Opening Night! My first one-artist exhibit!

The lighted sandwich board outside is tied with bobbing balloons. The big
posters say,“Fraktur Refreshed: New American Folk Art by Emily Fotis.”

Forty paintings – carefully mounted, matted, framed, grouped, hung, labeled and lighted – line the muted moss-colored walls of Salon 108.

We’ve set up a big painting table, where visitors will have fun (we hope!) making paint from pigment stones, and painting the birds and flowers I’ve printed in outline form.

The reception room shimmers: dozens of pearl-blue and silver balloons aloft, trailing silvery streamers from the high ceiling; a tantalizing array of gourmet refreshments; my new Guest Book, open and pristine. The “crew” fidgets, making last-minute adjustments. As for me . . I’m trying hard not to bite my nails.

Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . . (Everyone tells me there was no ticking clock in there, but I swear I heard one.) Opening Moment is upon us. The unasked question is, “Will anybody show up?”

What, you might ask, could compete with a gala art show premiere, in a teeny town like Fairfield? Well, let’s see – on this particular night there are 44 featured artists – many with decades of experience – exhibiting art of every kind; plus two one-night, multi-artist shows. Plus musical and dance performances, lectures, receptions, a charity benefit on the town square . . . and a video produced and presented by none other than Richard Beymer (Star of West Side Story and TV’s Twin Peaks) – all this, in 23 different locations!

This is “Art Walk,” the festive Fairfield gallery-hop held on the first Friday of every month. Fairfield has more art galleries per capita than San Francisco. Folks crowd in from far away – especially on perfect, balmy, late-summer evenings like tonight. This is not my first Art Walk exhibit, but tonight . . . I stand (or fall) alone.

Meanwhile, back at the Salon . . . we’re peering out the windows of our second-floor gallery. The streets are filling up with Art Walkers, but we’re empty. A few people trickle in – mostly friends. Gulp. I look at the food tables – enough for several hundred people – and I think, “Well, at least we’ll have food for the next few months.” How did I get roped into this, anyway?

It’s all Thomas Brown’s fault. He looked at my paintings and said, “You’re doing a show at my Salon for Art Walk!” More command than request. I wasn’t ready. But what could I do? What I did was spend the next five+ weeks (helped by some hastily appointed elves) cutting mats and making wheat paste and measuring for custom frames and cleaning glass and hammering frame-hangers. We made prints to sell (also matted), and posters and ribbon-tied packages of my stationery. We made flyers and posters and sent art clips to the newspapers. We shopped and baked and ordered custom filled croissants from the marvelous pastry chef at Café Paradiso. We made the painting table and the food tables and that lighted sandwich board. We measured walls and rigged the lights and hung the paintings and . . . and . .

And here we sit. Thomas is looking debonair and completely relaxed. Not a worry in the world. For a long moment, I consider strangling him. But then . . . suddenly . . . a whirl, a blur, a CROWD is in our gallery! It’s packed! And more visitors are streaming in every minute. They tell us that the word is out, on the street, that our exhibit is The Best! Incredible! Thomas, I love you!

Five hours later, our (advertised) 3-hour show is over. They came, they saw, they painted! (And they ate. Not a crumb left – darn! I wanted a croissant!) I have just met several hundred of the dearest people on earth. They have filled my ears with kind words, my heart with warmth, and my Guest Book with signatures, love and encouragement.

It’s midnight. My guests have carried off my wares and ordered more. My exhibit is scheduled to remain for a month. [It ended up staying two months] When will I ever find time to paint? I am too giddy to think, too exhausted to clean up. Ah, well, tomorrow, then. Tomorrow is another day. But there will never, ever be another night like tonight!