Another summer season of Antigonish Art Fairs wrapped up Aug. 18 and, with it, five fairs organizers have deemed “very successful.”
“This was our fourth year doing them so this last one, Aug. 18, was our 20th event; it was really nice to reach that milestone,” Evan Curley, one of the summer students who worked with the festivals, said, in talking to the Casket Aug. 25.
“We’re all really happy with that and we had a great season, overall, with all kinds of wonderful music headliners and featured artists. Sparrow was our last music headliner, we had Brian England playing, all kinds of people.”
As Curley mentioned featured artists, he gestured over to a wall near the Art Fair office.
“Each fair we would make a poster for our featured artist and then we would keep one for the office and they would take one with them,” he said of the smartly laid-out posters. “The idea being, they can re-use them again whenever they’re displaying their work or setting up at a show, fair or wherever.”
Of the five fairs, only one had to be moved indoors; the first on June 23.
“There were a few of them where it was so close to calling [for it to be moved], like a 40 per cent chance of rain. That’s the worst, we would rather it be a 100 per cent chance of rain, so it’s for sure,” he said with a chuckle, recalling the way Mother Nature put organizers in a ‘do we or don’t we’ mode on those particular Fridays.
“But, I think, we made the right call on all of them. I think we only had a couple of rain drops one night and the rest were super clear and that was great; to have them at Chisholm Park, it’s so much better an atmosphere when it’s outside.”
He noted, for some people, it creates a more accessible environment, as they find it easier to approach an artist at an outdoor venue.
“Some people might feel a little intimidated coming to an art gallery if they’re not used to it so, having it outside with the music and food – that atmosphere, I think that helps people take that first step into, possibly, buying art or appreciating it more,” he said.
Asked about the evaluation process and data collection, Curley talked about a survey as well areas where numbers are calculated, including people attending and sales for the artists and artisans.
“Number one is we have counters at each fair; counting the amount of patrons who are coming in and looking at the art,” he said. “From that, we were very successful number-wise this year; we had some of the highest attended events ever, this year. Our July 7 event had 1,900 people out and then our July 21 event had 2,250 coming through. Those were our two highest attended art fairs ever; so it was really great to have those numbers this summer.
“Then, we also do surveys that we give out to the actual artists to get some feedback from them.
“Also, for our artists, we track, approximately, their sales. We helped the artists facilitate the sale of, approximately, $10,000 worth of local art; that was another really great number we came up with.
“We also came up with this number; 85 per cent of our artists make sales at the art fair. That’s a really good percentage of artists who are selling at the fair, so that’s awesome.”
The July 7 event was during Highland Games week and organizers decided to stick with the Friday evening time-slot even though the Games would be holding their opening ceremonies a few blocks down Main Street, on Columbus Field. In a previous year, the fair was moved to Thursday evening.
“It worked well; we were in contact with them and that helped to work collaboratively,” Curley said. “The way it worked out, most of their (day) events on Friday wrapped up a little bit earlier in the evening, then we had our fair from 6 to 9 p.m. I think we had a lot of traffic from people, who were at the Games, coming down to the art fair that evening; it was prefect,” he said, adding that, after taking in some of the fair, many people, probably, returned to Columbus Field for Games’ opening ceremonies and the Concert Under the Stars.
Curley had a few thank yous to pass along.
“First of all, we want to thank everyone who came out to the fairs; the people who attended,” he said.
“A special thank you to all the volunteers who helped out and the local businesses that supported us. Our major sponsor was Success in Planning; then the town and county of Antigonish, Homeward Inns of Canada, Whidden’s Park and Campground, Pipers’ Pub, East Coast Credit Union, Keltic Ford, DEANS (Destination Eastern and Northumberland Shores), and then the radio stations 989 XFM and 101.5 the Hawk … those are all our local supporters.”
Curley used the word “expand” often, when talk shifted to future fairs.
“Next year, we want to expand the reach of the fair, grow the event, help it to become bigger and better,” he said.
“We’re going to try and grow the number of artists and artisans. This year we had, approximately, 30 artists and artisans come out to each fair, so we want to bump that number up.
“We also want to move to some different creative fields or mediums; so another big component we want to add next year is a spoken word or a poetry component … hopefully more poets and spoken word artists up on stage performing their work.
“Also, we want to, of course, expand the reach as far as who is coming to the fairs. So more marketing outside the county and province for people who are traveling through; maybe going to Cape Breton, but who would stop and visit the art fair that evening.”
For more on the Antigonish Art Fair, visit their website or email [email protected]