Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Jesse Bogenrief, of Bogenrief Studios in Spencer, offers a wide selection of original blown glass gifts including one-of-a-kind Christmas ornaments. (Photos by Randy M. Cauthron)

Artists playing growing role in local holiday retail

With the consumer dollar flying about as commerce and spirituality share a spotlight during the Christmas season, the Spencer area has another player in the retail battle when it comes to holiday shopping -- an active artisans community.

"Through our holiday advertising we include the artisans in our Spencer

promotional TV ads, much as we do any other member of the chamber," Bill Campbell, director of the Spencer Chamber of Commerce, said.

Likewise, Kathy Evert, president and CEO of the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corp., said that although her agency isn't focused specifically on retail, it too highlights offerings from regional artisans at Christmas time.

"We promote the arts and artist entrepreneurs in the area as part of our regional workforce and business attraction efforts; we publish the Corridor gift guide each fall to support the artist entrepreneurs," Evert said.

Spencer Alliance for a Creative Economy has long worked to promote the area's artisans as part of the community's vibrant economy.

Each year, the Corridor's Gift Guide highlights regional entrepreneurs and their products throughout the holiday season. This year, pages were added to the Gift Guide to include authors, musicians, and places to make gifts. Sculpture, pottery, paintings, photography, baby items, jewelry, homemade candies and exotic roasted coffees and more are included in the Gift Guide.

Arts on Grand, a local artisans showcase gallery, features unique gift ideas from a wide variety of talent areas.

"More and more of our businesses are including many of our artist studios as part of Business after Hours," Campbell explained. "In addition, SPACE is a chamber member and one of the many purposes of that group is to expand and promote the arts within the community and beyond."

Martin Arthur, director of Arts on Grand, pointed to several reasons to involve local artists as part of holiday gift buying.

"There are a lot of benefits of purchasing from local artisans during the holiday season," Arthur suggested. "Local artisans tend to use higher-quality materials and produce higher-quality goods because they live among their customers. Locally produced art tends to be unique, unlike mass-produced products,"

Arthur also noted buying from area artisans "provides employment locally" and local artists purchase goods and services locally, helping to support other local businesses as well."

The AOG director also mentioned the benefit local artists have on other service providers locally.

"The arts bring people into the community," Arthur said. "Whether to visit Arts on Grand or the Bogenrief Studio or the Spencer Community Theatre, those people don't just spend money on art, but often shop, buy gas, and eat meals."

Campbell added, "There are groups specifically promoting the arts which are doing a great job of spreading the word. Also with everyone working together to promote the quality of life aspect in our community - of which was a big reason we were awarded the Blue Zones designation - it shows how much Spencer is committed to the arts and those that share their creativity."

Arthur credited the local effort to promote the arts as a benefit to the region. "The arts community has brought Spencer a lot of positive national - and international - attention. Whether it's being listed in "100 Best Art Towns in America" or the attention that Vicki Myron's Dewey books have generated, it's all good."

He added, "The arts just make Spencer a better place to live."

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  • I absolutely love the arts in Spencer, Jesse Bogenrief, Perry Polson, CRVA, Clay County Clay, just to name a few. The problem that the arts are having in Spencer is that they need support from the community more than just at the holidays. If we don't start spending some money at these establishments year round, we will lose that opportunity at the holidays.

    -- Posted by old timing man on Tue, Dec 4, 2012, at 8:42 AM
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