by the economy, but I like to tell people art is your best investment. It’s not real estate and it’s not stocks. The artists are smart — they’ve changed their work. A lot of them have had to produce lower-end items. There are glass blowers out there now who don’t work on their $500-$2,000 work. They work on their $2,000-$10,000 work because there are collectors out there. West Bloomfield is one of the most art-collecting areas in the U.S. People really support the arts. People still buy art and artists have to work harder, too, and be more aggressive in their sales. It’s not the 1980s anymore.
Have you noticed any trends in art — either in the work itself or in the business aspect — that have come along in the last couple years?
PN: The trend is the art shows are charging admission. I’m one of the very few show directors nationwide that helps artists break into the art industry. That’s one of our focuses — artistry and enrichment. We see so many images and one of the reasons I go to so many shows is, when you’re jurying, the visual eye cannot compare with the images on the computer, which is how jurying is done now. We have people with an art education, in the profession, as do I because I’ve been in the business so long. It’s important to have a high quality show. I give artists feedback because they’re so close to their work. Some things seem so simple, but I give them tips.
What is in store for the future of the art community, both here in Oakland County and across the state?
PN; It depends on who you ask. I say it’s still strong. The art shows are struggling — all of them nationwide, not just in Michigan. The state of Michigan needs to recognize all the economic impact our art shows bring to the area. My event will bring more than $1 million of economic impact to the area between all the restaurants, hotels, gas, and grocery stores. The people coming in from this and other states will visit all the restaurants along Orchard Lake Road.
Cities need to realize the importance of the art shows and exposing the public to art, especially since the arts has been cut from our schools. One of the things we do is an art competition for kids to give them incentives to create artwork publicly displayed all weekend and that’s another way we enrich the community. Some artists, a lot are having a hard time selling their work. We appreciate people coming to the art shows to support the artists realizing this is all hand-made work. Again, it depends on the show. The governments need to figure out what we’re bringing, and they’re not there yet.