February 8, 2007

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Concord Publisher's Note: The economy or art
By†Dan Szczesny

The Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce is on to something, but it needs your help.

In the last two years, the Chamber and Hippo have sponsored and helped promote a worthwhile cause in Concord designed to position the city as a leading visual arts destination.

Art Concord will take place again this Friday, Feb. 9, from 5 to 8 p.m. The idea is deceptively simple. Several art galleries and business firms with art galleries will open their doors at once in a kind of collective marketing drive to focus attention on all the wonderful art this city has to offer. Art lovers and curious residents will be able to meet the artists, there will be refreshments of course, and the city will have a chance to define itself as an art center.

Itís a sort of art fair that takes place across the city. In that sense it reminds me of an ongoing art fair in my hometown of Buffalo. Itís called the Allentown Art Festival and this June the festival will celebrate its 50th year. Buffalo is not the sort of place one immediately thinks of when considering art, but believe it or not the Allentown Art Festival is one of the largest and most anticipated events in the country. In recent years the festival has attracted more than 300,000 art lovers to downtown during its weekend-long run. Dozens of streets are shut down, and artists, both local and from around the world, come to sell their wares.

I lived near the Allentown neighborhood for a while in college, and during that weekend I had to plan in advance where to store my car and what routes to take to work, so busy was the area.

Now, back to Concord. While our city certainly does not have the sheer numbers or location to duplicate the success and volume of the Allentown Art Festival, Concord is uniquely situated to turn Art Concord into a showcase event.

The economic value of such an event is indisputable. People, and not just artists, will come to Concord to be part of an art scene. They will spend money at Concord restaurants, and other art-related venues will benefit as well. The Capitol Center and the soon-to-be-open Capital Commons are natural fits to any type of art festival.

But for this to happen, Art Concord needs to become a solid, destination event. And that means you have to come. Seven galleries will participate, and the event is free. Galleries from Anderson-Soule to McGowan Fine Art will take part. Check out the chamberís Web site for more information, www.concordnhchamber.com.

Art Concord is at a crossroads. In order to become a true destination event that will bring art and artists from around the region, Art Concord will likely have to move outside, will need city support both financially and logistically, and will need a heavier marketing and awareness campaign. All these things are possible and would be good for Concord.

For now, though, come out on Friday, and let local artists know that you support their work and would like to see more.