Season for art sales

Gallery Walk, Public Market are often critical events for people who make a living out of art

Posted: Tuesday, December 05, 2000

Two of Juneau's biggest holiday social events also are among the best marketing tools for artisans and local businesses.

Last weekend's Gallery Walk and the Public Market a week earlier kick off the holiday season for artisans and provide a chance for locals to visit galleries that might be overlooked the rest of the year.

"They're definitely important," potter Sue Deems said about the seasonal events.

Deems shared a temporary gallery with Tion Kasnick and Sharron Lobaugh while participating in her first Gallery Walk in several years. The holiday season accounts for about half of her annual sales, Deems said.

The showing was very important for Kasnick, who, like Deems, works full-time in a family business and is a part-time artist.

Kasnick wasn't in Public Market and only shows his paintings this time of year. Summer accounts for very little of his annual sales of landscape paintings, he said.

"This is my big time of year," Kasnick said. "I get as many pieces as I can together and try and sell them."

Gallery Walk started 19 years ago with six galleries taking part, said Annie Kaill, who with a friend came up with the idea for the event. It started as a winter social and has stayed that way, said Kaill, who recently sold the business that bears her name.

"It's always been more social than business," she said. "We don't even like to keep anybody behind the register."

More businesses, not necessarily galleries, began participating once they saw how many people showed up, she said. Some stores just started staying open and running specials while others became a part of the walk, she said.

"It kind of opens Christmas for everybody," Kaill said.

Darby Hinz, who bought Annie Kaill's gallery and gift shop, has kept a lot of the social feeling during the Gallery Walk.

"It's a lot of fun, and it's a tradition" she said.

But behind the fun is a business and Gallery Walk gets a lot of people into the shops who may only stop in once a year, said Cha, artist and owner of Cha for the Finest. She goes by only one name.

One half of couples often return after Gallery Walk to buy the other a Christmas present, she said.

The Christmas season only accounts for about 10 percent of annual revenue, Cha said, but sales on Friday night beat sales for the whole month of November.

Gallery Walk is also important as a marketing tool, she said. Locals might not buy anything right away, but many have friends visit during the summer who come into the shop and buy something, Cha said.

Kaill's also depends on customers coming back after the walk. The store's busiest seasons are during the Christmas shopping and spring bridal seasons, Hinz said.

Linda Harris, owner of Eskimos and Butterflies, was in her first Gallery Walk. Eskimos opened in July. Before Gallery Walk, Harris wasn't sure how the event would go.

Even more pessimistic was one of Eskimos' featured artists, Tom Meyer, a potter who calls himself an industrialist, not an artist. Meyer said he has been coming to the event for 20 years, but has made virtually no money from it.

By the time Gallery Walk was over Sunday afternoon, Eskimos and Butterflies had sold some of his pieces.

"I just thought it was real good, and it was fun," Harris said.

It brought in a lot of people who said they had seen the store, but had never been inside, she said.

A block away in the Senate Building, Duane Bosch sat carving a mask out of cherrywood Friday afternoon in The Raven's Journey.

The store doesn't need to stay open during the winter, said Kathy Ellis, who owns the shop with her husband, John. The couple keeps the store open more as a public service than a business decision, they said.

While the walk and the Christmas season account for most of the local business, sales are barely a ripple compared to summer, Kathy Ellis said.

Chipping bits and pieces of wood onto The Raven's Journey floor, Bosch said he credits the walk with his mass exposure to the art market in general. This was his third year participating in the walk and only last year did he not sell any pieces during the event, he said.

Among the hundreds of people he met during his first Gallery Walk, a few have become "patrons," he said. The patrons are big sponsors of and collect his work.

"It is important and it is significant," he said. "As to what degree, it's important enough that I'm willing to spend my time here."

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