How Artists Can Sell To Tourists, Part 5

Posted by on Aug 27, 2015 in Fine Arts America | 0 comments

Let’s say that you want to promote the idea that creative tourism is valuable and that your community should support the efforts of artists to reach out to tourists. What sorts of arguments might you present to the stakeholders I’ve described—to hotel managers, restaurant owners, tourist industry professionals, city officials and so on? The following is one of the most powerful. Artists function as renewable resources. That geyser that brought visitors to your area may begin to dry up. That church that millions throng to may have to close for repairs. The roads that the tour buses chew up likewise may need repair and cost enormous sums to keep up. But artists renew themselves. They paint a mural; and then they want to paint another one. They write a short story; and then they want to write another one. They love what they do and need to do what they do and this very devotion can be enlisted, if they are helped to make the connection, as motivational energy that will drive them to interact with visitors. Not every resource can be renewed and not every site can be sustained. Writing tongue-in-cheek in a piece called “Cultural Tourism: Between Authenticity and Globalization,” Frans Schouten explained, “At a conference in Africa recently someone involved in a cultural tourism development project in a tribal community announced that he had included in the village tour a visit to a ritual circumcision of a boy. Such an announcement raises many questions, the first of many being, Might they run out of boys in the peak season, or how many times can you circumcise someone?” Even in the peak season, you can’t run out of an artist’s creativity. If you run a small barbecue joint, you close your doors when the barbecue runs out. If you run a small city, you feel threatened when your revenues dwindle. The barbecue and the revenue are finite. But a folksinger can extend his concert set simply by singing another folk song. A painter can turn every blank canvas in his vicinity into something memorable. As long as they live—and as long as they feel motivated—artists can turn the lead of everyday existence into the gold of art. A second excellent argument is that many of the tourists who come are creative themselves and would love their own creative tourism opportunities. As Joan, a visual artist, explained: “I love the idea of creative tourism. When I travel I often get frustrated about finding myself in commercial tourist areas and don’t get to the soul of a location until too far into my trip. I find that the truly creative experiences I’ve had while traveling have been in the out-of-the-way places where the artists are and that few people know about. For example, my boyfriend and I spent time watching artists sculpt and paint masks in Venice. The artists...

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How Artists Can Sell To Tourists, Part 4

Posted by on Aug 21, 2015 in Fine Arts America | 0 comments

There is more to selling to tourists than standing on a bridge in Prague and selling your photographs or setting up in a square in Paris and doing caricatures of passers-by. You can also promote the creative tourism model I’ve been describing and become an activist in support of fostering a deep, long-lasting connection between artists and visitors. You, the individual artist, are a vital part of the process, and I hope it will interest you—and even excite you a little—to advocate for this model. There are other players in the game who also need to step up to the plate. If creative tourism interests you and you think that you might like to support it, you might want to pass along these ideas to the other stakeholders who have a vested interest in creative tourism working. Both individual artists and society as a whole will benefit if the millions of tourists who travel every year are helped and encouraged to interact with, learn from, and support the artists who live in the communities they visit. In order for the creative tourism model to work, seven groups of stakeholders need to stretch. Artists need to be encouraged to stretch in the direction of going public. It is virtually another art form to lead a public discussion or to present an interactive workshop and most artists do not see themselves as talented in these ways. Artists need to be helped to understand that there is a learning curve involved, that their first efforts may fall flat, and that trusting the process is everything, just as it is in the art-making they engage in daily. Here is a place where city government and tourism professionals could be of great help, by sponsoring workshops that teach artists how to go public with their efforts. Visitors need to be encouraged to stretch in the direction of participation. Most visitors tend to prefer staged performances to reality and the safety of observation to the perceived risks of participation. A concerted effort by government, local businesses, tourism professionals, and art marketplace representatives to present participation as a great way to make memories can help enormously in this regard. Every outlet—hotel lobby, restaurant, art gallery, bookstore—could have a “Meet Our Artists!” brochure on hand, a brochure created at the national or local level to explain to visitors the value of participation, to train them in the art of participation, and to reduce their anxiety about interacting with artists. Government officials need to be encouraged to stretch in the direction of supporting artists who want to go public by providing them with easy access to venues like public parks and tourist sites, by providing them with workshops and trainings on how to effectively go public, by encouraging their efforts to bring their creativity into public view, and, as a top priority, by announcing these artists’ activities with...

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How Artists Can Sell to Tourists, Part 3

Posted by on Aug 14, 2015 in Fine Arts America | 0 comments

We’ve looked at how artists can reach out—to the organizers of a farmers market, to hotel managers, etc.—to create interactive experiences with tourists and to increase their sales. What about some more offbeat, unusual efforts that an artist might dream up? Here are a few. Painters who live in a given neighborhood might each week give a chat at some unlikely venue, like the neighborhood Laundromat, to an audience of locals doing their laundry and to visitors who have heard about the series and have come to listen. The chat can be followed by a conversation that unfolds as audience members fold their clothes. As unlikely as this possibility sounds, exactly such a lecture series has been run successfully at a Laundromat in the Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco where I recently lived. The series attracted many well-known authors and many interested audience members. Or consider the following unusual effort. Independent filmmakers, faced by the massive problem of finding distribution for their films and venues for showing their films, might take their films out into the community and create a film series that uses the walls of schools as screens. Again as odd as this might sound, exactly such a film series is a successful annual event in the same Bernal Heights neighborhood of San Francisco that I just mentioned. Hundreds of residents and visitors pay to sit in schoolyards under the stars and watch films projected onto school walls. These filmmakers are also submitting their films to festivals and looking for all the other usual venues and usual marketing opportunities; but as they wait, they are making money and making some useful connections by showing their films in this “oddball” public way. I recently ran a cyberspace “artist bridge” group made up of creative and performing artists who live in locales worldwide. I gave them assignments to try out and asked them to report on their efforts. The following is one of the assignments that I gave: “Imagine that an event like a convention is coming to your locale. It doesn’t matter how small your locale actually is—for this mind experiment imagine that there is some attraction in your area that is drawing people and that a group is coming. Picture some number of people, whether 20 or 2000, arriving in your locale. In what new ways might you connect with them? Generate a list of several of these new ideas.” Then I asked them to do the following. “Take one of your ideas and translate it into a series of steps that you actually take to connect with people, visitors or locals, in your area. Take the first step this week and report on your efforts.” The following is one response. Christina, a visual artist in Shanghai, explained: “The art installations that I make are not readily accessible to people who are not conversant with contemporary...

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