Editor’s note: This is one of two columns comparing and contrasting the experiences of buying art at a gallery versus buying it from an art fair.
For every art festival and every art gallery, here’s the bottom line: sell art.
Art shows, no matter where, feature more artists’ works than any gallery can, and any show worth its salt will have the artist right there in his or her booth, engaging the buyer. The number of art show booths will likely run from 100 to 150, while galleries may have but one artist appearing “in-house” now and then.
Many find the art show festival venue more casual and less intimidating, more open to a give and take between the buyer and the artist on the thought processes involved in the creative aspect. And if a piece of artwork is not quite what the buyer is looking for, there’s a good possibility to put a commission piece in the works.
“Both art galleries and art festivals should have the same objective — to educate and bring art to the public in whatever format the public is comfortable with in order to promote art,” said Breckenridge’s Judith Pollock, a good example of a touring artist being part of the gallery side of the business.
Pollock has owned J&M Jewelry in the Towne Square Mall in Breckenridge since 1991, following a lengthy touring art festival career with husband Mark Beling. The couple designed and created custom jewelry and traveled the nation for many years doing art shows. Today, she and Beling own the three Mountain Art Festivals in Breckenridge, which they have been producing for 23 years, following their purchase of the event from then-local photographer Dick Cunningham.
“I see both sides of the art show and gallery scenes and find that a festival of artists offers a less intimidating way for customer-artist interaction,” Pollock said. “Likewise, some consumers are not comfortable purchasing from an artist on the street and need the stability of the brick-and-mortar gallery.”
Gallery owners are seen walking the art festivals and sometimes luring an artist to become one of those displaying in their brick-and-mortar storefronts, knowing the artist will continue traveling the show circuit — regionally or coast to coast — and selling on the Web, the gallery’s and the artist’s.
Admittedly, the art-producing and -selling business is not an easy task for the artist traveling to do shows or the gallery owner buying or leasing a storefront. The Internet has created a venue for showing, supplementing marketing efforts for galleries and individual artists. Published accounts tell of more and more galleries becoming part of the art show festival angle in producing sales.
Mountain Art Festivals staffers have visited with the owners of the galleries in Breckenridge to foster better relationships. So far, the effort has one gallery having its artists showing in the festivals. In addition, Mountain Art Festivals has listed on its website the Internet links to all local galleries.
“We’re making a solid attempt to work with everyone in the art sales business,” Pollock said. “It’s good for all of us.”
Mark Beling and Judith Pollock, directors of Mountain Art Festivals, have produced Colorado art festivals for more than 20 years. Beling and Pollock have lived in Breckenridge since 1990 and have owned their retail store, J&M Jewelry, since 1991. Mountain Art Festivals presents the 39th Gathering at the Great Divide on Labor Day weekend, running Aug. 30–Sept. 1.