Art Attack- The Chamber Art Guide
The much anticipated (at least by the artist community) Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce art guide was launched with some fanfare at Keels Creek Winery and Gallery a few weeks ago.
As someone who in the past has shot and edited hundreds of photographs and written countless pieces of schlock for a monthly Visitor Guide, I can say that the Chamber’s glossy, 50 page, comprehensive art guide looks very good. While not likely to win any awards for innovation, the guide comes off as professional and, although somewhat generic, pleasing to the eye.
I like the cover with its clean, contemporary feel, the choice of colors (red, black and white) and the use of negative space that draws your eye in. It’s something, as an art appreciative tourist, I would immediately pick up.
Of course, everyone has an opinion and I’ve heard quite a few, such as: “What does a red blob of paint have to do with Eureka?” and “Why did they not choose a piece of local art for the cover?” The same questions were raised when my “kid with balloons” photo, cut out against a white background, graced the cover of the Chamber’s Visitor Guide in 2003.
As a visual artist, my biggest issue was why they rendered the visual arts to the back of the bus. As one artist friend who has a listing and substantial ad in the guide put it, “I understand the “culinary arts” and restaurant ads, in large part, help pay for the guide, but the restaurants have a so many advertising options while the visual arts in this town have almost zero. I wish we had better placement.”
Unlike the CAPC, the Chamber of Commerce is a privately funded organization whose sole purpose is to help promote their dues-paying members’ businesses. In the past it seemed the Chamber was only concerned with its biggest advertising clients, lodging and weddings, with the simple math – the more you spent on advertising, the more editorial content you got.
So does the Chamber’s new focus on the arts represent a shift in that policy, or is it that the art community is now more willing and/or able to cough up the cash? Probably a bit of both, especially now with a few art movers-and-shakers literally on (the) board.
But clearly the number one reason for the Chamber’s newfound interest in the arts is the opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. The “Art is Alive in Eureka Springs” guide is on display for pick up in the museum; its goal – to target and lure Crystal Bridge’s built-in, international, art loving, upscale, audience to our beautiful, quirky, artsy, historic little town, and ultimately put heads in beds.
And that’s what a Chamber of Commerce in a tourist town is supposed to do.