Signs O’ Fire was one of 10 artisans to set up and hope for the best at the Narragansett Arts Guild show that happens every Wednesday night across from the beach. It started well, but the end of the night was a much different story.We all were especially hopeful since the previous weeks show was cancelled due to expected thunderstorms which never came. Meteorologists lost our trust that night so we proceeded to set up and hope they were wrong with their predictions this time too.
After all was set up we watched as thunderhead clouds crept into view over the horizon to the north. They were ominous I must say, and the radar proved were we in for something. Most all who were there were prepared with weights, stakes and tent walls, and happily all tents were still standing when the night was through. Artwork and artists alike were needless to say soaked through, and some pieces were ruined. It’s a chance we all take setting up outside, in New England, at the ocean-side, but do so with the same passion that drives us to create and make a living selling our souls and hearts….our artwork.
As the darkness increased some of us thought that it would be a passing storm and rather than breakdown now, we would wait it out. It’s a lucrative night, and we we all there to pay the bills with our earnings, so we were hopeful, once again. This storm was like no other that I have sat outside through, fierce is a good word, and the wind direction changed many times as it does over the ocean. I watched a wall of dark grey scariness come over the ocean straight for us and that is when I decided to pack up, since at that point the walls of the tent were giving way to the wind and snapping like flags in gale force winds. After I packed up, I ran across the field to my car, my bare feet splashing through the rising water in the grass, mostly water at this point. I started the car out of the parking lot to find a torrent of water flowing down the street, too deep for my car for sure, so alternate plans were to load my crates in a friends (my hero Bill) truck to keep it safe.
That next few minutes were sketchy in the tent, holding metal poles and flapping fabric proved silly no matter how well we did, it was no match for the wind. What was once a safe and exciting haven from the rain and wind was now only slightly drier than outside. Bill and I walked about helping some, and talking to the others, all of us with the same look of lunacy and hopelessness combined. The lightning was fierce and all around us, loud cracking and certainly packed with electric energy. This storm was on us, over us, and whipping through us at that point. “Soaked to the bone” fits, I only noticed how wet I really was when I sat on the leather seats in my car for a reprieve, puddling and sliding was much less comfortable than being outside I decided.
So in the end, it was not lucrative, but still gave us all the adrenaline rush we crave as people who do this sort of thing. I was laughing like a 95 year old crazy cat lady, and screaming after each strike and boom with excitement, but for some reason not fear. Lightning made a few uncomfortable, so this proved to be a difficult time to break down a tent.
Setting up and breaking down are our least favorite part of being an itinerant artist. It is hard work, and that’s only half of the job. I think many people underestimate the time and energy it takes to “pop-up” an art show. I also think its tough to make the call on whether to hold a show, or cancel it because of bad weather. I know from experience that “Murphy’s Law” exists and what you think will happen may prove to be like an opositional three year old, throwing a tantrum just to prove you wrong and they were right. So we lost one night because we were playing it safe and we lost another because we were hell bent to defy nature and the predictions, setting up rain or shine!
In closing I am sad for the loss of precious and valuable works of some of my comrades, but I am glad that I was one of the few and brave souls who experienced a monsoon first hand, it was a night to remember. I was rewarded at the end of the night, having to wait for the moisture on my windshield to fade, I witnessed a rainbow, fuzzy and full of rain still over the ocean. To make this an even more spectacular sight, fractured sideways lightning struck towards and through the rainbow many times. My arm cramped waiting for the perfectly timed shot with my soaked and stressed out cell phone.
Never got the shot. I wish I could share the images with you, so badly but the state of my phone is now desperate and all of my photos are gone. I did manage one before the storm on Instagram and am thankful for that at least. I will remember forever one of the most exciting nights of my life as an artist under a tent.