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“Hey, no pictures!” the artist barked at the teenage girl, who was maybe 15. “I have signs all over!”

The not-so-prominent sign (singular, not plural, by the way), read “No photos please” with an image of a camera and one of those red circles with a line through it over the camera.

I stumbled into this scene while popping in and out of artist booths at the King Street Art Festival in Alexandria, Virginia. The booth in question featured a collection of ceramic statues, mostly 6-inch tall men, each painted in a single bright color, scaling the walls of the booth with the aid of a metal wire. (I’d have included a picture so you could see what I’m talking about but, in the words of Ace of Base…nevermind.) I’d seen similar statues in the past and they’d always spoken to something in my unsophisticated artistic sensibility, so I wandered in to get a sense of pricing, and see what else the artist had in his collection.

The collection included a bucket affixed to the wall, with a swarm of butterflies arranged to look like they were flying out of the bucket; a wavy line of five or six tiny bicycles, made to look like they were trekking up and down a hilly course; and a few other shapes, such as cats and dogs, that I thought might have looked cool hanging on (or from) the wall in my home office. Hey, it gets lonely in there!

The artist was in the booth answering questions from prospective buyers when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the teenage girl take out her phone to grab a snapshot of one of the climbing men. She was probably going to post the picture to her various social media profiles to document her experience that day at the art show. I imagine this was not the first booth where she thought to take a picture.

When the artist yelled at her, she meekly apologized and scurried out of the booth, embarrassed. The artist, without missing a beat, continue to talk to more important customers. (I was not included in that group, BTW.)

I thought about the incident over lunch. My initial reaction was that I didn’t fault the artist’s instinct to protect his intellectual property. While colorful statues of the human form (climbing or otherwise) is hardly the most novel artistic work ever conceived (as I said I’d seen similar statues in the past), it’s his work, and he wants to make sure no one else sees it online and copies what he’s doing, thus cannibalizing his potential customer base.

However, here’s where I think he’s in the wrong: 1-Don’t yell at a child that’s not yours unless they’re breaking your statues. A polite warning (“Please don’t take pictures inside this booth. Thank you.”) would have gotten your message across. 2-The young girl was probably going to post the photo on social media because she liked it and thought others might like it, too. Besides her buying the statue, that’s probably the best possible outcome for him. Instead of trying to stop people from taking photos of his art, he might have considered switching out his “no photos” sign for a sign that included any social media accounts or handles associated with his name, art collection, company, or studio. As it was, he didn’t have any cards or contact information, even a website. I believe I heard him say he only sells his work at art shows.

Now, is it more likely that one of the girl’s social media contacts would see the her post and say, “What a great idea for a statue–I’m going to copy his idea and make a huge profit!” or, “What a great idea for a statue–I’d like to buy one!” I’m betting it’s the latter.

Perhaps it’s because I work for Ypulse, a market research company specializing in Millennials and Generation Z, that I often find myself trying to view the world through younger eyes than my own. (At age 35, I’m a “cusper” Millennial, but I tend to identify more with Generation X.)

Many of the other artists had “no photos” signs hanging from their booths, and I don’t necessarily blame them. If someone took a screenshot of this blog post and posted it on social media without attributing it to me–or copied the text and posted it on their own blog–I wouldn’t be too happy about it. But if I made it as easy as possible for people to share my content, while still crediting me, isn’t that my intended result, to have as many eyeballs as possible reading what I write?

I can hardly point to this incident as a bellwether for a larger trend around how young people in 2017 consume art. Nor do I have any insight into whether photos taken at art festivals actually do have a negative impact on lesser-known artists trying to sell their art. For example, is a person less likely to buy a piece of art for their home if they can simply “own” the image by posting it to Instagram? I doubt it, but I suppose it’s possible.

What I do know is that the teenage girl did not intend to bring negative consequence to the artist, but he treated her as if she was single-handedly trying to crumble his 6-inch tall empire. And even though I liked his art, and was strongly considering buying a piece of it just a few minutes earlier, witnessing that interaction was enough to make me walk away without opening my wallet.

Oh and by the way, if I had bought one of the statues, I probably would have posted it to social media. So, what did the artist actually accomplish in the end?

One more thing
The local art league used a smart fundraising tactic at the festival, which I thought was worth an honorable mention. Partnering with a local ice cream shop, they were selling handmade ceramic bowls for $15, which included a free scoop of ice cream on a hot day. Someone at the art league might have a bright future in marketing!

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As I wrote last week, I’ve been trying to break into the competitive sports scene in the D.C. area since moving here from New York a few months ago.

So far, so good, in getting onto a softball team–though I recently learned the team is sponsored by a local gentleman’s club (I am begging you to read the reviews for this place. BTW, a business idea: a blog where people who write Yelp reviews of strip clubs are given carte blanche to just write a couple hundred words on literally anything. I’d read that.)

Okay, we got a little off track there, but onto the main event: the story of how I tried out for a local tennis team, and how things became much more serious than I anticipated.

In looking for ways to immerse myself in the community–taking the first of many steps to becoming Northern Virginia’s answer to Coach Taylor–I reached out to some of the local tennis organizations to see about either joining a team or a ladder* to keep in shape, meet some people, and play tennis with people of a similar skill level to my own.

*A ladder is essentially a list of people who can schedule matches with each other around their own schedules, rather than being scheduled by a league. After they complete a match, they report their scores to the ladder admin, who keeps track of everyone’s win-loss record. At the end of a pre-determined “season” there may be a playoff, and a winner is ultimately crowned. It’s a great way to play tennis competitively without the rigidity of a league situation.

During the process I guess my name ended up on a few lists and message boards, and every so often someone would reach out about meeting up to hit around, or a team they were on, or suggestions for leagues to join.

