There’s still a market for art during a recession, but it’s harder to make a living, say many of the artists working this weekend at the popular Art on the Green festival in Coeur d’Alene.
Paul Sloan, a painter from Emmett, Idaho, like many others at the event, said more customers are requesting unframed art or smaller prints.
“The volume of sales is the same, but the sales price is lower,” Sloan said.
About 150 artists have filled booths at North Idaho College this weekend for the 41st annual Art on the Green. While many said they’ve been coming to the show for years, others made the trip because unlike years past, Art on the Green doesn’t conflict with a larger festival in Anacortes, Wash.
Birgit and Dieter Moenig, of Everett, were two of those artists. Dieter makes titanium earrings and pendants. Birgit hand dyes silk scarves. They said they’ve noticed that customers at art fairs this year are more interested in lower-priced items.
Selling scarves, Birgit Moenig added, has advantages during a recession.
“It changes your outfit so you can wear your same-old, same-old,” she said.
Craig Windom, of Eugene, Ore., said he’s skipping art shows in Colorado this year, in part, to save money. Windom takes old clocks from thrift stores and rebuilds them in combination with reclaimed wood and other objects (including at this weekend’s show, croquet balls, trophies and a Chinese checkers board).
The recession is “keeping a lot of artists closer to home,” Windom said. “The overhead will just eat you up.”
Mariusz Rynkiewicz, glass blower from Everett, Wash., said he’s depending more on arts shows rather than gallery sales. A couple of galleries he was featured in closed recently.
Albert Chaney, a jewelry maker from Stevensville, Mont., said he hasn’t been able to lower prices during the economic slump because the cost of gold and silver has risen sharply.
“For me, what that means is selling less,” he said.
But not all artists are feeling the pinch.
Sherry Tolman, a watercolor painter from Wilmington, Del., said she hasn’t noticed a decline in sales.
“I’ve had some of my best years in the last five years,” she said.
And others, like Toni Spencer, a batik artist from Post Falls, say it’s hard to estimate how the recession has affected sales. Spencer didn’t have much luck this year at ArtFest in Spokane but did “very well” at a recent show in Salem, Ore.
“It’s a very fickle business we’re in,” she said.
Spencer noted that art is vulnerable during hard times.
“People don’t need my stuff,” she said. “They can’t wear it, and it doesn’t wear out.”
Jenny Tseng, of North Hollywood, Calif., who makes vases with glass and steel with her husband, said business was slow on Friday.
“They aren’t buying anything, period,” Tseng said, noting that many of the people walking by weren’t holding art.
Sloan cautioned, however, that it’s hard to judge the success of a show on Friday sales.
“Friday a lot of time is just laying the groundwork for the weekend,” he said.