Thursday, January 19, 2012

Barnstable Municipal Airport: Cape artists seek connection and support. Airport call for art prompts reaction.

BARNSTABLE — A group of artists hopes to work with the Barnstable Municipal Airport to work out what they hope is an equitable way for artists to show and sell their work in the new terminal building in Hyannis.

The word “disconnect” came up repeatedly among about 30 Cape Cod artists Jan. 12 as they discussed ways they could work with the business community and the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod.

The meeting of the Morning Muse at the Chat House in Dennis, which regularly draws four or five artists, attracted the large group of artists and arts administrators who were upset by a request for donations of their art for the new Barnstable Municipal Airport terminal. An arts task force was given the job of bringing art to the airport without any funding.

The task force issued a request for art through the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, stating that works would all undergo a review, and could also be loaned for short- or long-term periods. The letter stated that the town may insure loaned art up to a $1,500 value, but artists would assume any liability for artwork above that. The release of liability hit a nerve also.

“I was stunned at the release,” said Rory Marcus, an artist who used to work at the Cape Cod Museum of Art. She said the letter showed no consciousness about the importance of an artists’ work and it assumed that simple exposure to someone’s art would help sell it. “It is not working,” she said. “We need to let them know. There is a real disconnect with the powers that be.

“It’s a marketing issue. I would like to see more connection with business,” Marcus continued. “It’s a bigger picture than anyone has been focusing on.”

Lauren Wolk, an artist and associate director of the Cultural Center of Cape Cod, said, “At the heart of the airport problem is a disconnect between those in the trenches and the business community.” Although she said the airport task force was composed of good people, she noted it was, “run by businesspeople who have never been in the trenches. They don’t realize what it means to be an artist.

“We need to figure out who’s disconnected and get them on board.” Wolk said politicians like state Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, and state Sen. Dan Wolf , D-Harwich, and the chambers of commerce have been very supportive of the arts. “Cultural tourism drives everything on the Cape,” Wolk said and noted that for every $1 the state invests in artists, $5 is returned to the state.

Artists need marketing

Several artists agreed they are lacking in business acumen and need to do more marketing of their art. “Let’s focus on the business of art rather than the production of art,” one woman said.

The group discussed ways to address donation requests, which is not new for them, but many are so anxious for exposure for their art, they often agree to do it, they said.

“Everyone gets half a dozen inquiries a year to donate their art,” Patricia Walker said. One artist had been asked 17 times in one year to donate her art for various fundraisers, another person said.

Addressing the airport issue directly, Shawn Dahlstrom of Dennis, who led the informal meeting, said, “This is a tipping point for all of us. We can use this to be angry or we can get energized. It’s time artists were recognized for what they do. What are we going to do?”

The artists’ suggestions included creating posters of artwork with the name of a gallery or art venue to hang in the airport, which would eliminate the problem of liability and vandalism.

“The point of the airport is to get the eye of the traveler rushing through,” said Karen Billard, managing director of Hyannis Harbor for the Arts at the Guyer Barn. She said travelers don’t have the time to buy, but they would see the posters and where they can go to buy the art.

T-Bu Wry from Centerville asked about using the existing art gallery in the airport to display other art for sale. Marcus suggested the airport hold a fundraiser for the artwork. Some agreed that they meet at the airport so they could see the space. Most indicated they were not familiar with the new terminal.

Some suggested they sell their art to corporations, who could then in turn donate it to the airport for a tax write-off.

Partnership with Arts Foundation?

Carol Odell, an artist who owns a gallery in Chatham, suggested artists jointly send money to the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod with a letter saying they want to contribute and work with the organization. “We need a lead agency that speaks for us,” she said.

Wolk suggested the artists ask Kevin Howard, director of the Arts Foundation who is co-chairman of the airport task force, to speak for them and to invite a task force member to meet with them. She also said the artists need leadership, such as an elected delegation to serve on the Arts Foundation and Chamber of Commerce boards and lobby the statehouse.

The group also discussed broader issues related to marketing their arts and making the Cape an arts destination: starting an artists’ guild, making better use of the Artists Trail guide and connecting with chambers’ tourism efforts.

Dahlstrom passed out questionnaires asking about the artists’ needs and willingness to develop a plan for the airport art.

The artists outlined an action plan for the airport art and invited members of the airport art task force to meet with them Thursday, Jan. 19, Dahlstrom said Monday.

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