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 as much energy and enthusiasm as they announce annual festivals, great museums, and other large cultural attractions.
Every local government should have a “Meet Our Artists!” link on their tourist-oriented web pages that is kept up-to-date and that does a good job of directing visitors to creative tourism events. Likewise, they should create a “Meet Our Artists!” brochure that helps visitors understand that their city supports visitor-artist interactions.
Tourist industry professionals need to be encouraged to stretch in the direction of adding creative tourism to the products they tout. Every tourist industry professional knows to tout free breakfasts and three nights for the price of two. They know the allure of high-end shopping, fine dining, and world-class theater. Now they need to be encouraged to point out that certain destinations come with this added allure, that artists from all the disciplines provide public activities there.
Aspen is not just its music festival; it is the scores of impromptu concerts that those gathered music students provide on every corner and in every square. As a tourist industry professional, you can sell Aspen’s skiing, dining, galleries, festival, mountain beauty, and cachet as a popular watering hole. But you can also sell it as a place where music happens everywhere.
Local business owners with a stake in the matter need to be encouraged to stretch in the direction of standing open to artists’ ideas, to hear artists out when they suggest, for instance, that they might be given space in the hotel lobby to interact with guests. This is a natural extension of what business owners already know to be true, that hanging an artist’s show is good for their café and that allowing a mariachi band to play is good for their restaurant. This is the logical next step for local business owners, to see these new interactive arts activities as good for business, to support artists’ initiatives, and to actively seek out artist collaborations and partnerships.
Art marketplace players need to be encouraged to stretch in the direction of thinking outside the box of gallery, crafts shop, theater, concert hall and bookstore by inviting the artists they interact with and represent to go public. A painter will often ask the gallery owner who represents him, “What can I do to help?” Gallery owners typically have no idea how to respond beyond “Send people to the gallery.” Now, as active participants in this movement, a gallery owner can say, “Do a public workshop – I’ll help you arrange it.” A publisher can say, “Publicly interact with your readers – here are some ideas for doing that.” Art marketplace players can learn to support this movement and, by doing so, increase their bottom line profits with no added cost.
Residents need to be encouraged to stretch in the direction of attending the activities made available to them, including new activities that creative and performing artists dream up. They need to be coaxed out from in front of their television sets, charmed into attending what may seem like unusual and even edgy activities, and informed about the events happening down the street and across town. When residents experience these new activities as pluses and come to anticipate them and enjoy them, the natural ambivalence they feel toward the visitors who flock to their place will become tempered.
Millions of artists are available to interact with the hundreds of millions of people who travel for business and pleasure. Artists have both personal and professional reasons for wanting to connect to these travelers. On a personal level, it helps counteract the isolation they often feel and creates the warmth that only comes from human contact. On a professional level, it builds the artist’s audience and forces the artist to better articulate what it is that he or she is doing.
An artist could work in her studio, create paintings, and look for gallery representation: that is the traditional model. Or she could work in her studio, create paintings, look for gallery representation AND take her paints, her spirit, and her expertise into the sunlight and interact with other human beings. That is the creative tourism model.
Exercise 1: Do you know someone like a hotel manager, a city official, or a tourism professional who might be interested in chatting about the creative tourism model? If so, might it make sense to share a cup of coffee with him or her and brainstorm ideas?
Exercise 2: Are you interested in making products specifically for tourists? If you are, what might they be?