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33rd annual Mainsail Arts Festival

Mainsail artists feel economy's pinch

ST. PETERSBURG

It was a beautiful afternoon at the Mainsail Arts Festival at Vinoy Park on Saturday. The sun was glorious, the breeze was refreshing.

Sculptors, painters and woodworkers sat in their booths. They chatted with potential buyers and, in some cases, sold their works. The crowd was large and curious.

But the artists say all is not well. Gas and insurance prices are up. People have less disposable income. They have to spend more on what they need — groceries, the light bill, the mortgage — and have less to spend on something they want, such as art.

Lee Jones sees it. The copper sculptor from New Port Richey says his sales are actually up a bit this year, but he knows others are struggling.

"It does affect just about everyone in the art community," said Jones, 40, whose works range in price from $95 to $3,000. He has raised his prices a little because the cost of copper has spiked.

Jones has noticed that wealthy people are buying high-end pieces as swiftly as ever, but the less affluent are having a harder time purchasing the less expensive art because they have less disposable income.

"The people who have the money aren't really affected by changes in the economy. If they see something they want, they go out and get it," Jones said. "They (the middle class) are more affected by the economic times. I think it manifests itself there."

A few booths down from Jones, New Port Richey oil painter Stephen Schatz also said business seems down.

"I would say, generally, things are a lot worse," said Schatz. "The times are hard."

In fact, Schatz has begun preparing digital files and slides for other artists to supplement his income.

Tampa resident Beverly Field, 59, and four college friends come to art shows about once a month. All their homes are stuffed with art.

Field didn't buy anything Saturday. But she said at least three in her group buy something at each festival.

She's noticed some prices are up, but she believes people who appreciate art will continue to purchase it.

"The only reason I didn't buy any today is my walls are full," Field said. "If you like art, I don't think you'll stop buying it."

Tampa artist Michael Braun has heard griping among artists that sales are down, but that wasn't the case for him Saturday morning. He sold seven paintings before lunchtime.

"We never had a better morning than we did today," he said. "But sometimes you won't sell anything until Sunday afternoon. Artists complain that it's not like it was five years ago. But it doesn't mean people don't walk in and buy $10,000 art at times."

Artists and customers had widespread praise for the Mainsail festival, which is in its 33rd year.

The Orlando-based trade publication Sunshine Artist ranks it as the 45th best art festival in the nation. The ranking is based on sales and ballots filled out by artists.

"The consensus among artists is that business has been down at festivals over the last three years," said Cameron Meier, editor of the publication, which was established in 1972 for artists and arts festival organizers. "And way down this year."

Times staff writer Lennie Bennett contributed to this report.

>>FAST FACTS

If you go

Mainsail continues from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today at Vinoy Park, Fifth Avenue NE at Bayshore Drive in St. Petersburg. There also will be food, drinks and kids activities. For information, visit mainsailartsfestival.org.

See the winners

The winners at the 33rd annual Mainsail Arts Festival will be announced at a breakfast this morning. Find out who takes the prizes at www.tampabay.com. Results will be available before the show opens at 10 a.m.

Mainsail artists feel economy's pinch 04/19/08 [Last modified: Sunday, April 20, 2008 6:44am]
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