Are tourists being tricked?


Posted: Sunday, September 17, 2000

Art fraud honest shopsThe focus of the investigation was misrepresentation of art. Clerks in the following shops that sell hand-crafted art were quick to point out exactly what merchandise was imported and which was Alaska-made. They knew about their products and the artists and were completely candid: Alaska Peddler, Goldmine Gifts, Alaska Gift Cache, The Raven's Journey, Beasley's Art Gallery, Fireweed Gifts, Totemic Treasures, Moose on the Loose, Eskimos and Butterflies, George's Jewelry and Gifts, Mt. Juneau Trading Post, Latitude 58, Portfolio Arts and Rainsong. Not all downtown shops were visited.

Many downtown gift shops are misleading visitors who come to Juneau seeking Alaska-made art and souvenirs, an Empire investigation has determined.

"Made in Indonesia" stickers are removed, covered and sometimes replaced with "Made in Alaska" stickers. Non-Native artists are presented as Native and imported products are passed off as locally made, Empire reporters discovered during repeated visits to 26 shops this summer.

Some merchants openly deceive their customers when questioned about the origin of art. Others are clever in their ability to imply artists are Native or that products are Alaska-made when they are not, said former investigator Steven Rouse.

The deceptive practices cheat tourists and hurt legitimate artists. Some gallery and store owners are worried the misrepresentation could destroy Juneau's credibility as a place to buy art.

For the full story, see the special Empire report, The Art of Tricking Tourists, in the Inside section online.

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