Saturday, February 14, 2009

February 14, 2009


Hello Everybody.

"And the beat goes on........................."


Like all of you, I was delighted that our sector - led by Americans for the Arts and widely supported by arts advocacy organizations across the country, and by all of you - was successful in keeping the $50 million Stimulus bill money for the NEA. Congratulations to everyone who doubtless worked tirelessly behind the scenes.

I hope all of you will now follow up with thank you letters, emails or phone calls to those key elected officials who helped us - chief among them Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Please take the time to express your gratitude. A massive thank you effort will go along way to help with future fights - and there will be many.



One of my favorite programs is the OPEN STUDIOS that are held across the country. I like it because it is so 'community' based -- local visual artists open their studios in neighborhoods, and people get the opportunity to see quite extraordinary art, talk to the artists directly and purchase art they like at reasonable prices. I like it because it puts artist and citizen in direct contact and because it provides much needed venues for artists to sell what they create. Visual artists have relatively few avenues to offer their work for public sale. It is difficult for most artists to exhibit in a gallery (too few galleries, too much demand). There aren't enough arts fairs to meet the demand either. So the typical artist has trouble finding ways for the public to see their work, and sell their product. Websites can be effective - but they lack the "in-person" contact that I like about The OPEN STUDIOS - which, at least for a brief time period each year, offer a venue that serves the artist, AND provides the public a unique, and richly rewarding experience. The more contact the public has with artists the better for everyone.

The problem with the program is that it is limited in time and the number who can participate. I've been thinking for some time that we need some kind of program that allows our visual artists to exhibit their work during the holiday season. Much of retail sales occur during the November / December period (I know, I know this was a lousy holiday retail season, but times will change) and we need to figure out a way to tap into that market for our artists. OPEN STUDIOS usually occur in the Spring or Summer when the weather is conducive to people taking advantage of visiting local artists, and thus winter weather is often not a viable time for such a program.

I wish there was some way we could convince higher end chain department stores to set aside some space for a kind of mega Open Studio for the Christmas season - wherein local artists could exhibit one or more works to tempt the publics' interest. One work per artist could be accompanied by a catalog of available works for purchase. Of course, store space is jealously held by the stores who have deals with brand name manufacturers and they aren't likely to give it up for such an experiment - never mind that it might actually help them to garner publicity and increase foot traffic thereby positioning their whole store in the competitive holiday marketplace. Operations people don't generally think in terms of the bigger picture.

One solution would be a program (which would need to be underwritten as a pilot project) would be to lease temporary space for exhibition of local artist work (much like those retailers who open Halloween Stores a month before Halloween and then close down after the holiday). There always seems to be temporary space available to them. This would be a kind of centralized "Open Studio". The bigger the space the better. And then - like the Open Studios programs - we could recruit quality (juried) local artists to exhibit (and perhaps many of them could even be present some of the time to meet and greet the public -- on some rotating basis). This would give artists another venue to sell their work and thus help them to make money, as well as give the public another opportunity to interact with local artists and learn more about art and its value in the process. It wouldn't be that hard for whole arts communities to work together to publicize and market such a venue - and even performing arts organizations could get involved by selling tickets to holiday performances at the site.

And in a world where every city has the same shops selling the same mass produced stuff, it is often art that is the only unique gift one can really give. WE know that, but we need to take more opportunities to educate the public about that option.

Anyway - this is just another random thought. If we want to support local artists at this critical economically challenging crossroads, we have to figure out more ways to help them to sell their work directly to the public. As in the blog last week, my thinking is that for dancers to succeed, they need a place to perform. For visual artists to succeed, they need a place to exhibit. There are lots of ways to support artists.

Have a great week.

Don't Quit.