Jackson’s 2013 Fall Arts Festival is officially behind us; we spend so much time planning for those 10 days in September. When Fall Arts does come ’round, it seems to fly by. The newspapers publish countless pages of special sections focusing on Fall Arts. Everyone advertises, and everyone gets some space. I try to do the same here on the Blog. Spotlighting our truly exceptional arts scene is important for our town and for ourselves. We get a sense that this is what our efforts are all about. The word on the Festival has spread even further; Fall Arts enjoyed more on line publicity than ever before. Google alerts went nuts!
The local paper with the largest circulation and the thickest pile of stories related to Fall Arts also published, the week AFTER their their special Fall Arts sections appeared—in other words, at mid-Festival—an article entitled “Fall Arts effect fades for some. Certain gallery owners no longer count on annual festival to boost summer sales.”
Hmmm. On so many levels! I sent a letter to the editor. In case it doesn’t appear, here’s what I wrote:
Jackson’s art scene has shifted dramatically; as one fine arts consultant commented to me, arts are now a year-round economic industry.
Each Fall Arts Festival culminates a year’s hard work. Fall Arts is a phenomenal marketing opportunity, as the Chamber of Commerce and the relatively new-to-town Design Conference know. Fall Arts is a tourism magnet, a boon for restaurants and lodging. The “Quick Draw” is a swirl of sheer joy, a manifestation of art’s incredible gifts enjoyed by visitors and locals alike.
As wonderful a spotlight as it is, the Festival is not our entire arts season, and banking on it to make or break an arts enterprise has never been a sound plan. Strong annual sales are built upon the number of quality exhibitions a gallery, artist, arts group, museum, or any entity presents over time. Exhibitions and projects establish reputation; reputation is not built on Fall Arts. Fall Arts gets our attention, but collectors and arts enthusiasts keep their eyes peeled all year.
If things aren’t shaking out the way you’d like, don’t cast blame. Innovation and vision, the best artwork and exhibitions, great management, smart budgeting of assets, constancy of ethics, savvy, accountability, outstanding public relations and marketing, knowledge, grace and customer service are success’ building blocks. Those, and the magic of art being created.
Locals, not always comfortable visiting arts venues, feel more comfortable during Fall Arts. They see and enjoy. Word spreads. A friend of mine, highly connected in the arts and otherwise back East, came through Jackson’s galleries for the first time this year. That friend was impressed. Anyone could be walking through your door. Yes, free food attracts people, and you’ll feed them. That’s not news. All sides of a story should be presented—but the assumptions of that article are incorrect. And why place the story when Fall Arts has not concluded?
The point is, if visitors are here, seeing what our arts have going, that’s good. And more people buzz through during Fall Arts than any other time of year. In two years—even sooner!—you may get a fabulous sale. Approach your entire year with that in mind. You are here in Jackson. Most people can’t be here. It’s a choice.
An info session happened last night, but Jackson artists still have the chance to submit qualifications to create “a site-specific art intervention (possibly the organizers mean “installation,” but I’m a little behind the times, jargon-wise!) at the Pink Garter Plaza, downtown Jackson. The artist whose work is selected must work with Pink Garter businesses on the design, which will “enhance public space and increase safety in and around the Pink Garter Theatre.”
Individuals or groups must submit their qualifications by 5:00 pm on October 4th. One to three finalists will be awarded $300 to create a project proposal. Winner gets $8,000 to create the work, due by May, 2014.
“The Artist-Business Partnership is an incredible opportunity for a local artist (or artist team) on a myriad of levels: it will give the chosen artist and their work exposure to the high volume of visitors to the Pink Garter Plaza; it will guide them through the best-practices process of producing a piece of public art; it will help them build a working relationship with business owners; and most of all, it enables them to make a living locally as an artist,” says J.H. Public Art’s Carrie Geraci. For information email Geraci at email@example.com. www.jhpublicart.org