Five weekends in May made for an exhausting May Festival of the Arts and the big question being asked – are tourists coming to Eureka Springs to buy art, and is all the extra work and promotion really worth it?
Maybe it’s our still-in-recovery economy, but from many of the artists and galleries I’ve talked to, the numbers and type of visitors that have come in the past were way off. Even the White Street Studio Walk, the usual bastion of local spending, was disappointing to many. Everyone agreed that it was very fun, very social, but not very lucrative.
For most, buying art is a luxury few can afford today, thanks to a rapidly shrinking middle class.
In contrast, Sotheby’s and Christie’s in New York are having record-breaking sales due to the bidding wars between Alice Walton and the Asian market. You can now add a zero to the $8,000,000 Warhol purchased 10 years ago, compliments of the Chinese and their growing one percent.
Retail in general seems to be the hardest hit during this recession. Art enthusiasts no longer need to drive the hour from Fayetteville, and now Bentonville, for a cultural fix. Both cities have hastily built up art cred with their own festivals and art events. And whatever your opinion on motorcycles, the noise factor has chased away many of our art patrons who came here for the quiet, creative beauty.
Add to the mix, a mayor who could not care less about the arts, a CAPC not willing to spend a dime on art events, and the closing of a few established galleries and the future of art in this town look less than promising.
Yet despite it all, I have enormous faith in the creative talent in this town and was witness to some really great art this past month, and not just on gallery walls, but in banks, restaurants and private venues.
Too many shout-outs to mention in this short column, but want to take note of John Stallings towering, kinetic sculpture that got little or no press. An obvious homage to Calder, Stalling has created a technical and aesthetic masterpiece of metal and movement. It moves in the slightest of breeze, but recommend heading down to Fresh the next blustery day to view.
We are and will remain an artist destination. It seems to be embedded in the town’s DNA, so why not invest more? And maybe it’s time for the gang at the CAPC to start learning Mandarin and get on that slow boat to China instead of attending another motorcycle show in Tulsa.