Eastern North Carolina residents took advantage of the slow pace and warm breeze of a southern night to stroll down Main Street in downtown Washington, stopping along the way at the seven different art galleries and neighboring merchants participating in the spring Art Walk, organized by the Beaufort County Arts Council and Washington Harbor District Alliance. Washington's first Art Walk, the winter Art Walk, was held in November of last year, and was a huge success.
After laying down almost $25,000 in April for the Beaufort County Traditional Music Festival, which brought little return for the money invested, the two nonprofit groups were happy to reproduce the inexpensive, yet fruitful, Art Walk. Advertisement was limited to free mediums--such as Facebook, e-mail, public service advertising and news releases; and the participants were expected to provide their own refreshments.
"It's just a matter of getting everybody on board and setting the date, because it's up to each individual gallery to bring what they want to bring to it," said BCAC Director Joey Toler.
Participating galleries and studios included Art Tyndall Studio, BCAC Lane Gallery & Gift Shop, Crabby's Stained Glass & Collectibles, Inner Banks Artisans' Center, Lone Leaf Gallery & Custom Framing, Notes Cafe/Evolution Gallery & Lounge and Riverwalk Gallery.
Patrons were encouraged to hit all seven galleries, if not to enjoy the variety of artwork and hors d'oeuvers, then to have each gallery owner sign their guide, so they could qualify for a chance to win a prize. There were some who managed to duck in and out of each stop, gathering signatures; but it was obvious from a quick observation of the galleries that the majority of folks were actually studying the art and even lining up at the cash registers.
Each of the three galleries I visited reported better than average sales. In the first hour of the Art Walk, BCAC administrator Eleanor Rollins said that two pieces of Carolyn Sleeper's pottery had sold from the Washington Civic Center Gallery. In the first hour-and-a-half, Inner Banks Artisans' Center owner Bob Hinkle said his gallery had sold several pieces.
"We have sold quite a bit, and it's going very well," said Henkel. "Our whole year has been fantastic."
Lone Leaf Gallery & Custom Framing owners Neil and Meredith Loughlin were satisfied with their sales, but were even more enthusiastic about the extra exposure their artists were receiving, as well as the potentiality for new framing customers.
"It's been steady the whole night," said Neil. "It's good for framing; people come back, people spread the word."
When the Loughlins were contacted today for a follow-up interview, they said a few patrons had unexpectedly returned to purchase pieces they saw last night during Art Walk.
Toler agreed with the assessment that Art Walk influences the community with this kind of soft power, just as much as it brings in the hard cash.
"It definitely introduces people to some of the galleries downtown they might not be aware of," said Toler. "I was just talking to an artist who has a studio out on River Road, she didn't know Lone Leaf was open, for instance. So it does kind of introduce artists to other venues, as well as the general public."
Other downtown merchants, such as Charisma Boutique, I Can't Believe it's a Book Store, Pamlico River Antiques and Russell's sought to capitalize on the increased traffic, by keeping their doors open late and featuring an art element in their stores.
"We talk to the merchants and make sure the merchants are open," said Toler. "A lot of the merchants downtown have attached themselves to this event by having an artist in their store."
According to Byrd, these other merchants were doing pretty well during Art Walk.
"It seemed like Charisma was busy selling stuff," she said. "You know, they were wrapping things."
Art Walk coincided with a Riverwalk Gallery opening as well as the BCAC's annual member show opening reception. The BCAC annual member show included 114 pieces, of all mediums, created by about 70 of the BCAC's members.
"I love this show because it's such a mixed bag," said Toler. "It's the good, the bad, the ugly; the wonderful, the weird, the professional, the amateur; it's just great."
This post appears courtesy of our sister site, Beaufort County NOW, with their expressed permission.