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Local artists have high spirits, low sales

[1]By: Jennifer Bowman

The Hastings County Arts Route website is winning awards, but it isn’t winning the hearts of art buyers. Not yet.

At least one artist said she’s not going to be a part of the Arts Route anymore because she hasn’t had any results from the site. Others are willing to wait it out.

The website started in May this year, just in time for tourist season in Hastings County. The route features 21 arts venues throughout the county, which spans from Lake Ontario to the Hastings Highlands, and Kingston to Quinte West.

The route began as a way to market Hastings artisans as an attraction so people don’t have to look up each artist individually. In October, the website won a national award for from the Economic Developer’s Association of Canada, recognizing it as an innovative online platform.

Saga Sabin, a Plainfield artist with her own studio on her farm, said she loves the website, but new things take time for people to know they exist.

It costs about $200 to be part of the Arts Route, which means they get to advertise on the website, put Arts Route signs on their studio, and have Arts Route cards to distribute.

Sabin said she would probably stay a part of the group.

“I’d like to see how it goes, at least for another year to see if it’s going to be a success or not.”

Sabin said the website targets younger people, but the arts market is mainly made up of older people.

Robert Colebrook Keirstead, a professional Canadian Wildlife and Landscape artist, said it’s not age – it’s how much money people make.

And money is more difficult to come by these days.

“I honestly believe we’re in a recession and art is one of the first things to go,” said Keirstead.

He said he judges the economy by the shows he does.

The shows were well attended this year, but people aren’t spending a lot of money, he said.

Though he hasn’t seen any results from the website, he thinks it’s a great idea once more tourists start coming.

“Anytime you have advertising, it has to help,” he said.

Anneka Daley, owner and artist of Anneka’s Gallery, had one customer who drove from St. Catharine’s to buy her art from her Belleville art gallery after finding it on the Arts Route website.

That’s the only person that’s come through the site, she said.

Sabin said she would like to see physical maps she can hand out.

Andrew Redden, economic developer of Hastings County, said he has some to hand out, but he doesn’t want to go that route.

They didn’t want to start printing maps because the artists on the route are constantly changing, he said.

One of the attractions of the website, one of the things that probably helped it win the award, Redden said, was the fact that it is compatible with Blackberries. There, a map is only a few clicks away.

Redden will be meeting with the Arts Route artisans later this month to see where they want to go in 2012.