Six Decades of Arts and Crafts - New York Festival Attracts Thousands
October 2022, by Angie Landsverk
An outdoor art show that began years ago to raise funds for a library in a small community now draws the interest of artists from throughout the country and continues to support programs, technology enhancements, and facility upgrades at the library.
“The population of Armonk is a little over 4,000, and yet we are known for our annual art show that draws more than twice our population in visitors. The entire community contributes to the show’s success,” said Nicole Blum, the festival’s managing director.
The Armonk Outdoor Art Show consistently ranks among the top fine art and craft shows in the country in Sunshine Artist’s 200 Best. It was FA5 in this year’s list and will be celebrating 60 years when the event takes place Oct. 1-2.
When members of the Friends of the North Castle Public Library started the event in 1961, a handful of artists participated. The show quickly outgrew its space on a church lawn and moved to the library’s parking lot. Growth continued, with the venue then becoming a field in front of the town hall before the show moved to its current location in Community Park in 1997.
Hundreds of artists apply to be among the approximately 160 exhibitors in the nonprofit show. Blum describes the juried show as both a fine art and a fine craft event. “We accept exhibitors in the following categories: mixed media, painting, photography, digital art, printmaking, drawing, pastels, sculpture, wearable art, and fine crafts,” she said.
Blum said the volunteer jury is mainly comprised of working artists and art instructors. “They work very hard beginning each March to go through hundreds of applicants together,” she said. “Sessions are a few hours at a time and normally focus on one to two categories per session. They will normally meet multiple times a week, and that process goes on for over a month.”
When the jury reviews an artist’s submissions, it notes who needs assistance with their booth layout, explained Judy Moniz, who is chairperson of the Artist Relations Committee, as well as the Jury Committee. “While it won’t necessarily affect an artist’s acceptance, it can make or break their sales success at the show,” she said.
Moniz said the show is lucky to have multiple, long-time volunteers who happen to be interior designers. “They have worked with artists who needed help merchandising their work and have not only helped them increase sales from year to year but increase awards, too,” she said.
While the jurying process takes a lot of time and work, Blum said they believe it contributes immensely to the show’s success. “Selecting the top artists and maintaining a range of styles and price points means our visitors return year after year because they know they can count on a certain level of excellence at our show,” she said.
What Blum would tell artists who have not exhibited there in a few years is the show continues to grow and improve each year. “Our artists confirm that the number of patrons who are there to make purchases continually makes the Armonk Outdoor Art Show their best show or one of their best shows of the year,” she said.
The nonprofit’s marketing and promotion efforts include digital advertising, email sponsorships, public relations, and social media. “New themes and compelling content on social media are the best ways our art show can engage with our audience throughout the entire year in between our annual shows,” Blum said.
A show with this many years behind it has much to share with others. Anne Curran was the show’s executive director for six years. The three most important things she learned during her tenure were:
- Volunteers keep the show going. It is critical to engage younger people.
- If you produce a quality event with a great audience, high-caliber artists will apply.
- Develop marketing beyond the event and engage more sponsors.
Her advice for new promoters is that all artists’ names and mediums should be listed on the show’s website and at the actual show site, if possible, so attendees can connect directly with artists. “This promotes goodwill both ways,” Curran said.
Things that changed during the past two years due to the pandemic and will continue moving forward include adding more pedestrian space for attendees. She said that also creates better visibility for artists in their field layout.
“Preselling tickets through Eventbrite was another element we recently added,” Curran said. “Our visitors enjoyed having an easy method to pre-purchase tickets digitally, and this aided us in speeding up the overall entry process to the show.”