|Musicians perform during Art-A-Whirl 2013. Photo by Jeanne Oss|
As Art-A-Whirl grows, how symbiotic is the relationship between the Open Artist Studio Tour and the events and music held at local bars? There is a perception among some in the Northeast community that the focus of Art-A-Whirl is shifting towards music and bars and away from visual art, as a recent City Pages article explores. Others in the community believe the entertainment components are necessary to continue to build audiences, with the bars bringing people who otherwise wouldn't attend AAW. In the NEMAA Visitor Survey conducted during AAW 2013, the primary reason given to attend AAW for 64% of the respondents was (still) to view and potentially purchase artwork.
Without a doubt, artists showing during AAW contribute to the NE economy in more ways than one. In an Arts Impact Survey conducted by the Northeast Arts District collaborative, including NEMAA, with the support from the City of Minneapolis’ Great Streets Program, it was determined that 97% of AAW artists refer guests to local eateries in NE after holding events at their respective spaces. What percentage of local bars and businesses refer their clientele to the Open Artist Studio Tour?
The NEMAA board of directors acknowledges that the Art-A-Whirl landscape has changed. More and more businesses are taking advantage of the 30,000 visitors to NE Minneapolis for the weekend, and there has been a huge growth in craft breweries, taprooms, other small food and beverage businesses, retail spaces, and other businesses. Many of these NE businesses are supporters of NEMAA and show their support for the artist community. Over 75 are Business Members of NEMAA, advertise in the Artist Directory and/or provide cash or in-kind donations for the organization.
During NEMAA's marketing of Art-A-Whirl and during interviews with the media, the organization makes sure to emphasize that AAW is an Open Artist Studio Tour (not a street festival, or a craft show). When local businesses capitalize on Art-A-Whirl by infringing on the trademarked name and using it and distorting it without permission, NEMAA as an organization as well as AAW artists and small business participants all find that offensive. Over the course of the next year, the NEMAA Board will make sure to enforce Art-A-Whirl's trademark in order to maintain the integrity of the name and event to the best of their ability.
At its heart, Art-A-Whirl is a unique time for visitors to meet and build relationships with artists, and see artists in their natural habitat. AAW is an opportunity for artists to showcase their art and to grow their client list. There is a lot at stake for NEMAA artists, with 52.6% of NEMAA artists describing themselves as full-time artists, 43.2% as part time. NEMAA represents mid-career artists, professional artists, long-time established artists, and emerging artists. These artists are bringing in regular traffic, live and work in NE Minneapolis, and are the reason that NE is such a vibrant, growing community.
The attention during Art-A-Whirl on entertainment and spectacle reflects a shift occurring many places in the art world at large. NEMAA as an organization is committed to supporting the Open Artist Studio Tour model as Art-A-Whirl continues to grow. This weekend, as we enjoy everything that Art-A-Whirl has to offer, let's continue to dialogue on how NE businesses and visual artists can support each other in making Art-A-Whirl a success.