the Park sees attendance dip
Painter: I had much more traffic at my booth this time last year
The Manchester Artists
Association transformed Veterans Park into an outdoor art gallery with
its annual Art in the Park show, Sept. 10 and 11. The event featured
both wild and traditional paintings and photographs and showcased the
many talented artists who live and work in the city.
The weather for the
weekend event was spectacular but participating artists agreed that
attendance this year was down significantly compared to previous years
and to other area art events.
“I had much more
traffic at my booth last year by this time of day,” said Anne-Marie
Swierz, a portrait painter who lives in Manchester.
Some of the artists
speculated that the thinner crowd was the result of less advertising
prior to the event, while others thought that it was the competition of
the Mill City Festival, which was going on just down the street in Arms
Park. In previous years, the MAA art show and the Mill City Festival
worked together, but this year, organizers of both events severed the
two events. The Mill City Festival also fielded a smaller than usual
“In previous years,
there was a trolley that ran between Veterans and Arms Parks,
transporting people from one event to the other,” said James Chase, an
MAA member and winner of last year’s Best in Show award. “We would send
people down there, and they would send people up here. This year,
there’s not a trolley and I think it affected the turnout.”
The Mill City Festival
also hosted area folk artists on their site but some artists said that
the higher-than-last-year’s rental rates made that option
“Their rates went up
for booth rental this year, and I couldn’t afford it,” said painter Jane
Paul, a new MAA member from Merrimack. “It was more financially
reasonable for me to be a part of the MAA show at Veterans Park.”
Monty Whitfield, a
member of the Nashua Area Artists Association as well as the MAA,
noticed a drop in attendance as well.
“I was at the Greeley
Park Show in Nashua this year, and that venue was jam-packed on the
opening day,” he said. “It was like that here last year, too. I’m hoping
it will pick up later, when people are done down at the Mill City
Festival. Sunday is also supposed to be a beautiful day, perfect for the
show, so things could change. But in my experience, the opening day is
the big day, and Sunday is historically kind of quiet.”
Mill City Festival
director Jane Beaulieu said that in past years, festival organizers were
able to find a corporate sponsor to fund a trolley between the two
events, but this year, a sponsor couldn’t be procured.
“I always liked the
trolley as a way to link the two events, but we couldn’t find a sponsor
this year, and those trolleys are expensive to rent for the day,” she
said. “I had a feeling that it would hurt the Art in the Park event, but
unfortunately, there wasn’t much we could do about it.”
Another element that
might have been a factor was a “changing of the guard” within the MAA.
Outgoing MAA vice president Larry Donovan, a long-time Manchester
resident who worked tirelessly to promote the event, handed over the
reins of Art in the Park to a new MAA president this year.
“I don’t know the name
of the new president at the MAA,” Beaulieu said. “I didn’t have the
ability this year to reach out and find out who she was, because I’ve
been so focused on planning the festival.”
Beaulieu said that
years ago, the MAA was a part of the festival when it was known as
RiverFest, but the group broke away to form its own event when the
atmosphere of RiverFest got too much like a “carnival.”
Though the art at the
Mill City Festival this year focused more on folk and non-traditional
artists including local artisans and the Monastery Artists Collective,
Beaulieu said she believes there is room for the more traditional works
of the MAA as well.
“I would like to see
the MAA come back to the new festival and be part of the event, because
I think it would be beneficial to both organizations,” she said.