You can run out to the local chain retailer with your “40 percent off” coupon, throw down a quick $100 and MORE to buy a print, framed or not, that appears in a gazillion other homes, offices and public spaces OR you can spend comparable sums by working with a local artist to personalize your art and your decor.
The statement that brought on this post was something like this: “That’s just as nice as the stuff at Walmart.” It was made to an artist friend of ours at a show in Harrisburg. There’s some truth there. BUT … well, please do NOT compare original, individual, custom art to the mass manufactured pieces sold at the big box stores. What’s more, I beg you to consider the differences between that original piece and the merchandise at a big store.
Please understand, we do NOT have problems with artists who choose to license their work for mass manufacturing. Our problem is with the mentality that if somebody local is making something, it cannot be as good as stuff being made and sold elsewhere. Our argument is with the folks who will sit in traffic on the way to the mass merchandiser when they could walk downtown and find top-quality work made by a neighbor. If you are in the eastern U.S., check out the work by members of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen or give them a call if you see an artist member with whom you might like to work. Online shoppers might want to meet the members of MMCA Marketplace.
What’s the big deal? The biggest deal is a VITAL one to the sustainability of independent artists and small businesses in our region and regions throughout our nation. When you shop a local independent, you know that the original work was made as a unique piece by a person who is a neighbor. There aren’t 10,000 oft those works and BONUS of all bonuses, you can talk to the creator one-on-one and, often, purchase something custom-made for YOU. You can’t buy THAT at the box stores.
As a local arts/design business, one of our research/development activities is to price comparable art objects and pieces stocked by the big retailers. Some of the prints and objects are nice and we are not against commercial art. We do it ourselves BUT we give first opportunity to artists and artisans in our area, our state, our nation because these individuals are in the same boat as us, on the same ship as YOU.
Your hometown artists and art businesses pay taxes, which means they help pay for the local services provided in your county, your city or town and your schools. Artists are also known to shop independent retailers and locally-owned operations and eateries. In other words, even directly, they are contributing to your welfare if only through payment of business and per capita taxes.
Many artists are fixer-uppers. We’ll use ourselves as one example. We bought what had been a dental office and made it an art gallery and studio with awesome gardens and a home above. It’s a work in progress. That’s the beauty of rescuing a place, a space. In all the hard work, you can personalize it – make it yours. We have artist friends who have purchased hovels and turned them into awesome, unique homes and businesses. We’ve been involved in some of this. Give us a foundation and we make a space that goes back on the tax rolls and helps increase the value of the neighborhood. Artists are blight busters.
Why not at least give artists in your region a chance to design something that truly means something to you? Visit your local galleries. Discuss your art and decor needs with an artist who lives and works near-by.
How do you know which artists or artisans you should approach? One suggestion is to visit the local promotional events many towns and and their galleries host. In my region, such events include the Art Association of Harrisburg, Harrisburg’s Third in the Burg, Lancaster’s First Friday, and Middletown Area Arts Collective’s Second Sunday.