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Behind the Scenes: Venue Shopping

As an artist, I wear many hats. I love creating art, sharing art with other artists, and fostering a loving community for artists. Part of that, for me, is putting on events. Events help like-minded people share an experience that is unforgettable. Whenever I'm asked what I would like as a gift, most often experiences come to mind. Experiences like a day at the beach, a camping trip somewhere new (or somewhere familiar), a concert or festival, or even just a fun day-long road trip with a bestie. Experiences are what make up our memories through our lifetime. Although receiving a physical item as a heartfelt gift can also create a loving memory, it's the experience behind that gift that makes it a wonderful memory.

When I create an event, I want to create something that is rich in experience, deep in thought, and filled with love. I want attendees to leave feeling as if their life has been changed for the better in both large and small ways. Whether it's learning something new, seeing something new, or creating bonds with other artists – all are valuable experiences.

The first step to an incredible experience is finding the perfect venue. For this, you must have vision. Not visions like that time you ate magic shrooms and could see pink elephants, but the sort of vision that can transform a flat area of grass or concrete into a magical space where attendees can gather and experience something unforgettable.

Most of the time, for me, the vision for the type of event I'd like to put on comes to me first and then the hunt for the perfect venue is on. Occasionally, I find a venue that is so spectacular that the venue itself becomes the vision and I turn on my creative thinking cap to figure out what type of event might work in the space. This particular trip we were searching for a venue for an event that had already been dreamed up – a reggae music festival. Of course, not all venues or all events come to fruition as an event producer but it's the journey towards each new event that helps shape and mold future events to come. An idea from one event often easily translates to another – maybe with a twist. This particular venue and event has not come to fruition but it is something I'd love to do in the future someday when all of the stars align. Meanwhile, here's a little trip through a venue that my then partner, Debi, and I looked at as a potential for the reggae festival we were plotting. The venue is the Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura, California. The Ventura Fairgrounds have a unique feature – it's right on the ocean! You can sit in the bleachers watching a concert and look off to your right and see the ocean waves swelling, you can smell that lovely sea air, and feel the light ocean breeze on your face. That in itself makes for not only a unique venue but one that would be a desired destination for those interested in the event. Location isn't everything in a venue, but it sure can make or break an event. The location should fit the feeling of the event. If it's a restful retreat, a location nestled in the woods is lovely. Take that same woodsy location and switch up the event to a tech conference and you've got a bit of a mismatch. Of course, I never say never – everything can work with the right vision – but it's a good idea to fit the venue to the event. You'll spend a lot less time fighting to make the venue work for your needs. The best venues and events line up, one thing after another, like it was all meant to be. That is when you know you have a winner on your hands. Here's a little tour of the Ventura County Fairgrounds, do you see the magic and the potential? We sure did!

This particular venue didn't work out this time, but it has potential for a future event – if there were a change in staff. The staff at the fairgrounds were unresponsive to our request for dates and we decided to move on. Another really important item when looking for an event venue is a staff that wants to please you as an event promoter. They try hard to get your business and offer additional perks for booking your event with them. I find in the end that these are the best venues to work with. They will work hard to help your event succeed and they will work with you as a team vs. against you as the "owners" of the venue. I'm currently on the hunt for a new venue for our artist retreat. I've got a couple places in mind that I'll be visiting in January. Stay tuned for updates!

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Illustration by Blume Bauer ©

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