ACRA contends arts festival is good for town
A traveling arts festival that angered some local galleries a year ago returns this weekend to Wagner Park.The festivals, produced by Florida-based Howard Alan Events, use the name of the town where they happen to be in their title. Hence, the Aspen Arts Festival will take over Wagner Park Saturday and Sunday with 225 artists’ booths offering jewelry, pottery, sculptures, paintings and prints.But the festival doesn’t rub everyone the right way. According to some on the Aspen Chamber Resort Association board, gallery owners may be perturbed that the festival “cannibalizes their business” for the weekend, said ACRA board President Rick Jones.”It’s considered an inopportune time for galleries in town because they sell most of their stuff in July and August,” he said at Tuesday’s board meeting. “We try to be sensitive to this, but we’re also trying to bring special events into town.”Aspen resident and talk-show host Andrew Kole said he agrees with the galleries. He said the event should be brought to town during the shoulder season, rather than feeding off local businesses during their busiest times of the year. Kole said he plans on being at the festival on Saturday with a sign that says “Support local galleries” to demonstrate his point.”Howard Alan hasn’t done anything wrong – I just think that this isn’t even needed during the busiest time of the year,” he said.Hana Pevny, chamber president, said concerns were raised last year about a lack of opportunities for local artists to show their wares. This year ACRA sought out local artists to participate, but Pevny said only four people were interested.ACRA will run a booth at the festival, providing information on local galleries. Pevny defended the choice to have the art festival back in town, saying Aspen benefits in a number of ways.”[The festival] creates vitality and dwell opportunity,” she said, referring to people spending time on the mall. “And the person who buys an 8-by-10 watercolor reproduction is not the same person who is going to buy a $10,000 Peter Max [painting].”Lisa Baker, the downtown catalyst the city hired to encourage vitality in town, said she tried to organize an evening gallery walk for the weekend, but many local galleries weren’t interested.”There was no enthusiasm about that,” she said. “Galleries feel like gallery walks don’t really work because people never buy anything.”Local shop owner Shae Singer, an ACRA board member, said sales tax from the arts fair benefits Aspen. She noted that at local galleries, people often ship large pieces of art elsewhere, avoiding the local sales tax.Pevny said all of the 225 vendors at the fair will be spending money in town on meals and sometimes lodging.”Our view on this is as a long-term benefit to Aspen,” Jones said.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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