Local artists talk future in Burlington

Burlington artists gathered in the SPACE gallery Nov. 13 in a fashion resembling the knights of King Arthur’s court.

The group was led by Christy Mitchell of the SPACE gallery, independent artist Clark Derbes and Art Map Burlington publisher Ric Kasini Kadour

One of the issues brought up was the competition between artists in Burlington. 

Attendees acknowledged that in other cities like Montreal, artists will point their clients to other artists that have similar styles; many in Burlington prefer to remain individualized. 

Not only do they not know where their customers could find things that may be suited to their interests, but many do not even know each other. 

It then becomes difficult to help one another with such a lack of communication.

 “No one showing or artist is going to change things,” Kadour said. “The market was formed by a lot of small things that made big things happen. How we evolve to the next step is the same way.”

Artists at the meeting discussed how, unlike that of Montreal, New York or Chicago, the Burlington arts market is small and innovative. 

However, it also survives mostly from tourism and online sales. 

Artists like UVM professor Nancy Dwyer and independent artist Clark Derbes use the online market to expand their businesses and reach a larger audience. 

“It is wrong to tie the idea of success to money for an artist. I tell aspiring artists to expect to have two full time jobs,” Dwyer said. “Plus, it is very important to realize that other artists are not your competition and to foster a real community with them. This is key.”

While having a designated arts district did help boost awareness, the small population of the city and the average income of its inhabitants means artists aren’t selling as many pieces as they would want or selling at the prices they feel their work deserves. 

While in larger income communities, many people view buying art with pride, average to low-income communities see it in a different way.

“It’s a secret, almost like they’re ashamed to be buying art because it’s viewed as being frivolous with their money,” Derbes said. 

Much of this also has to do with the perceived value of a piece. Throughout the discussion various topics came up such as presenting oneself as a “Burlington artist” versus a “local artist” and how to act during openings such as the recent one in Stowe.

The night ended with brainstorming of ways to improve the market and the arts scene. 

While many artists felt depressed about the future of the market, Dwyer seems to view it differently.

“Burlington has an active art community for its size and is a great place to live for an artist. I have been here for nine years,” Dwyer said. “The level of discourse has really improved. I have a studio on Pine Street and I love the creative atmosphere.”