Brian J. Sullivan

"I'm so confused," said Alice. "Which fair is right for me? I have been talking to my artist friends, reading the reviews, and checking the ratings. Fair #1 claims 600,000 people attend during the three-day fair with average sales of $6,000 per artist. Fair #2 claims 80,000 people attend their event for four days with gross sales of $10,000," she stated.

"Why that depends," replied the Rabbit, as he took a sip from his tea cup.

"Depends on what?" Alice asked.

"On which side of the glass you're on," continued the Rabbit. "Do you like apples or oranges?" Hurriedly and in one long breath the Rabbit went on, "Are those numbers actual confirmed numbers or estimates? Whose numbers are they? Are they of the artists who sent audit cards in? What about the ones who did not send in any information? Can you assume that each exhibitor did statistically the same as the average or did they do extremely well and want to keep a good thing to themselves? Does the attendance figure count only those interested in art, or all people including children and others attending other fair events such as the music concert, children's area, food vendors, and company sponsored booths? And what about the contiguous and scab fairs going on at the same time? And finally, what about the weather?"

"Well I don't really know," said Alice.

The Rabbit in an anxious tone went on, "Were the sales figures to new, first time buyers or to repeat customers?" Were the artists with high sales figures well known in the area or even internationally famous? What was the reporting artists' booth locations within the fair? And what about the weather? Too hot? Too cold? Too windy? Too dark?"

Alice's eyes glazed over.

The Knight, clad in armor, brought his black horse up on its hind legs. "And remember to think about hotel and food costs for the number of days you will be on the road," shouted the Knight, "in addition to the distance you need to travel and the corresponding gas cost and your time away from friends, family, and your studio."

Moving diagonally closer to Alice, the slender and rather timid Bishop spoke next. "Don't forget about the state of the economy we are in, the demographics of the area, and the current buying trends. Alice, do you think your work will fit in this particular area? Do you think this may be your crowd? Can they afford your work? Will it match their couch? Will you need a helper for setup/take-down and during the fair?"

Alice who was already quite small in stature, began to shrink even more. "What am I to do?" she asked as she threw her hands up.

But the dialogue continued. The Queen, dressed in an ornate floor length white robe stood tall and erect. With a stiff upper lip she asked, "What is your price range, Alice? Do you take checks and credit cards? And if you do take plastic, what if the machine you are using can't find a cell connection? Can you deliver or at least ship your work? Will you loan pieces out? Do you take returns? Do you have an exclusive contract with any gallery? Are you registered to collect sales tax?"

Normally rather quiet, the King in a deep voice asked about the stress level, and the ability to unload and load easily. "Do you need to hand cart anything in? What about booth storage and tent spacing?" "I want to know where I am going to put my chair," said the King. "What about parking in a secure location? Do I have to pay for parking? Is there security at night for my vehicle and tent? Do you need business insurance?"

Alice filled each of the empty cups with tea. "But I want answers, not more questions," she said.

The Pawns, some black, some white, spoke next. "How much is the jury fee, Alice?"asked the first pawn. "And what about the booth fee?" asked another. And yet a third asked, Do attendees pay an admission charge?" "And what about the fair promoter and his reputation and his treatment of the artists?" said a fourth.

The black rook wanted to know about the judges and the prize money. "Are they unbiased and fair? Does the fair committee enforce rules about buy/sell and questionable merchandise? What about pets—can I bring my alligator?"

"I'm so confused" said Alice. "How can one number mean so many different things?"

"Well," said the Rabbit as he scurried away, "It's all done with mirrors."