`W ell, not to be rude or anything, but I thought the tour was going to be, you know, kind of stuffy,” said the woman, and her three friends nodded in agreement. “But it turned out to be lots of fun, and it was actually surprising to see all the different sorts of artwork made by local people.”
A happy crowd, estimated between 100 and 500 people, made the round of 19 stops on the Spokane Visual Arts Tour last Friday evening. The Spokane Transit Authority loaded up two buses full of tourists, some groups toured on foot, and others carpooled - including an enthusiastic band of nine women from the Newport area who’d all managed to fit into one station wagon. And they’re keen on coming again.
Spokane City Art Department head Sue Ellen Heflin said she is gathering numbers now to see if they prove the apparent popularity of the tour.
“At Chase Gallery we had an increase of about 70 people, and I heard that Corbin Art Center had five times the numbers they’ve ever had,” said Heflin. “It’s very encouraging, seeing them come into the gallery and not just head straight for the refreshment tables, but to look at the artwork first.”
At Momentum Gallery, art director Maureen Davidson guessed 500 people came to see the work and to socialize.
“I think it was the most successful I’ve ever seen as far as attendance goes,” said Davidson, “All of us are interested in educating and reaching new audiences. If one or two people become excited about galleries as a place to visit and bring their friends and pursue their interests, then it’s a good thing.”
First-timer Kate Wilhite enjoyed the “Works of Heart” preview show at Cheney Cowles Museum and observed people making bids on the art-forauction. “I definitely will go again,” said Wilhite, “and spend more time next time.”
Well, so far we’ve heard from non-profits and tour-goers, and their consensus is thumbs-up. But is the tour good for business? It’s a rather recent development that the tour includes commercial galleries. Wilhite said she had to stand in line to get into Hot Flash of America in Carnegie Square. Business was also brisk at Visions Art Gallery where 81 noses were counted, and painted silk “Lounge Lizards” sold hand-over-fist.
Derald Long of Hot Flash said STA made the difference. “This is the first time the buses came to Carnegie Square and the first time for many of the people riding them to visit the area,” said Long. “This is really an important form of outreach for STA and for the public.”
I hope STA reads this, and that it not only continues as an active participant in a popular, positive community event but would consider expanding the service by picking up people at a couple of the park-and-ride sites at the edges of town.
The next Spokane Visual Arts Tour will be April 7. Be there or be square.
Beth Sellars reports an unofficial, estimated figure of $33,000 in net art sales from the “Works of Heart” auction last Saturday night. Best ever!
The second program in the National Endowment for the Arts Visiting Artist Series is slated for Feb. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Cheney Cowles Museum. Artists Amalia Mesa-Bains, James Lavadour and Jeffrey Mitchell will discuss “Art, Communities and Individuals.”
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