Thursday, April 8, 2010

Reflections after the 47th Annual Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show March 12-13, 2010 Fort Worth, Texas

Reposted from the 2010 Show
See Final 2010 News Release Wrap-Up at

Hello, at last. This is the final blog on the March 2010 Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show. It might be called: How I Spent the Recession - or - What an Antique and Art Show Taught me about Spunk—that Thrilling Balance of Backbone, Quality and Fun.

My goal was to help the longest-running antique show in the American west continue to evolve into a beautiful, diverse, life-filled, affordable and profitable antique and art show for North Texas---- to teach the old girl a few new tricks. Not those kind of tricks! Here are some of the things that I learned over the last 7 months as the new Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show Director:

1. The New Mix of Dealers Worked! With the opportunity to select about 50 new exhibitors for the show, I drew up a grid with categories of merchandise and then worked to both fill and limit each category to a certain number of dealers.

The categories included: Industrial Antiques, Mid-Century Modern, Art, Jewelry, Garden, Primitives, American, Western, French, English, Textiles, Folk Art, Native American, Formal (silver and rugs), Informal (Ironstone and advertising), feminine style, masculine style, investment prices, new-collector prices, urban, country, furniture, smalls—plus a vague category simply called “over-the-top.”
Based on feedback from shoppers and exhibitors, the whole mix was “over-the-top.” 

The other way that I selected dealers was this: to find the most resilient, hard-working, creative dealers---those who are working hard enough during the recession to still be there on the other side. They brought fresh, exciting merchandise and displayed it with vitality. Some did better at the show than others, but every dealer gave it their all.

The first lesson about spunk has to do with these particular antiques dealers. Recession or no recession, these characters---and they are characters--- roll up their sleeves every day and get out there searching for something wonderful for the homes of their customers. Their goal is to bring home the bacon, not only to make a living, but also to enhance the lives of others. From Mayflower to Mid-Century Modern, they have spunk.

2. Potential Publicity is Infinite and the Audience is Out There if We Can Reach You— At the beginning of the show work, I made the decisions to expand the show into a more expensive space, to insert myself into the work full-time and to increase the ad budget by 50%. I did this knowing that I would not be increasing the dealers’ rent for this show. So the hustle was on for me. And I hustled. And so did Associate Show Director Cissy Thompson, show staff Barbara Felty---and dozens of other folks, see #5 below.

I learned that, especially with the internet, publicity options are endless. Tough decisions were made on what I could and could not do, both dollar and time-wise. There was so much more that could have been done, but I did all that I could do.

My instincts were that people who love antiques also love visual media, hence that beautiful show postcard created by designer Karina Ceuterick, and the many ads that I scrimped to afford in local print media. Not all, but most of the media where I advertised took an interest in the show and created their own compelling stories, both in print and on-line. We even had NBC TV News show up. These journalists and editors sensed the pent-up hunger in their audience for something fresh and beautiful and fun to come to North Texas. Our local media have spunk. Thank you to all, on-line and off.

3. I learned that Dallas will come to Fort Worth and that Dallas media folks have always been coming to the Dolly Johnson Show. Starting out, they knew more about the show than Fort Worth media did. They knew things that I didn’t know. I did equal outreach in Dallas and Fort Worth, and Dallas came through equal to Fort Worth or more. It reminded me of the sign that Fort Worth’s Amon Carter posted near the Dallas Texas Centennial Celebration in 1936: “For Erudition…. stay in Dallas. For Whooppee, Go to Fort Worth!” Fort Worth offers its share of erudition these days, but it’s a fun draw for folks from parts east. Welcome to Cowtown, spawn of spunk.

4. Spring Break Quandary- I also learned that, while many people leave Fort Worth for spring break, many others come to Fort Worth for the week. The Dolly Johnson Show has been held on the second weekend of March for 47 years, which is now Spring Break for surrounding school districts. I experimented by opening the show on Friday and Saturday, instead of Saturday and Sunday, hoping to reach some people Friday before they left on trips. It seemed to work. We were busy all day Friday, but I continue to get feedback on this from folks who expected the show to run all weekend.

The show could be publicized as part of a larger Spring Break adventure in DFW---or we could take a leap at some point onto an earlier weekend---not easy to do with dealer show schedules and the busy line-up at Will Rogers Memorial Center. Stay tuned.

5. I learned how many friends I have and how many people were willing to help--- an important thing for me to learn . This show truly “took a village.” Besides Cissy and myself, we had 11 on the staff, including James North and Tom Harter who brilliantly ran the dealer load-in and pack-out. We had 22 able porters and several volunteers, from my Junior High buddy Nicki Matranga to Trinity Terrace residents June and Hugh Chavern, to my mother, my children and Dolly Johnson’s great-grandson Josh Luter. The local antiques shops and antiques bloggers all jumped in to help, from Antiques Insider in Dallas to Fort Worth’s to Montgomery Street Antique Mall to nationally-rated bloggers   and

Other show owners around the nation lent their help. Even my best friend Pam Benson, who owns Fort Worth’s Japanese Palace Restaurant, sent out an e-blast about the show to everyone spunky enough to like Japanese food. Thank you to Mayfest, our 2010 Benefit Booth, and to the family that shared the Susanna Fuller White trunk from the Mayflower as our special exhibit. Thank you to all friends, colleagues and family who helped in ways I may not even know about—you know who you are. Thank you. Special thanks to JJ Frambes, daughter of Dolly and the previous show owner, who had faith in me--- and in all who helped.

6. I learned that fun is important---and fun has a future. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram feature by John Austin began with these words: “Good golly, Miss Dolly! After nearly five decades of peddling early Americana, the venerable Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show is letting its hair down….” He got it right.

Antiques are meant to be fun. The top tier of the antiques and art world is cut-throat and serious. A level or so down, it may be less-profitable, but it’s a lot more fun.

Actor Harvey Fierstein was in town playing the lead in “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Bass Performance Hall. He spent almost a day at the show, gleefully buying some of the spunkiest antiques and folk art in the room. He had fun.

The new Friday Happy Hour Party was fun too. Look for that to expand next year. Also, look for Louis Armstrong blasting out "Hello, Dolly!" as our annual show-opener.

Another part of the fun came from the booths of dealers who pushed the well-worn envelope. The front line of antiques is always moving forward, embracing more and more items from our material history as time moves forward. In the booth of JRNE Antiques, you could buy an eight foot tall 1960s store display fiberglass vase, complete with flower.
 In the booth of Cibolo Creek Antiques, you could buy two giant hand sculptures, the green column-shaped printing tubes from an old textile mill, museum-quality kinetic scupltures from the 1970s or 1960s fabric made into new pillows. (Dolly Goes Double-Knit!)

The Mews of Dallas offered some of the more beautiful and upscale antiques in the show, but in the middle of their booth, they offered three rusty bicycle seats mounted like sculpture. That’s fun. Exhibitor Al Roche offered a canoe covered in bottle caps, alongside a fine folk art cupboard. That’s fun.

Spunk is part fun, part quality and part backbone. Spunk belongs to those who buy, sell and live with antiques. Spunk endures.

Spunk knows that time passes by relentlessly. Yet spunk bends the rules of time a little by living with and passing on the best of the past into the future. Long live spunk! Long live quality! Recession or no recession, long live backbone! Again, sellers and buyers, you know who you are.

Enjoy the show photos by Art Director Doug Stanley and look for the announcement of next year’s show dates as soon as we get them. Thank you again to everyone who came and who helped to bring to life the magnificent 47th Annual Dolly Johnson Antique and Art Show.

Farewell, Dolly! --- Until Next Year!

See Final 2010 News Release Wrap-Up at