Artists can and should actively market to tourists. In the creative tourism model that I’m describing, individual artists and collections of artists dream up public, interactive experiences meant to reach tourists while local officials, local businesses, tourism professionals and art marketplace players support these activities by promoting them and legitimizing them.
Tourists and other visitors are helped to understand the value of engaging in such interactions because the materials they pick up at tourist offices, the materials they find in hotel lobbies, the materials they encounter in the art galleries they frequent, and the information they receive from tourist industry professionals all reinforce the idea that there is value and joy in “interacting with local artists” and “purchasing directly from local artists.”
In the creative tourism model, artists begin to collaborate with local businesses and local government. For example, an artist makes an appointment with a hotel manager and describes an idea she has for how they might collaborate. She explains that if the hotel provides her with a corner of the lobby one Friday evening a month, she will demonstrate her watercolor techniques there for free.
She asks the hotel to provide her with the space, to set it up, and to announce her presence – that is, she asks that they announce that she is an attraction, maybe by slipping an announcement under guests’ doors that Friday morning. She also asks to be permitted to announce her watercolor workshops, sell her watercolors, accept commissions, and so on. For virtually no cost, the hotel gets an attraction that no other hotel in town has – they get a resident artist – and the artist gets a regular venue and a platform from which to build her business.
The creative tourism model is a simple one: artists, local government, local businesses, tourism professionals, and art marketplace players enter into new collaborations that make it easier for artists to interact in public with visitors and residents. “In public” here is construed in the broadest sense possible: small parks and large parks, inside a hotel or outside on a street corner, inside a restaurant or outside by the beach, inside a shop or outside in front of a church. Wherever people go, artists would also go, supported and encouraged by the many constituents who gain when a city is full of life, activity, and creativity.
There is a close affinity between this model and the community arts model, that is, with the model of the artist working in her community and for the sake of that community. Thousands of artists are already engaged in the community arts model in disciplines like dance, literature, media arts, music, public art, theater, performance, and the visual arts. Some of the social contexts in which they work are community development, corrections, cultural democracy, education, environment and health. These groups and projects have names like The Community Arts Corps, the Prison Creative Arts Project, Culture for Development, and the Art for Healing Foundation.
The main difference between the creative tourism model and the community arts model is that in the community arts model activism is the key. In the visitor arts model, interaction and sales are the keys. Individual artists design activities and events that promote interactions in public spaces with the people who pass through that space or who show up because they have heard that something is happening, both for the sake of the interaction and in order to sell their art. The community arts model is frankly social and political; the creative tourism model includes social and political work but it also includes anything an artist may dream up to promote and sell her work, from stunts in public places to open air watercolor workshops.
Here is a great example of the creative tourism model in action. Patrice, a visual artist in Honolulu, described her efforts at connecting with Hawaii’s tourist trade. She explained:
“I live and paint in Honolulu and create most of my watercolor paintings in public by demonstrating at two hotel gallery/shops in Waikiki. The work I do is of interest to the visitors passing me as I paint and we often have interesting conversations about painting, life in the islands, and their visits here. People of all ages love to watch me work and there is a certain magic in watching a painting come to life, because only the artist has any idea of what might happen next.
“When visitors tell me that they like to draw or paint I ask them to tell me what they like to create. When they bemoan the fact that they’re not as good as I am, I tell the children that I’m older, and I tell everyone that I have been painting a lot longer than they have. When they tell me I make it look so easy, I explain that that’s my job. I encourage everyone to keep painting and drawing and I tell them that the more they do, the better they will get. Who knew that old adage was really true?
“I also offer 2-hour private watercolor classes to people of all ages. During that time, we discuss color as they fill in a color wheel and mix colors by combining complementary colors. They paint their own painting, whatever subject matter they choose, and take their matted painting home with them, ready to be framed. I give them a folder of information including everything we’ve discussed; it’s enough information for them to be able to continue to paint once they get home. Some of them keep in touch, sending photos or digital images of what they’ve created. One of my students lives in England and calls twice a year to keep me posted on his progress.”
“My classes are titled, ‘Be a Creative Traveler.’ I publicize them with rack cards and on the back of my business cards. Obviously I’m fortunate to be living in such a wonderful tourist destination. But wherever we live, it behooves artists to reach out to the public. We can create relationships with those who feel that they have no talent but who appreciate art. We can educate others as to what it means to be an artist. When we make ourselves visible and known, we can begin to raise the awareness of what it means to actually live life as an artist in society today.”
Exercise 1. Imagine that you’ve managed to set yourself up in a tourist location and are beginning to have interactions with tourists. What questions are they likely to ask you? Brainstorm the questions that you are likely to asked and prepare your answers now.
Exercise 2. Look at your answers. Have you included “sales pitches” and “sales information” in your answers? If you haven’t, can you see how you might?