On February 29 I received an email from a team captain who had gotten my information from another captain who had reached out to me (that team was in a weeknight league, but I was looking for something on weekends):

I captain an excellent team in the DC USTA 4.0 Spring league that will start in April. … The last two years we have won the league and advanced to sectionals in Newport News. … This time we hope to win sectionals and advance to nationals. It seems like you would be a perfect fit for our team being a high end 4.0/low end 4.5 so to speak.

 

Not sure whether to be flattered as a “high end 4.0” or offended at being called a “low end 4.5,”* I wrote back, expressing interest. We agreed to meet the following Sunday morning so he could get a better sense of whether I could play.

*The United States Tennis Association (USTA) rates players based on skill level. I haven’t ever been officially rated, but based on my experience playing in college and asking people who know about these things, I’m around a 4.5. However, I’ve also come to realize that most tennis people in the know tend to play about half a level down from their true rating, so I should be looking at 4.0 leagues.

After 45 minutes of warming up, rallying, and playing a few points, The Captain had seen enough. My groundstrokes and serve had been solid, but my volleys and overheads were weak, having not played in a while. But I assured him it was just rust, and playing steadily would be sure to shake the cobwebs off my game. I had played both singles and doubles at a Division III college, and felt confident I could regain some of that form (albeit it was now 10+ years after graduating).

My day job is in sales, so I did my best to ask not-too-pushy questions that would get The Captain to betray his honest opinion on whether I was right for his team. Before seeing me play he said I would be a “perfect fit,” but now he didn’t seem so sure.

He told me he needed to see me play one more time to make a decision. He later arranged for me to hit with one of his teammates, but that session was rained out. And so I sat in purgatory, not knowing if I was going to make the team. (This was a very different experience from the softball tryouts I’d attend a week later.)

I reached out to The Captain (twice) via email about next steps. His reply, a few days later:

Sorry for the delay in responding. … The first thing you need to do is to join usta and self rate on the usta website. The computer will likely rate you at 4.5 as you are a former division 3 player under 36. Then click the appeal button to appeal down to 4.0. You highlight the factors in your background to make your case here, i.e., haven’t played competitively in 10 years, lost almost all of your doubles matches in Division 3, any injuries? I think the appeals committee meets on Tuesdays. If you are bumped down to 4.0 then I can consider you. There is alot of interest in our team so no promises yet. Once I find out that you are rated  a 4.0, we’ll regroup.

He was the one who reached out to me! Also, I was somehow too good (I needed to appeal to the USTA to decrease my rating) but also not good enough to be given a spot on The Captain’s team. What?

My initial reaction was to send him a scathing email–how dare he ask me to jump through these hoops just to be considered for his team! Instead I spoke to my tennis braintrust–two of my college teammates, and my father-in-law–who convinced me to “play the game.” The Captain was a little fanatical about his tennis, but maybe he was just being passionate. If I made the team, it could be a pretty cool experience competing for a regional or national title.

Gritting my teeth, I sent my reply:

Thanks for your detailed reply. … I’m happy to take the appropriate steps towards getting my USTA rating to make sure I’m qualified to join your team. But before I do, I’m hoping you can share your thoughts on whether I’m the right fit for your team.
As you noted, right now I’m a stronger singles player than doubles player–but I believe my doubles abilities will come back the more I play (I’ve also joined a ladder to get some extra strokes in during the week). Are you concerned about my flexibility to play both singles and doubles if needed? Or about my ability as a singles player? As I said I’d be happy to hit with you … this weekend as a second tryout, and if you’re still not sold on me I’ll withdraw from consideration for your team.
If you are seriously considering me for your team, I’ll go ahead and follow the steps you laid out re: getting rated a 4.0. But if you’re thinking I’m not a great fit without needing to see me play a second time, please let me know.
Thanks in advance for your candor.
If the team was not going to be a good fit for me, that was fine. At this point I wanted to know I was on the team, or to check this off my list and move on. The Captain replied:
Here is the situation. I run and play on a DC team 18+ and a [Maryland] 18+ team. Both teams are excellent. The DC team advanced to sectionals the last 2 years. The MD team advanced to state regionals the last 2 years and fell just short of advancing to sectionals. We think this year it will happen. Both teams are competitive and no one knows what will happen with either team until the matches are played. Both could advance or neither. Last year both of my DC 40 and MD 40 teams advanced to sectionals. In DC, the scoring is based on total courts won in the season so every court played counts. In MD, the scoring is based on total matches. So if a team won 3 of the 5 courts played in the match, it counts as 1 match won. You have nice strokes, but are still rusty and it will take some time to groove the strokes again and get back to your regular game. With the season starting so soon, I can’t take the risk in DC of losing any courts while working on consistency. In MD I can take the risk of losing a court in a match during this period of working on consistency because the team is strong enough to win enough other courts to win the match. As the season progresses, you will eventually be back in the groove. This enables you to get back in the game with competitive match play with no pressure. I might have one slot open on the MD team. If you are interested in the MD team, we can talk about that. Both seasons are during the same time frame starting in April. 
“I might have one slot open on the MD team.” We never once had spoken about playing for his team in Maryland! Rather than assuming this guy was baiting and switching me this whole time, I will give him the benefit of the doubt and say he’s managing so many tennis teams that he mistakenly did not inform me that my chances of joining his team were slim, and that he would likely end up having me compete for a possible (but not guaranteed) spot on his team in Maryland.
As you might guess, at this point I replied to let The Captain know I was no longer interested in pursuing a spot on any of his teams. If the right situation presents itself later this spring, I’ll consider it. But clearly it won’t be with The Captain.
Whatever. I bet his team isn’t sponsored by a gentleman’s club…

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