Open Studios Review

By Linda Warminger, Open Studios Coordinator

OPEN Studios 2009 has been a great success, with thousands of visitors taking part in this year's event to create various spin off benefits for HVAF artists.

Despite the economic climate, 180 artists participated in the project with several members experiencing their best year ever.

Based on questionnaire responses so far, visitor numbers are estimated at just over 13,750. 12.5% of artists reported sales above £1,500, and in addition to sales during the project, 23% secured commissions, some multiple.

27% of artists have been offered other exhibition opportunities, and 18% of participants have been approached to conduct tuition, demonstrations and workshops.

Enquiries for the brochure are still coming in, and Jenny Timms and Mike Caddy of Vitreus Art have recently received a large commission from a 2008 visitor!

Apart from the financial benefits, participants placed a high value on engaging directly with the public, the focus for getting together a body of work to exhibit, and networking with other artists in the area.

In some cases further opportunities have been created, including the Watford Art Space Project, where in conjunction with the local council, artists exhibited in an empty shop during November, which may be extended to December. In Harpenden, a local café is willing to exhibit local artists work, and in North Herts a taster event at Pioneer Nurseries, pictured below, resulted in a proposed Spring 2010 exhibition.

So what was new for 2009? By far the most significant change for 2009 was the increase in centralised PR activity, with huge input from Jenny Timms. Other changes included the display of A3 & A1 posters in empty high street shops, a more 'artistic' image on promotional material, and the brochure layout was changed from being alphabetical to give the designers greater flexibility, and to enable group details to appear on facing pages for ease of use.

What is proposed for 2010? Online entry will be possible. Some changes to the brochure will be made to make it easier for visitors to plan a trail. Locations offering refreshments will be identified with a coffee cup symbol, and we will be approaching cafes and pubs in rural areas to advertise in the brochure.

To facilitate visitor day trips and make it easier for other participants to visit each other midweek, on an area basis, participants will be encouraged to open the same day of the week.

More weatherproof signs are being investigated. A questionnaire on a pre-addressed card, with the incentive of a £75 prize draw for visitors (to spend at an Open Studio of their choice) will be adopted. A5 flyers will be available from late spring to allow promotion of the event and we will be setting up a file of promotional items and a sample press release in the members login area for participants to download.

Despite the fact that Open Studios is no longer being subsidised by Arts Council funding, the committee do not propose to increase the fee for 2010. Sponsorship will therefore be essential to contribute to the costs of the project.

Although the website and email are making communication easier, administering projects of this scale are labour intensive. It is a team effort and my thanks go to ALL the volunteers. If you would like to be part of the team, whether or not you are opening your studio in 2010, please contact me to discuss where you can help with the project. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you to everyone who completed questionnaires. If you haven't already done so, your response is still welcome.

FROM THE CHAIR:

ON my travels around Open Studios this year, I received many comments of appreciation from participating artists about the quality of the organisation and supporting publicity for the event. These comments bore out my own observations.

So on behalf of all the artists taking part, the Organising Group, and myself "Thank you for a job well done, to Linda Warminger and her team, comprising Lynn Andrews, Andre Bottin, Lucky Dolan, June Faulkner, Chris Green, Mitzie Green, Belinda Naylor-Stables, Jan Langton, Sue Lines and Judith Menges. For the excellent publicity, our thanks are also due to Jenny Timms, supported by Mike Caddy and Linda."

Mike Willison

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